22 October, 1996
Subject: Re: Journal 22 October 1996
Live from the Polar Duke in the Gerlache Strait
Location: 64.14S X 61.51W Wind Speed: 7.0 m/sec
Boat Speed: 0.0 Knots Wind Direction: 173.3 degrees
Boat Heading: 208 degrees Barometer: 975.67 mb
Humidity: 76.3 % Air Temp.: -1.1 C
Salinity: 33.7 0/00 Water Temp.: -1.3 C
General Weather Conditions: Beautiful day until about 1800. This was the first time we have seen the mercury climb above the zero mark. The winds began howling (katabatic winds) at 1800 and by 2000 the wind speed had accelerated to 23 m/sec!
Today, we have reason to celebrate! We are doing our last diel! To make it a memorable diel, the pump broke! This slowed things up from 2200 to 0200, but we managed to get our samples.
We had some really beautiful ice today. There was one football field sized chunk that had beautiful carved arches that went straight through the iceberg. The colors, shades of blue that are more typical of tropical environments, were dazling.
Time for more questions and answers:
The first two are from Alison and Jill from Montezuma High School in Iowa:
1. Do you get to eat well-rounded meals or is the food like T.V. dinners?
The meals are well-balanced but are becoming boring and monotonous. The selection doesn't vary much and as I mentioned earlier, the crew of the ship, including the chief steward is Norwegian. This means that we have been living on a Norwegian diet, which has two basic food groups, fish and potatoes. We have also run out of various staples like peanut butter and yogurt, we haven't had fresh vegetables for the last two weeks and I never thought that running out of oatmeal would constitute a crisis. Lunch is probably the best and largest meal of the day which is typical of most European countries. There is a hot and cold buffet and my favorite item is the smoked salmon.
2. Have you ever seen any green plants on the land?
Although we haven't spent too much time on land, I think that I can state with a fairly high degree of certainty that this landscape is overwhelmingly WHITE! This is because only 2 percent of Antarctica's 5.4 million square miles is free of ice. There are only two native vascular plants (vascular plants have xylem and phleom which are tissues that circulate liquids), are able to grow south of 56 degrees. One is a grass and the other is called a pearlwort. Moss is also found, but the most common plant, is one that is able to tolerate the extremely cold and dry conditions these are lichens. Lichens are a combination of algae and fungi. The two organisms have a mutualistic relationship in which both benefit. The fungi supplies the home and the algae makes the food. About 150 different lichens have been found around the area of the Antarctic Penninsula.
These are from my Brumagim Buddies at Oakdale Elementary in Virginia:
3. On an average, how long does it take to get our e-mail?
We are able to send out and receive e-mail twice a day. The mail goes out at 1100 and 1900 each day. Therefore if you write to me after 1100 I won't get your e-mail until after 1900. Sometimes the system becomes overloaded and mail may not be received. I also suspect that some mail is lost (in the ozone).
4. Are you finding your work interesting? Are your findings what you expected?
The work itself involves long hours and lots of hard physical labor. The labwork has been interesting, I have learned some microbiological techniques, for example, I have made many slides of bacterial cells. Some of these slides were counted on the ship with an epifluorescence microscope. The counts are used as a measurement of cell abundance, it gives us an idea of how many bacterial cells were present in the water at the time that the sample was taken.
Most of the samples (all of the filters, the rest of the slides, ect) we collected will be analyzed at the University of West Florida and at other labs in Texas and Oklahoma. We won't have any results from most of the experiments until weeks after we return to the states.
What is really important and exciting is that nobody has done this kind of work in Antarctica! Maybe we will make some important discoveries!
These are from the sixth graders at Oak Hill:
5. Are you finding lots of information on plankton?
We have collected lots of bacterioplankton, but as stated in the question above, most of the important information will be revealed once these samples are analyzed.
6. Is there a television on board your ship?
Yes, there are two T.V.'s on board. One in the lounge and one in the day room. They are both hooked up to VCR's and are used mainly to watch movies. When the ship is in range of Punta Arenas, Chile, we will be able to pick up Chilean stations!
Thanks for the questions!
NSF Teacher in Antarctica
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