27 January, 1997
After the relative peacefulness of the dry valley, it is interesting to be back at McMurdo Station. I have had an opportunity to speak with several people who will spend the winter at the South Pole. They are here at McMurdo on a mandatory vacation from the South Pole before being cut off from the rest of the world for eight months. One person is wintering over for the second time. He is a construction worker with a high school education and a desire for adventure. He tells tales of beautiful moonlight nights with millions and millions of stars and the Aurora so brilliant and close that you can almost tough it. He says that it is not really all that dark. It does get cold, like -90 degrees celcius. He is from Minesota and knows how to deal with cold.He also offered to aanswer e-mail questions from students I will send his addres in the next few days.
I did take a hiking break today. Dr. Nick Landcaster, the geomorphologist and I hiked the Castle Rock Loop Trail. Remember, one can never hike alone here and when you do go out, you must file a footpath plan so someone knows where you are going and when you expect to return. The hike is eight miles most of which is on the ice cap covering the area around Mt.Erebus. Every two miles there is a hut with an emergency phone, food supplies and rope. The entire trail is marked with flags every 100feet to help people find the trail if there happens to be a white out while one is hiking. Weather can change quickly here. We were lucky in that the bank of fog hanging over Mt Erebus did not move toward us and ruin our hike.
Meanwhile, back in the lab, the mat that I brought back with me has settled nicely and is once again covered with rotifers. However, the conditions no longer resemble those of the dry valley lakes. I decided to repeat the trial done when I placed a piece of mat directly onto a slide, then micropipetting the FLOs directly onto the mat and directly observing the action. I have the microscope room to myself for a few days. There are cameras and a video system attached to the scope so I can try to capture evidence in real time. This time the tardigrades eat the FLOs very quickly and the rotifers are not taking in any of the FLOs. I became fascinated with the speed with which they eat the FLOs as they poked along on the surface of the mat. In just a few minutes, their little bodies were aglow! My next project will be to try and get this equipment working and get some good pictures.
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