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Mr. Pastirik's Daily Log 29 November 2005

November 29, 2005

Today has been a day of errands, and tending to the smaller aspects of the ANTCI research project. At times, I feel like Radar on M.A.S.H. It is not an unpleasant role! I stole time out for a 45 minute walk towards Scott Base. It might sound redundant, but it was another beautiful, warm day. I never tire of the big expanses of mountain, snow, ice and sky.

In between errands, I spent time walking through the Crary Science Center, where our office and lab are located. It is named for a famous glaciologist. Science of all sorts is going on.

On our hall are microbiologists studying life in the Dry Valleys of McMurdo. The valleys were once thought to be sterile, but study revealed that there is actually a good amount of tiny, microbial life that make a living or whose niche is there, along with small nematodes, rotifers, and other tiny creatures creating a simple food chain. Adaptations to the extreme cold, including the production of biologic antifreeze are extremely interesting to scientists. Lichens, a mutualistic symbiotic grouping of algae and fungus are important colonizers of bare rock surfaces. Alga (a photosynthetic autotroph) makes food that it shares with the fungus, while fungus (a heterotroph) adheres to the rock surface and gives algae a secure living place. Each benefits from the arrangement.

On the second floor are geologists/paleontologists studying fossils, oceanographers studying tides and icebergs, glaciologists studying (surprise!) glaciers, volcanologists studying Mt. Erebus, meteorologists/climatologists studying weather and climate, astronomers studying cosmic rays, zoologists studying seals, and ornithologists studying the birds of the ocean, penguins. In this case, the ornithologists are studying Emperor and Adelie penguins. Tomorrow I go to the penguin ranch. More on penguins tomorrow. Before I leave this floor, I want to note that most astronomy is conducted at the pole, where astronomers constitute the single largest science group.

On the bottom or third floor, one finds the aquarium. As one enters, the aquarium lab, there is a touch tank on the left. In it one finds fish found in McMurdo Sound, Ross Sea, and surrounding Southern Ocean. The Southern Ocean begins south of the earth circling, easterly moving Antarctic Circumpolar Current surrounding the continent. The current moves a volume of water four times greater than the Gulf Stream. One can tell you have crossed the current, and entered the Southern ocean by the change in water temperature which is significant, and abrupt. The oceanic Circumpolar Current, and the atmospheric Antarctic Convergence effectively isolate Antarctica from the rest of the world.

In the tank, one can see and touch a variety of starfish (echinoderms), soft shell clams (mollusks), sea spiders, eels, nudibranchs (mollusks), sponges, soft corals (coelenterates or cnidaria) and fish. The water is very cold (about 28 degrees Fahrenheit) to the touch, but the creatures seem to thrive on it. Cold water holds more oxygen than warm water, so it is rich with life. Cold oceans are characterized by a higher number, but less diverse life forms as opposed to warm tropical oceans where diversity rules! The limited types of organisms create food chains that are short and simple. Simple systems are less redundant and have fewer backups than complex systems. Consequently, cold water food chains, and the food webs they intertwine to form are fragile.

After touring Crary, we went to do more ice coring with Castle Rock on the ridge, White and Black Island over the ice, Mt. Discovery on the horizon, and Mt.
Erebus as our background. Techniques are being developed and troubleshooting is being done, so that ANTCI scientists may correctly, quickly, and efficiently obtain cores for study. Another beautiful day at Antarctica.

The ANTCI website is up, and I expect that Cinda, our webmaster at GA Tech, will be making additional parts of it operational. Thank you Cinda. The website is www.antci.eas.gatech.edu.

Take care of one another. mp

Dr. Davis from Georgia Tech

The Touch Tank