15 October, 1995
Sunday, October 15, 1995
We are still at 64.2 degrees latitude and tomorrow is another 4 hour sampling day. Water samples will be taken every two hours for twenty-four hours beginning at 0600hrs. Tonight we put our clocks forward one hour remember; spring forward, fall back, therefore I will be four hours different that you on the west coast. (That is the extra credit question of the day. (CAN YOU FIGURE OUT THE QUESTION, AND ONCE YOU HAVE, CAN YOU FIGURE OUT THE ANSWER?) This will involve no memorization but true group discussion and problem solving techniques. It is now time to withdraw from the brain bank of the group and invest some thought into the problems' solution.) At least I would try this approach in my classes to see what kids would come up with.
It has been a remarkable last two days on the Gerlache Strait off the Antarctic Peninsula. Jan Nelson at Henderson Bay High School and the web server should be compiling information on this trip to the desolate white cold of the far south and he may also have some ice edge and weather (if he doesn't he should) images of the location of the Polar Duke. Once you find Anvers Island, look almost east/northeast and you will see a patch of dark black. That is the Gerlache Strait, and the only open water in the area. You will find our latitude and longitude located in that patch of water. We are surrounded by ice to the north and the south.
Yesterday, the water was like a glass pond without a ripple of wind. We worked outside in shirtsleeves in 0.0- to 1.0-degree temperature, as it was warm without the wind. The sun was bright in a cloudless sky and the contrast of the white ice, the blue water, and the sky with the yellow sun creates a desert-like appearance at each end of the strait while runabouts and yachts of ice float gently by, observing us, visitors from the north, guessing which direction we will take when our mind is made up to move.
The ozone hole is deep now, Palmer station reported an ozone level of 135-150 Dobson units. The lowest recorded at Palmer has been 117 units, so we are in it. Time for the sunglasses and sun block. I am looking for a lawn chair as I have now entered the largest tanning salon in the world. Who wants a stand-up booth?
The dawn begins to break at about 0330 and the darkness invades totally about 2130 this evening. The stars last night were bright; I mean brighter than you can imagine. The closest I can compare is to view the stars at 10,000 feet on a mountain in the Cascades at night. The absence of any human light enhances the visual senses as you gaze into the heavens looking at stars not seen from the Northern Hemisphere. Big bright red lights and new groups of stars called constellations I have never seen are found from this position on earth. I will look for the Southern Cross tonight and Scorpio will also be visible.
As the sun sets low in the west, bright lights shine from mountaintops as if people are living amongst the mountaintops and valleys. These lights (imaginary people) seem to move from time to time and mountaintop to mountaintop. It is easy to see how early civilizations imagine humans inhabiting the far off distant places shining their lights at night to keep warm. But, alas, there are no people, no humans, no lost Antarctic civilizations inhabiting the ice peaks of the mountain ranges ringing our location. As the stars set in the evening, so do our lights, extinguished by the rotation of the Earth , but look to the east. New peoples, new lights. Your Imagination can take you for a journey into far off places of mystical thoughts while standing on the deck of the ship as the evening progresses to the new day. It is solitude, not silence, you experience for the ships' engines rumble from below, as the Polar Duke does not sleep at night but maintains a constant vigil against the tide, wind, and currents of the Gerlache Straits.
Today is Sunday and we have a light day of sampling, one at 0600 and 1800 hours with the CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth) meter being lowered into the water at least 4 times 0600, 1000, 1400, 1800 hours. The device looks like a round cage of tubing 7 feet tall and four feet in diameter. It is lowered to 300 meters and then brought back up while measurements of the water are taken and sent back to an imaging computer on board ship. The information and data is used by researchers to back up information they are gathering.
Today I took my CD player and went to the ships' crows nest, about 60 feet in the air. I was there by myself with the headphones on, not able to hear the rock of the Flaming Trees or whatever they are called, Nirvana, and etc. music playing elsewhere on the ship. I was alone with my music, my thoughts, and the view of the Antarctic peninsula, the Gerlache Strait, and the ship. It was real time for reflection, needed because of the work schedule and our second week rotation beginning tomorrow.
Our research does not give us immediate results as we are collecting samples that will be analyzed over the next two years. Our samples are being frozen at -80 degrees in a freezer and then will be shipped back to Florida in dry ice for study. Other types of research can give immediate results that allow scientists to observe what is learned right away and/or make changes where they are studying if the results are negative. My job on our type of sample gathering is grunt work. I am a water pumper in this process of sample gathering. Important, but a water pumper, no less.
The wind began to blow under cloudless skies at around noon, and seas immediately (I mean immediately) built to 2-4 feet. The wind has been blowing about 15 meters per second. You can convert this approximately to feet by multiplying by three and realizing that 60 MPH is 88 feet per second.. Do some math or arithmetic and figure the relative wind speed in MPH.
Meals on board have been excellent and I am putting on weight, I'm sure. There is an exercise bike in the hold below decks that I try to ride daily and a small weight machine that I work on so that no one will kick sand in my face. (There are some of you of a certain age that can at least relate to that old muscle building Charles Atlas advertisement), but it is the shipboard sauna that completes my day, that warms my being from the cold of the icy wind on deck all day that penetrates all your body and your fingers ache for your warm breath between water samples.
For those of you in classes and want to explore the Antarctic and some of the questions being investigated down here, you can check out the following subject areas or questions for some information:
read some books on Ernest Shakleton, Amundson or Scott, Admiral Byrd or Antarctica itself.
Find out some information on ozone, What is it?, What is it used for?, What is good ozone?, What is bad ozone?, What is ultraviolet light?, What are CFCs?, Where do they come from?
How many countries have research or scientific stations on the Antarctic continent and who are they?
What is the coldest and warmest temperatures in Antarctica?, How are the seasons different in Antarctica?
What are the most common whales found in Antarctica?,(we saw our first humpback whales today),
What does the geography of Antarctica look like under the ice?
I will leave now with this observation. The Antarctic I have seen thus far is clean, unpolluted, without garbage or even human made structures on all but a mere 1% of the ice free continental land. The people here have a special feeling for this place of absolute cold, desolate beauty, where investigations into how our global systems operate is ongoing and information is shared between all people. Here people work together to solve problems. There are many priorities on this earth of importance, each one unique to each of us; however this place provides the last pure area of scientific research, research that affects us now, will affect us tomorrow, and more importantly, will affect our children who go to a place that we will not know.
Later and Peace
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