November 26, 2012 First Snowy Day at Cape Royds
I experienced my first snowy day since I've been at Cape Royds, but it cleared off by evening leaving blue sky and light winds. It still feels strange calling the time here after 6:00 PM "evening" For over 40 years evening (when there is snow on the ground anyway) has meant a dark sky. Here the sun just moves to a different part of the sky, and you learn to tell time by looking at the landmark over which the sun sits. Problem is that only works if you are standing in the same spot when looking at the location of the sun. So … I've learner to worry even less about time than I normally do.
As I said earlier conditions can change very quickly here in Antarctica. A steady north wind was bringing pack ice in to the sound. What was once open water rapidly filled in with massive sheets and chunks ice. The ice breaks up earlier in the north an drifts out to sea. North winds push it into McMurdo Sound and then a south wind will come along and push it out, and the pattern … this dance of nature … repeats itself again and again. It's a good thing too because the the penguins depend on the pack ice. Once their chicks are born and get old enough, it will be time for them to leave the colony on Cape Royds and head out to sea. The penguins use the pack ice sheets for transportation. Since their food supply is in the ocean, the Adelie penguins can jump on board the floating ice sheets and ride them out to sea. When they are hungry they simply dive into the water and eat, and then make their way back to the floating ice sheet for a bit of R & R.
My colleague Jean Pennycook and I decided to go back down to the black sand beach and check out the ice that was moving in. And wow things sure looked different than they did just a few days earlier.