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From one end of the country to nearly the other in one day. Sam, Drew, Jim, and I landed back in Minneapolis from our trip to Washington with just enough time to pick up our luggage, say goodbye to Jim, and go through security to join all 66 of our River Falls buddies and get on a plane destined for Missoula, Montana. We arrived at our hotels around 9PM with enough time to realize that we had missed the registration for the conference and would have to show up early to register before our 8 AM presentation. All our plans were successful and we stood waiting for eager listeners at the poster session. We had a few people come to talk to us about our work, but as I would come to find out throughout the conference, 8AM is not the time to expect college students to show up and be actively engaged.
I ended up sticking around and attending poster sessions throughout the day and a few oral presentations as well. I really enjoyed the opportunity to talk to other students about their research. There was a huge range of fields being represented, everything from medical advances in the production of RNA to studying possible origins of bird flight. The magnitude of topics was only matched by the student’s enthusiasm for the work they had completed and now were being honored for with the trip to Missoula to show off and discuss with other researching undergrads. While I was often more attracted to the math and physics related posters and sessions, I found that those not in my discipline were more interesting because I learned more while bringing questions that rose in my head into the discussion and really lead to some stimulating ideas for all involved. The stimulation and excitement kept me going back to the conference all three days to get the opportunity to hear from others while expressing my own opinion as well. I am so happy that I was given the opportunity to participate in NCUR this year.
Since I was in the Rockies of Montana I also did not pass up the chance to do a little hiking in the mountains and forests that surround Missoula. Drew and I climbed to the top of the “M” on a hillside above campus on Friday after the sessions were done for the day. On Saturday we had intended to get lunch and head back to work and relax for the rest of the day, but fate had another idea for us. We met up with a new friend Jenny on the stairs outside of the University Center and she asked if we would be interested in doing a little exploring during the afternoon. We said yes and met her a little later to find our way to the Rattlesnake Park that was a little bit out of town. We took a bus out to the road that we had been told the park was on and started to walk what was supposed to be a 15 minute trip. However, after about 20 minutes of hiking with no park in sight we decided that hitchhiking would be a better option. After a few passers a man with a pickup stopped and said that he could give us a ride, so we hoped in back and arrived at the park a little while later. Apparently our original instructions were for driving and not walking.
The park was absolutely beautiful. Large cliffs of shale rose around us in many places where the coniferous trees did not, and the streams were crystal clear, ice cold, and contained the most beautiful colored stones. We walked around for a few hours before heading back. We were lucky to find someone in the parking lot that was willing to give us a ride back towards town. However, we decided to stop at a local vineyard on the way and do a tasting. The young lady who gave us the ride joined us and we had a nice conversation about the area and what we were doing there. The view of the mountains was great and we sat and enjoyed the sun as we talked and sipped. After, we got a ride back to campus with hopes of getting a ride back to the hotel. We met up with a few other River Falls students who were also waiting and after 50 minutes of sitting we determined we would have to get back to the hotel under our own power. Again our estimate of how far we were from our destination was a little too short and we ended up walking for two hours before we conceited defeat and called for Bill Campbell to come and pick us up.
Overall this week of going around to the conferences has been an amazing experience and I feel very privileged to have been chosen to participate in both. Thank you to everyone involved in getting me to these places. Again, I hope everyone is doing well and is having a good week.
Hello again to everyone. Our group is on the way back to Minneapolis at the moment after a busy and productive day on Capitol Hill yesterday.
We started out pretty early, and after a little bit of trouble with the Metro we arrived on Capitol Hill to meet in the Rayburn Building for a little breakfast and a speech from the president of the Smithsonian. He gave a small lecture about what functions the Smithsonian serves, its future plans, and gave thanks to everyone present for our work and commitment to research. After a few words of encouragement from the leader of CUR we were all unleashed onto our respective Senators and Representatives. Afterwards we were joined by William Campbell, Director of Research at River Falls and Treasurer of CUR, and we struck out for a set of five back to back appointments with Senators, Representatives, and their aides.
