29 June, 1999
29 June 1999, Tuesday
CONTENTS: CMDL (Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory), guest speaker: Kara Weller, on experiences in Antarctica
PICTURES: CMDL intrumentation, Malcolm Gaylord - CMDL engineer, Kara Weller
Hi all! I must say, it is 1:18 and I was just finishing up the journal for today (Grace Abromaitis was helping me remember all the CMDL info we received today), when we were suddenly booted out of the system for being online for too long. ARRRGGGHHHHHH! We have decided to call it quits for tonight, and tell you about the day tomorrow! Stay tuned... There is, however, a great journal entry from Kara Weller, who was kind enough to write about her experiences on a cruise to Antarctica. I thought it would be good to get a perspective from another pole! Michele Hauschulz (Teacher Experiencing the Arctic)
GUEST SPEAKER: KARA WELLER, USFWS (US FISHERIES AND WILDLIFE SERVICE) employee
Hi, Iím Kara. Iím working here in Barrow on the eider project all summer as a seasonal employee. I donít work for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service year-round, but try to find other fun projects and things to do at different times of the year. Alaska in the winter isnít always that much fun (I was born in Fairbanks and have lived there for 20 years so I ought to know), so I like to head south in the winter. Way south. Last winter I spent some time in Antarctica on a tourist ship that goes from the southern tip of Argentina down across the Drake passage to the Antarctic peninsula. Trips usually last 10 days along the peninsula - people stay on the ship, and sleep on the ship, but go to shore each day (weather permitting) to walk around and watch penguins, seals, look at glaciers and icebergs and incredibly steep mountains. Its a beautiful place. Our winter is of course their summer in Antarctica. Summer there usually means temperatures around freezing, sometimes it snows, or rains, sometimes the fog is so thick that we canít even see the icebergs floating past our windows on the ship. But on other days the sun shines and the water and winds are calm, the ice and snow glitter in the sunlight and all the tourists and staff are so happy they feel like dancing. We did actually dance a few times on calm days when instead of eating dinner inside the dining room, we set up a barbeque outside on the deck, put on some music and admired the sun still shining at midnight and danced until 3 in the morning. Crew, staff and passengers all had a good time together. The ship I was on was Russian with its home port in Kaliningrad, so all the crew were Russian. Only some of them knew much English, but it was fun trying to communicate with them anyway. The staff were the people in charge of the tourist expedition - they decided where we would land each day, gave lectures on wildlife and ice, spent time with tourists helping them identify birds and whales and other wildlife. Some staff members were American, some were Australian, some British, and others from almost any other part of the world. The tourists were also from all corners of the world. Antarctica is usually the last place people think of visiting on their vacations, so a lot of the tourists I met had traveled all over the world and had great stories to tell about places and things they had seen. On one of out trips 90% of the passengers were from Australia. Usually there are a lot of Americans, but its always a mixed crowd. One of our trips was a longer one that went for about three weeks first over to the Falkland Islands, then to South Georgia, and then to the Antarctic Peninsula. All three places were really amazing. Nobody really lives on South Georgia anymore (there is one couple living on their sail boat there who run the whaling museum), but the ruins of the old whaling stations still remain. They are really neat ghost towns, and you can walk into the old buildings and find broken furniture, books and papers from when dozens of people still lived here hunting whales. Some of the stations have closed down only recently - in the 1950s (I think). Giant elephant seals get a little cold when they molt their fur in the summer and we sometimes found big groups of them huddled together INSIDE some of the empty buildings. It was kind of scary to walk slowly inside a dark broken down building trying to see what was in front of us and suddenly hear a loud snort and realize we were standing only a few feet away from a huge seal. Fur seals were scarier though because they have really sharp teeth and flippers that allow them to move FAST across a beach (not like the other seals). Some tourists have been
bitten when they didnít move out of the way fast enough - they bled a lot, but were okay.
One of my favorite bird species that we saw was the wandering albatross - they have 11 foot wingspans and are amazing to see when they soar over your head - they are so huge! And of course there are the penguins. Yes, we saw lots of penguins, and lot of different species of penguins - gentoos, chinstraps, adelies, rockhoppers, macaronis, and kings. No emperor penguins though - they are found on the opposite side of Antarctica out on the sea ice. My favorite were the chinstraps and the macaroni. Chinstraps have a dark black line running across their chins - makes them look as if they are smiling all the time. Macaronis have yellow feathers sticking up out of the sides of their heads. There IS some connection with Yankee-Doodle where he "stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni" but Iím sorry I canít at the moment remember what it is.
There are a lot of scientific research stations all along the Antarctic peninsula, and we visited many of them. They belong to many different nationalities as nobody owns Antarctica - we visited Argentinian, Chilean, Polish, and British stations, but there are many others. It was fun talking to the people working there - some stay just for the summer, others work there in the winter as well which must be interesting with the cold and dark all day for 7 months. Maybe Iíll try it sometime. For now Iím happy to just go there during their summers. It probably seems strange for a person from Alaska to go to Antarctica because its warmer there - but it works for me!
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