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Antarctic Seafloor Ecology Journals


December 6, 2010 Goodbye to Antarctica

A beautiful last day - blue, sunny, clear, and no wind
plane leaving
The time has arrived. By the time you get this, I should be back in Christchurch. Half our team is already there or on planes heading back to the US. Yes, they were finally able to leave yesterday (Monday) afternoon after a lot of back and forth. First, their original plans got changed as we finished early. Then, with bags dropped off, beds made, and keys returned, they got the call “No flights – bad weather”! Four days of waiting for the weather to calm down followed and then they really made it out. That’s Antarctica for you. Things change and we have to be ready to adjust. The C-17 with half our team. They finally made it out. I'll be in a plane just like that in a few hours. (By the time you're reading this, I'll have already left.) Now, as I write this on my last morning...

December 5, 2010 SCINI goes on…

Looks good - clear and less wind. Will the team fly?
Traverse to the Coulman High Site
As we make our final preparations to leave the Ice, our underwater robot, SCINI, continues on. Bob along with Paul, David, and Dustin, are taking her on another underwater mission. Paul, David, and Dustin working on SCINI. After four years of first developing SCINI and then enhancing her cameras, thrusters, control, and navigation, she’s ready for a new challenge. After four seasons of helping Stacy and her teams see and understand what happens to communities as they recover from icebergs scouring the bottom communities, of doing qualitative depth transects in historical places as well as deep places of the Antarctic seafloor never before seen, and of relocating and re-sampling Paul’s old experiments, SCINI is about to head in another direction. This time it won’t be under the sea...

December 4, 2010 WATER DROP visits McMurdo Medical – by the staff of the McMurdo Hospital!

Stormy - snow has blown in and is covering the mud
an EKG of the WATER DROP
With our jobs in Antarctica almost finished, we have at least one member of our group who already has plans for more time on the ice. The WATER DROP from the Delaveaga Elementary school in Santa Cruz was adopted by the hospital here and they hired him. Here is their WATER DROP story. Water drop found a job at McMurdo!! He will help the doctors and nurses at the McMurdo hospital. Now that he has a job arranged, he has to go through the Physical Qualifying (PQ) process. The WATER DROP from Delaveaga Elementary school in Santa Cruz arrives at McMurdo medical clinic. He meets Dr. Penguin. The WATER DROP then is greeted at the door by Lori the X-Ray Technician who has been at the clinic for 8 years. Lori met her husband at McMurdo and they have been married for 3 years. Lori takes...

December 3, 2010 Our neighbors - Scott Base

cold - windy - limited visibility
Scott Base.
If you were to go to Antarctica, where would you want to go? Would you want to go to McMurdo or to a field camp? Would you spend time on an icebreaker or would you stay at a different research station? McMurdo is the biggest research station in Antarctica but there are about 67 other bases in Antarctica as well as about 30 summer field camps like the New Harbor Field Camp that we stayed at. The United States runs three research stations in Antarctica: McMurdo, the main station that is also the logistics center; Palmer over on the Antarctic Peninsula ; and the Amundsen-Scott South Pole station with its brand new station. The closest base to McMurdo is Scott Base. It’s on the other side, the eastern side, of Ross Island, in front of the permanent ice shelf with its impressive...

December 2, 2010 WATER DROP adventure with Sally and her fossils

Stormy - windy and low visibility - Our team is stranded here! No planes are flying
Cecil and WATER DROP
Windy conditions have stranded our team. The part of our group that was set to fly out today is still here with not much more than their ECW clothing as they have already "dragged" their bags. They'll probably be here through the weekend as a storm is expected to hit McMurdo for the next few days. Looks like we have one more storm before we're off the ice. Enjoy the warmth for us and enjoy the following WATER DROP story. (Thanks for those that joined in for the webinar - we had fun!) Sally E. Walker shares her WATER DROP story of Fossils Do you know what fossils are? Fossils are the remains of animals or plants that lived thousands of years ago. These remains look the same as when the animal or plant was alive but they have changed to stone. I study these fossils so I am a...

