Misplaced Seal-Mounted Digital camera Discovered After Three Years with Footage Intact

A scientist from Halifax, Canada, has recovered a seal-mounted analysis digital camera misplaced within the ocean three and a half years in the past. The digital camera was discovered to carry 19 hours of worthwhile analysis footage he by no means thought he would see.

Division of Fisheries and Oceans biologist Damian Lidgard tells CBC News that he had hooked up the small digital camera machine to a younger male gray seal on Sable Island Canada on December 31, 2017.

The digital camera, which is valued at $10,0000, is used as a part of an Ocean Monitoring Community analysis undertaking that follows the motion of gray seals which might be half of a giant colony close to Sable Island. The aim of the undertaking is to collect as a lot data as doable about how the seals transfer, the place they go, and what they eat.

The plan was to attend for the seal to return again to shore so he might recuperate the machine — which features a digital camera in addition to one other meter that information dive depth, water temperature, acceleration, and different analysis information — however Lidgard says he by no means discovered the seal once more.

Damian Lidgard, Division of Fisheries and Oceans/Ocean Monitoring Community

“Mainly for the following three or 4 weeks, each single day, I searched Sable on the lookout for that male and by no means discovered him,” Lidgard says.

It’s speculated that the digital camera fell off when it molted within the spring. Lidgard believed the digital camera was misplaced perpetually, till this previous summer season when it was pulled off the ocean flooring by a Clearwater Seafoods ship known as the Arctic Endurance that was fishing for surf clams.

A crew member contacted the producer of the digital camera — Custom-made Animal Monitoring Options (CATS) — who put him involved with Lidgard.

Lidgard says that he was “shocked” that the digital camera was recovered and much more shocked to seek out that it nonetheless works and may be redeployed subsequent month for an additional analysis stint.

Crew member of the Arctic Endurance returning the digital camera to Lidgard. | Damian Lidgard, Division of Fisheries and Oceans/Ocean Monitoring Community

“There have been some marks on the digital camera, however typically it was in excellent form,” he says. “My first impression was that it’s survived remarkably properly, on condition that it’s been on the backside of the ocean.”

The digital camera was despatched to the producer in Australia who was in a position to obtain the info from its onboard reminiscence storage. Whereas Lidgard had not anticipated to seek out a lot, the digital camera had 19 hours of video footage saved on it, damaged down into 20-minute clips. He acquired the complete batch of recordsdata a number of weeks in the past and continues to be going by way of the info.

“The digital camera labored remarkably properly and managed to maintain that information for 3 and a half years,” Lidgard says.

Damian Lidgard, Division of Fisheries and Oceans/Ocean Monitoring Community

The video exhibits data that’s not accessible from different sensors: the footage exhibits that the seals seem to sleep on the backside of the ocean close to the ground, rolling gently with the present.

“The dive profile of a sleeping seal is sort of a U-shape,” Lidgard says after watching the footage. “The seal goes all the way down to the underside, spends time on the backside, then comes as much as the floor. That may be a remarkably comparable dive profile to a foraging seal. So with out video, you possibly can’t say if you happen to see it as foraging or if the seal is sleeping. However now we will primarily based on this video footage.”

Whereas different applied sciences like satellite tv for pc transmitters and time-depth recorders may be useful, lots must be assumed. However with a digital camera, he and different researchers can truly watch what is going on and make sure habits.

“With the video digital camera, I can sit at my desk and truly watch this animal out at sea, behaving, diving deep, foraging, chasing females,” Lidgard continues. “I don’t should make assumptions about what the seal is doing.”

Lidgard says that the digital camera can be redeployed subsequent month when it’s hooked up to a feminine seal, which can return to shore to offer beginning. At the moment, it’s going to hopefully be capable to be retrieved once more. The predictability of the being pregnant and birthing habits will hopefully present a extra predictable and fewer nerve-racking technique of assuring the digital camera’s return — this time with out a three-and-a-half-year wait.


Picture credit: Pictures courtesy of Damian Lidgard, Division of Fisheries and Oceans/Ocean Monitoring Community and used with permission.

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