Mr. Pastirik's Daily Log 30 November 2005Hello from McMurdo Station, Antarctica. This will be a brief entry, and probably my last from “The Ice”. Tomorrow will be a day of tidying loose ends, laundry, packing, and then “bag and drag”. Bag and drag is where one is weighed, and everything that is carried is weighed before taking off. Too much weight and the plane go down! Yuck
Today, we visited the Emperor Penguins at the Penguin Ranch. There rookery of Emperors are found about 15 miles farther north, out on the ever-approaching sea ice edge. The ice is warming rapidly, and the sea ice is cracking creating the huge fields of pack ice, and freeing icebergs to calved from glaciers free. All this floating ice is freshwater. Later in Antarctica’s summer season, an icebreaker will smash a path to McMurdo Station. The amount of ice floating above the surface is only one-tenth of the total, as the Titanic discovered.
The penguins on the ranch are collected from the rookery, and placed far from any unwanted air holes. The nearest air hole is about 2/3 of a mile or 1 kilometer away. The scientists are studying how Emperor Penguins hold their breath under water for long periods of time. Penguins are birds, and like all birds need to breath air. The study will conclude in a week or two when the camp needs to be broken down because the ice will begin to develop deeper cracks than there are now, and become too dangerous to be on. Then, the ranch penguins will be brought back to the rookery and set free. To measure some things needed by the scientists, the penguins have instruments to measure heart rate, body temperature, and respiration rate temporarily attached to their bodies. In addition, blood is drawn periodically from penguins to test the amount of hemoglobin in their blood. Hemoglobin is the molecule penguins and you use to transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Two interesting things I found out about Emperors are that their heart rate can slow to three beats per minute when diving underwater from a surface rate of nearly 200 beats per minute, and each penguin is surrounded by nearly one inch of densely packed feathers that insulate them from the cold and keep them dry. The penguins seem real happy at the ranch, and some have gained weight! They feel very safe here, because even underwater when feeding, leopard seals and orcas are too far away to snatch them up to eat when they enter and exit their holes. Yes, they are really cute.
The ANTCI test flight went well this morning. Spirits are way up. A short trip is in the air now collecting data, and tomorrow the scientists are off the South Pole. This is great news! Data (information gathered from science experiments) will come soon.
Be well. Take care of one another! mp