December 2, 2010 Beginnings, Endings, and aWater Drop Story for kids - Air Traffic Control with Bob

The wind is slowing down a bit - it's still cold!
Group Photo
Yesterday our group spent the day returning supplies, backing up data, and packing. Meanwhile, Paul Mahacek is back from Happy Camper school and is finishing up his training. Dustin Carroll is also finishing his training and the two of them have been busy with Bob and David getting ready for SCINI's next project, ANDRILL. Bob, Paul, David, and Dustin - SCINI continues with the guys and the ANDRILL project. Later today,depending on weather, the first part of our group will board their plane and head back to Christchurch. Since they'll be flying, I thought it would be appropriate to post another WATER DROP story about the Air Traffic Control that makes sure the planes leave safely. Unfortunately the ice is being closed a bit early and Ice Town, our airport on the sea ice in front of...

December 1, 2010 Paul's review of our season

visibility is limited and the wind is blowing
Julie with a rich community under a thin layer of ice.
This season has been a success according to Paul! We set out to work on two programs – recovering experiments and getting a broader quantitative perspective of various habitats - and both have been a success. This is Paul’s favorite anemone that he has named Miss Piggy because she ate all those scallops. Paul’s favorite animal is the sea star Perknaster because it can do so many things and the magnificent Volcano Sponge because they release eggs whether fertilized or not and if the conditions are right they grow huge really quickly. On the one hand we returned to specific spots on the seafloor to photograph my old transects and recover my old experiments - floaters, cages and other settling surfaces. With the help of SCINI and the SCUBA divers, we took pictures and videos of about...

November 30, 2010 Last week on the Ice

Blue and sunny with a few clouds and a bit of a breeze
The WATER DROP from Lori's ESL class check out the view of McMurdo from Observa
In less than a week I'll be surrounded by plants, warm sunshine, and all the fresh fruits and vegetables that I want! Until then, we have a lot of packing, cleaning, and finishing up to do. We're also enjoying the last few days of our time here. Though the popular expression, "It's a harsh continent" certainly fits, I've come to love our little town. The WATER DROP from Lori's ESL class check out the view of McMurdo from Observation Hill. Drilling holes with LT and running back and forth on ski-doos, the tucker, and the piston bully was totally different from my life of teaching and riding bikes or driving cars. Even my motorcycle didn't quite prepare me for these vehicles. The WATER DROP from the first graders at Sacred Heart Elementary School hung out with Paul and Stacy as LT...

November 28, 2010 Big Ballon City on the Ice - Going up in Space!

 Big Balloon City.
A while ago, you read about ice town, the airport, right in front of our station. Do you remember what happens there and where those planes go? Before that you read about Mark and his weather balloons and the French team with their balloons. Do you remember what the purpose of those balloons was? While those planes and balloons have interesting destinations, the balloons from “Big Balloon City” or the Long Duration Balloons, drift off to potentially even more interesting places. This realm of gigantic balloons is a collection of 20 or so amazing structures on the permanent ice sheet in front of Scott Base. Just like some of the creatures in the water below the ice, many of the houses, vehicles, and the balloons themselves are gigantic. In fact the balloons are the largest sealed...

November 28, 2010 Thanksgiving in McMurdo

Sunny, blue, warm, but a little breezy
The group at Thanksgiving
We hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving. Though we missed our families and friends, we had a nice Thanksgiving here in McMurdo as well. Friday night we enjoyed some live music. Mechanics, scientists, janitors, supervisors, and other workers on station turned into drummers, guitarists, and singers. They played originals and covers, while the rest of us danced and enjoyed the entertainment. A 5 km marathon, called the Turkey Trot, was organized on Saturday morning for McMurdo. About 70 people participated and ran from McMurdo to Scott Base and back. We saw the first group racing back. We also saw some people dressed up - one as a Native American and one as a banana. The finish of the Turkey Trot. Most of town had both Saturday and Sunday off though many science groups still worked...

