30 January, 1998
Greetings from the Nathaniel B. Palmer! What a wonderful day! The weather was beautiful, the sea was calm, and we were able to take lots of data. In addition, we used an oceanographic instrument called a CTD today . . . and with oceanography being one of the classes I teach, I was very excited. A CTD measures the conductivity (C),temperature (T), and density (D) of the water. The conductivity can be used to determine salinity (saltiness) and the density can be used to calculate depth. So, for our study, we were looking at the salinity and temperature of the water at different depths. The instrument that we used serves a double purpose if people are collecting samples of water. Around the outside of the CTD, there are long water bottles that can be closed electronically at different depths. We didn't collect any water, but it was very interesting to see how it was set up to work. I was amazed at the size of the entire instrument! I was able to help Christie (one of the Marine Technicians) put the CTD in the water at our first location. One of the crew members operated the winch, but we helped to get everything ready and to guide the CTD out the door. Dr. Anderson and I are trying to look at the information from the CTD to determine where the water in that parcticular location came from. Ultimately, we want to see if the water is having any effect on the sediments on the area
After my shift was over, we had an AWESOME surprise (I had heard rumors, but I wasn't sure until it actually happened). We took the zodiacs (inflatable boats with motors) to land! We had finished our study around the Pennell Coast (near Cape Adare), and Dr. Anderson decided that we could all go to shore before we headed back to the Ross Sea. The ship isn't able to go all the way to shore because it gets too shallow, but it did take us through the pack ice. The ship then maintained a position in nearly open water as several people (including the Captain, Dr. Anderson, and Jim Holik (ASA Marine Projects Coordinator) went ashore. They returned to say that we could all go in the next trip, but there were some rules that we had to follow. They included: wearing a mustang suit and boots, understanding the rules concerning Antarctic wildlife, understanding the rules concerning historic Antarctic huts, and understanding that we could not take any samples or souvenirs. (What do you suppose are some of the specific rules that have been made to protect Antarctica?) We had been told all of that information before we even arrived on the continent, but I like the fact that we were reminded before we got into the zodiacs. After our refresher course, we were given the "all clear" and we climbed into the zodiacs for an unbelievable ride! We went fairly slow -- not only did we want to maneuver around loose pack ice, but also we didn't want to get splashed (the water is very cold).
If you remember, Cape Adare is the home of the largest Adelie penguin colony in Antarctica. We landed the zodiacs down the beach from the majority of the penguins, but there were still an incredible number of them around! You could see penguins in every direction -- THOUSANDS of them. They say there are 250,000 breeding pairs at this beach (that's 500,000 birds) . . . but most of those pairs also had a chick (or two)! Whereas the parent penguins were black and white (black heads and backs; white fronts with a white ring around their eyes), the chicks were covered in fluffy brown/gray feathers that were in various stages of molting. It was incredible . . . and stinky . . . and loud . . . and WONDERFUL! I have pictures -- I'll send a few back soon!
This site is also the location of three historic Antarctic huts. Early explorers to the continent would build huts for protection and sleeping. Even though many of these huts are nearly 100 years old, often they are still in fairly good shape due to the cold, dry climate. At Cape Adare, there are two huts that belonged to Carsten Borchgrevink, the son of a Norwegian father and an English mother. He sailed for six months to Cape Adare from London, England, in 1898/1899. After helping to build the huts (an "accommodation" hut and a "stores" hut), his ship departed for New Zealand -- leaving Borchgrevink, along with 9 other men and 90 dogs, to become the first humans to spend the lonely winter in Antarctica. The ship returned 11 months later to pick up the 9 surviving men, who not only accomplished their goal but also made excellent maps of the Ross Sea (along with many other accomplishments)
The third hut at Ridley Beach was built by Victor Campbell, who was a part of Robert Falcon Scott's Terra Nova expedition of 1911-1914. Although the most memorable part of that expedition was Scott's race to the South Pole, there were several other parties of men who, under Scott's orders, set off for different parts of the continent. Victor Campbell led a party of 6 men to Roberston Bay along Cape Adare. This group of six has become known as the "Northern Party." Finding no other suitable location, they built their hut on Ridley Beach . . . next to Borchgrevink's abandoned huts. In fact, they lived in Borchgrevink's main hut until theirs was completed (about 2 weeks). They stayed for nearly a year before a ship arrived to move them to a new location further south.
While visiting Ridley Beach, I thought it was interesting that Campbell's hut was in the worst shape -- even though it wasn't as old as Borchgrevink's huts. It's because they were made of different materials. Borchgrevink's huts were made of Norwegian Spruce, which has weathered the winds of Cape Adare much better than the wood that Campbell used. All of the huts are maintained and protected today by New Zealand's Antarctic Heritage Trust organization. For example, they installed support braces and a new roof on Borchgrevink's accommodation hut during the 1989-1990 season. We did not go in the huts because we did not have a representative of the AHT with us. It is said that only about 200 people land at Cape Adare each year. I am really glad to have had such an opportunity!
Well, I know this is a little longer than usual . . . but I knew you would want to know about our exciting day! Tomorrow we will be in transit back to the Ross Sea, where we will spend the rest of our journey collecting data about the last ice age. Until then, keep your questions coming!
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