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3 March, 2000

Why No Seals, Whales or Penguins?

74 00 s 112 05 w

-11 C (12 F), wind 18 knots (21 mph) southwest

Barometer 988.9 mb, rising

Depth 726 m (2381 ft)

Clear, cold dawn. Crescent moon and a planet visible in the NW North of Moore Dome, near Dotson ice shelf, Walgreen Coast

Some people have written me with comments on my journal entries, and I thank all who have done so, especially those of you who have offered suggestions. Please keep doing so! I have had two requests more than once, so I thought Iíd make some excusesÖ I mean offer explanations.

Why donít I have more pictures of animals, especially seals or whales? Thatís an easy one to answer. Although Iíve seen a number of seals and penguins (and one whale), I havenít gotten close enough to any of them to take a good picture. According to the ďseal peopleĒ seals tend to rest on the ice in the afternoon more than any other time. On an average day Iíll see four or five. Mostly I see Weddell and Crabeater seals, but I have also seen Leopard seals. I donít actively watch for them like the ďseal people,Ē because Iím usually busy with other projects. So there must be many I miss. They are fun to watch with binoculars, but if I tried to take a picture, all youíd see is a little black smudge or two. Itís the same with penguins. Although I see more penguins than seals, so far they have been too far away to get good pictures. As soon as I can get a nice picture or two, Iíll send them along. Emperor penguins look terribly dignified standing up. When they want to move fast they get down on their bellies and paddle along with their wings and feet. They glide so smoothly you would almost think they were boats in calm water, rowing along.

The other comment, which came from several different people, is that they would like to hear more about the day to day life on the ship, about what living on a research vessel is like. Thatís one I can fix more easily. From time to time Iíll tell you about the more ordinary happenings here.

My daily routine begins about 11 PM when I wake up to go on watch. I go down to the galley and get something to eat and a cup of coffee. Since people are working twenty-four hours a day, they have a meal from 11:30-12:30 called ďmidrats.Ē Donít ask me where that word came from. From midnight to three I usually do the geophysical watch that I was telling you about. Then I do ping editing, write my journal, work on drying samples for carbon dating, or go to the gym and get some exercise. I call that ďwheelĒ after the little exercise wheel my daughterís gerbil has. There is a stationary bicycle, a treadmill, a stair climbing machine and a rowing machine. I used to use the bicycle all the time, but unfortunately itís broken now, so I use one of the others. I had trouble getting used to running on a treadmill with the boat rolling and pitching in ice.

I try to watch the sunrise, if itís not snowing or foggy. The sun rises at about 2:30 and sets about 10:00 at night. It takes a long time to rise or set, because its path is at such a shallow angle to the horizon. When the sun rises, you see a tiny bit, called the upper limb, first. In Maine, where I live, the sun takes only a minute or two to get completely above the horizon. Here at 74 degrees south, I can go down to the galley, get another cup of coffee, and come back on deck, and it seems like the same tiny bit of sun is still there.

After breakfast I continue on watch, either using the radar to map coastline, or go back on geophysical watch. Iím off watch at noon, but after lunch I seem to just keep on doing the same things. Of course everything else comes to a stop when there is a core to be taken. Sometimes I help other groups like the ice people. I also spend a lot of time asking questions and listening. I try to do this only when people seem interested in talking! There are many fascinating people on board the Nathaniel B. Palmer, crew and scientists, and they seem to have lots to tell.

I try also to play my fiddle at least twenty minutes a day. Some days I play half an hour or more, and some days not at all. If we are coring in deep water, it takes the corer about twenty minutes to go down to the bottom and twenty to come back up. I usually wait in the same room where Tom Kellogg is shown in the picture. I bring my fiddle and practice while Iím waiting, if there is nothing else to do. There is enough noise from machinery that it doesnít bother people. Iím working on learning a tune called Bay of Fundy (which also happens to be another glacial trough). Once in a while we have emergency drill. No matter what you are doing, when the brass alarm bells ring you have to grab warm clothes, boots, a survival suit and a life preserver, and head for your assigned station. It doesnít matter if youíre sleeping, eating, in the shower, or on watch, you just stop what you are doing and go. (Of course you put on some clothes first if you are in the shower!) The halls are crowded with rushing people. When you get to your alarm station, a crewmember takes roll call to make sure everybody is there.

