12 November, 1996
Today, half of the group is going to the ice edge to set a series of plankton nets and do some field collections. Several years ago, Jim observed that a parcticular gastropod called Clione was chemically defended. Pat and Wes Yoshida, from the University of Hawaii, isolated the compound and named it pteroenone. Both Bill and Pat realized it had the property of absorbing a wide band of UV radiation. They wanted to determine if pteronone had a dual role as a UV block and a chemical deterrent. If it did, they theorized that Clione, which lived in the open ocean and subject to high levels of UV radiation, should contain higher concentrations than animals living under the ice. They needed organisms from the open ocean to test this hypothesis. The plan was to put out nets on one day and collect the next.
The ice edge is about twenty-five miles north of McMurdo into the Ross Sea. The plan was to use five skidoos to get to the collection site. When other scientists heard we were making the trip, we were asked to do some additional collecting along the way.
One of the microbiologists is trying to determine if human bacteria are being incorporated into the local seal population. If so, it would be observed in their fecal material. Since Chuck is the microbiologist in our group, he was given the responsibility of finding a fresh sample and getting it back to the lab.
A marine biologist has noticed that the stock of a parcticular fish he is studying seems to be decreasing. He wanted to determine if they were being incorporated into the diet of the penguins. He was anxious for one of the field parties to bring fresh sample of penguin droppings to his lab so he could learn about their diet preferences. This task feel on Tony, a professor from Australia. Tony has a sharp mind and a keen eye, he can spot brown snow from a hundred yards.
Even though Tony and Chuck have similar jobs you can see from the photos that they have chosen different tools to complete their assignments. Chuck prefers a spatula, an instrument commonly used by biologists while Tony chooses an ice axe, the tool of choice for a chemist.
Last night, the temperature dropped and the wind began blowing from the southeast. These conditions make work at the ice edge a bit hazardous. To minimize risks, Buck, an instructor from field safety would accompany us. We left wearing all our cold weather gear. Within fifteen minutes I knew I was in trouble because I had worn gloves rather mittens. There is more surface area on a glove than a mitten, therefore, they are not as effective in maintaining body heat. When I stopped, my hands were so cold I was not able to open my pack to get warmer gear. Chis and Jenni quickly realized I was having a problem and helped. It was the third time Jenni came to my rescue in two days. I owe her big time!
On the way to the ice edge we past the hut Shackelton constructed in 1908. It was next to a penguin rookery, which must have been great for snatching fresh eggs. The down side was it also smelled especially bad! I'll have more to say about both things.
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