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Wednesday, December 12, 2007: The Last Blog
The last blog falls to me...


Here at the end of the season, we have been busy with the business of giving back the increadible amount of stuff we borrowed from the permanent stores here at McMurdo. Packing is no fun at all.

Rusty and I had an unexpected bonus on our last afternoon when the fish biologists asked us to help them check their lines at Penguin Ranch. The penguins were gone and the ranch shut down but it was a nice ride on a wonderful clear day. Better than sitting in a lab, or even the local bar, waiting on the flight. We caught no fish but thats not really the point of fishing as I understand it anyway.

Yesterday, as part of the wrap up to the season Nick gave a presentation of the work he has done on his Capstone project to our group and assorted friends.

Stacy introduces Nick

Nick has worked hard on the SCINI project, and can be proud of the pressure housings he manufactured. There were zero failures associatted with leakage past his pressure boundary. perhaps this gave Nick the confidence to relax and just let it all hang out.

Barefoot presentations are just how it gets done in Barrio Rio Seco.

The talk was well recieved and Nick responded well to the questions at the end. Then we all ate Ocean Adventure gummy fish candy (made with real fruit juice! A source of Vitamin C!).

You can see how much Rusty enjoyed asking Nick questions...

New Digs
This blog has been moved back over to the blogspot free blog hosting service after the 2007 field season, sorry if there are any broken links or missing images.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007: Farewell!
Last Sunday we said our farewell and thank you to the community. Many people have volunteered to help us, taking time off work to come drill holes and haul heavy gear around. Even more have helped us as part of their jobs, but have done much more than that, making themselves available after hours and for inconvenient requests. We very much appreciate all that everyone has done to make things go well. So on Sunday, we set up both ROVs and invited our friends to come out and see underwater Antarctica for themselves.
Underwater life in Antarctica.

Now that we have finished our field work for the season, we are returning all the borrowed gear, equipment, vehicles, etc. Whatever we don’t return, we have to account for! So far, we are only missing two ice screws, which is pretty good, considering that the list of borrowed items ran to 14 pages long.
I have a theory that ice actually eats ice screws. Look at those teeth!

All the stuff that we need to bring back to with us, we have to pack up for shipping home. There are a multitude of options in terms of speed, temperature control, and expense, but all have a lot of paperwork associated with them, which has never been my strong point. We have 19 crates and boxes, before we even get to our personal gear.
Crates 1 and 2 out of 19...

And to make it all the more challenging, the weather has finally gotten nice. Clear blue sky all day makes the mountains seem so close. The sun is warm though in the shadows or a breeze it is still very cold. Nighttime walks are a wonderful way to wind down for sleep.
On a bedtime hike, Bob holds communications for the kiwi station on his fingertips.

Thanks to you too for your interest in our work and for all your comments and questions. Remember, this is only the first season of a three year project! We will update periodically until we deploy to Antarctica again in October 2008. Please come visit us again!
I'll leave you with some of my favorite images from this season -

Monday, December 10, 2007: Ridges, Open House
Last friday I got to tour the pressure ridges near Scott Base with a small group. Our leader was Ann Bancroft, a member of the American Women's Antarctic Expedition to the south pole back in 1992, who now works as the site manager for the long duration balloon project.

Also, yesturday was the last time SCINI went in the water this season, we hosted an open house for the McMurdo community down at the jetty with both SCINI and VideoRay in the water...


The pressure ridges were a special treat as us Americans are usually prohibited from this more dangerous, constantly changing area. The pressure of the thick Ross Ice shelf (out of sight from the shore) pushes this thinner sea ice up against the rocky base of Observation Hill in front of Scott Base; the crevases and peaks sometimes rise so fast you can see the landscape moving from the New Zealander's base.

Here are some final clips of SCINI and video ray driving together, which gives a much better idea of how the two vehicles interact and their scale compared to the objects they investigate.

Here are 2 clips of VideoRay from SCINI's perspective, first with scaling lasers powered up (you can see the algea bloom is getting thicker this time of season as the laser's path lights up particles) and later lighting up a rock scene with nice warm bright external lights. You can really see the difference in video quality, though of course the VideoRay's more polished lighting and dome close the gap a lot:

(Get the Flash Player to see this player!)

VideoRay Lasers(download, smaller).

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VideoRay Bright(download, smaller).

And here's SCINI manuevering around some benthic life, then shooting off into the unknown, never to be seen again...

