30 January, 1998
Good Morning Everyone! It is 6:00 am and I am on watch. We are collecting more information about what the sea floor looks like near Cape Adare. We will finish this afternoon and go back to the Ross Sea for more work there. The Nathaniel B. Palmer is stationed at: 70 degrees 54 minutes south latitude 170 degrees 06 minutes east longitude The temperature has dropped. We have been working in temperatures about -1 degree Celsius (30 degrees Fahrenheit). Right now the temperature is -3 degrees (27 degrees Fahrenheit), but it feels much colder. Part of the reason it "feels" so cold is that the winds have increased - so the wind chill makes it feel even colder than it really is! The winds have increased to 26 knots - almost 30 miles per hour! We have had many days with almost no wind. Those are the days that feel the warmest. Yesterday we went to Cape Adare. We have been working very close to it for the last 10 days. As we took the ship closer to shore we went through some sea ice. It was not very thick and was broken in many places - so it was pack ice that the ship could get through easily. Some of the pieces were on top of each other - or rafted. Cape Adare is home to the largest Adelie Penguin rookery! There are about 500,000 birds there! This is where the penguins nest and raise the young birds. Even as the ship approached the coastline and was a few miles off, we could smell the penguins! There is a beach along the coast, and then some flat land, and then the land rises steeply. Most of the penguins were on the flat land, but many had made their way up the steeper slopes to find open nesting ground. Because we were going to be close to Antarctic wildlife, Jim Holik, our Marine Projects Coordinator from the Antarctic Support Associates, reminded all of us of our responsibilities to Antarctica and to the animals that live here. We were reminded that we could not take any samples or souvenirs, or disturb the animals in any way. All the animals of Antarctica are protected by the Antarctic Conservation Act. If we make an animal change its behavior because we are near it - we are TOO close! Even when we are collecting data on the ship, the Captain and Mates try to steer clear of seals and penguins on the pack ice so that we do not disturb them. Once we positioned the ship, we lowered inflated rubber boats over the side into the water. The water was like glass - the wind was very still. We went to the low beach, away from the dense penguin populations. On our way to the beach we passed icebergs and large pieces of pack ice. Many of the pieces of pack had penguins standing or laying on them. As we went past them we could hear them squawk! Several penguins also swam along side and in front of the boat - they swim like porpoises - as they are swimming they go up and down in the water, often popping out of the water completely. When we landed there were several penguins to greet us. The beach was made of dark volcanic rock - just like some of the samples we collected from the ocean bottom offshore! There was a ledge about one to two meters high (6 feet). The penguins waddled to the edge of the ledge to have a look at us. They squawked and shook their heads back and forth. I walked slowly along the beach, stopping every now and then to watch them There were adults that were all black on their backs and heads and white on their fronts sides. Adelie Penguins have white rings around their eyes. They were very smooth. There also were smaller penguins that were black and white like the adults, but they had patches of fluffy gray/brown feathers here and there. These were the chicks - they were born in the early Antarctic summer. The chicks were molting to get rid of their fluffy warm down feathers. As these feathers fall away, the coloring and smoother feathers of the adults are exposed. The chicks cannot go into the water like the adults - the fluffy feathers are not water proof. The rookery was very loud! The chicks huddled together, or around adult penguins. The adult penguins go to sea and eat krill. They come back to the rookery and feed their chicks some of the food that they caught. The parents have to regurgitate, or spit back the food they have swallowed into the chicks mouths (penguin parents have no pockets or other places to keep food!). It was fun to watch the parents feed the chicks and to watch the chicks run after the parents squawking for more! I will write more soon! Yours Truly, E. Shackleton BearReturn to E. Shackleton Bear's Page
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