Saturday, December 26, 2009

December 25rd - Art at Palmer Station, Chinstraps and Giant Petrel birds...

I'd like to take you to the Art world of Palmer Station and the surrounding areas. We have such a rich abundance of artists down here.  Sometimes people don't know they are artists until they put pen to paper, brush to canvas, fingers to strings, lips to horns or let their inner voices burst through and let all hear their sweetness. 

When you are in a remote place like Antarctica or other places in the world where there is no T.V. or malls or movie theatres or amusement parks, people find other ways to entertain themselves.   This past week we had our annual "Art in the Bar - The Show". 
We had many displays of photographs taken in greener pastures, of doggies and wonderous places others had visited.

This is a photo of the Grand Canyon in beautiful morning light taken by Stacie Murray one of our cooks.

There was jewlery, paintings, a homemade knife, Black & White tinted photographs (and yes, the old fashioned way!).

This photo of Torgersen Island and pancake ice was tinted by Tina Haskins of the Rutgers Glider group.

The following two pictures were painted and drawn by our maintenance guy, Bill Burns.  The first is a Chinstrap penguin, followed by the "Giant Petrel" and I'll tell you more about the with other please keep reading....

Let me tell you about the Chinstrap. They are a sub-antarctic bird, but have been migrating further south.  We are seeing more and more Chinstrap penguins down here around the Palmer Station area.  They are the second largest penguin species, Macaroni being number one.  There is a research field camp called Cape Shirreff on Livingston Island where they are studying the penguins.
I was able to put in a field came there one year.
Here's a picture of the field camp...

This is located just next to a Chinstrap colony.

  If you go to Wikepedia and get the description, it says that the Chinstrap is about 27" long.  Now why would you describe it as long instead of tall?  Don't you see them standing all the time??  Well, not always, they are usually on their tummies pressing onwards over snow and swimming horizontal in the water. 

They build thier nests out of rock just like the Adelie penguins. 

Here's an Adelie who is grabbing rocks to make his nest. 

The Chinstrap eat krill and small fish.  Antarctic krill is the lifeblood of many birds, fish and whales.  Without krill, the wildlife around here would go other places.  There are studies out there that show that the krill population is declining.  Life is changing down here. 

Here's the Giant Petrel and her little chick...

It's the Southern Giant Petrel to be exact.  It's almost as big as an albatross, but has a more of a humpback when it's flying.  They are a scavenger having a beak that is made for opening up carcasses of dead animals, usually dead penguins and seals. 
Even though their beaks are different looking, they are a most beautiful gentle bird.  I have had the opportunity to assist the scientists that go out and do studies on them.  I've even held a petrel chick in my hands.  The are so warm and soft, almost like a baby chicken chick, but very docile.  
That is all for now...Christmas just got over, hope you all had a good holiday!

Monday, December 14, 2009

December 15th Science Reporters

  We here at Palmer Station have hosted three science reporters from the Kansas City Star (Scott Canon),  living in Miami and reporting for the Spanish science magazine Muy Interesante (Angela Swafford)  and Washington DC's NPR (Jason Orfanon), with their science lead from Woods Hole, Chris Neil. 

  Chris's job is to show exactly how science gets done so the reporters can understand the complexity and the tedious work involved with reporting data on the scientist side. 
They did water sampling and testing, went out with the Rutgers glider group, then out with the Birders, Jen and Kristen to see how the science is done in the field.  They've been keeping thier own blogs on their respective websites, waited for midnight sunsets that send golden light across the ice. 

These are the Journalists who have brought science news reporting to Palmer Station...

Jason Orfanon, Scott Canon, Angela Swafford

There have been many a visiting iceberg as they heard that the Press were in town. Scott, Jason & Angela along with Chris, leave in a few days.

What they takes a lot of time and energy to do good science.  What we takes a lot of time and energy to do good accurate reporting. 

We'll be sorry to see them go as they have brought enthusism for their science and for being in the most exciting places in Antarctica.

