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.