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Oden Antarctic Expedition 08 Journals

Journals

January 21, 2009 Honey, I’m Home!

Honey, I’m Home! The trip home started with the check in and pre-flight weigh-in to make sure that my luggage did not exceed 75 pounds.  We all were required to wear our special ECW (extreme cold weather) clothing on the military flight from McMurdo Station to New Zealand and we then crammed our change of clothing, computers and other carry-on stuff into the orange ECW bag.  After our 8-hour, cold and noisy flight in the Hercules C-130 cargo plane we arrived in Christchurch New Zealand where I learned that for some reason I had not been booked on any commercial flights to get home.  The great folks at ARCUS solved the problem right away and the next afternoon I was on my way to Auckland and then onto a 12.5 hour flight across the Pacific (and the International Date Line) to land in Los...

January 13, 2009 1/13/09 Two Days in McMurdo Station, Ross Island

Exploring McMurdo For me, the reoccurring theme of this 2 month adventure has been, "Just when you thought it could not get better….”.  As we walked off the Oden on Jan 12 we were told that our flight home would be delayed for one more day and we would not leave until the 14th.  This meant that we had an extra day to explore the historic and interesting area around McMurdo.  Our first stop was our dorm room.  Although I was suddenly sharing a room with 4 others, the beds were fine and the food was great.  On our first evening we had a chance to tour Scott’s Discovery Hut which was built over 100 years ago by Robert F. Scott and later it was used by some of the other early Antarctic explorers.  The most fascinating thing about he hut is that because the climate is so cold and dry, decay...

January 12, 2009 Are We There Yet??

Overcast with light wind
Are We There Yet?As much as I have enjoyed every minute of this expedition and I am already starting to miss some of the great people I have become friends with on the Oden, the last mile to McMurdo has taken us over 24 hours. The Oden has been cutting a channel through 3-meter thick sea ice and it has been slow going. We have been able to see the buildings for 2 days and this morning as we prepared to leave by helicopter, we are only about 200 meters from the ice pier. The decision was made to keep us on the ship until 2pm and skip the helicopter because by then we will be able to walk off the ship. Everyone is packed and our rooms are all cleaned and inspected and it is the longest 5-hour wait I can remember. Once on shore we will be able to spend some tourist time today and then we...

January 9, 2009 Ross Island and McMurdo Sound!

Sunny with very little wind
McMurdo Sound Ice StationAs we approached Ross Island at the far western edge of the Ross Sea Polynya, we were greeted by amazing views of the 4 volcanic peaks of Ross Island. This was the first real land we had seen in over a month and it marked the beginning of our last week on the Oden. After 12 hours of icebreaking we established our last and longest sea ice station where we stayed for over 2 days. During that time all of the science teams worked to collect and analyze their last samples. It was also my last chance to go out on the ice with the seal research team. This time I was part of a 5-person group as we worked with the biggest Weddell seals of the entire trip. I was even promoted to be one of the 2 net handlers who actually captured each of the 5 seals. The ice of...

January 3, 2009 A Great Start to a New Year!

Ross Sea Polynya
Overcast with brisk wind
Note: We are running a few days behind with these journals due to communications issues with the Oden. Thank you for your patience. Oden News Flash! Before we get to today's topics I need to make a few announcements.... Mark Your Calendars and Register for this week's Live From IPY Webinar from the Oden. Go to the PolarTREC.com homepage and sign-up to participate in the one hour live event that will start at 1pm Eastern time this Wednesday, January 7th. I created a document that helps teachers understand how to prepare their classes for a webinar and it is posted on my Dec 13th journal. 2. New videos are coming soon. I am interviewing some of the scientists on board plus I have I am working on videos titled "Krill Safari" and "I Picked a Seal's Nose for Science"....

December 30, 2008 Jeff Joins the Seal Team!

Overcast with little wind and glass-calm seas
My Day With The Seal Research TeamYesterday was a life-changing day for me that I will never forget. The seal research team had invited me to spend the day helping them haul their equipment and they had asked me to help them capture video of their work. First, we searched the rapidly melting sea ice for two days until we found thick floes with seals on them. Yesterday as the Oden's big crane lowered the team's inflatable Zodiac over the side, loaded with nets and skis and biological sampling equipment I was so excited that I could barely control myself. A few weeks ago I had walked out from the ship to video the team as they worked with a seal but today I was welcomed as a member of the group. My job was to help carry equipment and to shoot video of the capture process. I also was needed...

December 27, 2008 Size Is Not Everything!

