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10 May, 2000

LMG Innards, Arrive in PA Question 81: Are any of Antarctica's fishes pelagic? As we cruised down the Strait of Magellan today, I got a tour of the engine room from Norm, one of the 3 engineers on the crew. Just as in any other area of the ship, we could hear the engines as a faint humming in the computerized engineering control room as we looked at the control boards and monitor screens. The noise level is much higher inside the engine area while underway, and Norm handed out hearing protection before we opened the door and stepped through. There is machinery and piping everywhere, all sparkling clean and brightly painted. The colors are a code telling what material the pipe carries or the machine uses. There are multiple levels, and all the floors are made out of steel mesh that you can see through to the next floor. We walked all over and saw the two main engines of the Gould, where the engines for the bow thrusters were housed, the water filtration and cooling system and up through a series of tiny doors into the very front of the bow. After the tour, I joined most of the rest of the passengers on the deck, all of us eagerly watching the shoreline and waiting for the first view of Punta Arenas. There were some dramatic clouds above the city and it even rained on us a bit, but in return we saw a beautiful rainbow that welcomed us back to civilization. We docked around 5 pm local time on the opposite side of the dock as the RVIB Nathaniel Palmer and were out into the town as soon as we had cleared customs and immigration. Last minute shopping and travel plans were completed before everyone met for a farewell dinner at a local "restaurante". The most fabulous thing about the return to South America was the smell of moist earth and green growing things! I hadn't noticed when their odor disappeared on our journey south, but it is lovely surprise now. Answer 80: Ninety percent of the fish species in the Southern Ocean are endemic, that is, found only there. Most are benthic, slow-growing, and eat a variety of foods -- algae, krill, amphipods, isopods, etc. They have fewer, larger eggs than most northern fish. Eggs are deposited on the bottom, and defense of the nest and of the brood occurs in many species. The time of spawning--early winter--aids larval survival as the young are large enough to crop plankton during the following summer's bloom.


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