Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
Floating along the Antarctic Ocean had a mystical feeling to it.
Squatting at the front of the ice ship, Li Du felt the wind blowing, heard the ruffling of the sail and watched the waves rise up and then down on the water surface. The waves and the wind pushed the ice ship ahead.
Regardless of whether the wind was strong or weak, the ship remained stable throughout the voyage.
The volume of ice that was submerged under the water surface was huge and ensured that the ice ship was very safe. That was one reason why people in Antarctica chose to create ships from ice.
Some seagulls with bodies slightly longer than fifty centimeters flew over their heads. While they had white tails, their body was dull brown and they did not look pretty at all.
After flying a few circles above them, one of the seagulls seemed to be analyzing the ship. Then, it suddenly swooped down to pick up the thermos bag.
The wind blew at the blue-white bag and it resembled a fish from the sea.
Ah Meow, which was nearby, squinted her eyes before stretching out her paw to push the seagull into the sea. At the same time, a few of the seagull’s feathers were torn off.
Very quickly, the seagull rose from the sea again and spread its wings to fly up, looking terrible after the ordeal. However, it continued to circle above the ship and did not seem like it was planning to give up.
Sophie raised her camera to snap a couple more pictures and said, “These seagull thieves are really bold.”
Those were indeed thief seagulls, not the usual kind. As the name suggests, they liked to steal. They were also the reason why the Emperor penguins were forced to lay their eggs during the cold season.
Thief seagulls enjoyed stealing penguins’ eggs and eating them. Most of the penguins lay eggs twice a year, three to four at a time. Emperor penguins, however, lay eggs once a year and typically only lay one egg each time. Thus, each egg is precious.
In order to protect its descendants, penguins had no choice but lay eggs in winter. The hatching would be more successful in summer because the Antarctic was too cold in winter, but penguins had to choose a season when the seagulls migrated north.
The ice ship continued to sail on in the Antarctic Ocean. There were glaciers and floating ice caps around the ship. The birds continued to fly above them and the plump penguins could be spotted in the water and on land. Everything was peaceful.
Suddenly, there was some commotion in the water. Then, a seal stretched its head above the water surface.
Such seals had a huge body, and they somewhat resembled the Emperor penguins, being plump and clumsy. However, that was only how they looked. In the ocean, they were as fierce and as fit as lions!
Steve made a point to remind them, “Don’t provoke the seals, they are not to be trifled with. These hot-tempered animals can be scary once they are angered.”
As he spoke, he opened up a box with some herring inside. He picked one up and threw it far outwards. After the seal noticed that, it swam towards it.
The thief seagulls have noticed it as well. and the cunning birds split up into two groups. One swooped down towards the water to chase after the herring, while the other flew towards Steve to snatch the fish from him.
Steve’s bodyguards waved their arms around to scare the seagulls off. Far ahead, the seal was also fighting against the thief seagulls. However, the seal was no longer as gentle as it looked before. It jumped out of the water fiercely and opened its mouth wide, biting onto a thief seagull and pulling it back into the waters with it.
That seagull never rose again.
Not only that one seagull, but the other seagulls that had swooped down into the waters never rose again either. Later, a few seals raised their heads above the water and looked like they were chewing on something. Obviously, the thief seagulls had become their meals.
Steve laughed. “Ha, my luck is not that bad. The herring fell right into a school of seals.”
The two ice ships continued to float along, one in front of the other. Steve had not cast his net and had not found any krill.
Li Du did not care much about the krill anymore. He sat cross-legged at the front of the ship, enjoying the serene environment that was unique to Antarctica.
Suddenly, he noticed that the water under the ship had changed its color. The blue seawater had become a pale brown!
The pale brown water flow appeared very abruptly, and Li Du thought that it was some special water channel. At that moment, Steve shouted, “Krill!”
Hearing that, it dawned upon Li Du – they had bumped into the krill!
Krill swam in groups. A colony would float to the surface of the water and could cover hundreds of meters. The population density in such swimming colonies was very high. There could be thirty to forty thousand krill per cubic meter of water. That was why the seawater changed its color.
Li Du asked, “The brown color of the water is caused by the krill? Aren’t krill transparent? Why are they brown?”
“They are transparent to our eyes, but not entirely. When there are many krill, the light is blocked from penetrating the water, hence, it changes color,” Steve explained.
Saying that, Steve shook his head regrettably, and said, “Sadly, it’s the light season and the sun doesn’t set. If it was dark, you could enjoy a more beautiful sight. The entire ocean will turn fluorescent green, and the krill present a majestic spectacle!”
Now that they had found the krill, they could cast their net.
The krill mate during the spring season in Antarctica, in the months between October and November. During summer, they form a group and lay their eggs when they come up to the water surface.
More interestingly, the krill would continue to lay eggs a few more times over the next few days. They do not lay their eggs all in one go.
Once the eggs leave the mother’s body, they sink a few hundred meters down to the seabed. They hatch to become larvae and survive by tapping on the yolk stored in the egg yolk sac.
After the yolk runs out, they float to the surface of the water to gather microorganisms for food.
Hence, by drawing in the net from the water surface, they would be able to catch the adult krill. However, even adult krill were not too big. Due to the cold seawater, the krill grow very slowly, only reaching up to five to six centimeters.
Each of the two ships cast a small net into the water and then quickly drew it in.
Li Du and Brother Wolf both exerted a huge amount of energy to pull in the net, one at each end.
They were using a throw net, which was simple to operate. It could trap the small fish on the water surface. They were not of much use in common situations but here, those nets were very helpful and especially efficient at catching the krill.
As the net was pulled up, a huge bunch of krill appeared.
Once the net was placed down on the ship, the krill continued to jump around, fighting for their lives.
“Turn around immediately,” Steve ordered. “Keep them underwater and only pull them up again when we reach the shore.”
The krill’s digestive tract was very simple. The branched hepatopancreas were digestive glands. The outer shell and flesh were transparent and hence, its internal organs could be seen, especially the green digestive tract which was very conspicuous.
As its digestive glands were well-developed, the krill could secrete large amounts of enzymes. If they died, the digestive enzymes would remain active and break down the proteins in their bodies.
That was the reason why Steve told them not to bring the net onto the ship. He wanted the krill to stay alive for as long as possible.
Brother Wolf grabbed a fistful of krill from the net and stuffed them into his mouth, snacking on their fresh meat.
Li Du also picked up one and ate it. Krill lived in an environment that was natural, clean and without pollution. They were not contaminated with heavy metals and they fed on green seaweed, the copepod, the endodon, and other small zooplankton. The meat was pure and healthy.
The krill flesh was cold and was chewy, with a sweet taste to it. It did not taste fishy at all.
Li Du ate two himself and gave two more to Ah Meow. Ah Meow ate happily, using its claws to pull the krill apart.