Friday, December 11, 2009

December 7th - - Frisbee Golfin' in Antarctica

I got a special request to say hi to the "Greater Brunswick Charter School K1 class" This post is dedicated to you.  If you have any questions, drop me a note here on this blog and I'll do my best to answer. 

Does anyone out there like to play Frisbee? 

Well, we have a Frisbee (technically Disc) golf course set up in our backyard. Our backyard is a glacial moraine (a bunch of rock and gravel left by a melting glacier.  Our glacier is retreating more and more every year. But we're not here to talk about the glacier, we're going to talk about our Disc Golf Course.  Now don't forget, you can click on the picture and get the full picture, it will help in this map.

We have 18 holes as you can see in this map of Palmer Station and the backyard.  It maybe kind of hard to understand, but the gray area is land.  The white area around the gray is the ocean.  Then the spotty white to the east of station (right) is the glacier.  If you see in the right hand lower corner of the map is the compass that shows true North. 

I wasn't able to spend a long time with the group, but here's a few pictures of them playing.

This is the 7th TEE...As you can see...even though the crew here worked 10 hours today, there is still a little bit of fun and relaxation we get out of taking some time out in the backyard.

Here we have the group at Tee 8.  Dan who is holding his Disc high in the air is doing his meditation before he flings his disc.  He is yelling though by the way..."Don't laugh, don't laugh, it helps, Really!"

Now we have Tee 11.  I call this meditation...."Maintain the Plane".  This is George and he's pretty precise. 

This is Dan and Kyle getting ready to head to the next Tee that's close to the glacier. 

That's all for now....I hope you enjoy the Blog. 

Saturday, December 05, 2009

December 5 The Snowy Sheathbill

Morning wake up call starts usually with the pitter patter of Sheathbill's walking on the tin roofs that cover our buildings.  We've nicknamed them the Antarctic Chicken. 

The Sheathbill is friendly, curious and not modest at all.  He has a pink knarly face with hints of green on his bill and and small beady eyes that actually project a sense of curiosity and not deceit. 

His feathers are all white save for bits of poo that sometime cover parts of his torso.  He can be so angel-like in the surrounding snow. 

When he's around, he's usually with at least one more if not a threesome.  They'll stand overhead on the eaves looking down at you as you walk and they probably have a name for us too and watch us with as much interest as we do them.  I can see us named after the Emperor penguin, as our (human) gait sometimes look like old men in overcoats when we are bundled to go out into the elements with our oversized jackets and raingear and cameras.

The Sheathbill can be seen at Palmer for most of the year, but more so in the warmer months.  It is the only Antarctic breeding bird that doesn't have webbed feet.  He eats whatever it can find.  Poo of any critter even human, seaweed and fish if it can find it washed up on shore.  It is seen frequently around our waste water outfall. 

We so enjoy their presence,  but have never seen a chick, at least not yet. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

November 22nd Critters all around

Take a morning walk around station to do the rounds to make sure the pier hasn't collapsed in or there isn't a strange ship that came up in the middle of the night to rest against our shores, checking for no water leaks and making sure the Refer Milvans are running as it houses and keeps our frozen food very cold.  Always watching  and checking.  This this morning bought surprises.  Not unlike bunnies in your front yard or a owl whos come to perch for the morning.  Ours were just a tad different.

A juvenile Elephant seal crawled his way up our boat ramp to take a little snooze.  I sat there while she snored.

Then was walking around to the other side of the station when I heard some commotion.  A Gentoo Penguin was taking a refuge on our rocky shore. 

Then after I took a few shots and strolled on, I heard an anouncement over the radio a Minke whale had been spotted just off of where the Gentoo's where at.  I didn't get a picture of it, but here's one from a past encounter...

