Monday, May 6, 2013

March of the Penguins

Gentoo penguin at Spring Point, Antarctica.
Yesterday was one of our last days of doing science on the boat, and it was a great day! All of the students on board got to go with the glaciologists to repair a seismic station on land at a place called Spring Point. A seismic station is an instrument that records seismic events, usually something like an earthquake or anything that shakes that the ground. In Antarctica, this can also be when a large piece of ice collapses, or falls into the ocean. This station at Spring Point can then record when these events happen, so the scientists have an idea of how often large pieces of ice are falling into the ocean and melting. In order to get to the seismic station, we all went by a zodiak and hiked up to the station. We wore lots of warm clothes, and went with an experienced mountaineer who could show us the best way to hike up to the tower. The glaciologists did all of the repairing, so that left a lot of time for sightseeing for the rest of us. A small colony of Gentoo penguins live there, and they were pretty interested in us so we spent most of our time taking pictures and laughing at the penguins. They are very curious, so they get pretty close to you as long as you sit down on the snow and don't look too threatening. We also saw a bunch of seals, and some other birds throughout the day. It started to snow pretty heavily at the end of the day, so we rushed back to the boat and got warm inside before having a great dinner that the crew had prepared for everyone in celebration of most of our work being finished. It was a great way to end all of our hard work!
Gentoo penguins and the R/V Araon in the background.

Korean BBQ night on the R/V Araon.
Today we traveled to the Korean research base in Antarctica, called King Sejong station. It is located on King George Island, in a beautiful bay. Unfortunately, there is huge storm here now so we are sitting just outside the bay waiting out the storm before we can navigate the narrow passage into the bay to deliver supplies to the station. About 15 Korean research scientists will be staying on the base over the Antarctic winter (our summer), so we are delivering them food, fuel and other supplies. The storm made our trip to the base a very eventful one, there were 60 knot winds (hurricane style winds) and large waves coming all the way up to the 4th deck of the ship. The ship rode pretty well most of the time, but early this morning we had to take a heading toward the station at an angle to the waves (instead of straight into them), and that made a lot of the waves come over the side decks, which ended up flooding the room with our CTD instrument. This room is made to get wet, but not to flood, so we were all frantically grabbing the stuff floating around in there so that the CTD would not get damaged from other bottles and equipment slamming into it. At the end of the day everything was ok once we stopped, but there was a big mess to clean up and not many people slept well last night. Tonight should be better because we are still stopped outside the bay, and it seems like the wind is calming down. Wish us luck delivering the supplies!

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