Last Requests

    We have been trying to get in all of our last requests before closing out the field season for the Wormherders. There is a process for everything. To make sure there is an orderly procession from one year to the next, everything has to be checked off.

    Lab cleanup
    Lab cleanup.

    Most of the 1000-ish people in McMurdo will be leaving in the next few weeks. This will leave the station under the care of about 100 people. They will live here throughout the long dark winter, making sure all the systems are maintained and working before next season. All the labs must be cleaned out and up. All gear check outs, checked in. Lab equipment has to be put in storage. Samples and specimens have to be packed for shipping on the vessel. Final data has to be double checked. Dorm rooms need to be dusted, vacuumed, and inspected. P bottles bleached and turned in.

    P bottle for use in back country
    One is a P bottle. The other is water.

    Celebrating a Legacy

    The McMurdo LTER is 30 years old this year. There is a recent tradition of celebrating each year with a ceremonial movie showing in the lounge, This year it also involved celebrating some of the founding members and their 30 years of leadership. Kathy and Diane's hard work and perseverance were essential in making the MCMLTER such a scientific research success. From working with and getting to know the next generation of scientists (their students), I can tell you that the amazing discoveries will continue for a long time.

    Celebration cake
    Celebration cake.

    Today also marked the last day on ice for several scientists. Jeb Barrett will be heading back home to teach classes and continue his ecology research at Virginia. We took a few minutes to take the team photo this morning while we were all still together.

    Wormherder group photo
    Wormherder group photo.

    Antarctic Beekeeping

    I got a text from a fellow teacher in Missouri. Both of our schools keep honeybees and use them in our classes. Her students are doing a project about beekeeping on the different continents. For one reason or another, they didn't have a beekeeper to interview from Antarctica. Our helo flights were cancelled today so I made a video about Antarctic Beekeeping. Dr. Byron Adams questioned, after I finally uploaded my video, whether or not bees have lived in Antarctica. He brought up that the last preglacial Antarctica may have had angiosperms, and a temperate climate. I will need to update my video. You can keep bees in Antarctica! You just need to travel back in time about 33 million years.

    Weather Summary
    Cloudy and snowy
    Wind Speed
    ESE @ 11 gusting to 21
    Wind Chill


    Hayden Hauf

    Mr. Henske are you a Swifty?

    Hayden Hauf

    Also, have you seen any polar bears?

    Bill Henske

    Hi Hayden- Lots of the teams in Antarctica make their own stickers to trade with other teams. There is a camp in the Taylor Valley where science teams can stay during their research and that was their sticker. There is a Taylor Swift club in McMurdo. It meets Tuesday night at 7:30 if you are ever around. There aren't any polar bears here because they live on the opposite side of the planet. The should be called arctic bears because they only live around the Arctic pole. The word arctic comes from the Greek- Near the Bear (the constellation Ursa Major) so an arctic bear would the bear under the bear. Antarctic means opposite of the bear.

    connor kalagian

    I have a few questions number one whos taler swift water bottle is that and have you sean any penguins

    connor kalagian

    one more thing how ate the bees alive

    Bill Henske

    Hi Connor! That is MY Taylor Swift bottle. There is a valley called Taylor Valley. The people who ran the camp there made those stickers and trade with all the science teams so everyone has a way to remember each other. And... I assume you mean how are the bees alive? They aren't . Bees can't have lived here for the last 33,000,000 years.

    Darren Patterson

    hows the food, how was the cake

    Bill Henske

    Hi Darren-
    The cake was delicious. The galley here attracts amazing cooks.

    Sydney Corcoran

    Would 33 million-year-old antarctic bees look the same as those we see today? Or would they have looked different with their separate climate?

    Bill Henske

    Hi Syd-
    Thats a good question. All we know about bees from then is based on the bees we have from then. We have a few true fossils but mostly bees that were fossilized in amber- so not very many. We know that the honey producing bees that lived socially began about 100 million years ago. There were certainly different species that long ago with different characteristics and each species would have had a preferred climate/habitat. The world was in a greenhouse cycle with much warmer temperatures that favored insect life so there were probably far more bee species than there are now. So, like the first primate ancestors- much different but with the properties that make them bees.

    thatcher beaty

    How do the bees not freeze in that weather

    Maddie Phillips

    My question is how cold was it when you first came and did you feel like your body has adapted to it? Also, how's the future? :)

    Bill Henske

    Hi Maddie- Thats funny- our first day here when we landed felt like the coldest day. In McMurdo you often see people in shorts or light jackets going from building to building even though its 20 degrees out. People definitely get used to it. If you are going out of town though you need to have your ECW because cold is cumulative. People don't think about being cold until their body temperature has already dropped and once it drops you have to take steps to get it back up right away.
    The future really depends on the choices we are making. A lot of the change in Antarctic ecosystems is still due to choices we made in the 1950s-90's. Thirty years after agreeing to do what it takes to fix the ozone hole, it is still only slowly closing. It will take a long time to heal the damage from excess CO2 and other greenhouse gases which is why it is important to start right away.

    Kelllan Brown

    hows the future?

