17 January, 1998

Greetings from the Nathaniel B. Palmer! We've had a wonderful day here in Antarctica. I've arranged my room, finished my first official "watch," finished my laundry, and learned my way around most of the ship. Yesterday, I even saw two orcas (killer whales) in the distance! Too bad they were too far off to take pictures. Some of the other people saw some penguins on the ice as we were heading out to sea. I didn't happen to be looking out at the time, but I'm sure I'll see some down the road.

Today, the Ross Sea has been very calm. Look at a map (or a globe) of Antarctica. Can you suggest one reason why the Ross Sea is calm for much of the time? Can you suggest a reason why the Ross Sea can sometimes get pretty rough? What kinds of precautions would you have to take with equipment on a ship to prepare for rough seas? Right now, it is a little bit foggy outside. The temperature is right about -3 degrees Celsius outside, but it's nice and warm inside the ship. We even have electric space heaters in our bedrooms if we get cold.

This ship is huge! Many labs are located on the main deck of the ship. I'm currently working in the computer lab, which has at least 13 computers. Across the hall is the "dry lab," which also has many computers and is where we actually do most of our work. During my shift, there are four people from the science team on duty. In addition to me, the others are named Stephanie Shipp, Michelle Fassell, and Ian Howat. During our 12 hours of work, we take turns reading data from the computers, checking equipment to make sure it's working properly, and editing data on the computer. Every 15 minutes we are required to read data and check equipment. We take turns editing the data because that takes a long time.

Down the hallway is the wet lab. When we begin coring the sea floor sediments, we will do quite a bit of work in there. There are also doors that go outside to the main deck. Down the hallway the other direction is the galley. There are enough tables to seat at least 40 people. Since some people work throughout the night, they serve four meals a day. Meal times are 7:30 - 8:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., 5:30 - 6:30 p.m., and 11:30 p.m. - 12:30 am. So far, the meals have been great. In addition, there are soft drinks, coffee, juice, and some sort of dessert always available if you have the "munchies."

My room is one of the bedrooms on the first deck. Seven of thel eight members of the science team have their bedrooms on this floor. At one end of the hall, there are laundry facilities and a weight room. It's hard to believe that they have all of this on a ship! I'm not sure about all of the rooms on the upper decks, but I think that the crew and support staff have their bedrooms up there. I do know there is a conference room on the third deck as well as a book/video library and the chief scientist's bedroom. The fourth deck includes the captain's office and the captain's quarters. He drives the boat from the fifth deck -- it's called the bridge. Below deck is the engine room as well as the machine shop, the electrical shop, and the woodworking shop. Why do you suppose that they have to have all of that equipment on the ship?

Before I end today's journal, I want to make sure and answer yesterday's question . . . Where do you suppose the helicopter landed when it took us out to the boat?

The helicopter landed on the ice next to the ship. There is a helicopter pad on the ship, but that isn't what they used. They had tested the ice in advance to make sure that it was strong enough to support the weight of the helicopter. I actually had to walk across the sea ice to get to the ship. The Palmer has a long set of stairs (not unlike an airplane), that reach from the boat in the water to the people on the ice.

Well, that's all for now. Talk to you tomorrow!

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