About four in the afternoon I begin to get really drowsy, so I climb in my bunk and read for a little while. The ship rocks me and the engines hum me to sleep, but not before I set my alarm for eleven oíclock. Life goes on day after day like this, and weekends are pretty much the same as weekdays. As a matter of fact, I often lose track of what day it is, and have to check a calendar. Whatever day it is, I spend as much time as I can looking outside. I want to store as much as I can for the future.

We have rounded Cape Herlacher and have been taking cores and CTD stations along the front of the Dotson Ice Shelf. The Kohler Glacier feeds the Dotson Ice Shelf. Cape Herlacher is on the northern tip of the Martin Peninsula, which has the Murray and Slichter forelands. Nearby are Mt. Murphy and the Thwaites glacier. At the eastern end of the Dotson Ice Shelf is Bear Peninsula, with Moore Dome on one north facing tip. Of course there are no bears in Antarctica, polar or otherwise. All these areas are part of the Walgreen Coast.

Why did I list all those names? I was wondering how Bear Peninsula got its name, since there are no bears around (the Arctic has polar bears, the Antarctic has penguins.) Then I started wondering about all the other names, so I looked them up. Here is what I found out.

Bear Peninsula is named after the USS Bear, a US Antarctic survey ship. The ship was launched in 1874 in Scotland, and christened the Bear of Oakland. It sank in 1963 after a long history of exploration. In the thirties and forties, survey airplanes could be launched and retrieved from the Bear, and these planes were first to explore this coast.

Carl J. Herlacher was a cartographer (mapmaker) for the US Navy in the 1930s. Walter J. Kohler, was an industrialist and governor of Wisconsin, who helped buy the plane (launched from the USS Bear) from which the Kohler glacier was first sighted. William Dotson was in charge of the Navyís Ice Reconnaissance Office, and was killed in a 1964 Alaska plane crash, while on an ice watching mission. Lawrence Martin was an American geographer and authority on Antarctic exploration for the Library of Congress. Grover Murray was a geologist and member of the National Science Foundationís Board of Directors. Louis B. Slichter is a professor at UCLA, and has trained many polar geophysicists. Capt. Robert Moore commanded the US Coast Guard Cutter Burton Island, which explored this area in 1974-1975. Robert Cushman Murphy was an authority on polar birds. He served on a whaler in 1912-1913, observing birds and drawing charts in addition to his normal duties. Fredrik Thwaites was a glacial geologist at the University of Wisconsin. Last but not least, Walgreen Coast was named after Charles R. Walgreen, president of Walgreen Drug Co. of Chicago. Walgreen was a financial backer of Richard Byrd.

I searched through the book for places named after women. There are some named for wives, daughters, queens or financial donors, but that was all I could find. Can any body help me? Are there places named after prominent women scientists or geographers? Girls, you may have missed out on the first Antarctic explorations, but thereís still plenty of work to be done here (and there are women on the Nathaniel B. Palmer doing it right now.) How about the Moon and Mars? Things are changing!


The Transantarctic Mountains as seen from the Ross Sea. The famous dry valleys are up in those hills.


This is what you get when a Kasten core works well. One side of the square box is removable to get at the sediment. Dr. Tom Kellogg (shown scraping top of core) thinks that most of this core was deposited when the area was under a floating ice shelf, because it is very fine grained and has very few diatoms in it. He is scraping the top of the core so he can get a better idea of the color bands visible. The pink square at the top holds in the surface layers so they won't slump out.


The mate made a little snow couple to sit out on the bow. They don't seem at all bothered by the cold and the wind!


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