November 26, 2010 Two more WATER DROP stories for kids - South Pole and McMurdo, Planes and Shuttles, Sarra and Kristy

blue and sunny
the water drop is taken inside of a Delta
My name is Sarra and I am from Anchorage, Alaska. I adopted a WATER DROP from a class at Our Lady of Merced and took it to the South Pole with me. This is me at the end of my work day having a glass of water. This is my first year at the South Pole. Our Lady of Merced WATER DROP at the South Pole I came to Antarctica because I wanted to experience the last continent on the planet that very few people have the opportunity to see. In this picture I am sitting in a piece of heavy equipment waiting for the aircraft to stop so I can remove supplies from the plane. I work with the planes that come and go from the South Pole. This is a very important job because without planes we would not have the food and supplies necessary to live here. In fact, all of the science equipment as well...

November 25, 2010 Along and through Sea Cracks at Bratina Island and Turtle Rock

Cloudy and cold
View from the Helicopter
Life is never dull in Antarctica. Since our return from field camp, we've still been diving and going on SCINI missions on the ice in front of McMurdo. However, we have also had a busy week of day trips to various other spots on the ice. Most of the team spent two day trips recovering Paul's experiments and flying SCINI at a place across McMurdo Sound called Salmon Bay. Here Paul's experiments were actually on top of the ice as the anchor ice had lifted them up. Recovering them was not as exciting though Paul was still able to study the seafloor using SCINI. Yesterday, DJ, Paul, and Jen were back on the ice in front of McMurdo taking SCINI to a record depth of 320 feet. While they were based at our home site, Stacy, Kamille, Kevin, Julie and I took a trip across McMurdo Sound to a...

November 25, 2010 Penguins and Shackleton’s Hut

Tina and WATER DROPs by the rookery
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here in Antarctica. We will celebrate tomorrow, our Saturday, when our galley is hosting a feast for all 1200 of us here on station. The WATER DROPs will watch over us and you'll all be in our hearts. This will be a special weekend for us as well as it is the one and only weekend that all members of ICE AGED will be together. Paul and Dustin arrived on yesterday’s plane and they are now working on their training and preparing to work with Bob on a separate project. The rest of us are figuring out our schedules as it looks like some of us will be leaving quite a bit earlier than planned. After two months of long days, especially for the SCINI crew, we have finished most of our work early! We have found, photographed, and analyzed most of Paul’s...

November 23, 2010 Weddell Seals - Another long-term study in Antarctica

mom and pup
What do you know about Weddell Seals, one of the top predators in Antarctica? What do you know about the people that study them? What do they do and how? What questions do they ask? For the past 42 years, researchers have been studying these seals in Antarctica. Representing one of the longest field investigations of a long-lived mammal in existence, this study has tagged over 20,000 seals since 1968. In fact, since 1980, almost all pups that have been born in an area about 10 miles north of McMurdo have been tagged by researchers. Most Weddell Seal moms and pups have been tagged. Tags allow the researchers to follow and study the animals over the course of their lives. For the past nine years, the research has been guided in part by Bob Garrott, a scientist who devotes half the...

November 22, 2010 Beverly and the WATER DROP story of the missing bones from brittle stars

2 brittle stars
Beverly is a newbie to Antarctica like Tina, Kevin, Julie, and David. Though she is from Atlanta, Georgia, she is currently going to school in Nashville, Tennessee. Beverly adopted a WATER DROP from Harrison's class at Our Lady of Merced and took it to work with her for a few days. Beverly studies one of the critters that ICE AGED looks at, brittle stars. What do you know about brittle stars? Beverly studies brittle stars. What do you think they eat? What eats them? Beverly will be here in Antarctica for two months. After one week of training in McMurdo, she went camping at the same field camp that ICE AGED stayed at, New Harbor. She will be there for a few weeks. Then she is going to two other remote field camps called Herbertson and Bay of Sails. Besides working with the...

