I have been reading the expedition journals for some time now - they're really good! I'm doing this as part of a school project in my Honors Earth Science class at Twin Falls High School. Our entire class is following different expeditions, but I think this one is the most interesting.

So, in response to some of your journal questions on December 3rd and 4th: observing the two pictures, there seems to be much less snow and the winds look fiercer judging from the flags; about Ms. Pennycook's device, I think the device is a 360 degree camera; the humidity question was a bit too advanced for me to figure out - I couldn't find a formula for specific humidity using the dew point and relative humidity. I will try to figure it out soon though.

I would like to ask a couple questions as well: How does the dynamic nature of the sea ice affect operations and procedures in Antarctica? Why does Antarctica draw so many different types of research projects?

Thanks again for all of the journal entries! "Ice and Sky" really painted a picture. I hope you are having an excellent time. Omar Laris

Mike LeBaron

Omar,It's great to hear from someone in Twin Falls! I don't know how you
heard about my expedition, but I'm glad you did. Did you know that I
grew up in Kimberly?
I'm glad that you have a teacher who is looking at such a broad range of
science activities. There are many different expeditions out there, but
of course mine is the best! Right now I'm answering you from the Sydney
Australia airport as I head home. I have a few more posts to make when
I get back to some better internet, so don't quit reading.
Your answers are on the mark. Yes, there is less snow and the wind was
blowing much harder on the second picture. Good eye! That funny
backpack is indeed a 360 camera that is used to capture things the way
that Google StreetView does. She will take it to the penguin colony she
is studying and do some walk through of the colony. Right now they are
waiting for the batteries to get shipped in.
The humidity question is a bit tougher - I'll leave that one for a while
and post a solution later.
About the sea ice - that's a great question because it has a huge effect
on operations. The biggest is happening right now. As the Austral
summer advances the thinner sea ice starts to break up and melt. It is
no longer safe for travelling over or landing planes on. Basically,
anything that was requiring driving on the sea ice stops. They either
fly or take longer overland routes. The ice shelf, which is thicker
glacial ice that has extended past the continent is still safe. When I
flew in my plane landed on sea ice that was about 2 meters thick (and
that was a 500,000 pound airplane!) When I few out it was on a smaller,
lighter plane that operated off of the thick ice shelf. I have a
journal entry written that has some more explanation on that.
Antarctic attracts research project mainly because so little is actually
known about it. Small areas have been studied, but overall there is a
lot of new area to investigate and lots of different fields of science
to keep up with it. Another thing that makes it so interesting is that
it tells us a lot about global climate change through studies of ice
layers and ice movement. Life forms are of great interest to many
people there also because they survive in such a harsh environment and
have developed some unique capabilities. One of the species being
studied is the toothfish that I wrote a journal on.
Keep reading and let me know if you have more questions.
Mr. LeBaron

Anonymous (not verified)

What a coincidence - I grew up in Kimberly too, but just moved to Twin Falls a few years ago. Our science teacher tries to be really involved in science projects around the world; I think she will be participating in the SOFIA project soon. I'll be watching for new updates, and once again, thanks for all of the information in your journals. They answered many of the questions I originally had about such an expedition. Thanks also for the reply to my previous questions. It explained a few things I was wondering about. All in all, after reading everything, I've learned tons and visiting Antarctica seems like a great opportunity.
I do have one last question for you. On the subject of Antarctic research, what would you say is the greatest limiting factor for study? I know it is remote and harsh, but is there anything else that hinders expeditions?
Happy Holidays!
Omar Laris

Mike LeBaron

Hi again Omar,I'm glad you've kept up with the trip.
So, what's the hardest thing about working in Antarctica?
For any field operation, weather is the biggest unknown. It can literally shut you down in minutes if a storm blows up, but at the same time its expected if you work here. I'd say there are two things that limit what you can do: Planning for the remote location and winter.
If you forget a part, can't just go to the parts supplier and get something. Planning, right down to how many bolts and washers you need is critical. If you are missing a fuse for an electrical component, it can shut you down entirely. It's the little details, not the big things, that seem to be the most difficult. We had parts and pieces of equipment that had not come in yet on freight shipments and we really couldn't substitute anything else for them. We just had to wait.
Winter is the other factor. You only have the months of October-February that you can be out in the field, because it's just too cold and dark in the winter. This means that you need to get as much done as possible during the austral summer and if you need more time, you have to pick up where you left off the next year. WISSARD will (hopefully) get one hole drilled at the Whillans Ice Stream this year. All the equipment will have to be left out on the ice for the winter and next year the team will return to continue their work. It's often frustrating to have to break off what you are doing and wait for such a long time to resume, especially if you happen to have just made some big discovery that you want to follow up on.
I hope this helps. Let me know if there are any other questions. Also, if you teacher and classmates would like some additional information let me know. We might be able to arrange something for the class.
Mr. LeBaron

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