31 October, 1996
Subject: Re: Journal 31 October 1996 Happy Halloween
Live from the Polar Duke in the Drake Passage
Location: 54.03S X 64.56W Wind Speed: 15.6 m/sec
Boat Speed: 8.0 knots Wind Direction: 10.3 degrees
Boat Heading: 297.0 degrees Barometer: 1000.18
Humidity: 93.9 % Air Temp.: 6.8 C
General Weather Conditions: I was practically catapulted out of my bunk at 0230 by the violent motions of the ship. Winds were up to 45 knots and waves four to five meters. Laying in my bunk, I could feel the Duke rise on each crest and crash into each trough. At times I felt the weightlessness of space travel, hovering over my bunk, quickly followed by a slamming action and a low shuddering and shaking over the entire length of the ship. We rode along the front of this low pressure system where current and wind were hitting each other dead on until late afternoon. By early evening we seem to be out of the system and on our way to the Straits of Magellan.
By 1000 tomorrow we will pick up a pilot to guide the Polar Duke through the Straits of Magellan. Everyone is getting very anxious to feel solid earth beneath their feet. I am looking forward to the grocery store, a good meal and I can't wait to see something green. Trees, grass, flowers, anything! The first of November in the Southern Hemisphere should be like the first of May back home.
I am going to answer all of the questions that I have left, some are from Ms. Bullard's astonishing fifth grade class and Ms. Linnel's sixth grade class at Oak hill Elementary:
1. Does anyone have a special wet-suit for swimming?
No one on this cruise has a special wet-suit. The day we spent at Palmer Station divers went into the water to take videos of the hull of the Polar Duke. They were wearing dry suits with polar fleece underneath. It took them about one hour to get dressed to go into the water!
2. What was your favorite spot in Antarctica? What was the most breath-taking scene?
I liked Deception Island and would have liked to have had more time to explore the ruins and find some hot springs. For breath-taking beauty, the Lemaire Channel and trip out of Palmer Station gets my vote.
3. Are there reasonable whale and seal populations in Antarctica? I don't know if they have been hunted to extinction.
The whale populations with the exception of the minkes and killer whales have been hunted to near extinction. Right, humpback and blue whale populations are 1 percent of their original numbers and the fin and sei whales about 10-20 percent. The minkes and killer whales have
never really been pursued because of their size. Whalers didn't want to waste expensive exploding harpoons on such small animals. The larger whales numbers have been desciminated to such an extent that the breeding population is not large enough to build the populations back up to numbers that were common before the days of whaling. Reproductive rates in whales are slow, producing one calf every two to three years while the natural death rate is 4-8 percent. Even without human predation, whales have a very low population recovery potential.
Seals were hunted extensively during the 1800's. Between 1793 and 1807 3.5 million seal skins were harvested. Sealers wiped out entire breeding populations on the South Shetland and South Georgia Islands. However, seal populations have rebounded and some species have even larger populations than they did prior to the days of sealing. There are two reasons why the seals were able survive the years of hunting. First of all the seals reach reproductive maturity at a realitivly young age as compared to whales and reproduce yearly. Secondly, as the whale populations were decreasing in the early 1900's, krill became more abundant and available to other animals, for example seals. The larger food supply was able to support the growing populations of seals.
4. What are the two greatest challenges you've faced?
There were many challenges over the past six weeks, but for the most part I enjoyed what I was doing and the people that I was with.
NSF Teacher in Antarctica
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