Thursday, 3 January
In between a lot of research on board of the R.V. Polarstern which is focussed on very small animals like nematodes, amphipods and all kinds of (epi) benthic and planktonic life there is the group of the Dutch Wageningen Imares Institute located on the island of Texel which is also working with animals up to 50 tonnes in weight. These are whales which roam across the Southern Oceans and the Lazarev Sea where the R.V. Polarstern is now finding its way through the pack-ice.
My name is Bram Feij, 37 years old and living on the island of Texel. But for about 2 months, together with Jan van Franeker, I count the top predators, which include birds, penguins, seals and whales. To be able to count them, I live for many hours a day (or in the polar summer night) in a very small cabin on top of the ship's bridge roof with the best view you can get. With the specially developed SUIT (Surface and Under Ice Trawl) net which can fish under the ice-floes, our team consisting of 5 members tries to find out the relation between the amount of food available, the food needs by top predators and the role of the sea-ice in the Antarctic region.
For me it is like a holiday. Well eh, actually it really is my holiday. I am a volunteer on this trip to complete the Wageningen Imares Team. Normally I work on another ship, much smaller than the big and strong R.V. Polarstern. It is owned by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality and on board I work as a nautical officer, a fishery and nature inspector and, quite similar to the work on board R.V. Polarstern, collector of bird and wildlife data. The name of the ship is m.s. Phoca, which is a family name for a lot of seals in the northern hemisphere.
A combination between studying Forestry and nature conservation and finishing the school for Seafarers in Rotterdam has led me into this position after doing all kinds of other sailing and forestry/nature conservation work. Besides the voluntary work I do right now, I am also volunteering for the Dutch lifeboat association KNRM on one of the lifeboats based on the island of Texel. This means a lot of water in my life but still, even in cold and bad weather sailing over the southern ocean and standing in my small cabin on the bridge-roof, I feel great to be out at sea.
It sometimes can be boring and cold but at the end, I always get rewarded for being out there. Sometimes it is the stunning sight of a gracious Wandering Albatross besides me, the funny sight on a group of quarreling Adelie Penguins, a sleeping Weddell seal or an Antarctic Minke whale breaking the surface in between the pack ice. I am anjoying every bit of it!
Bram Feij, Imares
Photos: B. Feij
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Thursday, 03 January 2008 17:21
Introducing a top predator counterWritten by Polarstern Expedition
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