Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Back to Antarctica--with animals

I came back to McMurdo Station, Antarctica in October, 2009 for a second 4-month season. I finally got what everyone comes here for--to see animals out on the sea ice.
To go out on the sea ice, a person has to go on a special excursion outside the station. About 20 of us piled into the back of an old Navy vehicle called a Delta. It has hard bench seats, the windows get completely steamed over, and it's a very bumpy and bouncy 2-hour ride. It got stuck in the snow a lot, but one time it really paid off.
While we were digging out, at the horizon there appeared 4 black dots moving toward us. Could it be penguins? Yes it was! The rule is that we are not allowed to approach the animals. But we can let them come to us. So we got down on our knees and waited.
Unlike in the cartoons, emperor penguins don't waddle. With their feet, they push themselves on their bellies along on the ice. They move across the ice like the water birds that they are!

When they got to us, they stood up and looked around, probably wondering where we keep our fish to eat. Then they flopped back onto their bellies and pushed off.
Everything in this picture except for the penguins is ice--probably more than 20 ft thick.

We also saw seals. Seals come up through holes in the ice. Then they just lie on the ice, looking like garden slugs. The adults barely move, and the babies move just a bit more than that.

Isn't this baby just the cutest!

Thursday, January 15, 2009


They say that the penguins arrive in McMurdo after the icebreaker comes. The icebreaker arrived Sunday. The penguin was here Monday. It's a little adelie penguin. I (Carol) watched it for about an hour and a half. First it was asleep in a ball like a little black cat. Then it stood up, and stretched one wing. Later it raised both wings. Later yet it crowed like a crow. Still later it took a few steps, got into the water for a short swim, got out, and stood some more.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

How Cold Is It?

How cold is it in Antarctica? Right now--January--it's summer. The temps get up to the high 30s F just about every day. And with the sun up all the time, it's usually quite nice. Here's Pat fixing some field camp gear. Almost looks like a palm tree, doesn't it?
Below is Matt, my dorm's janitory, standing outside the dorm. You can see the dusty soil that we have at McMurdo station, with the sea ice and mountains in the background. Notice Matt's combination of shorts and parka. Somehow, the combination is perfect here, though I'll admit that Matt's legs are tougher than mine and I haven't gotten my shorts out yet. The fellow below got out his Hawaiian shirt for a New Year's music festival.

These, too, are music festival folks. Notice the shorts and flip-flops.

These are guys I work with--Tom, the plumbing foreman and Don, a boiler mechanic. Notice the hill in the background--no snow--and the glorious blue sky.