Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Katie and I got engaged last night....
Saturday, December 09, 2006
After some time, more and more skuas began to circle the carcass, hoping for their chance at a meal.
It was at this point that Rich and I realized the most horrifying part of what was happening. The mother, though obviously dead, still had a pup lying next to her, who was alive, and oblivious to what was happening all around it. The pup was in fact still attempting to suckle the mother, while the skuas were having their way with her.
Skuas moving on to other opportunities:
Skuas bathing post feast:
Freshly bathed skua in search of more food:Although this was a grizzly reminder of how tough nature can be, it is a fact of life, and one we are confronted with more than one would like in this environment.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Dan enamored with the Penguins:
2 Emperor's viewing their world:
2 Emperor's vocalizing:
2 Emperor's displaying:
Bird brains at work:
And then they'd finally had enough, with one choosing to tabagon away!:
We spent some time watching them waddle, and vocalize, and then were off again on our way to the rookery. When we got there it smelled of penguin! Anyone who has ever spent time around any penguin species know they have a very potent odor, and even in these cold conditions they smell. We walked over the hill, and there before us was a real penguin rookery, alive and boisterous. Before we could really go explore we were allowed to view Shackleton's Hut, but more on that later, for now we'll talk about penguins!
Although the Emperor’s were truly majestic, the little Adelies were much more interesting. They are full of energy, and always seem to be interacting with each other.
2 Adelie Penguins sizing each other up:Many of them were on their nests, which are essentially small mounds of rock which they very lovingly gather and use in order to gain copulations with the females. Some were lucky, and their rocks were good enough, and some were not. One of the more fascinating aspects of the day was the skua/penguin interactions. I have already mentioned my love of skuas, I find them fascinating, but here they were definitely playing the bad guy. I watched two skuas slowly walk around the colony, frequently being chased off, until they found one semi isolated nest. One skua then lured the nesting Adelie off the rock mound, and the other promptly stole the egg and carried it off. The two then reconvened and had themselves a nice lunch. After several mournful cries, the had-been nest sitter trotted off into the colony, presumably looking for another partner.
While some of the penguins were incubating their eggs, others were marching towards open water, and the opportunity to feed. The open ocean was only 4 or 5 miles from the colony, just on the horizon and many penguins were eagerly heading in that direction. It was quite a treat to watch them come upon a crack in the ice and try to negotiate it. Some would jump, and some would walk around the impediment, though all were able to cross safely, as best I could tell. They small bands would reunite on the other side of the obstruction, and continue their march.
This trip really was a treat, and undoubtedly one of the highlights of this trip!
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
29F / -2C
21F / -7
8 mph NNW
Where as in balmy Antarctica
Hey, down here you take what you can get, and I'll take this!!!!!!!!
Saturday, November 25, 2006
We were able to dig up six 5 ounce cans of Hormel Chunk Turkey in 33% broth, dehydrated mashed potatoes, dehydrated potato slices, canned yams, Craisins® and Cranberry concentrate.
As I am the offspring of an Abraham Lincoln scholar, Thanksgiving it’s a very patriotic day. In 1863 Lincoln declared Thanksgiving as a national day of celebration in hopes to give people something to rejoice over during the long Civil War. To celebrate I took an American flag out into the field with us and flew it in the colony. Out here we find little diversions such as this to humor us and pass the time.
Down here perspective is a bit different, and you are thankful for some very basic things. Today I am thankful for the ability to check the internet, no matter how slow, and realize that there are people back home who are thinking of us. I am thankful for the relatively warm weather, in the positive 20s! I am thankful for the opportunity to be in this beautiful land, though harsh and tiring it truly an amazing place. Each morning walking out and seeing nothing but snow and ice for miles, with Mt. Erebus to the North and Mt. Discovery to the South reminds us how majestic this setting is. I am thankful for my wool socks, which have done an incredible job keeping my feet warm, despite the blasting wind and frigid air. I am thankful for the skua which flew into camp today and humored me with its antics for several minutes, before flying of in search of more productive feeding grounds.
As our November 23, 2006 drew to an end, I was content, and warm, and thankful for that, though I must say I missed some of the comforts of home, and the people who were celebrating back in the states.
Unlike most people, here in Antarctica, we get to celebrate Thanksgiving twice, and this one is a bit more of your typical Thanksgiving meal. We worked a day in the field, but the seals were not particularly cooperative, in fact most of the seals we had hoped to process spent most of their time in the water. This is becoming more and more of a problem as the pups are fast approaching their weaning weights, and moms are becoming more and more undernourished. We were able to bleed and weigh one mom/pup pair, but that was all. It was a particularly warm day, possibly passing the freezing point, though it was cloudy with lots of wind, so it in fact felt cooler than the last few days. We then packed up and headed for town. It was an easy ride, despite the sore backs which are now prevailing throughout the group.
As we approached McMurdo it was an amazing sight. With the increasing temperatures, the ice conditions are becoming less ideal, and there were slushy ridges, making snow-mobile travel a bit bumpier. As we walked up the transition from the sea ice onto land we saw a site I have not seen for some months, flowing water! The land here is very dark, all black, red and brown rocks, and that absorbs the heat from the sun, which is truly quite intense down here. This heat absorption, coupled with the increasing temperatures, creates faster than expected melt of the snow. I was shocked how dark the hills surrounding McMurdo have become, as only a few weeks ago they were still entirely covered with snow and ice. The running water caused by snow melt, was in fact a quickly flowing stream, which was a wonder for me to behold. After prying myself away from the sight of moving water, I headed to our storage, where if memory served, I had a clean shirt, and a pair of jeans. Luckily memory was correct in this case.
I headed to our dorm room, took a nice long, hot shower, and changed into clean clothes, quite a treat, and something else which I am thankful for! We then headed to the Galley (dining hall) and were in for quite a treat, after the initial wait in a line! The food was AMAZING, I must give it to the kitchen staff here, and they know how to make a meal. It is quite possibly the best Thanksgiving meal I’ve ever had, rivaled only by Thanksgiving in Florence at Aqua al Due, which was helped with many liters of wine. The dinner in Antarctica had everything one could hope for, including fresh vegetables, a rarity in these parts! In fact, we surmised these vegetables must have been shipped down in the last 24 hours, as the lettuce was not even wilted! My dinner consisted of healthy portions of Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, salad, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, bread, roast beef, mixed roots, shrimp, fruit and was finished of with two pieces of pie, one pumpkin and one pecan! As I tend to do on days like this, I gorged myself, spending the next half hour complaining about my stomach, though I must say, this time it was well worth it. The kitchen staff made and appearance, and were quickly greeted with a standing ovation, and one I must say, which was well deserved.
After we let dinner stew for a bit in our bellies, Mike, Darryl and I headed over to the bar for a nightcap of whiskies and beer, before retiring to bed, full and quite content. Tonight we will sleep with our showered selves, on clean sheets, in complete darkness, some more small things I am quite thankful for.