31 October, 1995
Tuesday, October 31, 1995
Good morning everyone and hello again.It is 0430 in the morning here and it is dawn and has been for the last 1 to 1 = hours. It is foggy and snowing which certainly exhibits a different image to the ice and water..I certainly hope that lots of ghost, goblins, and pumpkins (probably more power rangers and NFL football players than ghosts or goblins) visited your houses on Halloween evening. Because the west coast and everyone else in the states went off daylight savings time again, we (on the Polar Duke) are now five hours ahead of you . That means while I'm writing this, some of you are actually still watching tv the night before. Pretty Cool, huh?
Many of you have commented in your email that you can still hardly believe that you are communicating with someone you know so far away on another continent especially one like Antarctica. Well, I just want you to know that I think it's pretty cool also and really appreciate your mail. The real advantage this has over a phone call is that the mail is free and I can read it when I have the time or an opportunity and still be able to respond immediately all for the cost of a local phone call. There is no busy signal, answering machines, and waiting on hold for someone to go check if the party you wan t is in or out of the office. So to many of you, thank you and realize that we are all more technologically literate than we were probably 1-2 years ago. Congratulations.
Okay, now for what is going on here in the deep south. On Saturday, October 28, we visited a remarkable place in the South Shetland Islands. It is named Deception Island and is located at approx. 63 South latitude and 60 degrees 34 minutes west longitude. It is a volcanic caldera that last erupted in 1970. There is probably a real reason for its name but we have thought here that it came from the fact that it looks like any other island here, with the exception that if you enter a narrow inlet in the south east portion named Neptune's Bellows, you will enter a hidden harbor inside the volcano or island which at one time was the volcanoes caldera. The Antarctic coast pilot says that this island is one of the most remarkable crater islands in the world. Neptunes Bellows got its name from American sealers prior to 1822 who named it after the winds that rushed in and out of the harbor through the narrow entrance. The entire island is volcanic in origin with the majority of the rock called lava. There is a lot of pumice everywhere so that it might give you an idea of the type of eruption that took place. For those of you that do not know what pumice is, look it up. The color is very dark gray and black and scattered every where and feet deep.
Scattered around the island are cliffs of red material called red brick stone which gives the appearance that thee are buildings on the hill sides in the deeper interior of the harbor. In fact, yours truly in the wheelhouse on the bridge while looking through the binoculars asked the captain what those red buildings were for and who used them previously. While a smile he said that they were not buildings but brick stone. The name brick stone was given its name in 1829 and thought to be red brick kilns by the crew of the HMS Chanticleer when it visited here.
The island has numerous hot springs and the smell of sulfur is quite strong as you walk around the bays. One of the harbors is aptly named whalers cove or whalers bay. Deception Island is reported to have one of the if not the largest penguin rookery in Antarctica and I think I remember a video which had Richard Attenbourough from the BBC as the narrator dealing with Antarctica and he was walking on a beach with Penguins on Deception Island. I just walked on that beach. Awesome. As you come into the harbor through Neptunes Bellows, the center of the island opens into a large open bay that is ice pack covered right to the harbor entrance. To the right as you come into the harbor is a little cove that is ice filled and covered with broken pack ice with small bits of open water. It is called Whalers Bay. There are the remains of old Chilean and British research stations and a Norwegian Whaling station. The British research station has the remains of an old bunkhouse and kitchen with the old stove outside in the pumice. Scattered around the area are remains of old cans of food, wire, pieces of metal that made up part of the living quarters and the fuselage with wings of an old beaver single engine airplane. The tail is nowhere to be found, but I found the engine buried in the pumice and ash quite a ways from the hanger. The old whaling station has the boilers and blubber hooks present and the machinery that was involved in the rendering of the whales is jumbled around in large piles of twisted metal. There are the remains of old buildings , small boats that are buried in ash, and what appears to be stacks of old barrels with the metal bands that wee waiting to be shipped somewhere. Whale bones and pieces of skeletons litter the beach as does the remains of a variety of birds. It was a real treat to be here and experience this place.
I got some pictures of penguins as well as a classic type with me lying down in the ash next to one as my ex roomie, Ross, took a picture. Also got some pictures of mother seals with pups on the beach. How close did you ask? Well, within 2-3 feet so that the only thing in the pictures if I wanted were her eyes. It is truly amazing that these creatures are not afraid and I am overwhelmed at times to be standing next to these animals that we would envision should be afraid and should take flight immediately.
The volcano erupted in 1965, 67, 69, and I think in 1970 and these eruptions are the ones that destroyed the stations and the reasons everything moved out of here. It was really cool to be able to walk around in this ash and pumice that would have, in our part of the world, been eroded away because of the natural cycles of the seasons, but due to the cold and ice and lack or rain here, the island has changed little since the eruptions.
Later that night we had a barbecue on board in the hold of the ship and a costume party. We are entering our 5th week and the weather has been cooperating quite nicely. We keep wondering when the storm will hit and are wondering if the real storm will be on the way home crossing the Drake Passage. The last trip to Punta Arenas, the Polar Duke was said to have made the 2nd worst crossing in the history of the ship. oh my.
I am still working on CTD casts and share the responsibility on the morning and afternoon casts with other people in charge. I am learning a lot and also being able to use a lot of what I have taught in oceanography for years. In fact Bob Kluckhon and I had quite a discussion over sigma-t plots last night around 2330 last night (that's right 2330 is 11:30 PM. And we are discussing sigma-t plots and getting up at 0400) I was surprised to realize that our conversation last night mirrored conversations with students in my classes. It went something like this: I talked first (some of you can imagine or understand that, can't you) "Bob, could you explain sigma-t plots to me?" "Why yes, George, I can." "If you sit down with this book and read chapter 3, I will deal with what you don't understand. Please do the odd questions. You are an odd kinda guy." NO..No..No - that is not what rally happened, just some sick Palo humor. But what did happen was that in the process of explaining the plot, Bob a went into the file and brought up a plot on the computer screen. He tried to explain a small blip on the plot with reference to the non blip above and below it. I in turn was trying to refer to the blip or the blip to the entire screen and after a 20 minute frustrating conversation on both of our parts between two fairly intelligent people, I finally realized that what I was seeing was not what Bob wanted me to see. So to make a long story short, Bob and I were viewing the plot, the blip and the screen differently so the conversation and the explanation had two different relativities. We need to remember that in our classes and what we explain to young people and adults also may not be seen with the same understanding and will affect our relationships between people. A post scrip to this is that when the light went on in my head and I finally realized what was going on, I felt elated that I finally understood and I believe Bob was glad he finally could get some sleep.
The ice this morning is different than I have seen it in the past. Imagine a dense cloud and fog covering the water with a layer of snow over the stern of the boat and the icebergs. The darker color of the ice is now covered with a coating of snow causing the light to be reflected and transmitted differently. Also in the distance, the bergs appear darker or some appear black or dark gray so that in the fog, it looks like tunnels cut out of the air. Pretty cool huh?
At the present time we are back on station in the Gerlache Strait at 64 degrees 40 minutes South latitude and 61 degrees 14 minutes west longitude. And it is -1.5 degrees with no wind and snow and fog. If the ship would turn off its engines, it would be wonderfully quiet. I think I am really missing the quiet since there has been none for the last five weeks. I mean no quiet at all for every one of the 24 hours of the day unless you hide somewhere and then cover your ears to drown out the engine noise like putting on your stereo headphones with music to drown out the noise (wait a minute, that doesn't make sense does
Later and Peace.
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