In McMurdo we were able to take a vehicle out onto the sea ice, drill a hole, drop a line, and fish the afternoon away to obtain our research fish. Since we’re a lot further north at Palmer Station, we don’t have the thick sea ice characteristic of the higher latitudes. Instead, we get back on the Laurence M. Gould and head out for a multi-day fishing trip to various locations around the Peninsula. We had 5 fishing trips during our time here, the first of which was on our journey down and the last of which was this past weekend.
Though it is summer in the northern hemisphere, it is winter in the southern hemisphere and winter in Antarctica has been an adventure. When we arrived at Palmer Station at the start of July we had less than four hours of daylight. The sun remained low in the sky, never rising above the glacier behind station. It makes for some beautiful sunrises and sunsets….when it’s not cloudy or snowing.
I guess since we’ve been here a month I should talk a little bit about the science we are doing here. Unfortunately many of our projects have been on hold until we get adequate numbers of fish for those projects and even more unfortunately, the fishing just hasn’t been that great.
With limited daylight hours (only 4!) and the whimsical nature of winter weather we take hiking opportunities when we can get them. As I was unable to stop my experiment on Sunday to enjoy the first day of clear weather we had seen in a long time I watched the forecast for the coming days and planned my timed experiment to end around 11am so that I could capitalize on the 10:30am to 2:30pm daylight. This meant that I stayed up until after midnight to start the experiment (it needed an 8 hour incubation period) and I was up and ready to go in the lab by 7:30 in the morning. Tuesday dawned cloudier than had been predicted but there wasn’t a trace of fog, the wind was so low as to be almost non-existent, and I was feeling confident I could do my science and still go for a short hike. Katie was originally planning on joining me but her science started later than mine and she was unable to get away. Continue reading
Well, my labmates have all abandoned me to hold down the fort on Station while they go out on the boat for another multi-day fishing trip. Obviously if you read my previous post you will understand that I am not at all sad about being left behind. There is plenty of lab work already to keep me busy and I’ve got a few fun side projects going on, too!
Today is Saturday. Usually this doesn’t mean much in the day to day runnings of the station, but this week is special because everyone gets a two day weekend instead of just having Sunday off. The last couple of days have been gorgeous and we were all hoping it would continue so we could get off base and explore the surrounding area a little bit.
I have never been one to keep a journal or diary with the exception of Antarctic field seasons. It’s amazing how the days blur together when you are working constantly to fulfill the many goals of the season. In McMurdo during summer it is even harder to differentiate the days as we have 24 hours of daylight. One gray day becomes another gray day, punctuated by occasional sunny ones. You begin to wonder: did I bleed that fish yesterday? Or was it last week? And then you check your records and realize that you only bled the fish that morning. I keep a journal here in part so I will remember the experience and the daily life of the station, be able to keep track of names of people and places and fish. I also keep the journal so I remember what day it is and what I did that day.
In the next installment of Antarctic field season adventures we are heading to the other side of Antarctica: the Antarctic Peninsula. “But wait!” You say, “Isn’t it winter in the Antarctic right now?” How astute you are! Yes! It IS winter in the southern hemisphere but winter is a great time to go to the Peninsula for a number of reasons:
When your field site is the bitterly cold Antarctic, where do you go to relax?….How about the Arctic? In winter?
During March we took a much-needed break and went to Iceland for a week. Never-mind that it was 30 degrees in Iceland (tourist season begins in May), John had just gotten back from contracting in Antarctica so this would be warm and it wasn’t much colder in Iceland than in Illinois (anyone affected by the polar vortex this winter can sympathize).
When we’re not in the field and not in the lab processing our samples we take the time to visit schools and events where we can introduce kids to some of the cool Antarctic science we do. Most recently we participated in the Danville South View Middle School Science Night. 40 graduate students and undergraduates from a myriad of biology and engineering fields designed learning modules for students to participate in and learn about something they would never be exposed to in their school. During the night over 170 students and their families circulated from classroom to classroom.
As our season came to a close we fielded the question of “what happens to all of your fish when you are done with them?”
Some fish gave their lives to science in the hopes that we would be able to better understand the genetics of a species and the genes underlying a physiological response but many fish remained in our aquarium until the final days before our departure from Antarctica.