Saturday, April 09, 2011

Emperor Penguin visits Palmer Station...

Palmer Station was visited by an Emperor penguin the beginning of March, showing up in our backyard to maybe rest or to escape the clutches of a Leopard seal?  This particular penguin had what looked like wounds on the front and back like something large had punctured its torso.  We'll never know.  
The Emperor stuck around for a few days and then disappeared to continue on the journey that would take him where?  This piqued my curiosity about why an Emperor was so far North. 
I did some research and found some very interesting facts that I had known about and some that I had not.  Let me share with you what I found...
The Emperor as some of you know is the only penguin that "winter-over" on the continent to breed, incubate the eggs and hatch the chicks in the coldest months of the austral winter.
This life cycle is courtesy of Wikipedia and the National Science Foundation.

My discovery lead me to find that there was a colony of Emperors on Snow Hill Island on the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.  "Was" being a key word here.  The British Antarctic Survey who began studying the Antarctic more than 60 years ago and is one of the leaders in Antarctic research reported that in 2009 they found the island empty of penguins.  
There is numerous speculations on why this is so.  These birds typically colonize on fast ice which is ice that is attached to the land and doesn't move during the Antarctic winter. The stability of this ice is ideal for the penguins to set up their breeding sites and it's not really understood from what I have read to indicate why they prefer ice over land.  It's fascinating though to realize that the fast ice in this area around the Antarctic peninsula has been retreating over the years.  If you have read more of my blog, you'll know that the Antarctic Peninsula is the fastest warming area in the world with average air temperatures rising more than 2.8 C annually.  

Here is a published research paper on the subject for those who are interested.

I found a very interesting website that talks about how satellite images have shown to find Emperor penguin colonies called "MARK of the PENGUINS".  By searching discolored ice caused by their poo.

Mark of the Penguin....

The map below is compliments of Wikipediaz: Sbruchet
This map shows where the penguin colonies are around the continent indicated by the green areas.  As the fast ice disappears, so are our penguin populations.  This is a fact that can be substantiated in many recent publications.  I'm not going to conjecture the reason, just the fact.  
Was our visiting Emperor searching for his birthplace?  Was he headed further south for another colony?  Was he lost?  
Where ever he was headed, I hope he found solid ice to make his winter stay comfortable and productive.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

OTBN and ART in the Bar

Open That Bottle Night - Palmer Station
Celebrated the last Saturday in February.  This is a community event we've been celebrating here for 7 Februarys' now.  It's a fun event started out by Dottie Gaiter and John Brecher of the Wall Street Journal for many years.  It's an event to mark that calendar, open a bottle of wine you've been saving for a special occasion and celebrate with friends or just your closest loved one.  It's about sharing a special evening.  Think about this next year and share with others.  To give you more details I'll post the link...

We had three tables with all hand made appetizers including sushi.  
This is table one with a painting of Arthur Harbor done in the 1990s by David Rosenthal.

Here is table two getting loaded with more shrimp cocktail.

Here is our last long table of sushi, duck slices, beef marinated in brandy and the list goes on... 

Finally our Wine table that had numerous bottles of reds, whites, desert wines and champagnes.  It was pure delight as they were all different wines from as far away as France.

Art in the Bar 
...the show

Another community event...that took place the 11th of March.  All season long people have been working on art works of one kind or another.  Some works took longer than others with some springing out from the ocean at the last you'll see.  The art wasn't limited to 2 or 3 dimensional, there was also the sounds of the musicians on station and a picture slide show shown in our lounge where everyone was invited to post photos of whatever they wanted.  It was a full around fun event.  We weren't able to finish all the wines at OTBN, so the rest were opened here along with some special treats sent from the states to folks around station who brought them out for this event.

Here is a delightful way of displaying Art in da Bar made out of delicate home made crackers.

This and the next work were done by Caycee one of the field techs here on station, working with gliders and phytoplankton.  Amazingly she may be good at, but I see her as an artist above and beyond.  

