30 October, 1996
Subject: Re: Journal 30 October 1996
Live from the Polar Duke in the Drake Passage
Location: 57.51S X 60.39W Wind Speed: 13.2 m/sec
Boat Speed: 12.4 knots Wind Direction: 10.3 degrees
Boat Heading: 332 degrees Barometer: 1008.85
Humidity: 94.6 % Air Temp.: 4.6 C
General Weather Conditions: Fair and warmer, at 4.6 C it's a regualr heat wave. From the air temperature I'm quite certain that we have crossed the Antarctic Convergence, which means that we have really left Antarctica. The conditions in the Drake have been quite good, some folks are a little queasy, but not too bad. Waves and swells of up to two to three meters have been reported from the bridge.
We are about halfway through the Drake and should be adjacent to Isla Los Estados Nord by early tomorrow morning. This is actually closing in on Terra del Feugo and the Argentinian coast.
I have just recieved a fresh batch of questions from students at Chatham High School which is located in Morris County, NJ. These are from Susanna, Kerry and Heather:
1. We're studying the Coriolis effect in class. Which way does the toilet water spin in Antarctica and why?
The coriolis effect, first described by Gastave de Coriolis, a French scientist and billard player, is caused by the rotation or spin of the Earth on it's axis. The earth rotates from east to west or in a clockwise direction when viewed from the north pole. The coriolis effect causes an apparent deflection of objects moving in a straight line, for example winds and ocean currents. Objects in the northern hemisphere are deflected to the right and in the southern hemisphere to the left. The water in the toilet bowl should spin to the left here in the southern hemisphere, however, the heads on the ship don't seem to spin at all.
2. What is special about the fabric in the clothing you wear that it keeps you warm?
The special fabrics that mentioned were Gore-tex, polar fleece and polypropelene or poly-pro. Gore-tex is a fabric that is completely water and wind proof, two very important characteristics for cold weather gear in Antarctica. The Gore-Tex parka is used as the top layer. The layer directly under the Gore-tex is the polar fleece, this is the insulating layer. Polar fleece has good loft without being excessively bulky, doesn't absorb moisture and drys quickly. Poly-pro is a another man-made fabric that wicks moisture and perspiration away from the body and drys quickly. This is the layer that is worn closest to the skin. It is lightweight, drys quickly and does not get wet like cotton. The worst fabric that you could possibly wear close to your skin is cotton because it is slow to dry and when it gets wet it loses all of its insulating value. The trick to staying warm in a cold environment is to dress in layers and peel the layers off as you warm up or exert yourself.
3. What would happen to penguins brought to the US? What conditions must be provided for them to survive in various zoo conditions?
This depends on the type of penguin. The species that breed south of the Antarctica convergence would probably have the most
difficulty in a temperate environment. However, zoos and aquariums probably have the resources and expertise to keep the true Antarctic species, for example the Emperor and adelie penguins, heathly. I think they would have a very difficult time getting them to breed in captivity.
The penguins that live and undergo their reproductive cycles north of the convergence would probably be more comfortable in the temperate environment of the United States. The northernmost species of penguins inhabit the Galapagoes Islands, which straddle the equator.
The penguins that I remember seeing at the New England Aquarium were rockhoppers. These are commonly found in the Falkland and South Georgia Islands. In order to thrive in captivity the penguins need cold water and a diet that is similar to their natural diet.
4. Have you seen an aurora australis?
No, we haven't seen the aurora australis also known as the southern lights. The journals of most of the early polar explorers mention seeing these strange and spectacular light shows in the sky. The aurora is initiated by the sun and the earth's magnetic field.
The people that I spoke with from Palmer Station had not see these lights. Perhaps our location near the Antarctic Penninsula was not far enough south or maybe they are seasonal and we were there at the wrong time.
5. What gives the snow and ice the blue hues you mentioned?
Most of the ice that I have described as being this brilliant blue has been submerged. I'm not completely sure, but I would guess that has something to do with clarity of the water and the refraction of light. As light enters water it refracts or bends, it also bends when it hits parcticles suspended in the water column. The blues and greens of the visable spectrum penetrate deeper than the reds which are absorbed near the surface. This is why most seawater ranges from blue to green in color.
6. Has anyone gotten sea-sick on the cruise?
The Drake Passage is well-known as having some of the worst maritime conditions on the globe. It is where the Pacific Ocean meets the Atlantic Ocean. Wind and current (the West Wind Drift) work in concert to produce massive waves and a confused sea state. The West Wind Drift is the only current that encircles the earth, the great fetch (unobstructed distance over which the wind can blow) allows wave energy to build without dissipating on a shoreline somewhere.
There are several people right now who at this very moment wish they were anywhere other than the Drake Passage sea sickness simulator. They have been have been holed up in their cabins since we left the protected waters near King George Island. Prior to this the Polar Duke has provided an extremely stable platform from which we were able to work without succumbing to 'mal de mer'. We also did all of our work in the very protected waters of the Gerlache Strait.
NSF Teacher in Antarctica
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