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SCINI investigating (download).

(Get the Flash Player to see this player!)

And away! (download).

Sunday, December 9, 2007: Tales for the Spicy Penguin
Penguino, Penguino,

He's Nice-O!, Not Mean-O!,



Shortly before my son Jack was born my wife and I watched March of the Penguins and something from it stuck in our subconcious... Not long after he entered the world he became El Penguino.

When he was just a few days old and I was doing the midnight feedings I would sing the above rhyme to him. Over the last 2 years he has collected a few more nicknames, The Small Man and Mr Helpful being the most prominent, but he is still El Piquante Penguino de Quispamsis.

The Small Man doing what he does best. And ceaselessly.


and robbing passers-by.

So it was clear when the chance to visit Antarctica prsented itself I had to come back with penguin pictures, movies, trivia, tales, and even a hitchhiker if I could manage it. All but the hitchhiker turned out to be possible. Luckily I was able to use the SCINI project to lure Peque, the World's Most Technically Astute Penguin, into travelling with me. He has really enjoyed himself, and at cape royds he made friends with a seal who was interested in using our dive hole.

As luck would have it a dive trip to Cape Royds came up and with only a little abject pleading I was able to convince Stacy to take me along. When we got there I was amazed to see that the dive was going to be done through a hole melted in a crack in the ice. We had to break up the ice that had formed over the surface of the hole and dip it out with a bucket.

After the dive we went over to the penguin rookery and Shackleton's Hut. The Hut was impressive. The wind was really biting and the snow was blowing and it was overcast. The men that wintered in that hut had weeks at a time where the bad weather we were experiencing would have been a welcome respite from the continuous storm they sheltered from in that little wooden hut.

The most important feature was a great old stove. I want a beautiful stove just like that to put in my house. It must have been a fight to see who got the bunk closest to the stove.

The warmest thing in their world

Just outside the hut was the penguin rookery. I sang them the Penguino rhyme, but the wind must have blown the words away because they did not respond. There were about 4,000 breeding pairs of penguins living in the area.

Lots of Birds...

We were at the end of the world. The sea ice ended and we could see the open water of the Ross Sea. And the penguins trekking over the ice for about a mile to jump in and fish.

We had a tour guide in the person of Dr David Ainley. He lives at Cape Royds and studies the birds. He turned me on to the excellent Penguin Science website: He knows what there is to know about the birds, and is of the opinion that Happy Feet was a movie full of truth and good messages. I asked him about the singing and dancing and he allowed he had seen no dancing (yet) but that penguins do recognize each other by their distinctive individual voices, so that singing part of the movie was not so far fetched. Looks like Jack gets a dvd for Yule.

One of the great things at Cape Royds is Penguincam! If you look at the "hut pic" for 6 Dec 2007 you can see a couple people in red jackets who Rusty and I have decided must be us (they don't get a lot of visitors).

The aliens have landed

The website has tons of pictures of penguins being at home and you can see what the weather is doing at any time. I took the following movie standing just in front of the Penguincam. Check out the flag beating itself ragged in the stiff wind.

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PENGUIN FLAG! (download).

So there you have it. I came with a clear mandate to collect penguin experiences and I can return to El Piquante Pinguino de Quispamsis with stories, pictures, and a feathery little friend suitable for cuddling and assisting on whatever engineering projects The Small Man comes up with in the next few years.

It turns out that while I have been down here winter has arrived back in New Brunswick and El Penguino has started training for his own Antarctic expedition.

Saturday, December 8, 2007: Art at McMurdo
Even in the land of ice and snow, human natures primordial need for self expression burns hot. Long winters and brief interludes from work allow time for minds to wander and creativity to flow. Below are examples of the art forms that one finds when in and around town. Take a self guided stroll through the interesting and sometimes weird art of McMurdo Station.


In the stairwell to the Crary Library

Wall in the Science Cargo Building

Boiler in the Science Cargo Building

What's under the walking Bridge?

The bridge troll of course

Crary Lab Hall

Near the Fuel Tanks

On Hut Point- Lovingly called "Roll Cage Mary"

Another Bridge Troll

At the galley entrance

In an out of the way hall is this piece with the heart and souls of McMurdoites when asked the question of "Why did you come to Antarctica?" Zoom in and read why some came.

Friday, December 7, 2007: No Words, Only Pictures


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This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. ANT-0619622 ( Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.