7 February, 1998
Greetings from the NBP! Well, I sure woke up to something interesting this morning . . . I guess we had a little bit of a problem last night with the piston core. The cable broke! So, we lost the core and the core barrel to the bottom of the Ross Sea. We're not sure yet if we'll be able to take any more piston/trigger cores for the rest of the trip. We might just take grab samples and kasten cores instead. After that little mishap, Dr. Anderson and Stephanie decided that we should move towards the Eastern Ross Sea.
On most Antarctic maps, this area can be found just below the land and on the left side. It might seem strange that "East" is on the left side of a map . . . but you have to remember where Antarctica is located. Everything is north from the South Pole! If you stand on the coast of Antarctica and look out towards the Ross Sea, the Eastern Ross Sea would be to your right. From most maps, however, you are looking from the WATER towards the LAND in the Ross Sea area. That makes things backwards! So -- that's why it seems weird! In fact, while we are working here in Antarctica, our maps of the Ross Sea have just a little bit of the land at the bottom and have the water taking up most of the map. That way the Ross Sea can be easily visible . . . and "North" is at the top of the map, "South" is at the bottom of the map, and "West and East" are situated just like we are used to . . . from left to right!
In addition to beginning our transit towards the Eastern Ross Sea, we also moved closer towards the Ross Ice Shelf. I was really excited when we got within one mile of the ice shelf. It looks like an endless wall of ice. We weren't very close to it, but it stands about 100 meters thick where the ice front faces the Ross Sea . . . much taller than the ship! In fact, all of the large, flat-topped icebergs that we have seen here (and you've seen pictures of) have calved off of an ice shelf. What exactly is an ice shelf? How do you suppose an ice shelf is formed?
We've spent quite a bit of time looking at the Edison Chouest Offshore employees who make up the crew of the ship. Yesterday's question leads us to another set of employees . . . those people employed by Antarctic Support Associates (ASA). ASA is an organization contracted by the National Science Foundation to help support the scientific operations in Antarctica. They are in charge of medical clearances, transportation, electricity, water, housing, facilities, and equipment (to name only a very few things). Scientists can't come and work in Antarctica without lots of help. ASA is in charge of all that help! On the Nathaniel B. Palmer, there are ten ASA employees. Which employees come to Antarctica depends on what science is being conducted with that parcticular project. They all have different responsibilities, but they are all under the direction of the Marine Projects Coordinator.
The Marine Projects Coordinator (MPC) on our cruise is Jim Holik. Jim lives in Denver, Colorado, and has been doing this job for 6 years. He graduated with a degree in Oceanography and a PhD in Marine Geophysics. He has had lots of experience at sea and working in the field of science. He was working for an oil company in Houston, Texas, when he was laid off due to company cutbacks. Out of work, he called ASA on the recommendation of Dr. John Anderson (who's the Chief Scientist on our project). He was hired towards the end of the 1992 season to work with scientists on the NBP, and he has been working as an MPC on the ship ever since!
On the average, Jim spends about 3-4 months at sea each year and spends the rest of his time (except for his 2 weeks vacation) at the ASA office in Denver. While in Denver, he coordinates and gets ready for the scientists coming out on the NBP. He organizes all of the required forms, acquires the necessary permits, arranges for the airline tickets, and makes sure that the right equipment and personnel are scheduled for each parcticular cruise. There is a lot of planning and work involved in bringing scientists to Antarctica! In addition, he works on the ASA budget for equipment and helps to review project proposals for scientific research in Antarctica. In his spare time, Jim likes to restore old houses. Currently, he is restoring an 1890 Victorian house in Denver.
On the ship, the MPC is a liaison between the scientists and the ECO crew. It's his job to make sure that the right cargo, equipment, and staff are on board the ship. He also needs to know and understand how all of that equipment works. In addition, he has to fill out lots of official paperwork throughout the cruise and send back lots of official reports. Jim is also a supervisor for the other Antarctic Support Associates employees on board the ship. Immediately under his supervision are the Senior Electronics Technician, the Senior Marine Technician, and the Senior Systems Analyst. What do you suppose those people do? Hopefully, you're beginning to understand that it takes a lot of people to make science happen in Antarctica! In fact, four out of every five people who come down to Antarctica are not scientists! They are people supporting science -- like the crew of our ship and the employees of ASA. Without them, science in Antarctica would be impossible!
Be looking for more pictures soon! I hope to send pictures of the ship itself as well as some of the ECO and ASA employees. I hope that you are having a wonderful weekend! I continue to enjoy all your letters . . . so keep those questions coming!
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