1 February, 1998
Hello Again! Our present position: 73 degrees 46 minutes south latitude 175 degrees 55 minutes east longitude We had another fire drill today aboard the Research Vessel Ice Breaker Nathaniel B. Palmer. It happened just as I was finishing lunch. I dashed up to my room and gathered up my ECW gear (Extreme Cold Weather) and my life vest and my floatation suit. I went to the muster station just as my name was called off the list of passengers. We were all present - even the people who were asleep. On this ship, we work around the clock - so there is always SOMEONE asleep. Our research team works in two shifts so that we are collecting and recording data around the clock. The Antarctic Support Associates make sure someone is available at all times for collecting the data in the computer and for working with the equipment that we are using to collect cores and sea floor images, and for working with all the electrical components. The ship does not run by itself, either! It needs someone to steer it and someone to make sure the engines are working well. And what about my favorite time of the day - meals?! There are four meals a day aboard the ship. There is breakfast from 7:30 to 8:30 am, lunch from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm, dinner from 5:30-6:30 pm and "midrats" or midnight rations from 11:30 pm until 12:30 am! Plus, there are always wonderful snacks - today there was chocolate cake and pie, and peanut butter Rice Krispie cookies (I ate five of these). There is at least one chef working all the time. It is amazing how may different types of jobs people do on the boat - everyone is needed. Having so many helpful and skilled people makes our job of collecting scientific information so much easier and more pleasant! The sun is starting to get lower in the sky at night. It is still light out all day - but we have about three hours or so of "night." It actually is more like twilight. Why is it light most of the time right now in Antarctica? Is it ever dark all the time? When? Antarctica is at the South Pole. The Earth's axis runs through the North Pole and the South Pole. Our Earth turns on this axis once a day and our Earth circles the sun once each year. Because our Earth's axis is tilted, the South Pole sometimes is tilted toward the sun as our Earth circles the sun. This means it is daylight at the South Pole during this time. At the same time the North Pole is tilted away from the sun, so it is dark at the North Pole. Sometimes the South Pole is tilted away from the sun and this means it is dark at the South Pole during this time. At this time the North Pole is tilted toward the sun, so it is daylight. How long is it light in Antarctica? Our Earth circles the sun once a year, so the light pattern at the poles follows the seasons. There are few days at the poles that have a dark night and a light day. There is one long night and one long day! The South Pole is tilted toward the sun during the southern summer (Austral Summer). At this time, the North Pole is tilted away from the sun and it is the North Pole winter. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere (top half of the globe) your winter days are probably shorter than your summer days because of this tilt. During the Austral winter, the South Pole is tilted away from the sun and it is dark all the time. The North Pole is tilted toward the sun at this time, so this is the North Pole summer. Are your summer days longer? Did you know that the seasons were opposite in the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere (bottom half of the globe)? You can see how the seasons work and why the poles experience a long winter night and a long summer day. You will need a Styrofoam ball, a lamp, some markers, and two tooth picks. On your Styrofoam ball make an outline of Antarctica and of the Arctic Ocean. Be sure to put them "in the right place!" Now poke a toothpick into the South Pole and one into the North Pole so that an inch still sticks out from each. Can you make your "Earth" spin on its toothpick axis? Our Earth spins once a day on its axis. The lamp will be the "sun." Think of the face of a clock. Tilt the toothpick axis of your Earth so that the South Pole would be about 7:00 and the North Pole would be at about 1:00. Keep that tilt steady. Hold your Earth by the North Pole and make it circle the sun. Watch what happens to Antarctica. Can you see it go from bright when it is facing the lamp to dark when it is facing away from the sun? What happens in the Northern Hemisphere? The movement of your tilted Earth around the light bulb shows you why Antarctica is light for half the year (summer) and dark for the other half (winter). If you make your Earth spin on its toothpick axis while you move it around the sun (this will be a challenge!), you will see that Antarctica still gets light for half its yearly journey around the sun and it is dark for the other half! More soon from the Palmer! Yours Truly, E. Shackleton BearReturn to E. Shackleton Bear's Page
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