November 21, 2010 Discovery Hut and expeditions in Antarctica

Discovery Hut
As we stumble from our dorms to breakfast at the galley, we see the oldest of the three historic huts in this area, Discovery Hut. Perched less than a mile away, on a hill on a little peninsula called Hut Point, it overlooks the sea ice and can actually be seen from many parts of McMurdo. The Discovery hut was used as a convenient en route shelter for sledge trips to and from the Ross Ice Shelf. How many people stayed here? The hut’s background is intriguing. It was actually designed for staying cool in the Australian Outback, and so it has verandahs on three sides. It was used more for storage and as an emergency shelter for stranded parties than for accommodations. Two of the most famous early Antarctic explorers, Captain Robert Falcon Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton, both used...

November 20, 2010 WATER DROPs in the Galley

blue and sunny but a bit windy still
Water Drops in our office
We've received more than 50 WATER DROPs from many different schools and groups of students from California, Washington, New Zealand and other parts of the wold. You have read some of the stories of those that accompanied us to various places and those that were "adopted" by people here in Antarctica. Do you remember what Rick, Jesse, or Lydia did with theirs? Do you remember what they saw at the Ice Town or at the Water Desalination Plant? Most WATER DROPs have returned from their adventures though quite a few are still out with their hosts. Some will hopefully return before we leave, though the ones with the balloons or the ones at South Pole or in remote field camps might be out a while longer before we see them again - if ever. Though our office is sometimes very crowded with 4...

November 19, 2010 Carpenters in Antarctica - another WATER DROP adventure

Windy - but clear and sunny
The WATER DROP on a Pisten Bully
My name is Jenny Brower and I work in the Carpentry Shop at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. I was a 5th grade school teacher in Jerome, Idaho before deciding to go on an adventure to the Southern Hemisphere. I had worked during my summers for the Forest Service and had done some building projects in the past, so my experience with carpentry landed me a job in Antarctica. The WATER DROP from the 7th graders at Sacred Heart School joined Jenny for a day of work The Carpentry Shop (also known as the “Carp Shop”) is a great place to work. We build different items for the science groups and set up all of their camps in the deep field. The best part of my job is flying out to different parts of the continents to places that only a handful of people have ever visited to set up camps for science...

November 18, 2010 Rick - the Tractor Man - Another WATER DROP story

clear and sunny but gusty and windy
Rick and a Tractor
Hi Students, Rick Ward here in Antarctica at McMurdo station. Rick and one of his tractors. He fixes and drives these. I am preparing for the summer Antarctic field season. My job here is to drive and maintain the tractors pulling sleds out to build a new field camp. This camp is a base so scientists can do their studies on a glacier called Pine Island out in western Antarctica. Where will this tractor go with Rick? What will it pull? The hard part of my job is to live in a tent in the Antarctic when we are out in the field. There are no roads or places to stop in along our route. We use GPS - Global Positioning Systems – that are in the tractors to find our way. We make new routes by following small flags on bamboo poles spaced at one quarter of a mile. Rick makes roads like...

November 17, 2010 Interesting Views - ICE AGED in a Webinar and Tina in a tube

Blue and sunny - warm - We're in little reds!
ICE AGED in webinar #2
Thanks everyone who participated in our webinar! We had a great time answering your questions and sharing some of our expedition with you. Here we were - answering your questions and sharing our stories. Our cluster of WATER DROPs watched from above We have one last webinar coming up in just a few weeks - on Dec. 3 at 10 am (PST) - which is 7 am on Dec. 4 for us here in Antarctica (9:00 AM ADT (10:00 AM PDT, 11:00 AM MDT, 12:00 PM CDT, 1:00 PM EDT). We'll share more details about our science and what we have accomplished. We'll also explain more about our underwater robot, SCINI, while we listen in on it being deployed in the water. Lastly, we'll share more about the history of exploration of Antarctica and further adventures that your WATER DROPs have experienced. Register at the...