Overcast and strong winds
KrillIt is so easy to imagine a place on the Earth in terms of the charismatic animals that live there. Monkeys in tropical jungles, colorful fish on coral reefs, dolphins in the sea, polar bears in the Arctic and penguins in the Antarctic. Each spring and fall, the Fingerlakes Institute in Geneva, NY invites me to bring my students out on Seneca Lake aboard their research vessel and most of the students expect to see and study the fish that the lake is famous for. Instead, when we fly our underwater camera over the lake bottom we see a slightly cloudy "soup" of plankton being filtered by a carpet of mussels covering the lake bottom. The vast majority of the life in every ecosystem is small, microscopic life that makes up the critical base of the food chain. Here in Southern...

December 22, 2008 Holiday Time On The Oden

Clear blue sky!
Oden News Flash! Before we get to today's topic I need to make an announcement....Set your calendars for our 2nd Live Webinar on Wednesday, January 7th! Our first live event was a great success and we are excited to give everyone another chance to participate. By Jan. 7th we will be nearing the end of the scientific data collection portion of the expedition and we will be able to announce some preliminary results. Go to the PolarTREC home page and go to the Live From IPY link to register for the event. Before our first webinar I posted an attached document that helps you understand how to get the most out of the webinar and how to prepare your students. You can find that document on my Dec 13th journal. Holiday decorations are appearing all over Oden! Today's journal is a collection of...

December 20, 2008 Fika and Foam and Megacores

Overcast sky and light wind!
Oden News Flash! Before we get to today's topic I need to make an announcement....It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas aboard Oden. Check my upcoming journal posts for photos and descriptions of how the international members of our expedition are preparing for the holidays. Fika, the Swedish Word of the Day Dr. Katarina Abrahamsson , Dr. Melissa Chierici and Dr. Agneta Fransson lead the team of Swedish ice researchers. While we were collecting ice cores they taught me an important new Swedish word. Fika is a casual way to refer to a coffee break. The trick to a successful Fika while on Antarctic sea ice is to have something to lean or sit on (like the ice block in the photo) and you must have a very well insulated thermos to keep the coffee hot! An Experiment: Going to the...

December 19, 2008 Seal Research

Clear and sunny!
Oden News Flash! Before we get to today's topic I need to make an announcement.... I learned today that some of my journal posts from this week were lost in the complex satellite cyberspace pathway from ship to satellite to Alaska to Internet to you! I have worked with the tech experts at PolarTREC and on the Oden today and hopefully by the time you get today's journal you will also have a few extra day's journals to enjoy as well. It is all part of communicating from the remote parts of the planet! Today's topic is... Seal Research aboard Oden In 1955 an epidemic disease swept across the crabeater seal population of Antarctica and 97% of the crabeater seals (millions of individuals) died. Dr. Tero Härkönen from the Museum of Natural History in Sweden was among a group of scientists...

December 19, 2008 The Ice Research Team at Work….with

Very light breeze Partly Cloudy, No waves or swell
There are no weekends off on a polar research expedition. On Saturday we tied up to an ice floe that was several hundred meters wide for Ice Station #2 and today we tied up to a flow that was nearly a mile wide and 1.5 miles long. Most of the sea ice is about 3 feet thick with 2 feet of snow on top. Once the ship is secured to the flow with massive ropes and even more impressive stakes, the science teams walk down the gangplank to establish ice stations. For safety, each team has a radio and is in constant contact with the bridge. No one can go on or off the ice without alerting the officer in charge. Everyone is also required to wear the yellow and blue safety suits that make us easy to see and also make us float, just in case. It takes the teams about 4-5 hours to collect the ice and...

December 13, 2008 Ice Research Station #1; Standing where no human has ever stepped before!

Very light breeze Overcast Skies, Light Snow
As one of the first to step onto the ice, I felt like a lunar explorer who didn't know what the surface would feel like under my feet!And, I knew that with every step I was standing where no human had ever stood before. On Friday the Oden was tied to an ice floe and for the first time, teams were able to stand on the ice and collect samples as we floated on the ocean that was almost 2 miles deep beneath us. And, then we were visited by seals and penguins and whales, oh my! This seal did not seem to mind the fact that his floe was being used as a scientific field station with a 13,000 ton ice breaker roped to it and teams of humans working 25 meters away. Co-Chief Scientist, Katarina Abrahamsson from Sweden and US graduate student, Kevin Bakker are lifted from the Oden to the ice by the...

December 11, 2008 We are in the Sea Ice!