That is all for today...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

November 20th

Friday the 20th November, brought us a surprise. We had a visit of one of our favorite cruise ships', the National Geographic Explorer. The crew really have it together for the guests on board their ship. The expedition leaders are always top notch and have so much information that they share passionately. When cruise ships come to Palmer station, we get a team together to go out to the ship and do a Science update on what science we are doing within the United States Antarctic Program, sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The team usually consists of the Station Manager, the Science Manager and a group picked to go over and answer any questions that the Ship's guests have. It is very rewarding as you get to meet so many interesting people.

National Geographic Explorer and visiting yacht Spirit of Sydney

This trip to Palmer, brought a very interesting and modest individual. Neil Armstrong along with his wife were among the passengers, when they came to station we were able to get a group photo with them. Later in the evening he was going to give a talk on board the ship. We were invited and got to go listen to this man who has led a life of pure adventure.

Neil's lecture was about Captain Cook and the dis-similarities between the search for a new world (Antarctica unknown if it really existed at that time)to setting foot on a new world we could see(the Moon). There is a link I'm including that has much of what Neil talked about. I felt honored to be invited to listen to the talk and so wanted to touch his left foot (the foot the stepped first on the Moon), but wanted to respect his space (literally) so I refrained from that endeavor.

This link takes you to the site of Captain Cook's exploration and how it was his discoveries made it easier for space flight knowing the distances...
Captain Cook's discoveries
I also met up with old friends whom I've known for years coming to the Antarctic Peninsula. Ian Bullock, Ron Naveen and Melissa Rider have at one time or another ran a field camp at Peterman Island where there is an Adelie colony and a Gentoo colony. They belong to the Oceanites research group and have been studying the penguins there for quite awhile. I'll post their webiste also as it has beautiful pictures of Peterman and surrounding scenery. I've been lucky to visit this wonderful spot.
Zee, Ian and Ron

Melissa's birthday cake with the Explorer behind in the sunset


Update on average Palmer Temperature this week as been about 32F.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

November 15th news

Palmer Station is starting to see more sun, as the ice and snow trickle a path to the ocean, we are starting to see more and more rocks appear on our little spit of Anvers Island of the coast of the Antarctic peninsula.
This past week brought many changes.

On November 15th today was a day off for Palmer Station. The sun was shining, the winds were calm and it was a chance for some folks to get out away from station and enjoy the water, the icebergs, the penguins or just snowshoeing at the old Palmer site which is now known as Amsler Island. I saw my first penguin egg today. The Adelies are just starting to lay eggs. Incubation takes about 30 days and by the middle of December we'll start seeing baby chicks.

Adelie Colony on Torgersen Island

A Gentoo Penguin wandering around in Adelie territory...

I had a few moments of listening to the water gently lap at the shore, the squawking of the adelies and the mighty deep throat belch coming from the elephant seas and the except for shutters of cameras of others taking pictures of the wildlife around me, it was heaven.

A grounded Iceberg off of Torgersen Island

November 11th:
We had a change of command from Rebecca Shoop who is the Palmer Peninsula Area Director to Robert (Bob) Farrell who is the Palmer and Marine area Director. Long titles which mean they have very important jobs, but one of the fun ones they get is to come to Palmer and be the station manager for snippets at a time. The changing of the guard happened yesterday as the National Geographic Explorer came to station, dropped Bob off and picked up Rebecca to get her started on her journey back to the States. I show them together standing on the pier observing Zodiac deployment of a group of people going out for the Rutgers Glider launch.

On November 11th some of us were able to go out in zodiacs to watch the launching of a 7' long unmanned ocean diving glider from Rutgers. It is on it's maiden voyage to travel to Rothera Station which is about 200 miles away. The glider has an air bladder in it that controls it's diving and rising capability. It glids at a specific angle towards a set point that is determined by the headquarters at Rutgers. Then it's bladder reverses and pumps air back into the nose and it rises back towards the surface and then proceeds this "Bladder full, bladder empty" back and forth and it sails underwater like a glider in the air. There are specific instruments in the glider to detect different information about the water, temperature, salinity and current. It will help determine much we don't know about the Antarctic waters. Where are the warmer waters coming from and does the salinity change when you get closer to the continent with the glacial melt water.