Our first stop was in the Longworth building to meet with an aide from the office of Representative Paul Ryan. We stressed the importance of Undergraduate Research and the need for continuing support of science in general. Drew, Sam, and I then talked about how the ODEN cruise had affected us personally and what we have done and are doing to spread interest in undergraduate research and science in general to younger generations. After our meeting we walked across the capitol to the Hart building where we had a meeting with Senator Feingold lined up. Getting the chance to meet the Senator personally was a real treat. He was very direct with his questioning and was not afraid to put someone on the spot if he didn’t understand or sensed something was amiss. However, this never came off as an offensive behavior, but showed how interested he was in what we had to talk about. We were very appreciative that the Senator was able to take the time out of his busy schedule to meet with us personally.
Our appointment left us a little pressed for time to make our next meeting with Representative David Obey so we ran back across the capitol to the Rayburn building to meet with an aide from Obey’s office. Things went much the same as they had with the first office plus a few additional questions about IceCube in general because of the aide’s personal interest in the project. Jim arranged to have a few of Obey’s books signed and we were off on our horses again, back across the capitol for a meeting with Senator Kohl in the Hart building. Unfortunately we were unable to get a meeting with the Senator himself but we were able to meet with an aide and convey our message. Finally we walked back to the Longworth building to meet with an aide for Representative Kind. Again the content was much of the same, it is amazing how easy it is to develop a loose pattern and stick to it without actually talking about it explicitly.
After we completed this final meeting we stepped outside the office to talk about our plans before the poster session began a few hours later. As we were standing in the hallway I saw someone I thought that I knew from high school coming towards us. It turned out to be my friend who I had carpooled to high school with from my sophomore year; he had gone to UW-Madison to pursue a degree in political science and was now interning in Kind’s office. I mentioned that we were going to go across to the Library of Congress and he offered to take us through the underground paths between the buildings. It turns out that all the buildings on Capitol Hill are connected through these paths and it was very interesting to get a “behind the scenes” look at a part of the capitol some people never get to see. Unfortunately we did not get to spend much time at the Library of Congress because most of the exhibits were open to private tours only, however the architecture was amazing and the ceilings contained some of the most amazing mosaics I have ever seen.
After a quick bite we returned to the Rayburn building for an awards ceremony and poster session. Sam, Drew, and I had been asked to present an award from the Council on Undergraduate Research to the Director of the National Science Foundation who is retiring from that position this year. After all award recipients were present we moved to the podium and presented the award. I have to say that while I have never been the strongest public speaker, I was happy with my performance in such a prestigious locale and with such a notable crowd. After the presentation we moved back to our poster to find Representative Kind waiting to talk to us and hear about the work that we had been doing. He was thrilled to learn about IceCube and to hear about the success that was coming out of his district. He stayed to ask us questions and talk until his aide informed him that he needed to get to the capitol to vote.
Overall I feel that everyone involved did a wonderful job. We kept the work that we did at a level that anyone could understand while not making our completed task sound like a simple undertaking, and the entire time expressing how important research like this and projects like IceCube are important to individual scientists as well as the public at large. So I encourage you to write your congressmen and senators about the importance of science and getting kids involved in science and research at early stages in their lives. Believe me, they are listening and they do want to know what you are thinking.
For now I hope that you are all well and having a wonderful evening.
Thanks to the success of the ODEN cruise and the significant contribution of undergraduate students to the project, I am blogging to you from Washington, DC. My colleges Samantha Jakel and Drew Anderson, our advisor James Madsen, and I have been invited to Washington, DC to meet with Senators and Congressmen to discuss the importance of undergraduate research. Specifically, the impact on the scientific community, the general public, and the students who get the opportunity to participate.
