15 February, 1999
Hello from the Nathaniel B. Palmer! Things started out a little rough today in the Ross Sea. We had 35-40 mph winds, and they caused the waves to get a little larger than normal. It was like that for a good part of the night, but things were back to normal by mid-morning. In addition, one of our pieces of equipment for making very detailed maps, the side scan sonar (we usually refer to it as the fish), is having some problems. Several of the ASA people on the ship have been working very hard to fix it. Hopefully, they will get it fixed within a day or so. Itís very difficult because you canít get spare parts while you are at sea! Of course, we carry lots of things with us, but they have to make anything that we donít have. Iím amazed at how they can do that!
Letís take a few minutes to look at yesterdayís question: ďIf you were going to build a ship, what types of things would you need to think about and include in order for it to be able to conduct scientific research in Antarctica?Ē Our boat is named the Nathaniel B. Palmer. It is an icebreaker that was built in Louisiana for research in Antarctica. It first set sail in 1992, is owned by Edison Chouest Offshore, and is leased by the National Science Foundation under a 10 year contract. It is about as long as a football field and has eight decks! I have my own room, which includes bunk beds, a desk, a television with VCR (no television stations in the Ross Sea), 2 closets with shelves, and 3 drawers. In addition, I have a private bath (sink, toilet, and shower). On most "cruises," there are so many scientists that people share rooms. Since there are only 9 scientists on our trip, we all have our own rooms.
This ship is huge! If youíre not careful, itís very easy to get turned around. 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. Down the hallway, towards the back of the ship, is the wet lab. When we core the sea floor sediments, we do quite a bit of work in there. There is also a big walk-in refrigerator where we put the cores until they can be returned to the United States for further study. Down the hallway, in 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 a.m.. 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. Eight of the nine 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! On the second deck there are more bedrooms, a 4-bed hospital, and a lounge that includes a nice couch, a video library, and a television. There is a conference room on the third deck, as well as a library and more bedrooms (including the bedroom of the Chief Scientist, Dr. John Anderson). The fourth deck includes the Captain's office and the Captain's quarters. He and the mates drive the boat from the fifth deck -- it's called the bridge. There are two decks below the main deck. They are like a ďdouble-deckerĒ basement, and they include the engine room as well as the machine shop, the electrical shop, and the woodworking shop.
As you can see, this research vessel is very well equipped! Tomorrow, letís take a more detailed look at the continent of Antarctica. How big do you think that Antarctica is (compared to the size of the United States)? Weíll look at that and much more in the next journal. By the way, I love all of the questions that you are sending to me. Itís great to get the email!
Latitude: 77 degrees, 50 minutes South
Longitude: 178 degrees, 33 minutes West
Temperature: -8 degrees C
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