November 16, 2010 Paul's insights from New Harbor

Partly cloudy - yesterday we had snow flurries
Paul - always smiling and happy!
So why are actually here? Why did we fly with a big C-17 all the way to Antarctica? Why did we enlist the helicopters and all the support personnel to set up a field camp for us at New Harbor? Why did we spend 36 hours drilling holes with hotsies through 18 feet of ice and then send divers and underwater robots down to 140 feet below the ice? What are we learning from all of this? Here are some answers from Paul! Paul - always smiling and happy! The main theme of the 1970s was to evaluate recruitment processes. That is, to understand the pattern of larval settlement (where the larvae actually come to rest before metamorphosing into adults) and survival. At the time the literature argued that most of the larvae never left the sea bottom and they did not move around in the water. We...

November 16, 2010 Life at Field Camp in New Harbor: Week 2 - Science, SCINI, and success!

Warm and sunny most of the week
Field Camp
After a week of exploring MacTown, Kamille and I were in for a magical treat at New Harbor. A short, thirty minute ride in a helicopter brought us out to a world like no other. After flying over the expanse of white ice interrupted only by the flat topped icebergs and surrounded by jagged peaks, we saw the little orange and blue tents in a sea of jagged, rugged, broken-up ice that signaled our field camp, New Harbor. Flying over McMurdo Sound with a Helicopter. Mt. Erebus is in the middle and McMurdo is off to the right (south). Open ocean was spotted as a blue line to the left of Mt. Erebus (north). Can you see our field camp? Can you see the mountaineering tents and sturdier Jamesway tents that the carpenters had prepared for us? Yes, this is remote! Upon touchdown, our team,...

November 15, 2010 Gnarly ice – Week 1 in New Harbor

Sunny and warm
New Harbor field camp
While Tina and Kamille were learning about interesting places in McMurdo Station last week, Julie was out diving and working in New Harbor with the rest of the ICE AGED team. The team was joined by two WATER DROPs from the Skyline School in Solana Beach, CA and the Paul Cuffee Middle School in Providence, RI. The following is Julie's report on the first week. An aerial view of the New Harbor field camp New Harbor must be one of the most beautiful places in the world to do field work. Our team had a great first week out on the real continent of Antarctica; SCINI worked really well, the divers spent a lot of time underwater collecting organisms and data, and there was always a little time in the evening to take in the awesome views of Mt. Erebus and the Taylor Valley. A helicopter...

November 12, 2010 Firefighting in Antarctica

Antarctic Fire Department – McMurdo Station
We're surrounded by snow, ice, and dirt. Why do we need firefighters? We're on the driest continent; why do we need firefighters? We don't have trees or forests or kitties that need to be rescued; why do we need firefighters? Furthermore, we're all physically fit. Our rigorous physical qualification processes ensure that. And lastly, we don't have cars zooming around causing car accidents. So, why do we need firefighters? Antarctic Fire Department – McMurdo Station. What happens here? Firefighters down here do much more than just fight fires. They are the emergency response team that runs the ambulance in addition to the fire engines. If someone is hurt, injured, or hypothermic, then the firefighters come to our rescue. The firefighters also spend the night with sick patients...

November 11, 2010 Making Water in Antarctica - The Water Desalination Plant

Water drop and water plant
If Antarctica is the driest continent, how do we get water for the 1200 people that live in McMurdo? Do we take all the water drops that schools are sending us and magically turn them into drinkable water drops? Do we melt the snow that's all around us? Do we fly it in? Do we bring it in on ships? No! Instead, the station simply uses water from the ocean half a mile away! What's wrong with this water though? Yes, it's salty and not quite clean enough. Luckily, we have a water desalination plant that comes to our rescue. Img_4751.jpg The water desalination plant in McMurdo This plant heats, pressurizes, desalinates, and treats the water so it is safe for us to drink and for the pipes to deliver. In the end it makes about 60,000 gallons of drinkable fresh water every day. Last week I...
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