16 March, 1999
March 16, 1999
Hello from the Palmer! We've been conducting multibeam surveys and coring all day today. We're still finishing up our work in Eltanin Bay, but I bet that we won't be here when I wake up in the morning. After dinner, Mike (the Mate) called me up to the bridge. He wanted to show me some areas where the water looked a little brown or orange. He explained that those areas were actually krill swarms! In other words, there were so many krill in the water that they actually made the water look a different color! It was pretty neat.
John also said that he saw quite a few Cape pigeons flying around today. Another name for these birds is Cape petrels. They are often called Cape pigeons because they peck at the surface of the water (like a pigeon pecks at the ground) to get squid, krill, and fish. Based on what I saw today, I bet they were eating some krill! Well, this brings us to the question for today: "What are some of the other birds that you find in Antarctica (besides penguins)?"
There are 43 species of birds that breed within the limits of the Antarctic Convergence. Penguins make up seven of those species. The most numerous of all southern birds, in both numbers and species, are the petrels. There are 24 species of petrels found down here . . . from the Wandering albatross to the Fulmar prion to the Blue petrel. These are all sea birds which have some common characteristics. Such characteristics include webbed feet, dense feathers, a layer of fat beneath their skin, and tubular nostrils. The also have some method in which they can secrete all of the salt that they take into their bodies as they collect their dinners. While some sea birds secrete the brine through the tubes in their nostrils, others secrete the brine from glands above their eyes and allow the tubes to help drain it away.
We have seen lots of Antarctic petrels. They are brown and white birds that are common near pack ice. Antarctic petrels spend the austral winter at sea, and return to their breeding grounds during the month of November. They only breed on the continent of Antarctica and on some of the most southerly islands. It is estimated that there are several million pair of Antarctic petrels, and they are especially common around the Ross Sea.
Although I haven't seen any albatrosses yet, I would love to see a Wandering albatross. Mike said that we might see some after we leave the Antarctic peninsula and are heading north across the Drake Passage. Wandering albatrosses are the world's largest flying birds (largest wingspan). The weigh over 20 pounds, and can be 53 inches long with a wingspan of 142.5 inches! They spend most of their adult life gliding with the winds that circumnavigate the Southern Ocean. These birds eat primarily squid and fish, although they will poke around in floating seaweed for some small crustaceans. Normally, they come ashore only to breed. They return to their breeding grounds every other November to lay a single egg.
There are 12 species of land and shore birds that live south of the Antarctic Convergence. Only three of them, however, live in this area permanently . . . the others migrate north for the Antarctic winter. There is only one species of true gull that breeds in the Antarctic region. It is called the Dominican gull (or the Kelp gull), and it can also be found in South Africa, South America, and New Zealand. Although Kelp gulls do fish for krill, they rely primarily on limpets for their food. They swallow the limpets whole, then regurgitate the shells intact at a later time. The chicks, which are fledged in mid-January, feed on small fish like Antarctic herrings. Although the adult birds will winter in Antarctica, adolescent juveniles migrate to South America for their first winter.
Well, I would like to introduce one more ASA member before we finish for the day. 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 Analyst and two Network Administrators to help us out. Our Senior Analyst is Kathleen Gavahan. She grew up in Las Vegas, New Mexico (not Nevada). After attending high school, she graduated from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, in 1974, with a B.S. in Mathematics. Immediately after her graduation, she began working as a geophysicist; first for Amoco and then for Home Petroleum in Denver. After the drop in oil prices in the 1980s, she was laid off. Kathleen was then hired by Western Geophysical in Denver as a geophysical programmer. At the same time that she was working her way up to becoming the leader of her programming department, she was also taking night classes to earn her M.S. in Computer Information Systems. She finished her Masters in 1995, and her reward to herself was a recreational cruise to Antarctica. The cruise stopped at Palmer Station as part of its itinerary, and it was at that time that Kathleen found out about Antarctic Support Associates. She was hired by ASA nine months later, and began working with the Database Programming Group in the Denver office. She spent some time at McMurdo Station that winter (McMurdo's summer), and then transferred to the Marine Group, where she has remained since 1997. Kathleen has spent time aboard both the Laurence M. Gould and the Nathaniel B. Palmer as a Senior Analyst. She spends nearly half of her time working back at the Denver office writing computer programs and analyzing data. She loves Antarctica so much that she has even vacationed in the area. Kathleen also loves to travel all over the world, having visited places such as China, the Galapagos Islands, Ireland, Morocco, and Kenya.
Tomorrow, we'll look at the jobs of the two Network Administrators. In addition, we'll look at the question, "Who was Ernest Shackleton?" Things are going very well down here. I just can't believe that we have less than two weeks left. The days are really flying by! It's sure great to hear from so many of you . . . I really appreciate all of the email and the questions. Until tomorrow . . .
Latitude: 72 degrees 00 minutes South
Longitude: 81 degrees 55 minutes West
Temperature: -1.4 degrees C
Barometer: 970.6 mb
Wind Speed: 37.3 knots
Wind Direction: 90 degrees (from the East)
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