11 February, 1998
Greetings from Way Down South! We've had a busy day today on the Nathaniel B. Palmer! This morning, we started off with a kasten core. Actually, the night crew started the core, but we helped to finish it. As it turned out, it was a wonderful core that contained really nice layers of sediments. Normally, we take photos of kasten cores and make a detailed description of the color and sediment size at regular intervals. We also take small samples of the whole length of the core and then toss what's left of the sediments overboard. But this core is special! So, we are actually sieving what's left of the core instead of dumping it. This is a very careful (very slow) procedure, where we take 3 cm of the sediments (so we have a block of sediments about 3 cm x 5 cm x 8 cm) and carefully wash it through a very fine sieve. It takes about 30-45 minutes to wash all the mud away. All that's left are the larger sediment grains and hopefully forams (microscopic plankton that live on the sea surface or sea floor and look a lot like popcorn under a microscope). What's left is put in a special dish and dried in a special oven. Afterwards, the sediments and forams are put in bottles to take back to the U.S. If there are forams, they can be used to determine the age of the sediments. The entire core is 300 cm long, so you can see we have a lot of work ahead of us!
We were going to be looking at the Marine Technicians aboard the NBP in today's journal, but things didn't work out for me to complete all of the interviews. So, today we'll look at the ASA employees who work with the computers on the ship. We'll focus on the MTs in a future journal. There are about 40 computers aboard the Palmer! It takes a lot of work to keep those computers running and to help the scientists capture and understand all of the data that is stored on them. On this cruise, ASA has provided a Senior Systems Analyst and two Network Administrators to help us out. Our Senior Systems Analyst is Dave Leger from Denver, Colorado. Dave is 40 years old, and he is a full-time employee of Antarctic Support Associates (ASA).
Dave has always liked working with computers. He went to college to study Astronomy, but decided to get a job after one year and started working nights as a computer operator for a geophysical company. He taught himself how to program computers, and he wrote several programs that were needed by the company. He was promoted to the job of programer, and he has been working with computers ever since. After working as a consultant for a defense contractor, Dave saw an add in the Denver newspaper looking for someone to design software for research vessels (working for ASA). He has always liked science and he loved the idea of adventure in Antarctica -- so he began working for ASA about 2 and a half years ago.
In Denver, Dave's principle duty is to develop and design software for research vessels. This software is used for data capture, data reduction, and data display by the scientists on board the ships. He oversees two other Systems Analysts and one Computer Engineer at the office. He also manages the Information Systems budget for the Antarctic research ships, and he is on all kinds of committees and boards for ASA. Dave parcticipates in one or two cruises to Antarctica each year. He spends the rest of his time either in his Denver office, at meetings, or at science conferences. Dave was asked to come on our cruise because of the computer equipment that is needed for geophysical research. Here on the ship, he is in charge of two Network Administrators and he has a lot of direct interaction with the scientists. If necessary, he develops custom applications for the scientists and helps with any computer problems. He also gets to check everyone's ping editing each day!
Network Administrators aboard the NBP are responsible for maintaining communication via email, phone, and radio. They must keep all the computers running and make sure that the scientists can do all of the things that they need to do. In addition, Network Administrators make sure that the data collection computers are functioning properly and process much of that data daily. Like all ASA employees, they are also ready to help with "other duties as assigned." During this cruise, many ASA people have been busy with inventory and everyone has helped with ping editing. During the last cruise, the Network Administrators sometimes had to help out on the back deck with some of the scientific equipment.
One of the Network Administrators that is working aboard the NBP for this cruise is Lora Folger. She is 35 years old, and she is from Columbia, Tennessee. Lora graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1984 with a degree in Economics. After college, she worked in sales and support for IBM in New York City and then spent a summer working in Denali National Park in Alaska. She then returned to the continental U.S. to teach people at Ford (in Nashville) about computers, robotics, and automation. She found out about job opportunities in Antarctica from a friend several years later. She called the company (this was before ASA) and told them she would "do anything to work in Antarctica." Lora was hired as a secretary in the Information Systems Department at McMurdo Station in the fall of 1988. She has spent 11 seasons in Antarctica -- including 2 winters! She worked at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Palmer Station, and aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer. Most of her time, however, has been at McMurdo Station, where she has been the Senior Network Administrator for 5 years. Lora really enjoys working in Antarctica. She says that she likes her job, the people that she works with, and the unique location!
The second Network Administrator aboard the Palmer is Jenny Fox. Jenny is 28, and she lives in Boulder, Colorado. Jenny graduated from the University of Colorado with degrees in Applied Math and Spanish Language/Literature. She worked for an environmental research lab under NOAA as a PC Technician to pay her way through college. She had a goal of going to Antarctica, and she hoped that contacts at the research lab would help her get there (part of their research was about ozone). She had first dreamed of going to the southernmost continent after seeing the Imax movie about Antarctica. Her job didn't provide the opportunity to go south, but someone she met there had a friend that worked for ASA and gave Jenny the email address. She actually applied and was offered a job before graduating from college, but she turned it down because she would have had to leave 2 months before her classes were finished. A few months later they called her back, and she began working for ASA in the fall of 1997. Jenny spent about 3 months at McMurdo Station working as a Computer Technician in the science laboratory. She came aboard the NBP in December and will be leaving with us at the end of the month. She plans to travel around New Zealand after getting off the ship and before returning home to Colorado. She hopes to return to McMurdo Station in August, which is the very beginning of the "summer season." She really likes working in Antarctica and loves the diversity of people that she has had the opportunity to meet.
Email is going to be sent out in about 5 minutes, so I had better finish up for today. I sure do enjoy keeping these journals and reading/answering your questions! I'll be back tomorrow!
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