27 October, 1998
Well, we had today free again. We are scheduled to go out tomorrow sometime, although the exact times have not been posted in our hotel yet. Part of my team is going windsurfing again. I returned to the NSF building again this morning to catch up on e-mails and journal entries. I called a NZ elementary school (that NSF linked me up with) to see if I could go visit them today, but they were having what they call a "sports" day (where everyone was competing in various events out on the field for the day). So I rescheduled for Wednesday morning, even though we are scheduled to go out tomorrow morning. If we end up leaving for sure on Wednesday, I'll call and leave a message that I can't make it. My classroom is at the Waimairi School, Room 10...Year 5/6 (which are 10 and 11-year olds)...it should be fun! They are following my adventures on the web also and want to meet me in person before I go to the ice. I decided that while I had time, I would go through the International Antarctic Centre's exhibit on Antarctica and take pictures (sort of like a long-distance field trip for you guys). The exhibit had an actual cold room with snow, ice, and a wind chill machine. You had to put rubber covers on your shoes and bundle up before going into the room. I think all of you Minnesotans would have had no problem at all! They had exhibits on sea birds, penguins, explorers, marine life found under the ice, weather, and seasonal changes. Did you know that there is a special glycoprotein in the fish down in Antarctica that actually acts like an anti-freeze for the fish so that they don't freeze to death? There is a research team studying the hows and whys of this special adaptation.
There are many birds in Antarctica-- penguins, albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters, shags, sheathbills, terns, gulls, and skuas. Until I get pictures of these, you may want to look these birds up on the Internet or in an encyclopedia to see what they look like. There are many kinds of whales in the sea around Antarctica-- humpback whales, southern right whales, sperm whales, killer whales (orcas), sei whales, fin whales, minke whales, and blue whales. The baleen whales have tough, baleen plates in their mouths that they use to strain their food. They swim along with their mouths open and then close their mouths, rubbing their tongues along the inside of the baleen plates to strain out all of the water and keep all of the krill (small, 6 cm-long planktonic crustaceans) and small invertebrates for dinner. [Planktonic means "drifting"] Other whales, such as the orcas, feed on squid, fish, birds, and other marine mammals. They have been known to tip over small ice floes to get at resting seals! Antarctica also has fur seals, elephant seals, crabeater seals, leopard seals, and Weddell seals. Most of them eat fish, squid, or krill. Weddell seals are the best-studied seals because they are easier to approach. Studies have shown that they can dive to 60 m (have you figured out the conversions yet?) and stay under the water for an hour!
The only plants on Antarctica are lichens, mosses, and algae, except for 2 flowering plants which exist in the milder Antarctic Peninsula. There is kelp in some of the southern islands (a large seaweed that is attached to the bottom of the sea and grow at rapid rates to form sort of a forest in the water), phytoplankton, and marine algae that stain the ice brown or pink.
I had lunch at the 60 Degrees South Cafe at the International Antarctic Centre again, following my tour through the Centre. As I was sitting there having lunch, one of the managers approached me and asked if I would be a "model" for a new brochure they were putting out advertising the Centre. It took about 5 minutes for them to take several pictures. On my way back from the ice, they said I could come in and get a copy of the new brochure...so what do you know? I am now an international model! Not quite, but I can dream...: )
I returned to the hotel, hoping to head to the gondola (an enclosed chairlift up to the mountains above Christchurch) and rent a mountain bike to come down the mountain, but my roommate, Nina, had already left on a bike she rented earlier in the morning. I'll go tomorrow if we don't fly out...I did some catch-up packing for tomorrow's flight out, and then went to dinner at the Rumah Wayang, an Indonesian restaurant, with Nina and Fred, a guy we met today. Fred is going down to do waste management at McMurdo. He's in charge of making sure everything is OK and meets standards to get shipped back to the United States so they can properly dispose of them. You know those "pee drums" I was talking about? He said that about 300 - 350 of those drums for 1998 get shipped back to the U.S. to get disposed of. He said that there are people that actually have to unload all of it at the plant. Whew! I don't think I'd want to be there. But this waste management down there is very important in keeping Antarctica nice and clean...
We returned to the hotel to check on the departure times tomorrow morning and found out that the flights had again been cancelled until Thursday (so I will be able to go talk to Waimairi School, Room 10, tomorrow after all). We went to Bailies in town to test our pool skills. There was already a huge group there from our hotel. I played a couple of games, getting pointers from several people. The juke box was kept going by our group-- selections from the Doors, The Wedding Singer, No Doubt, Pearl Jam, the Poques, etc. It's always good to learn new things...it was fun and I was able to meet a few more people going down to the ice. Everyone is eager to get going...but we'll enjoy Christchurch while we can...
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