Roundup at the Penguin Ranch, 30 November, 2005
Roundup at the Penguin Ranch, 30 November, 2005
Nov 30 2005, 10:56 AM
Group: TREC Team
Joined: 1-November 05
Member No.: 22
Hello from the Ice!
For additional photos from Antarctica, look in the Gallery
For those interested in things Antarctic, check out the weekly Antarctic newspaper at http://AntarcticSun.usap.gov
At the Penguin Ranch, Ross Island, Antarctica
I joined G.A.’s (General Assistants, who do just about everything to make this place run) Lewis and Jane at the Pisten Bully parking lot at 8 am this morning. They will be pulling a “Fuel Bowser” out to two places, Fish Hut #6 and the Penguin Ranch, to replenish their supply. The “Bowser” is basically a tank of fuel. I don’t know why it is called a Bowser and neither did they. Jane and Lewis get the Pisten Bully ready and then we are off!
Hooking up the Bowser is a difficult affair. G.A. Jane helps guide the link up:
I was joined by a teacher from Atlanta and his PI (lead scientist), who also wanted to see the Emperor field study camp. Their team is flying small airplanes over all of Antarctica to analyze the gases in the atmosphere above the ice.
Fish Hut #6 was unoccupied but kept warm and ice free inside by a furnace. These huts are used by researchers and divers to collect fish that live under the ice. These fish have special "antifreeze" in their blood so that they can live in the frigid waters.
The fish huts are on top of a hole carved in the ice leading down to the ocean. The brilliant blue color is just from the sun shining through the ice around the hut! Very surreal!
We arrived at the Penguin Ranch after about an hour of travel across the sea ice. The road sign pointing to the Ranch:
We were met by Red, the Ranchhand (I am not making this up), who gave us the “Nickel Tour” of the trailers where several people live while working with and studying the penguins. They have a sleeping hut, a small cooking trailer, and two laboratory trailers.
The penguins were captured at the coast and brought here where they are in an enclosure with two diving holes carved into the ice. These holes are too far away from the coast for them to get to open water, so they must come back up these same holes inside of the enclosure when they are done with a dive. They will be released back to the wild at the end of the season, which is whenever the sea ice begins to break up.
Let's make a break for it, boys!
Line 'em up:
There is also an observation tube which goes down into the sea near the holes so you can observe the birds under water. Unfortunately, the windows were all iced over so we couldn’t see into the water. One person at a time and it is a bit claustrophobic!
The lead researchers here are a married couple, the Drs. Ponganis from Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego, and they have been studying Emperors for many years in Antarctica. They are considered to be among the top experts in penguin physiology and ecology.
It was a blowin’ hard out at the ranch, makin’ it rough on the fingers to take pictures.
The Emperor penguins are about 3 feet tall and can weigh up to 25 kg (~40 lbs). They can swim under the ice for 25 minutes but normally only stay under fishing for 8-12 minutes. Their heartbeat can slow to 3 beats per minute! The scientists hook up various electrodes to the birds as they swim, and you can see the residual glue on some of their backs in the pictures. What an elegant and amazing animal!
Exiting the ice hole?
(I thought this was supposed to be a graceful animal)
Meanwhile, out at Pony Lake, the rest of my research team did NOT have a day off like I did. Jenn took some photos for me to post. They found a patch of green ice near the rookery where the snow had been blown off. They named it the Green Ice Rink and they tried to take some ice cores here. Apparently, one of the corers broke, so they only got 2.5 ice cores.
> Yummy algae and bacteria:
These cores are melting in buckets in the lab right now and the entire lab reeks like rotten eggs in a rancid compost pile. Tomorrow, Jenn and I will start to prepare these melted cores for analysis in the lab while the rest of the team flies in a helicopter back out to the lake with extra corers.
Unlike the elegant Emperors, the comical little Adelie penguins out at Pony Lake are getting curious. A little Adelie wanted to check out what they were doing and hung around looking at them for some time. The skuas are getting very aggressive in their hunting and the team saw several skuas carrying stolen eggs.
Did you know?
There are three classes of weather and travel restrictions in and around McMurdo Station:
CONDITION 3 is defined as having winds less than 48 knots, wind chill less than -75 F, and visibility greater than one-quarter mile. So far, this is the only condition I have experienced here.
CONDITION 2 is defined by one or more of the following: wind speeds of 48-55 knots, wind chill of -75 to -100 F, or visibility less than one-quarter mile.
CONDITION 1 is defined by one or more of the following: wind speeds greater than 55 knots, wind chill colder than -100 F, or visibility less than 100 feet. In this condition, only “mission critical” travel is permitted.
Current Conditions at McMurdo Station
An approaching “disturbance” may bring bad weather from the South tomorrow night.
Wind out of the southeast at 8 knots with gusts up to 28
Pressure: 29.030 inHg
Temperature: 21 oF/ -6 oC with wind chill: 16 F/-9 C
Sunset: February 20 at 1:38 am
May 20 2006, 08:54 AM
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