Measurement of ocean temperatures using instruments carried by Antarctic fur seals
The study aimed to test the utility of instruments deployed on marine mammals for measuring physical oceanographic variation and, using this method, to examine temperature variation in the coastal waters around South Georgia. There was a significant correlation between temperature measurements made using a towed undulating oceanographic recorder (UOR) and concurrent measurements from time-depth recorders (TDRs) fitted to lactating Antarctic fur seals foraging from the coast of South Georgia. Congruence was found at horizontal spatial scales from 0.01°×0.01° to 0.5°×0.5° (degrees of latitude and longitude), and at a vertical scale of 10 m. However, there was no significant correlation between temperature measured by TDRs in the top 5 m and sea surface temperature (SST) measured by satellite remote sensing. TDR data provided information about temperature variation vertically through the water column, and through time. The UOR data were used to recalibrate the TDR data in order to correct for the slow response time of the TDR thermistor relative to the speed of seal movements through the water column. Seasonal temperature variation was apparent, and temperatures also varied between regions, and with bathymetry. These results were consistent with the current interpretation of the coastal oceanography around South Georgia. In particular, the relationship between on- and off-shelf waters showed larger amounts of warmer surface water in a region in which more run-off was to be expected. The study also showed that Antarctic fur seals concentrate their activity in regions of colder, and presumably oceanic, water. Such instrumented animals could provide near real time data for assimilation into ocean models.