2 February, 1998
Hello! Things are going great on the Nathaniel B. Palmer! Today, we spent quite a bit of time (three hours) watching the Bathy-2000 for the "perfect place" to take a kasten core. The core turned out really well, even though it wasn't as long as we had hoped (the core didn't go down as far in the sediments as we expected). At the next site, about four hours away, we took a really neat grab sample that included all sorts of horn coral and small branching coral. Based on what we saw in the grab sample, however, we knew that this wasn't the correct spot for another core, so we moved on to another site (the bottom was so hard it might damage the corer). We watched the Bathy-2000 again (and followed data from 2 weeks ago) to find and take a 3rd core. This time, it was a trigger core/piston core combination . . . and it was exactly what we wanted! Now my shift is over and the night crew has several cores to take while they are on duty. After the cores are done in this area, we have a 60 hour Multibeam Survey to complete so that we can have a good map of the bottom.
Looking at our grab sample today, obviously there are some types of coral that live in the waters around Antarctica. This brings us to our question from yesterday: What other types of critters, besides krill, can be found in the waters surrounding Antarctica? Of course, you already know about the whales, seals and penguins. There are also over 270 species of fish. Several species of these fish are interesting because of their ability to survive in sub-zero waters without freezing. Much like the insects we discussed yesterday, they have something like antifreeze in their blood. One such fish that is common in McMurdo Sound is called the Antarctic cod. These fish live up to 1500 feet below the surface and can weigh up to 125 pounds!
Another common swimmer in the southern waters is the squid. There are at least 20 species of squid in Antarctica, and they play an important part in the food chain for whales, seals, penguins, and birds. Some of these squid (like the giant squid) live in very deep waters and are very difficult to study. There are many other marine invertebrates that live on the ocean floor. Creatures such as sea stars, corals, barnacles, clams, snails, sponges, sea cucumbers, worms, and sea spiders can be found on or in the sediments. Because they live on the sea floor and don't swim, they are considered benthic organisms. Other organisms are in the water, but they are too small or too weak to swim against the currents. Because they primarily drift with the currents, they are considered planktonic organisms. A few species of Antarctic zooplankton (animal plankton) include foraminifera and jellyfish,
There are also marine plants in the Southern Ocean. In the intertidal areas of the southern islands, giant kelp form thick bands like forests that protect the shores from rough seas. Other types of marine plants drift with the currents and are called phytoplankton (plant plankton). Diatoms are a common example of these tiny, single-celled plants that are at the bottom of the ocean food chain. There are also some species of ice algae which can be found in Antarctica. Ice algae sometimes stain pack ice pink or brown!
Well, it's about time to wrap up for today. Before I sign off, however, I want you to know that lunch and dinner today were FANTASTIC! When I went down to lunch, there was something on the counter that I have been craving . . . chocolate cake! It was moist, fresh, and wonderful! For dinner, it was almost like it was Thanksgiving. We had turkey, dressing, green beans, mashed potatoes, cranberry jelly, and homemade rolls (and chocolate cake, of course)! Can you imagine fixing that for 40 people? Ernest, our chef, buys most of the ship's food for six months at a time. What types of things (and in what quantities) would you expect him to purchase every six months?
I continue to look forward to all your email questions! Thanks so much for writing!
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