22 January, 1998
Hello! We're still fixing things on the Nathaniel B. Palmer, but we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel (hopefully)! Since we had about a 20 hour transit to our next location, the ASA staff have had quite a bit of time to work on the equipment today. We didn't think that we would have to "ping edit" the data from the Multibeam during our transit because Dr. Anderson and the others scientists on ship don't really need this data for their studies. We were still taking data, however, in case another scientist needs it sometime in the future. If that's the case, he/she will have to edit it himself/herself. After seeing the preliminary pictures, however, Stephanie and Dr. Anderson decided that we would ping edit the data anyway. I have three sets of data tonight, so I have my evening pretty well planned!
I told you what my goal for the day was for today -- to see penguins! Since we didn't collect any major data today, the four of us split the watch -- I was assigned to keep the log book for 3 hours and then I helped to analyze and clean up a kasten core for a couple of hours. That gave me a little extra free time. I spent some of that time "on deck" (outside) watching the icebergs for penguins.. While I was out on deck . . . I DID see penguins! They were really neat! And very abundant! They were Adelie penguins, which are pretty small. They were hanging out on the icebergs and jumping into the water as the ship approached. I also saw a bunch of penguins (a squadron) swimming in the water. They almost looked like miniature dolphins as they arched out of the water and propelled themselves forward. I tried taking pictures, but the penguins are barely noticeable as little black dots. I'll keep trying so I can send some back for the web site!
Many of you have asked about the wildlife that we have seen here in Antarctica. As we were taking the "bus" from the air strip to McMurdo Station, we saw lots of Weddell Seals lying on the ice. As we were leaving McMurdo, I saw two killer whales -- but I haven't seen any since. Mostly, we have seen birds. The most common birds around the ship are called Cape Pigeons. The are black and white. There are also some birds around called Snow Petrels that are pure white. Dr. Anderson saw a Wandering Albatross yesterday, but they are pretty rare to see (and I didn't see it). For the next few days, we will be much closer to the coast. As a result, we will probably see a lot more animals. I'll be sure and keep you posted!
When Stephanie and I looked at the core today, we saw lots of green mud in the upper portion of the sediments. The green color tells us that diatoms lived in the water above that mud. When they died, they sank to the bottom and their color turned the sediments green. Diatoms are algae that need sunlight to survive. They use sunlight as energy to make their own food (like plants). When we find diatoms in the sediments, we know that the area we are studying was NOT covered with ice when the diatoms were living. Beneath the green mud, we found a layer of sediments that contained many small volcanic rocks and some tiny balls of clay. That is evidence that a glacier used to be in the area. Glaciers can carry rocks frozen in them. As the glaciers melt, the rocks drop to the bottom. The small clay balls tell us that a glacier may have been scraping the bottom in that area and squishing the clay as it pushed along. Under that layer, we found lots of gray mud. It was not green. What do you suppose that means? Stephanie and Dr. Anderson look at records like this all the time. The try and piece the history of the glaciers together by looking at all the clues from our equipment and instruments. To them, it's like a big puzzle trying to figure out what happened during the last ice age about 20,000 years ago.
Yesterday's question was "How do you suppose that we know our exact latitude and longitude?" We use something called GPS. GPS stands for Global Positioning System and it uses satellites that are up in space. Currently, there are at least 24 GPS satellites going around the Earth. In order to determine your position, you need to be able to receive information from at least 3 satellites (the more satellites, the more accurate your information). If you want to determine elevation too, you need at least 4 satellites. These satellites send out information including which satellite you are using and the time that the signal was sent. Receivers on the ship use that information to determine how far the satellite is from the ship (we know that the information travels at the speed of light). With at least three points, the receivers use triangulation to determine the ship's exact location. This method of determining location is used all over the world -- not just on ships.
I'll be sending out some more pictures this weekend. Keep your suggestions coming . . . even if I can't use all of them now, I may be able to use them later! I hope that your days are as fun as mine -- I LOVE it down here!
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