11 March, 2000
Collecting Marine Invertebrates and Plants
Question 21: What is the largest penguin?
Although this is a Saturday, it is not a day off. We stop outdoor work only for extremely bad weather, and we won't stop working in the lab and aquarium tanks until we leave in May. Now, at the beginning of our time here, our diving is focused on collecting organisms to bring back to the station. Today we put five divers in the water. Before lunch, Drs. Iken and Amsler dove from the north side of Gammage Point, the spit of land the station sits on. There was some tidal surge sloshing broken chunks of ice (brash ice) against the shore where they went in. Once through the ice, there is no problem diving in these conditions.
After lunch Andy Mahon, Boating Coordinator Ross Hein, and I did a boat dive on the far side of Hero Inlet from the station. Shore topography usually continues down into the water; this is true in this area where the rock shore drops steeply into the water and continues down to about 50 feet. At 50 ft we hit a soft silty bottom that sloped a little bit-- the bottom of the channel in the inlet.
While we have divers in the water, the red and white dive flag is flown in the area or from our boat. The names and the location of the dive are posted for everyone to see on the sign-out board, and we radio the communication center (coms) when divers are down. The concern is to make sure everyone else on the station knows when and where diving is going on so they can be careful. Both station staff and other science groups are active with boating operations (ops), which are our main source of danger from humans. The non-diving members of our research team act as tenders and help the divers put on and adjust their gear and enter and exit the water. Once the divers are in the water and have begun their dive, one or two of the tenders remain in the area to make sure there are no problems.
Divers take collection bags on the dive with them. They are large enough to hold even the huge, leafy macroalgae (seaweed) although we are not collecting it specifically yet. Bags are made of mesh fabric and have a metal rim that folds in half to hold the bag either open or closed. Right now we are collecting any invertebrates (I will go into the types present in a later journal) and a few target species of macroalgae.
Once the diver comes out of the water, a tender takes the bag and rushes it to the aquarium. Our science group has several large outdoor sea water tanks, two indoor tanks and two water trays to hold the organisms we are working with. All are constantly supplied with freshly pumped and filtered sea water. The organisms are dumped into a tray or tank right away to get them back in the water. Then we sort them into rough groups of macroalgae, sponges and other invertebrates. We have also gotten a few fish (vertebrates since they have a spinal column) along with the macroalgae. Some are quite colorful!
Answer 20: There are 18 species of penguins. All live in the southern hemisphere. The emperor and the Adelie breed on the continent itself or on the fast ice anchored to it. Five other species have ranges that include the subantarctic islands and in some cases the northern part of the Antarctic peninsula. They are the royal, macaroni, king, gentoo and chinstrap penguins. The other 11 species live further north.
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