Everyone likes pictures of penguins, right? So here’s one of an Adelie penguin (the most southerly breeding bird) taking a stroll over the snow. Quite a comical waddle.
For those who like maps, I include a track of the boat during our last fishing trip (Key: star represents the base, 1 Anvers Is, 2 Neumayer Ch, 3 Wiencke Is, 4 Brabant Is, 5 Dallmann Bay, 6 Gerlache Strait, 7 Andvord Bay) with GPS location superimposed on a montage of satellite images.
The data are starting to get really exciting. First, icefish (C. aceratus) hearts fail at an amazingly warm 15oC – this from an animal that would die of heat exhaustion in your fridge at home! Next, the high sensitivity of icefish hearts to resistance against which they have to work (so-called afterload; they can’t maintain cardiac output against just a few cm of water pressure head) is not observed with the rockcod (red-blooded N. coriiceps), which copes with the maximum resistance we can generate in the rig (10X that of icefish, but developed using much smaller hearts) – this presumed sluggish beast is the polar equivalent of a high-performance tuna!
The LMG attempted to dock this week in preparation for the next fishing trip, but had its space at the pier taken up by a number of icebergs that had floated in during a high pressure lull in winds; no way in so they went off to do some survey work and will try again later.
The social hour was hosted by the lab manager (Emily) and lab tech (Adina) who decided to offer scientific cocktails – glow in the dark gin & tonic (the ring structure of quinine in tonic water gets excited by UV illumination) – which were a great hit.
Here are some of the more common questions I’ve been asked:
Q: Is it cold?
A: Yes! Though not as cold as other Antarctic bases I’ve worked at, due to a combination of being surrounded by open water and the constant cloud cover, but it’s getting cool now and the wind chill can be vicious.
Q: Are icebergs really blue?
A: Yes! Well, at least the bits that have broken off from older glaciers are (they have been under tremendous pressure so contain less trapped air, therefore have fewer reflective surfaces for light to bounce off, so longer (red or green) wavelengths in the visible spectrum are absorbed).
Q: Do you get ice growing in your beard?
A: Yes! Walking up the glacier or any heavy exertion that causes panting makes your humid breath freeze onto the nearest surface (best to let it melt afterwards, rather than try and snap it off!).
Q: Are there polar bears?
A: No! They’re at the other end of the planet, and never made it this far. They adapted to life in the developing Arctic cold by adopting a carnivorous diet, quickly separating from their close relatives the largely vegetarian brown bear.
Q: How do you pee outside?
A: Quickly! There are strict rules about travelling inland, including bringing all your waste (liquid and solids) back with you. Partly this is to avoid spread of human pathogens, but mainly to limit impact on the environment. Terrestrial and snow/ice ecosystems have often developed relying on wind-borne nutrients, and relieving yourself could add a decade’s worth of nourishment. Along the coast the rules for liquid waste are less strict: there’s plenty of yellow snow around seal beaches, and pink snow around penguin colonies!
Keep the questions coming in!