10 November, 1998

November 10, 1998

It must be summer here! I've seen people walking around in shorts. I must admit it was warm yesterday. Snow was melting off the rooves in the sun. I was walking around with my parka unzipped. But shorts? I guess those guys had been here longer than I. For them 30 F must be a heat wave! When Ed and Sierra got here in August they had to endure wind chills even colder than -100 degrees Fahrenheit!! However, when we were icefishing just outside of McMurdo yesterday I was glad I had on all my warm clothes especially when the wind blew in across the frozen sea. It still felt like I was in Antarctica. And the scenery! Well you've heard enough about that. It's always fabulous!

This journal is for today and yesterday. You probably won't get one from me tomorrow.

Yesterday was an extremely busy day, and so is today so I can't spend much time writing this journal. I worked from 5:30 AM to 10:00 PM yesterday and will be doing the same today. I have a deadline to get part of my research done by the end of the week. This involves making slides of gills, photographing them, developing the film, printing the photos, and then counting and measuring the cells in the photos. I am taking photos faster than I can develop them and I am printing photos faster than I can count the cells on them, so things are starting to pile up. Interspersed among these activities are things like checking the osmolarity of the fish blood (osmolarity is a measure of how much salt and other substances are dissolved in the blood), pitching in with doing little things around the lab that need to get done so all the work can be done smoothly, doing laundry, eating, and of course pitching in with the ice fishing. There is always a need for more fish. Yesterday I got to drill my first hole in the ice with a jiffy-drill. The gadget looks easy to use but it takes all of 2 people's strength to manage the thing. I was worn out after the 10 minutes it took to drill the hole, and all my clothes smelled like gasoline. But it was still pretty neat. I caught one fish. Sierra caught a wacky-looking pointy-nosed fish called the Naked Dragon fish. I'll try to get a photo of one with my digital camera to put in the journal. Its lower jaw was shorter than its upper jaw. How Bizarre!!

I wonder why. Any ideas? Here is another question to think about. The fish that live under the ice here live in water that is only about 30 to 90 feet deep. But they have huge eyes. Why?

Tomorrow we are scheduled to fly by helicopter to Granite Harbor for some ice fishing. Granite Harbor is on the mainland of Antarctica. McMurdo is not on the mainland; it is on Ross Island in the permanently frozen Ross Sea. At this point in the climatological history of the Earth, Ross Island is attached permanently to Antarctica by the Ross Ice Shelf. But it wasn't always this way. Fossils found in the TransAntarctic Mountain Range which has been uplifted from what was once sea floor show that once Antarctica was in a temperate humid climate. This was when it was part of Gondwanaland many million years ago before it was broken up into the continents by plate tectonics. Let me know if you want me to explain more about this in a future journal.

While we were ice fishing yesterday I had a fun time watching the skuas. They are like bulky brown sea gulls with a patch of white in their wings. They even sound a lot like gulls when they scream back and forth to each other. The skuas have just recently returned to the area from their warm wintering grounds in the north. (It sounds so weird to say that since I am from the northern hemisphere and north seems like it should mean cold.) Skuas can live for many years. If they are like gulls, that could mean they live for thirty years. And they are smart enough to learn from experience. The first time I saw them about a week ago, they flew straight down to our aquarium building where we had put our bait bags (full of dead fish) outside the door so they would freeze and not rot. Maybe the skuas remembered from previous years that that was a good place to look for food. While I watched yesterday they had apparently pulled a dead fish out of one of the bait bags. But the fish was too big for either of them to swallow, so one held onto it while the other one tugged off pieces to eat. It did not seem like they were fighting over the food. There was no screaming or wing-bashing. The other one didn't fly away with the rest of the fish when the first one let go. They seemed to be cooperating. That was pretty neat! I wonder if this cooperation is one way they survive the harsh conditions here. Eventually when the fish was small enough (because one of the skuas had eaten a lot off of it), the other skua swallowed the whole thing! It was still pretty big. It reminded me of a snake swallowing a mouse the way its neck swelled up with the food going down it. I didn't have my big lens with me so I couldn't get pictures. Oh well I'll try to get photos before I return to USA.

OKAY, I better get back to the lab to start measuring and counting cells.

I hope you have good day and do something good for someone.

Fred Atwood



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Mr. Atwood caught by surprise as he fishes with a hand-line in the Cape Evans fish hut. Note the hole in the ice, the warm bunny boots, and the stove to keep the hut warm. (Photo by Ben Hasse)

Naked Dragonfish. I'll try to get better photos but here he is for now. Note how his lower jaw is longer than his upper jaw.

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