Our Final Day of Required Training
It has become obvious to me that those in charge of watching out for our safety here in Antarctica take their roll very seriously. We had training from a fireman and the nurse supervisor who stressed how important it is to be careful with our activities since this little community of McMurdo is really out on our own. We are a long way from help here. We are especially a long way from help when we will deploy into the field. This is why it so important to follow common sense and some rules that are set to prevent mishaps.
I have been very impressed with the many practices that have been set into motion to protect Antarctica. It really started in New Zealand where they were so vigilant not to let in invasive species onto their islands. Boots, camping equipment, all velcro were spots they were very interested in checking out to be sure little "pests" like plant seeds, insects, or other "invaders" from other countries were not introduced into their ecosystem. Scientists are even more careful here in Antarctica to not introduce any other organisms. Even bacteria or fungi. We were also reminded of how to be careful while fueling vehicles to prevent spills. If a spill happens, it must be reported and cleaned up completely. We were also instructed very clearly how we were to pee and poo out away from McMurdo. It all needs to be collected and shipped off the continent. To sum this up, this is "Leave No Trace", but for REAL. When we leave an area, we can leave no sign that we were even there. Footprints through soil can even change the chemistry going on down there. This training was held in the library at the Crary Lab. This is upstairs from our lab. While there I got a chance to meet PolarTREC Polly.
I am glad to report that PolarTREC Polly is doing great. I told my students about her being there all alone in McMurdo and Daesha, one of my students did something about it. She found her a friend. His name is PolarTREC Paul. He will be with her through the long winter. PolarTREC teacher Bridget Ward will be the next to check up on these polar friends when she returns in October to study Weddell seals.
Let the Counting Begin
Dr. Powers (Topper) is searching for, and counting, different types of worms that came from the frozen Antarctic soil. More of this procedure will come in future journals.
Visit to Arrival Heights
There are a few areas of Antarctica that have the designation of being an "ASPA", which means "Antarctic Special Protected Area". Certain areas of the Dry Valleys also have this designation. The area might get this designation because of the delicate area. It might be because of the easily disturbed experiments going on there. While working in our lab today, we had a scientist (Phil Jeffer), who we met at dinner last night, stop by and ask us if we would like to visit "Arrival Heights" where his work is being done. This area is a location where we are not allowed to go since it is an ASPA, so we jumped at this invitation. We jumped into his pickup truck and headed up the hill out of town. We were greeted there by another scientist running the station. His name was Graham Tilbury. The two of them gave us a great tour of their facility up on the top of the hill there. They are physical scientists studying the upper layers of the Earth's atmosphere and the Sun's radiation. Here are some cool facts they shared with us: There are 22,000 meteors entering the Earth's atmosphere above their monitor which only looks at a small slice of the sky. That is a lot of space junk falling down on us. Declination is the difference between the geographic south pole and the magnetic south pole. Graham said that the magnetic south pole has moved so far that it is not even on the Antarctic continent any more. From our location here, the declination is 141 degrees. A compass would point almost in the complete opposite direction from the geographic pole. If you didn't know about declination from scientists like Gil and Graham, you'd never be able to navigate with a compass.
American Wormherders Invited to Visit New Zealand's Scott Base
Dr. Craig Cary, who I introduced to you in an earlier journal entry as being the scientist who spoke on a TED talk and has studied bacteria from the bottom of the deep oceans on board subs, to the top of Mt. Erebus here in Antarctica, invited us to be his guests to visit Scott Base, which is operated by New Zealand. It is a much smaller base than McMurdo Station. They usually have about 80 folks living there. It is all enclosed. I got the feeling walking around their facility that it might be how it would feel to live on the Space Station.
We are continuing to make preparations to leave for the Dry Valleys on Thursday. Let's hope the weather will hold for us to fly out.