Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Humble and Torgersen Islands

A couple of weeks ago we took zodiacs to Humble Island to see the Giant Petrels and then on the way back to the station we were dropped off at Torgersen in the hopes of seeing penguins.  We passed by this small iceberg on the way to Humble (click to see video: http://youtu.be/C8x0TK95RVs).

At Humble Island there was still one giant petrel chick that hadn't fledged yet. The chick is the dark bird and the flying one is the adult.

Giant Petrels on Humble Island
Two giant petrel adults
One thing you don't expect to see is moss, and on Humble Island there was a lot of it!  From what I remember of Palmer Station and the islands around Palmer there was never this much moss present at this time of year... global warming?

Moss on Humble Island

More moss on Humble Island
 On Humbel and Torgersen there were a number of elephant seals and fur seals.  Elephant seal males have a very large nose, that the females do not have.  If  you have ever smelled a pig or cow farm in the midwest, then you know what a group of elephant seals smells like.

Female elephant seals and a sheathbill on Humble Island
Male elephant seal on Humble Island
Fur seals on Torgersen Island

Fur seal on Humble Island
From Torgersen Island you have a good view of the station, which is on Anvers Island.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Walking up the glacier

A couple of weeks ago we hiked up the glacier around noon.  Right now (middle-end of May) it gets light at ~9:00am and dark at ~3:00pm. 

Glacier movie: http://youtu.be/fvntupmVU1k

Nature's Modern Art on Torgersen Island, Antarctica

Here are some beautiful pictures of lichens on Torgersen Island, which is a small island near Palmer Station.  We had hoped to see some Adelie penguins, but no such luck; however, we did see elephant seals and fur seals, which I will post photos soon. I think these images are beautiful!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

White Sided Dolphins

After we left Punta Arenas and were leaving South America white sided dolphins (I think) followed our boat. Click on the link to see the YouTube video.

white sided dolphins:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCdUA91B1Ao

The RV Laurence M. Gould

The Laurence M. Gould (or LMG) is named after the geologist and explorer Laurence McKinley Gould  who was a member of Richard E. Byrd's first Antarctic expedition where he was the second in command under Admiral Byrd.  This is the vessel we take from Punta Arenas, Chile to Palmer Station Antarctica.

The Drake Passage is the body of water between South American and South Shetland Islands, which are just off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. After the Drake Passage formed about 40 million years ago, it enabled the Antarctic Circumpolar Current to flow around Antarctica with no interruptions, which helped cool the waters around Antarctica.  The Drake Passage is known to have the roughest seas in the world. This time down to Palmer Station it was like sailing on a pond however with no storms and the waves were large and rolling.

Anyway, here are some photos of areas inside the boat.
Bedroom with bunkbeds.  There are curtains that can be drawn so that you aren't bothered by your bunkmate.  Also, note the brown mat on the desk.  It keeps computers, books, etc from sliding off. I was lucky to not have a roommate on the way down to Palmer Station from Chile.
Each room has it's own bathroom with toilet, shower and sink (not shown).  You step into the shower, which keeps the water from running out during high seas. The bar in the shower helps you stabilize yourself during the rolling motions of the boat.
This is the galley where we eat. Notice the condiments sitting on the table in a stationary bin.  It keeps things from sliding off the table.  Also, the bin holds your glass so that you don't spill your drinks when the boat is moving.

This is another part of the galley that leads to the window where we pick up our food, which in this picture has the metal window closed.  It's cafeteria style so you help yourself to the food at mealtimes.  The window that is open is where we put our dirty dishes.
In the galley there is a plaque dedicated to my graduate advisor, Bruce Sidell.  He passed away in 2011 way too soon.

This is the Bridge where the captain (sitting to the right) steers the boat.  We can go on the bridge at almost any time and talk to the captain.
And, of course there is the lounge with comfortable chairs.  There is a large selection of movies to keep people occupied on the crossing. It's also a nice place to read a book.
We have a meeting when we first get on the boat about what happens if we have to abandon ship and they show us where the life rafts are and all of the equipment and supplies in the life rafts.
This is a view of the LMG from the front.  The orange circular "thing" on the upper right of the ship (your left) is a life boat. It is a fully enclosed lifeboat, although there is a hatch at the top.  Inside there are seat belts that go around your chest and strap you in.  In the event of abandon ship in rough seas the lifeboat will roll around and although it will upright itself you need to be strapped to prevent injury to yourself and others. Everyone gets a seasickness bag once they enter the lifeboat, and everyone has to take seasickness meds; even if you don't normally get seasick, the crew said that in one of these lifeboats EVERYONE gets seasick!

You can read more about the specifics of this boat at NSF's website:


Friday, May 10, 2013

Technically challenged....

My graduate advisor said on numerous occasions that he was an analog man living in a digital world. I have been trying to figure out a way to upload videos into this blog, and I finally made the decision to upload the videos into YouTube and then link to there.  So, finally, without further ado, below are two video links. The first is of my favorite Antarctic bird, the sheathbill, and the 2nd is a short video of a Wilson's Storm Petrel feeding at the outfall of Palmer Station. You can use your imagination as to what he may be eating....

Sheathbill video: http://youtu.be/nWgwLII_FXo

Wilson's Storm Petrel video: http://youtu.be/Vq43Am4HlBI

Hopefully, the links work... 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Guess what my favorite Antarctic bird is....

You probably guessed penguin, right?  Well, you are wrong!  My favorite bird here at Palmer is not Adelie, gentoo, or chinstrap penguin.  It's not the giant petrel (shown below)....
Young giant petrel.  I took this photo at dawn when we were leaving to go fishing, so it's a bit dark. 
Or the cape petrel or Wilson's storm petrel (photos and videos coming soon).

Sheathbill at Palmer Station
My favorite bird is the snowy sheathbill (Chionis albus), which is supposed to Antarctica's only land bird. They eat really anything they can find.  Many people call this bird the Antarctic chicken, and as you can see from the phot, they kind of look like a chicken.  Here at Palmer they can be found wandering around the station.