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Tue Jun 11, 2019, 10:28 PM

Seals with antennas on their heads helped scientists solve an Antarctic mystery


(CNN) Scientists now have a better idea of why giant holes have been opening up in the ice of the Antarctic, and they were assisted by some unique field partners.

In 2016 and 2017, a hole of open water, called a polynya, appeared in the winter ice of the Weddell Sea in Antarctica. It eventually grew to about 19,000 square miles; roughly twice the size of Vermont. Though polynyas are not unusual, this large and frequent of a hole was a great opportunity for scientists to figure out why, exactly, these holes were appearing. A team from the University of Washington explored the hole with a combination of robots, radio equipment and seals with antennas stuck to their heads. Their findings were recently published in the journal "Nature."


As for the elephant seals, the team used them to transmit data back to shore as they swam in the depths of the polynya. Historically, seals have been a serious asset to the scientific research community. For one, their movements help researchers get a good sense of a particular environment or area. And also, they are ostensibly not too bothered by having radio equipment glued (safely) to their heads.


I hope the transmitters on their heads are, at least, comfortable.

...better than friggin' laser beams.

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