back to article Forget sharks with lasers, NASA kits out an elephant seal with a sensor-studded skullcap

NASA’s science team has a new female recruit and she's probing the watery depths of the Antarctic in a quest to help climate eggheads understand our climate. Armed with no prior research or any academic qualifications, just a metallic antenna strapped to its head, a southern elephant seal has been quietly helping scientists …

  1. Brian Miller

    Better hat than mine

    Here I was, content with Reynolds Wrap. and a seal has a genuine NASA head piece. I'm just going to have to get something better for Christmas, like a satellite dish!


    they use a french satellite system

    NASA have no system to track animals or weather globally...

    ironic really

  3. sbt

    Caption seems inaccurate, based on the expression

    Looks more like: What the f*ck is this thing on my head?! Get it off!

    1. macjules

      Re: Caption seems inaccurate, based on the expression

      The other seals think he has joined the foil hat brigade.

    2. IceC0ld

      Re: Caption seems inaccurate, based on the expression

      Looks more like: What the f*ck is this thing on my head?! Get it off!

      SERIOUSLY, the beastie looks SO happy, more of a look at me, I'm a Unicorn :o)







      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Caption seems inaccurate, based on the expression

        More like, "look at me I'm a Narwhal"

        Narwhals, the original Unicorn mermaid.

        1. Robert Helpmann??

          Re: Caption seems inaccurate, based on the expression

          "look at me I'm a Narwhal"

          There can be only one response to that:

          Icon, because.

  4. Chris G

    Useful tracking

    After reading this, I am wondering what information is gathered from the tracking of other animals by scientists that may be useful for environmental studies.

    I assume the trackers that are fitted to birds have only location so environment would only be guessed at according to the usual behaviour of a species.

    If more sensors could be fitted into bird tracking, they could provide a wealth of info for the environment.

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: Useful tracking

      Except as the Russian raptor tracking episode shows the scientists need deep pockets for the roaming charges. Though doing it in the Southern Ocean where there’s no coverage is probably sensible. I’m pretty sure albatross have been fitted with tracking sensors at the very least. Being big birds they could carry the early generation of tech.

      I used to live in Dunedin, NZ which has the only mainland breeding colony of the Royal Albatross within city limits (out at the end of the Peninsula, you can view them and the Victorian disappearing gun with one ticket). My BiL opined that they were just ‘big seagulls’, we drove out there and got out of the car when an albatross soared 20ft up right over our heads. His jaw dropped open. Albatross are BIG birds.

  5. Swiss Anton
    Big Brother

    Big brother is everywhere

    What is the world is coming to? Even the wildlife are wearing tin foil hats.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Zero respect

    No respect for animals whatsoever. They are treated as disposable research tools.

    1. Rich 11

      Re: Zero respect

      Utter rubbish. This was an analysis of data already gathered as part of a long-running project to understand the ecology of elephant seals, all conducted subject to internationally-agreed ethical standards. To quote:

      "As the permanent ice shelves of Antarctica shrink, a firm understanding of the environmental requirements of these and other animals is imperative. The further development of this technology may provide an unprecedented ability to explain and predict the response of animals to climate change and environmental variability and aid future conservation and management efforts."

    2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

      Re: Zero respect

      > disposable

      *wonders* How would one recycle a used elephant seal?

    3. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

      Re: Zero respect

      Single-use wildlife is an abomination and we need to ban wildlife.

  7. Zog_but_not_the_first

    Whatever next?

    Armoured bears?

    1. IceC0ld

      Re: Whatever next?

      Armoured bears?

      of ALL the animals we have to 'play' with I honestly believe that the bear is already armoured enough ffs :o)

    2. The March Hare


      Think Iorek Byrnison might have something to say about that...

      1. Bronek Kozicki

        Re: panserbjørne

        Bears can be useful in military also without wearing armour. Just ask Wojtek.

  8. Pete4000uk

    Why is this

    NASAs job? Doesnt really have much to do with aeronautics of space.

    1. chuckufarley

      Re: Why is this

      OK, well, think of the big picture:

      If the humans cannot sleep on Earth anymore because we shit in our bed where will we sleep? Do we know for a fact the shit cannot washed from our bedding before it's bed time? How do you prove it either way? Is anyone even bothering to work on washing the bedding? Just when is bed time anyway?

      Everyone has an opinion as to the answers of these questions, but none of those opinions can be proven to five sigmas. If you happen lead one of world's greatest science organizations then answering these questions has two short term and possibly one long term benefits. In the short term you will get more private grants and Federal funding. In the long term if we have to move Humanity into orbit for the 25000 next years NASA becomes the most trusted player in the newest utility industry: Air Pressure.