Clear to cloudy Skies, almost no waves
We have reached the calm seas and spectacular beauty of the sea ice! After 4 days of very rough travel across the Drake Passage, the last two days have been extremely pleasant for all. The broken and melting sea ice is about one meter thick with almost another meter of snow on top of it and it has reduced the waves and roll of the sea to almost zero. The mighty Oden takes almost no notice of the melting flows as they are pushed aside and the helmsman only needs to adjust our course when mountainous icebergs block our path. From my perch in the bridge I can see crabeater seals almost constantly and I have also seen several emperor penguins. Snow petrels are slightly smaller than a sea gull and almost pure white. They fly in groups of 3-5 around the ship. As summer comes to the Antarctic,...

December 9, 2008 Iceberg Update

Check out this beauty! Shortly after I sent today's journal, the seas started to calm, the sun came out and we passed close to this iceberg. As it passed I was able to use the zoom on my video camera to capture waves pounding into a blue cave at water level. Then, the real surprise. On the opposite side, my zoom lens could see that a dark region across the back of the berg was actually hundred of penguins that had climbed up on to the giant for shelter, rest, and a ride. Enjoy! A beautiful iceberg passes close by. Take care, have fun & make memories, Jeff Peneston

December 9, 2008 Icebergs!

Clearing Skies, 1-meter waves w/ 3 meter swells
**We have officially crossed the Antarctic Circle! **For a few nights we knew we were getting farther south because it really didn't get dark at night. Last evening we crossed the Antarctic Circle at 66˚ 37' S. At the peak of summer, all points south of here will have 24 hours of daylight. We will not see a sunset until we fly to New Zealand at the end of the expedition in mid January. Many people have asked me to help them visualize where we were so I took a photo of one of the navigation computers on the bridge. I took this picture of one of the Oden’s navigation screens. At the bottom of the blue line, our position is marked with a circle. The gray at the upper left is South America and the Gray to the right is the Antarctic mainland. The yellow, green, pink, red and purple on the...

December 7, 2008 Rough Seas, Pounding Waves, Little Sleep, Blue Noses!

Mostly Cloudy Skies and 4-meter waves
Oden News Flash! Before we get to today's topic I need to make a few announcements....Rough Seas in the Drake Passage!!! The truth is that the Drake is much wilder than what I captured in yesterday's video. The officers of the Oden have been able to avoid any serious storms so far but even an "ordinary early summer day" in this part of the Southern Ocean has changed almost everything about life on board. We are all tired, not from overwork but from lack of sleep. Last night every 10˚-30˚ roll of the ship made me slide 3-10 inches across the mattress of my bunk and then a few seconds later I would slide back. My body adjusted to the roll and slide but I woke up frequently to the enormous jolt of the pounding of a giant wave as it struck the flat bow of the mighty ship at just...

December 3, 2008 Into the Belly of the Beast!

Partly Cloudy Skies and 1-meter swells
Oden News Flash!Before we get to today's topic I need to make a few announcements....Penguins!!! This morning while I was on the bridge, I looked out and saw 2 black and white birds floating on the surface about 100 meters in front of the ship. As we approached them I grabbed the binoculars and I could clearly watch my first wild penguins. Magellanic penguins nest on the Southern tip of South America and spend much of the year out at sea where they dive for fish. From 100 feet above them there was no way for me to take a picture so I have "borrowed" one from a field guide. Check out the Swedish teacher's blog. Marja Andersson is the Swedish teacher aboard the Oden and she has a blog too. She works for the Swedish Royal Academy of Science and she instructs teachers all...

December 2, 2008 Life on the Oden.

Somewhere in the big blue.
Partly Cloudy, 1-meter swells
Imagine driving across the United States at 10-12 miles per hour. In the last 3 days we have traveled from the coast of Uruguay at 35˚ S down the Argentinean coast to 44˚ S. By tonight we will be half way between the Equator and the South Pole, tomorrow we will be in the waters between South America and The Falkland Islands and by Friday morning we will be at the Southern tip of the continent where Cape Horn looks out over the famous Drake Passage. The ship's Master is trying to time our journey so that we can make the crossing of the Drake between a cyclic string of low-pressure storms that revolve around Antarctica. On the weather map, the storms look like a string of beads that circle clockwise around the ice continent. The center of each storm contains 30 ft tall waves and although...

December 1, 2008 The Oden’s Science Teams are Getting Ready!

East coast of South America
Blue Skies and 1-meter swells
So far the Oden has traveled 422 nautical miles in a SW direction down the coast of South America. Although today felt cooler than yesterday, we all knew it might be our last day to wear t-shirts outside. All of the science teams were very busy unpacking the equipment and setting up the temporary laboratories that they will use on the ship when we get to the sea ice. The laboratories are called "lab vans" because they are made of metal shipping containers like the ones that are carried on the back of tractor-trailer trucks on the highway. Inside the lab vans, workbenches and shelving has been bolted to the walls and floor and every piece of scientific equipment must be screwed down to the benches or tied down with rope. Yesterday afternoon and most of last night the waves...

