25 January, 1998

Hi from the Nathaniel B. Palmer! I suppose you have figured out that this ship got its name from a person named Nathaniel B. Palmer . . . but do you know who he was? In fact, he must be considered pretty important because he has three different things named after himself -- this ship, the Palmer Peninsula, and Palmer Station (the northernmost U.S. Station in Antarctica). Nathaniel Brown Palmer was an American sealer and one of the first people to actually see Antarctica.

Nathaniel left his home of Stonington, Connecticut, at the age of 14 to go to sea. In 1820, when we was 21, he was on his second sealing voyage to the Southern Ocean. One story says that he rang the bell of his small ship the "Hero" in thick fog off the coast of the South Shetland Islands. He thought he was hundreds of miles from another ship, and then he heard a bell clanging in reply. It was from Febien Bellinghausen, an Estonian commanding a Russian expedition on a ship called the "Vostok." The two of them are given credit for first sighting the Antarctic continent -- although it depends entirely on which source (or history book) you are looking at as to who actually saw it first! Both Bellinghausen and Palmer have several things named after themselves. The Russian research station on King George Island is called Bellinghausen. In addition, the Bellinghausen Sea can be found to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer, things are going very well. Although the seismic is still not working, we are using the other equipment that we have available. The ASA people are still working very hard to fix the problem . . . if we could only figure out what the exact problem is . . . Until it is fixed, we will be doing a lot of work with the Multibeam, the Bathy-2000, and the Deep Two. We will still get a lot of information, but it won't be everything that we had hoped for originally. The data from the other instruments is looking great, and we are learning a lot about the glaciers that were in this area of the Southern Ocean (technically, we are not in the Ross Sea anymore since we have gone around Cape Adare). Last night we tried to go closer to the Rennick Glacier, but severe ice forced us to turn around. We did, however, find some small islands that weren't marked correctly on the map we were using! Because of the ice, this area hasn't been explored and mapped very well.

We will spend a few more days in the Cape Adare area before heading back into the Ross Sea. I really can't believe how quickly the time is going! I had to do laundry again today . . . and that reminded me that we have already been on this ship for over a week! Speaking of laundry, how do you suppose that we get fresh (not salty) water on the ship? McMurdo Station uses a process called reverse osmosis, but on the NBP we use something different. What are some ways that you could remove the salt from sea water?

Another reminder of how quickly the time has passed is that we had our first emergency drill on the ship. In school, we have fire drills and tornado drills. On the Palmer, we have safety drills every week in case we would have to evacuate the ship. When the alarm sounds, we have to go to our rooms and get our life jackets and our "gumby suits." Our gumby suits are big, plastic, orange suits that are designed to protect us from the water (they are made of a material very similar to what scuba divers wear -- but it's thicker, much more bouyant, and it stays dry inside). They are very bulky and they zip up to cover our entire body (except our face). Our gumby suits are actually life preservers, too, but they take about 1-2 minutes to awkwardly get into them. The life preservers are with us in case we wouldn't have time to get into our gumby suit.

Once we get our life jackets and gumby suits, we have to go up to the third deck conference room where attendance is taken (the life boats can be easily boarded from the third deck). If we were going to have to evacuate the ship, we would then put on our gumby suits and go to the life boats. The life boats are amazing! There are two life boats, and each one contains everything needed to support 76 people. Since the ship is only allowed to have a maximum of 70 people on it at any one time, there's plenty of room (although everyone would be tightly packed). Ideally, they would want to evacuate everyone to the same life boat. Not only would that keep everyone together, but also the additional body heat would help to keep it warmer inside. In the case of a real emergency, each life boat is equipped with water, condensed milk, and life boat rations of food (like special granola bars) for everybody. There are also first aid kits, lanterns, flares, radios, and enough diesel fuel to run the engines at 6 knots for 24 hours. I was surprised to see what the life boats look like -- they are totally enclosed! It makes sense that they are totally enclosed (it's too cold for them to be open), but I hadn't thought about it before! In fact, they could even roll all the way over and they would right themselves in the water! There are windows, and there are small holes that can be opened (if needed) for the oars. The life boats are tested frequently, but the Nathaniel B. Palmer has never had to evacuate its passengers for a real emergency.

Before I sign off, let's look at yesterday's questions:

1) Where is the exact location that determines whether a parcticular place will have days of total daylight or total darkness? This will happen if you are located above the Arctic Circle or below the Antarctic Circle. Since the Earth is tilted 23 1/2 degrees, the Arctic and Antarctic Circles are located 23 1/2 degrees from the geographic poles. That puts the Arctic Circle at 66 1/2 degrees North Latitude and the Antarctic Circle at 66 1/2 degrees South Latitude.

2) Which two locations have the most days of total daylight and total darkness? The north and south pole!

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