19 March, 1999
March 19, 1999
Greetings from the Nathaniel B. Palmer! We are currently next to the Loubet Coast of Graham Land on the Antarctic Peninsula. Graham Land is the name given to the northern portion of the Antarctic Peninsula, and Palmer Land is the name for the southern portion. This coast is named after Sir James R.G. Graham, who was First Lord of the Admiralty at the time of John Biscoe's exploration of the west side of Graham Land in 1832. We have been traveling within just a few miles of land . . . but once again, the foggy weather has kept our visibility very low. I did catch of glimpse of Lavoisier Island this evening. It was only two and a half miles away, and it was barely visible through the fog. Hopefully, we'll have some spectacular views tomorrow.
We only have a few people left on the ship to introduce. There are three more MTs (Marine Technicians) that I would like to write about today. They work the night shift . . . from midnight until noon. Dave Green grew up in Annapolis, Maryland, and graduated from Virginia Polytechnical Institute in 1992 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. After working for four years in engineering and sales, Dave decided that he wanted an occupation that included more time to pursue his own interests. He decided upon seasonal work, and spent some time as a deck hand on a tall ship sailing from Europe to the United States. He also worked as a white water rafting guide in Alaska. In 1997, Dave accepted at job with Antarctic Support Associates. He has worked at McMurdo Station as a plumber apprentice for the last two seasons, and this is his first opportunity to work as an MT aboard a ship. Dave was not scheduled to work on this ship, but due to a last minute cancellation of an MT (one who didn't pass the required physical), Dave asked to work for an extra two months aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer. He had actually considered transferring to marine operations before all of this occurred, but he hadn't made anything official yet. He is hoping to return to the Palmer in the late summer or early autumn as an MT. After we get off the ship in Punta Arenas, Dave will be backpacking in South America for six to eight weeks. Later this summer, he is planning to travel in Alaska -- sea kayaking, white water rafting, and backpacking. He really enjoys the variety and the type of work that comes with being on ships, and he enjoys experiencing Antarctica from this perspective.
Jay Ardai grew up in northern Virginia, and graduated from George Mason University in 1972 with a B.S. in Physics. He was hired by Lamont-Doherty to work on his first oceanographic cruise in 1972. The cruise was slightly delayed, but the ship finally sailed in 1974 . . . and Jay has been working at Lamont-Doherty ever since. He started off working in polar regions almost exclusively, and continues to enjoy working in both the Arctic and the Antarctic. Jay's official title at Lamont is Senior Staff Associate. In actuality, Jay is responsible for subcontracting himself to work for many different people. For this cruise, Jay has been hired by Antarctic Support Associates to work as a Marine Technician. On two different occasions, he has had an opportunity to work on submarines. One of his jobs on the submarine was to operate a piece of equipment called a CTD. This piece of equipment measures the temperature and salinity of the water at different depths. On a sub, the CTD is mounted in the sail (the part that sticks up) and the sub has to move up and down within the water to collect the data. Another interesting contract that Jay had was working in the Weddell Sea on a Russian ship -- before the breakup of the Soviet Union. Jay really enjoys his job, and he especially likes working with all of the different types of equipment that is available. Jay lives about 20 minutes north of New York City, and he enjoys reading in his spare time.
Steve Ager grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and has lived in Durango, Colorado, since 1991. After graduating from high school, he worked in the construction business -- owning his own remodeling and construction company for eight years. He has also worked as an electrician, an auto mechanic, and a scuba instructor. At the age of 28, Steve enrolled at Ft. Lewis College. He graduated in 1996 with a B.S. in Geology. He found a brochure for Antarctic Support Associates at a friend's house, and applied for a job. Nothing happened for over a year, but after reapplying he was offered a job at McMurdo Station for the 1997-1998 summer season. In June of 1998, he transferred to Marine Operations and spent seven months on the Laurence M. Gould as a Marine Technician. This is his first job aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer. In his free time, Steve enjoys both downhill and cross country skiing, backpacking, and building everything from houses to furniture.
Now, let's take a look at our question for the day, "Do you think there are lakes in Antarctica?" You might be surprised to learn that the answer is yes! There are many partially frozen lakes in the Dry Valleys (remember those from the March 14 journal?). Some of these are so salty (saline) that the water is like molasses and they won't freeze even at -60 degrees C! Others have a crust of ice on top that concentrates solar energy on the bottom layers of water. . . causing some of the bottom waters to reach temperatures of nearly 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Farenheit)! These lakes were formed about 1200 years ago by meltwater from the glaciers. Sometimes, the ice on top of the water is nearly 15 feet thick, and there is almost 50 feet of water beneath the ice. Other lakes are frozen all of the way down to the bottom, but scientists still don't know the exact reason why.
In 1996, scientists found the oldest known lake on Earth in Antarctica. Lake Vostok is about 140 by 30 miles in size, and it's actually located beneath the ice sheet (making it the biggest lake ever found beneath the Antarctic ice cap). It is located near Russia's Vostok research station, which is close to the South Magnetic Pole in East Antarctica. The water in this lake is estimated to be 500,000 to 1,000,000 years old. Scientists were able to make this estimate by dating ice core samples from the top of the lake. These ice cores were dated to about 420,000 years old, and there was still 1600 feet of ice to drill through before reaching the surface of the water. Scientists are being very careful not to drill so deep in the ice that they actually reach the water. They are excited to think that there could be microbes like bacteria living in these waters . . . and they don't want to cause any contamination of the water or the organisms. About 60 other lakes have been discovered in that region. Scientists will probably practice drilling into these smaller lakes before they attempt to penetrate the waters of Lake Vostok sometime in the next century.
I forgot to tell you that we switched our clocks again about two days ago. We are now one hour ahead of the time on the East coast of the United States. Tonight, we'll be moving our clocks ahead one more hour. Then, we will be two hours ahead of the East coast (and Indiana), but more importantly we will be on the same time as Punta Arenas, Chile. This will be our last time change until we fly home. After this, we will also be on the same time as Palmer Station, which is the United States research station on the Antarctic Peninsula. We are going to be stopping at Palmer Station for a few hours tomorrow afternoon. Why do you suppose that we can stop at Palmer Station tomorrow, but McMurdo Station (where we started out) is already closed for the winter? We'll look at that in tomorrow's journal.
Latitude: 66 degrees 08 minutes South
Longitude: 66 degrees 24 minutes West
Temperature: 2.4 degrees C (warm!)
Barometer: 989 mb
Wind Speed: 25.9 knots
Wind Direction: 003 (from the North)
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