Sunday, January 18, 2009

There are so many images and experiences to share that I am falling behind but I promise that I will keep working on this blog until I have something posted about all my major adventures in Antarctica. In the meantime remember to look through old blogs as my new posts get pushed into that category (since the front page only holds 7 images.

Father Time and Baby New Year conversing at Icestock (midnight December 31, 2008) - as you can see nights are as bright as days in Antarctica during the summer season

For three days in December I had the privilege to spend time with David Ainley and Jean Pennycook at Cape Royds. David has studied the Adelie Penguin colonies at Cape Royds and Cape Crozier since the mid-90s and he is now looking at how penguins are affected by climate change. Jean is an educator who has developed an educational outreach project related to David Ainley's work. Teachers can take advantage of the wealth of information and they can involve their students as well - please visit for more information!

Penguins in landscape

childless penguin couple

penguin parents

I had brought a Persian carpet with me to the ice for a weathering project. Jean Pennycook suggested that I bring the carpet to Cape Royds to see if the penguins will walk over it on the sea ice. We found out that not only did they not walk on the carpet they greatly hesitated to pass by it. They never got closer than three feet or so if they decided to risk it at all.

This penguin is coming in from the sea ice after feeding (ready to take over the nest and feed the chicks). The clean belly shows a returning bird as the ones departing have red spots on their belly from sitting on the nest.

This penguin is going out from the colony to feed (the red spots on the belly show dirt from sitting on a nest for some time)

The following sequence of images show an interesting development in our second attempt to place the persian carpet in the path of penguins. This day the wind blew up the carpet and I went out to smooth it down again. While the penguins were waiting, hesitating the pass next to the carpet once I was there and decided to sit down on the carpet they almost immediately decided to pass by me (as the following images attest). Clearly I had proven to them that the carpet is not "bad ice."

One group of penguins in the Cape Royds penguin colony are closely observed in this enclosure. They can only exit through the gate seen here where they pass across a bridge that is actually a very sophisticated scale that measures their weight while a sensor reads the number of the tag that is on their shoulder. This way the weight of the penguins going in and out to feed is monitored and recorded by a computer that sits in a tent next to the enclosure. Since the penguins are tagged when they are chicks their whole development can be followed this way.

This penguin was coming in to the Cape Royds penguin colony from the sea ice (note the clean belly) after feeding. In the pictures that follow you will see how closely he/she passed me while I stood clicking away.

Penguin walking past me on the sea ice

Penguin walking past me on the sea ice

Penguin walking past me on the sea ice

Penguin walking past me on the sea ice

penguins at Cape Royds

last shot of penguin walking past me on the sea ice

Monday, December 29, 2008

During my three-day stay at Cape Royds I had plenty of opportunity to spend time in Shackleton’s Nimrod hut. It was built for the 1907-1909 British Antarctic Expedition, which was a lot smaller than Scott’s expedition that followed it (see Terra Nova hut below). There were only 16 men in this party hence the Nimrod hut is a lot smaller than the Terra Nova hut. It looked more interesting on the outside perhaps because it was small/compact and had better proportions and there were interesting objects right around the building itself. On the other hand it had much fewer objects and variety of spaces on the inside. It is impossible to represent in photographs the feeling of actually standing in these spaces. I am very grateful for the opportunity to spend time in the Nimrod and Terra Nova huts.

Nimrod hut

Nimrod hut

Nimrod hut

View from Nimrod hut

Nimrod hut interior

Nimrod hut interior

Nimrod hut interior

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Below are some pictures of Scott's Terra Nova hut, Cape Evans. This hut was built for Scott's ill fated Terra Nova expedition (1910-1913) and was later used by Shackleton as well in an expedition that also lost three men. You can find plenty of information and images on line about the Terra Nova hut. These are just a few of my pics. I was so fortunate that on my way back from Cape Royds to McMurdo station the helicopter pilot was able to land with me at Cape Evans. We were the only people there. I had checked out the hut key and was able to spend an hour in the presence of frozen history. The pilot was also able to point out some hidden treasures (notes written in pencil on the wall next to one bunk by one of the men from the Shackleton expedition listing the dead). - When you are looking at this blog please remember that images are quickly pushed into the “old blogs” section since they don't fit on the front page so please look in “old blogs” even for new images. Also if you click on an image you get a larger version. Please stay tuned for more tomorrow.

Terra Nova entrance

Terra Nova entrance detail

Terra Nova interior

Terra Nova Interios

Terra Nova detail

Terra Nova detail

Terra Nova detail

Terra Nova kitchen

At Scott's Terra Nova hut in Cape Evans the snow is usually 6 feet high but the mild weather this season has melted the snow entirely and this chained dog appeared (the helicopter pilot who took me there had never seen it before).

Thursday, December 18, 2008

December 16 and 17 I took part in the "happy camper" survival training. This is a required course if you plan to leave McMurdo station and travel anywhere in Antarctica. They teach you how to survive in case there is an emergency (a helicopter crash and such) and you have to create your own shelter from snow and other available materials to survive. They give you various scenarios and you have to improvise to find solutions. Since I am not much of an adventurer to begin with I learnt an awful lot (including how to set up tents correctly, which probably most people already know). I think my fellow campers must have concluded that I would not be the best asset in a crisis situation but I did show talent for one activity: sawing perfect snow blocks. While this was highly admired I think it only has aesthetic value. I had a great time and actually slept quite well that night in a large Scott tent seen in some of the images below.

I helped Michelle, my fellow camper, dig a tunnel to her snow shelter. You can see her testing it for sleeping in a picture lower down.

Our camp site

We learnt how to saw blocks out of snow (very nice material to work with) in order to build walls and other types of shelters around our camp

Some of our fellow campers who work as firefighters on McMurdo decided to dig a dining table and benches out of snow, which is where we sat and ate our dinner. The weather was splendid all the way until 9 PM right when we finished dinner. At that point the wind picked up and kept the tents shaking throughout the night.