We arrived Sunday night from Minneapolis and will be in Washington for two days. Unfortunately, right now the President is hosting the Nuclear Summit. As we got instructions on visiting the best sights, a large line was drawn a few blocks away with the instructions to "not go over there unless you want to see what intense security looks like." The idea is that Monday is a tourist day for the students, while the advisers meet with different committees and groups about continuing program support and future ideas. Sam, Drew, and I took the opportunity to check out the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial. Unfortunately I forgot my camera back in Madison, but I am sure that I will be able to get a hold of some pictures from someone along the way.
After our adventures we joined all the participants at the American Chemical Society building for a little dinner and a talk about what to expect/how to act when meeting with our respective politicians. The information was good to hear and has given us all a little bit to think about as we rest and prepare for our big day tomorrow.
That is about all for today, but I am sure that tomorrow will bring lots more to talk about.
Cheers for now,
Rodrigo and I started talking while we were sieving mud once. It was the first time I had helped in the tent with the cores, so I was being apprenticed into the difficult task of searching for shells. I had the hose and was washing down the mud while looking out for thin white colored fragments in the swirling water. As we sorted through the muck Rodrigo would pick out the larger pieces of green, black, and red stone and show them to me with the small magnifying glass that all the geologists wore around their necks.
"Look at that crack." He said as I lifted the rock and eyepiece up to explore.
"You need to put the piece closer to your eye, pretty much all the way to it. Then bring the rock into focus." As I did what he said the world suddenly went dark as I covered the overhead light with my head, turning a little bit I found myself staring at some magnificent specs of white cubes, now enlarged to a much clearer view.
"That's quartz, it says something about how the rock formed and when"
I looked at the vein a little longer and thought about how interesting it was in the light of that tent. Thinking back on my trip, that moment is what comes back to me. It is the best way I can think to describe the wonders of Antarctica. It seems that one day you just come to be aware of something much bigger than all of what you had seen before. The new sights, sounds, and experiences come out of the dark and are there to amaze those that can and do take the opportunity you find in that pristine land. This experience was the most memorable I have ever had the fortune to participate in, and I know that I will remember and talk about it for the rest of my life.
Thank you all for reading, it has truly been my treat to share.
Cheers to all,
Hello again from the south Pacific!
We continue to cruise along, but have increased our speed to 13 knots because of a little weather situation. There are two low pressure systems in the vicinity that will affect our passage through the Drake; one has swells of 6-8 meters, the other has swells that are nearly off the charts (15-20 meters). So, we have been eagerly chasing the smaller storm that is in front of us since my last writing nearly two and a half days ago. This however, has forced me to change my statement from the last post and say that what we have been in for the past few days is my worst experience so far and that we really had not seen anything too bad up till that point, even though it made sleeping difficult. However, at some point we went over an angle that corresponded to the switch from things staying on flat surfaces to things sliding around with relative ease.
The first of it came some time yesterday afternoon when I was sitting watching a movie on my laptop after dinner (which I will discuss later.) I suddenly found myself closer to the other side of the room than my laptop, and everything that was previously placed on the desk fell on the floor (luckily minus all fragile things that I had put away earlier that day, and my laptop with its grip feet). So I quickly secured everything into locking drawers and other stable locations and went back to my business. The only other major shift that has sent me scrambling was the drawers I locked everything in coming unlocked and flying open last night. So I think for now things will stay where they are, especially since we have not been having "slide across the floor while sitting" waves as regularly as this morning. Unfortunately this has me a little bit more worried than relieved.
Ping pong has also come to a halt for the past day, but that is for reasons other than sea related problems... We received a notification on Thursday night that there would a Surströmming party in the ping pong room and we could attend for dinner on Friday night. However, we had to choose between Surströmming or beef brisket with horseradish sauce. For those of you who do not know what Surströmming is, here is a quick explanation. Step 1) Catch some herring. Step 2) Place herring in a barrel or other container. Step 3) Salt herring to a special level that allows for the destruction of bacteria in the herring, BUT! not so much that it stops fermentation process. Step 4) Bury it for a while, 3-4 months. Step 5) Dig it up and package it for consumption. So in the end you have nice tin of sealed "fermented" herring (I prefer the term rotten, I think it does it more justice) that is safe to eat, but has a smell and taste that is quite... unique. So, in hopes that I could describe to you all what this traditional dish from northern Sweden tastes like. I signed up.
