19 October, 1995
Thursday, October 19, 1999 We are at 64.19 south latitude and west longitude in the Gerlache Strait. We woke to snow on the deck this morning and it had started last evening when the temperature dropped to about -4.000 degrees centigrade. It got cold last night while working on deck and I was grateful to have completed that job of pumping water and retrieving some buoys that had been drifting all day by 1930 hours or so. It snowed about 6 inches and it was dry, not the wet Puget Sound snow we are so used to.
Today is a kind of lazy day, however work is being done. We were to drop over the depth sampling devices that have been designed for this trip and we were to drop them over board to depths of surface, (now that is a good one George, how deep is the surface?) 1,2,3,5,7,10, and 12.5 meters. They float all day in the straits and then we pick them up in the evening and the samples carried in the boxes at these pre-determined depths are then studied at night to look for effects of ultraviolet light that may have occurred during the day. We were to do that today, but the overcast sky and the snow changed that. By 1000 hours this morning, it was clear, sunny and -2.000 degrees centigrade, suntanning and shirtsleeves weather. We can walk on deck in shirt sleeves and no fleece. Well, you can walk all around and then jump up and down, but if you stay out too long, it gets cooollldddd!!!!!!real fast - but the water is flat, there is no wind and if we were in the tropics.
We finish up our second 24 hour sampling the next day and it went much smoother with everyone getting breaks, not like before. Also during our first 24 hour sampling, it was a 24 hour blizzard and this time the sun was out and the weather was pretty nice. It is amazing how your attitude can be affected by the weather. How much do we know about the weather?????There may be some questions that need asking here and then some answers; For Instance; Why does the barometer go down and why does that indicate bad weather?, Why does it go up and what about good weather causes that?, Now why when is very bad weather here in Antarctica does the barometer appear to be up and when it is nice like now, the barometer reads 962.5 millibars (the lowest I have seen here yet). For some of you it would be good to convert the millibars to inches of mercury because your home barometers read that way, but if you listen to the NOAA weather forecast on whatever megahertz it is at, way down to the left on your FM channel receiver, they give the barometer readings in millibars.
Anyway, it is beautiful. This could inspire some creative thinking. The wind comes up here so fast that it is surprising to find yourself in weather like this and then look at the horizon and se the dark bearing down on you and all of a sudden the wind is blowing 40-50 MPH.
I was on the bridge of the Polar Duke this morning and we were looking out on the flat surface of the straits and saw Minke whales, leopard seals (big mouths and sharp teeth) and penguins swim by. I looked out at the shore and the captain asked me how far I thought we were from shore. So I took the George Palo experience at sea logic and combined that with my "I am a scientist and educator attitude", and said we were about 400 meters or a quarter of a mile from shore. Take me about 90 seconds to run it. He immediately began chuckling as did the 1st officer which led me to believe that they couldn't believe how accurate I was. (Now you have to remember that I am the type of guy that when he is at the top of a pass and my altimeter watch doesn't read what the sign say, I think that the sign is wrong.) The captain stepped over to the radar, turned up the gain, changed the scale and dialed in the distance .Must have been a broken radar ..it said were 8000 meters from shore or a roughly, a little over four miles away. The clarity of the air and the size of the objects makes everything look closer. I have gone out twice since then to see if it still looks 400 meters away and I will tell that each time it does. There is an area of glaciers that I thought then would be a short walk from the ship and the radar said 6.2 miles away, that is nautical miles by the way so divide by 1.2 for regular miles. The air is clear, but think how big everything must be to appear so close. The people on the ship call it invisible air.
The areas' waters are floating with pieces of ice and icebergs and it is fun to move through them and see what is on them. The colors are absolutely beautiful because the aqua blue green is absolutely transparent looking.. The water is very clear and you can sometimes see to 100 feet which is good for polar seas. You have to go to the tropics to see this elsewhere. The icebergs take on visions that become sculptures in your mind, becoming the object that you want it to be. I often conjure up visions of places where characters of fairy tales belong or are sneaking around on the ice watching us invade their private secret water and land. It is rally cool (no pun intended) to let your mind and imagination run wild ( I have often been accused of living my life like that) but anyway it is stellar man, to look out on the water and see houses, castles, ships and animals all floating around the Gerlache Strait with us enjoying the Antarctic.
So what kind of ship is the Polar Duke anyway? It is a ship built in Bergen, Norway (ask Paul Wise to pronounce that for you) in 1982. It is registered in Newfoundland, St. Johns to be exact. It is 66.8 meters long and 13 meters wide. It has a controllable pitch or variable pitch propeller on it. That is an interesting fact because the engines always run at 600 RPM whether you are idling or running full out. The pitch of the prop blades is what is changed to determine whether you are stopped, going forward, or in reverse. The main power plants are 2 MAK 453, 4500 horsepower each. It also has bow and stern side thrusters of 500 horsepower each. It has a crew of 14 to maintain and drive the ship and all but three are Norwegian. The other three are Chilean. So sometimes when I am in the galley area during meals, there is a Norwegian conversation on my left and a Chilean conversation on my right, and I might be talking to myself. As you can see , there are three conversations going on that I don't understand. There are nice accommodations on the ship with the rooms being two person rooms. We dropped a lot of people off at Palmer Station so each of us, as I have said before, has our own room. It is good to have some privacy on a thirty-day cruise. We are lucky. Having your own room doesn't often happen. You have to realize that we are on day ten of a thirty day cruise and have twenty days left before we even turn back to Palmer Station to pick people up. Sometimes the ship gets small. The crows nest 60 feet off the ground above the bridge has become my private space and time. You climb up this little tunnel like enclosed ladder that you enter from the bridge. You can shut the door to the crows nest and I put on the headphones and WOW, I'm free. Right now down in the lab area, someone's put on the CD player Smashing Tomatoes meets the Flaming Icebergs and the music is blowing my brains out down there where people are processing samples.
We will have a couple of hard days coming up here soon and I'm sure the dropping barometer is preparing us for something. I am going to be working on ozone data soon. We need to take data from historical records off of a CD I brought and try to transfer them to the program Exc3ell and then graph the data. We hope to graph the data and see results that will allow us the possibility of predicting ozone hole data and location based on historical record. So far, it does not seem to work as the hole has a mind of its own. I am going to close for now. Enough rambling for this time It is of the most importance that I get the message across to you that in my estimation, we continue to work in the Antarctic doing research. It is so applicable to all of our lives. For those of you that say How? Or Why?; I will try to work out an answer for you and email it later. So until later.
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