Now we have a special entry from Bill Baker a diver here who is studying chemical biology.  This was a special contest for people to enter creative use of geometric symbols turning it into art.  This was his entry

Here are two different artists' entries.  
The top one is a watercolor on YUPO and was done by Kate who is here studying Krill, this piece happened to made on the day of the Japan earthquake and we dubbed it "Tsunami".
The one below it was done by Ruth who had found these barnacles on the shores of Chile on her way to Palmer.  She put them on display as her art which was a nice 3 dimensional piece of art.  

Now we're into a textile art.  
Rebecca makes rugs and she creates her own designs.  This design is of the tidal chart of Palmer.  The boarder is of pancake ice.  It's magnificent.  The dimensions are 2' X 3'.  It took more than one season to complete this work.

Not all art is done here at Palmer.  This was a gift to one of our staff from a friend who is a talented sculptured.  It rests on a rock found here at Palmer.  

Not all works are depicted here, but the last but most fun was a big dragon ice sculpture with a punch bowl lit up for the evening.  

Tour Ship Visits with special Dignitaries

January and February is our summer that usually brings sunny skies which is what brings most of our cruise ships to Palmer during this time, yet this summer was not a summer of sun.  A few cruise ships slipped in within a sunny day window between cloudiness.

This is the National Geographic Explorer taken from station outside my office.

Big Fish yacht

Clelia II cruise ship

Some of the cruise ships offer kayaking to their guests.  This was a group who got to play in the waters of Arthur Harbor, north of Station.  The glacier in the background is the Marr Piedmont.

We often get sailboats, but this year very few came to station and if they do happen to come on the same day for a visit, they'll often chum up together, share stories and meals.

Now for the special Dignitaries....
These are my neighbors who came down on the National Geographic Explorer.  It was very exciting having them here as the National G. E. wasn't scheduled for this stop.  We were very lucky to have National G. E. visit us one last time before the summer was over.

Mike Reedy, ex-austronaut came also on this visit.  He came to station and gave us a science lecture of his own.  We were very lucky to have this personal touch by Mike.  He was a great guy and we talked a bit.  I found out his wife had been station in Mildenhall, U.K. in the Navy being a plane captain on the Beechcraft King Air C-12 like I did so many years ago.  Pretty exciting connection.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Backyard walks December

I love the backyard walks along the northern shore of our little peninsula at Palmer Station.  The rocky terrain reminds me of the north shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota, the bedrock exposed and scoured by glaciation from long years past.  The exception is that here at Palmer, the glacier has been retreating more recently, but the results are the same.  Great hiking!
 Here is a view of the station from a rocky outcrop on the waters' edge.
 The bedrock ledges are folds that disappear into the depths of Arthur Harbor where there are shear drop-offs out from the waters edge about 30' or so. 
 It's beautiful to see the bedrock underwater with the perfect lighting like it was this hike.
Here is an edge right on the waterline.  These small little pieces of ice were left here after the glacier in the background calved and eventually the pieces end up stranded during the tidal changes.  
There are patches of snow that the penguins like to go hang out on and rest.  This is an Adelie on his belly, eating the snow that is the consistency of a snow cone.  It must be very refreshing as if he were on Torgersen where the Adelie colony is, the snow would be covered in POO.  
Hmmm, so I saw this other Adelie, with his head buried in the snow and he was stretching his back feet.  The penguins are fun to watch.  I was using a telephoto so I wouldn't disturb their quiet time.
This is the view from about where the penguins are hanging out.  In the distance you can see Torgersen Island to the left where the large Adelie colonies are.  As I turn around and head towards the glacier in the backyard....
I run into my favorite rocks that are about 4'-5' tall.  This one has been one of my subjects in a watercolor or two.  Wonderful scene this one is.
This rock sits precariously on an edge that is quite steep.  You can't tell from this angle, but another couple of winters with freezing and thawing and it might tumble down the hillside.  
 I am almost at the edge of the glacier, which is about 200 yards from me.  You can't tell that it's that far away because the rock is so deceptive.  It almost looks like gravel up to the glacier, but these rocks are the size of small dog houses and bowling balls.  I am standing tall on a ridge looking down into a valley that then rises up to meet the glacier.  As I turn around from this angle, I look towards the station...
And watch the diamonds that glitter in the waters surrounding the station.  The islands on the far horizon are called the Joubins.  They're not islands within the boating limits, but on occasion science personnel get to travel to those islands to check on bird populations.