    Bill Henske

    Hi Kellan-
    I predict that Antarctica will stay frozen and uninhabitable but it looks like the speeding up of glacial processes is still going to be a serious addition to sea level rise. The Thwaites glacier is already contributing significantly.

    Autumn Lawrence

    What mammals live near McMurdo? Have you seen any yourself?

    Bill Henske

    Hi Autumn! I have seen many marine mammals but the only ones in the Dry Valleys are mummified or skeletal. There is no food anywhere or the surface for mammals to survive. As we fly back and forth over the McMurdo Sound (an inlet of the ocean) we always see hundreds of Weddell Seals hanging out along cracks in the ice. Some people have seen leopard seals but I have not. They hang around where there are lots of penguins. We also see minke whales and orca in the sound, especially since the ice has broken up and it has become more open. Of course we see lots of humans when we are in town.

    Evelyn Walker

    Hi Mr. Henske, It's Evelyn. What mammals live near McMurdo?

    Bill Henske

    Hi Anna-
    The station is built on cinder cones and we are about 15 miles from the largest volcano on the continent, Mt Erebus. Almost everything in the immediate area is igneous rock. I some higher parts of the valleys though, where there is sedimentary rocks there are lots of plant fossils. In one spot we found fossilized worm tunnels in the sandstone from when the sediment was a beach. No one knows what fossils are under most of the continent because of the ice sheet. Still lots of mysteries. 50 million years ago the climate was more similar to California though, so a much different environment.

    Jimmy Bethel

    How many miles are you away right now?

    Harrison Renner

    Hey Mr. Henske, Have you seen any wildlife in Antarctica? If you have, what have you seen so far?

    Bill Henske

    Hi Harrison- In McMurdo there is a lot more wildlife than the Dry Valleys because of the ocean. We see minke whales, orca, emperor penguins, adelie penguins, Weddell seals, leopard seals, and skua. We have also seen lots of small creatures!

    Aaliyah Esquib…

    Wassup Mr. Henske, how are you? do you miss MRH? Have you had a snowball fight yet?

    Bill Henske

    Hi Aaliyah - I do miss MRH and am looking forward to seeing you all soon. We don't really have snow here. When it snows it just blows away.... There is plenty of solid mineral ice from glaciers.

    andrea lopez

    Hi mr. henske hope you are well and getting home safely. I looked up how cold it is was there and compared it to here, it was freezing like idk what, but what was the coldest it has gotten there?

    Bill Henske

    Hi Andrea- The coldest on record is -58ºF. In the summer months its between 10º and 30ºF usually. It is much warmer than on the polar plateau which has average summer temperatures of -18F and winter temperatures in the -70s ºF. Since I have been here I thin the coldest it has been was 6ºF.

    Dizzy Funke

    Hi Mr. Henske! I would first like to say that I greatly appreciate the Taylor Swift water bottle- I'm so proud. Also, 33 million years ago, how would the bees have functioned as a community? Would it be similar to what they do today?

    Bill Henske

    Hi Dizzy - Thanks. I was happy to see the continent is full of Swifties. We don't really know much about the behavior of prehistoric bees. We have to infer their behavior based on their morphology- physical characteristics- in order to determine their behavior. The best example I can think of is how does the TRex hunt? For a long time people posed it standing on two legs (like a person) helplessly waving around its tiny little arms. When they reexamined its hip bones and the made calculations about the mass of its tail it changed their idea of what this thing did. With the bees, I am not sure what specific thing they looked at in the bees to determine that they were social. It might be that they found distinct castes - workers, drones, etc. that allowed paleontologist to infer that they were social instead of solitary.

    Eden Kleinschmidt

    What mammals live near McMurdo?

    Bill Henske

    Hi Eden
    Lots of Weddell seals. You can see 100s in McMurdo out on the ice. On the free ice you can find leopard and crab eater seals. Inland you will only find mummies. There are no mammals inland on the continent of Antarctica. In the ocean you will find orca and minke whales.

    Beatrice Schmidt

    Hi Mr. Henske. How hard is it to clean up and get most people ready to leave Antarctica?

    Bill Henske

    Hi Beatice-
    Its not that hard- there are just a lot of details. We were analyzing samples into our last week which meant that we couldn't clean our lab and put everything in storage until those last samples were analyzed. We couldnt get our dorm room inspected until we had taken our last shower and packed our bags. Lots of stuff needed to wait until other things were done. You also have to make sure you have time to send thank you cards to all the people who helped you and say goodbye to all the people you met.

    Johanna Dick

    Would bees in Antarctica look much different than the bees we see today?

    Bill Henske

    Hi Johanna- They would certainly be different but I don't know about their appearance. Just like humans 100,000 years ago looked and acted differently, you can imagine how different animals that were around 35 million years ago might have been.

    Adaliris Reta-Amaya

    Who's that cake for?

    Bill Henske

    Hi Adarliris - It is actually a birthday cake for the research project which has been going on for 30 years. Diane McKnight has been with the project the whole time so she was being honored in particular. She is a stream scientist from University of Colorado.