      1. Carpet Deal 'em

        Re: Why is this

        I think the intended question is why this doesn't fall under NOAA(y'know, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency). It and NASA have some overlap, but you'd think this wouldn't be part of it.

    2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

      Re: Why is this

      [EDIT: whoops, forgot I was reading an old linked post...]

      All I can think of is that there are various large pools of research money under the US Govt tucked under umbrellas you wouldn't consider obvious, and this might be an instance of that.

      Eg, this here internet thingy we're on --> DARPA.

      Interestingly, a HUGE amount of high quality speculative/high-risk research is undertaken under the budget/auspices of the US Navy's research arm. Eg, trying to pin down exactly what conditions are necessary to reliably achieve the observed but intermittent cold fusion instances (run the same experiment 10 times, see fusion products say 3 times, but conditions apparently identical for all 10. "Apparently" is a key word: a stray cynicism by a colleague in a tea room led to a medical researcher clearing up a similar intermittency and flipping upside-down the medical profession's understanding of how arteries work (the BMA were NOT happy) -- 2 or 3 Nobel prizes eventuated).

  9. chuckufarley

    Climate Change bad...

    ...very bad. The worst Climate. Horrible Change. Bad.

    But now I can't decide which is worse: Climate Change or being asked to discard of loyalty to Sharks with Fricken LASERS!

    As my Gran said to me when I was small, "If ya go to dance, ya dance with the one that brung ya." I know in my head that the Buddhists are right, "Change Is." However I see no need to exchange the upfront and unabashed honesty of a LASER fueled feeding frenzy for the Cloak and Dagger tactics of Telepathic-Cyborg-Spy-Seals. Brutal honestly has been a hallmark of El Reg since I started reading way too many years ago. It has also been a charming personality trait (or rage inducing personality flaw, depending on who you ask) of Yours Truly for much longer.

    Change just for the sake of change makes my inner BOFH speak up and say "Sure, we could do that, but..." and that is never a good sign.

  10. Arachnoid


    See this is how it all starts with fantasy animals , next we will see seals with horns on their noses.......

    1. imanidiot Silver badge
      1. Frogmelon

        Re: Unicorns

        Swimming in the ocean...

        Causing a commotion,

        'cos they are so awesome...

  11. First Light Silver badge

    Recapture and remove?

    I hope they plan on taking it off. It looks extremely annoying.

  12. blue-eyes

    Past tense of "dive"

    Can you please use "dived" rather than the awful American "dove"

    1. Frogmelon

      Re: Past tense of "dive"

      Or we could use "doved"?

      Then nobody will be happy and everything will be just fine. :)

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Past tense of "dive"

      Actually - 'dove' *is* the correct English past tense of 'to dive' Just like 'shone' is the correct past-tense of 'to shine' rather than the dreadful 'shined' that most young authors seem to use nowadays..

      (I would quibble about the "dove up to" - surely is should be "dove down to"?)

  13. Flywheel


    I totally misread that as an elephant with a sensor-studded skullcap. Oh dear.Not exactly a stealth animal is it?

    And shouldn't that be the NSA, not NASA?

  14. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Big Brother

    The phones are bad enough

    Don't give Google any ideas!

  15. David-M

    With a caveat...

    An excellent idea, with the caveat that the seal's choice of diving may be non-random eg choosing warmer currents or ones flowing in a certain way or strength, and therefore may bias the results if not complemented properly. d

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Targetted Advertising ?

    Of course, once NASA sells all this data off to Google, the poor old

    seals will be getting targeted advertising based on their diving profiles...

  17. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921

    Elephant seals never forget - we should ask them instead (after learning to speak Seal)

  18. david_hay

    Gets my seal of approval .....

    If the animal was blue, would it be a navy seal ?

  19. 9Rune5

    Seal cruelty

    So, this seal is currently waddling around telling the other seals that "they are watching us... our every move... they're watching..".

    Which is, naturally, met with much eye rolling and murmurs of "oh great, here comes Gloria with her tin-foil cap and conspiracy theories. Just ignore her"

    Meanwhile, a neighbor apparently has access to a good supply of seal meat. I have never cooked seal before, but my aunt's hubby will hopefully divulge his secrets. The meat is remarkably tender, but it has to be properly prepared.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Seal cruelty

      I have never cooked seal before

      Apparently - either raw or long, slow cooking is best. It's somewhat... blubbery. And gamey.

      Oh - and don't eat the liver unless you like flirting with vitamin A toxicity.


  20. Aussie Doc

    Oh dear.

    Poor seal must feel like the Alex Jones of the diving world.

    Have a seal beer equivalent on me.

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