As dinner time came on Friday I was a little bit more nervous about my decision. I kept thinking, do I really want to be eating this? But in the end I arrived in the ping pong room at 5:30 sharp and joined the other 20 or so diners that would be indulging that night. The way to eat it is in a roll of sorts, with the idea being to get a large ratio between fish and other ingredients (sour cream, raw onions, cooked onions, butter, and cheese. As we prepared our pita bread we could begin to smell a faint but pungent odor coming from around the corner. Then cans of this wonderful delicacy appeared and things began to get a little stronger.
Generally people take one fish per roll, and they are presented without a head. That is about the only preparation that has been preformed. So it is up to the diner to make whatever other preparations they would like, and that is when the trouble begins. Opening the fish is really what brings out that wonderful fermented flavor locked inside. I decided to stick to the most traditional approach and remove only the bones from my fish, which turned out to be a simple task as the flesh melted around the bone and was easily deposited on the foundation of sour cream I had built up. (I learned later that I was actually lucky as sometimes the flesh goes beyond the "melty" stage into a more soupy form)
I piled on all the other ingredients, rolled up my pita, brought my glass of schnapps into closer reaching distance and braced for impact. However, after a few bites, I found that it was not nearly as bad as it smelled, and while I do not know why someone would want to, it is edible. The after burps though, are really quite devastating, and last well after the fish has gone. All in all it was ok, more of a social tradition than anything I think, and I would eat it again (if you paid me). I have decided to omit the pictures of the fish because it is really not that disgusting to look at.
The pictures for today will be about the current location of the Oden (58° 55.47'S, 077° 33.95'W) and its surrounding weather conditions, as well as an image capturing a good, but not best, roll on Oden. I have to say that at first I thought that whoever designed Oden, did not do so with the open seas in mind. However, I have more recently decided that that should be rephrased to, whoever designed Oden, did not do so with the intention of putting people in it.
I hope you are all doing well at home and just know that while it may seem that I am a little down, I am still having a great time here and am far from downtrodden at this point. Please hope for good weather for us!
We are currently still in transit and should remain so for the next seven or eight days. At the moment we are at 66° 22.65'S, 090° 22.00'W and doing 10 knots with a strong wind coming from the aft. The sun has finally returned, but the sea is swelling pretty bad and I think we are seeing our best rolling thus far on the trip.
The next day we stopped living in the future and dropped back 16 time zones after breakfast for Wednesday (take two). Things were very quiet around the ship, as that is about when the rolling began, and the 8 hour day passed very quickly into the past. So now I sit at my desk at 9 AM, my body is telling me its closer to midnight, and I think I got all of 3 hours of sleep last night. Today is going to be a very good day! In all likelihood I won't make it much past lunch before my bed starts calling to me.
On a more positive note, I learned on Wednesday (take one) that our abstract submission for Posters On The Hill was accepted and that Drew, Samantha, and I will be traveling to Washington D.C. in April to present our poster and experiences to politicians on Capitol Hill.
Other good news is that I have the ability to send pictures again. So what to put up? I think today will be a nice iceberg and the local artist Ville at work capturing some rare Antarctic snap shots. For now, I think that I will step outside and bask in a little bit of sun for now and try to shake off a little of my tired state with the cold. I hope everyone is doing well at home.
Today marks the last working day in Pine Island Bay for this expedition. However, weather conditions have kept the casting core on deck for the past two days, and it does not appear that the winds and waves will subside enough today for any cores to be taken in this location. So in all likely-hood we will begin heading north from 71° 55.20'S, 104° 28.96'W sometime today and begin our journey towards the Drake and back to land, with a small chance of taking some cores on the way at the edge of the continental shelf.