November 30, 2008 The Oden is headed South!

Since my selection as a PolarTREC teacher over 9 months ago, people have kept asking me if I was getting "excited". I have been so busy with the details of preparing for the trip that I could not let myself get caught up in the excitement. Today the excitement is real. I can feel it in the roll of the mighty Oden, I can hear it in the sounds of the waves against the ship, the constant hum of the engine and the rhythm of the Swedish language that half of the folks on the ship speak. I am excited to taste the new foods that the ship's cook has prepared and I almost lost control when I saw dusky dolphins "flying" through the air as the a pack of them exploded above the waves and raced toward the bow of the ship. Excited? I am loving this.The mouth of the Rio de la Platas...

November 28, 2008 Thanksgiving in Uruguay means having clean socks and underwear!

Partly cloudy, breezy 75-85 degrees F
11/28/2008 ***Happy Thanksgiving!  ** Cool Here in Uruguay, there was no Thanksgiving holiday yesterday and although it was my first day in South America, it was hard to completely enjoy the experience. Although I had flown down on the Wed night flight from Miami, my luggage had not.  We arrived here at about 11am on Thursday and I was told that my duffle bag filled with clothes and my crate full of equipment would be flown down and delivered to my hotel by today at 1pm.  At 2:30 this afternoon the head of the entire expedition made a call and arranged for a car to drive me 30 minutes back to the airport. As soon as I walked into the baggage area I spotted my stuff and there was no evidence that it was about to be taken to my hotel so I was very glad I had gone to get it.  The first...

November 26, 2008 The Journey South Begins!

Beautiful, clear blue skies and 80 degrees F
11/26/2008 Yesterday was HUGE!  I said my last "good-byes” to friends and family. Trusted that my 136 pounds of carefully packed equipment would make it through airport security (including the precious 129 expedition flags!). And, then I kissed my loving wife good-bye for 2 months.   I need to pause for a moment and explain that I met my wife Jan on her first day of college (I was the experienced sophomore and she was the brand new freshmen).  I had no idea how she would change my life and keep me out of trouble.  Almost every success I have enjoyed for the last 30 years, including marriage, parenting, career choice, working at Camp Talooli and being selected as a PolarTREC teacher is directly because of the support and love she has given me.  As I walked through the security...

November 16, 2008 Over 100 Expedition Flags!

Most of the famous polar explorers of the last century carried expedition flags with them. Historic photographs from the age of exploration recorded those adventures and often include the tattered expedition flag tied to a pole, tent, sled or emergency shelter. When I was selected to be the PolarTREC teacher aboard the Oden for 2008 one of my first thoughts was that I would need a flag too. Then I quickly realized that a better idea was for me to be the "flag bearer" for kids across the country. With the help of the folks at ARCUS and the American Camp Association as well as several other media outlets, I invited schools and summer camps to create and send me their flags. As of today I have received well over 100 flags from every part of the country! Each flag has a story of the...

October 20, 2008 10/20/2008: Polar Science is Happening at Renfroe Middle School!

Teachers Kevin McMahon and Beth Allyn Parker from Renfroe Middle School in Decatur, Georgia challenged their 6th grade classes to experimentally test which type of marker would work best for creating their own Antarctic expedition flags.  They requested 3 blank flags from me and then the students considered the harsh weather conditions that the flags would have to endure as they flew over the sea ice at the bottom of the world.  I am very excited about the fun and learning that happened next and I am so impressed with a letter that they sent me to describe their work that I asked if I could copy it into me PolarTREC journal.  Check out the cool letter and photos in the attachment below! This is fun! Jeff Peneston

October 16, 2008 10/16/2008: The Expedition Flags Are Coming!

At the beginning of last summer I announced a "flag exchange” program.  If a teacher or camp director requested a blank flag, I would send them a kit that included a nylon flag and instructions for creating an original expedition flag that I would take to Antarctica with me.  If they sent me their completed flag, I would send them my blue and white expedition flag.  So far I have shipped over 140 blank flags! I will continue to send flags to classes that email me a request before Oct. 23 to jpeneston [at] polartrec [dot] com.  I must have all flags returned no later than Nov 12.  For more info about the flag exchange see my June 17th journal entry.   The flags are starting to pour back in and they are great.  Many of them arrived with notes that explained the design and the students that...
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