It is really quite amazing how poorly this ship does at sea and with a little bit of weather. She really prefers to attempt to batter the waves rather than cut through them. The jarring that rattles the superstructure can really be something else at times, especially when you are lying in bed and trying to get to sleep.
Big news on board the past few days have been birthdays. One of the oilers, Leif, turned 65 (pension year for Swedes) on Sunday and a large party was thrown in celebration of the occasion. Dancing and singing started early and lasted well into the night. Today one of the geology grad students, Travis, celebrates his birthday, though I do not think there will be as much celebration occurring on account of the movement of the ship.
Also, the ping pong tournament has began to take shape a little bit better, though I have moved to the losers bracket after my first game. However, I believe that my position is better than if I had won because my next opponent is the player who I believe will win the whole thing. So at least this way I will get to play a little bit longer.
That's about it from the Oden right now. As we get farther north and into satellite communication again I will attempt to send a few pictures of what has been going on here the past little bit. Until next time.
First off I would like to say that we are all fine on board. I know that there has been a lot of news about the earthquake in Chile and the resulting tsunami. While we were in the projected path of the tsunami, we were really not in danger because we are sitting in some very deep water at the moment. It passed in the middle of the night without being noticeable and things here continue as they always have.
Other big news for the day was new faces! As I sat working on this post I suddenly heard a strange noise and then saw a helicopter fly by the window of our lab. It turns out a German research vessel has been in the area and today three graduate students from that expedition came over by helicopter for coffee and a tour of the ship. (We also sent over a greeting party, but it consisted of all of our PI's for the expedition.) Matthias and I took a break from our vital work and sat in the galley while they talked about the success of the expeditions thus far and exchanged information about the geological work they have been doing with our local geologists. It was a refreshing break of pace and beneficial for both parties.
We are down to our last few working days in Pine Island Bay and projects whose work is dependent on our location have been working overtime to squeeze ever drop of time out of what we have left. I have still been focusing on helping the geologists process their cores and so far the results are good. With the samples taken thus far, the amount of datable material and geologic information for this area has nearly tripled. And while I am still not very useful when it comes to finding shells, I have picked up on nearly all the other procedures that go into processing a core. I will be back to the mud after lunch as usual.
The inevitable departure from Antarctica has really brought a sense of urgency into my time too. Just knowing that soon there will not be any icebergs the size of small cities (or at all!) drifting by makes me want to immortalize these images in my head so that there is no chance they will be forgotten. Everything here is so special and unique, but being immersed in it sometimes leads to a loss of the true magnitude of it all. I try and remember this as much as I can and have been spending extra amounts of time on deck looking and remembering that each piece of ice is unique and magnificent and that soon this will all be gone and a memory. For now I am going to do a little bit of statistics and then get ready to work in the mud. I hope everyone at home is doing well.
Cheers for now!
Well, glacier actually, but it is as close as I have seen in a while so it will suffice nicely. The seas returned to a few meter swells yesterday and the weather outlook said that it would continue in that fashion for a while. So instead of twiddling our thumbs while we waited for the weather to subside, we headed for the shelter of the fjord that we sit in now (73° 21.85'S, 101° 51.35'W).
The trip in yesterday was breathtaking. After being through fields of ice in the more open bay, many people swore they would never take another picture of an ice berg. However the sky had a perfect mixture of dynamic low level clouds and a slight haze in the upper atmosphere that created a spectacular set of colors and made great contrast with the unnaturally blue ice coming off the glacier (it is always amazing to think that this color is actually one of the most natural and pristine things I have ever seen). I wish I could send you all some pictures, but our internet situation has been deteriorating with our recent movement.
Also with the return of ice fields and bergs, has been the wildlife. The little Adeles seem to enjoy the most obscure locations to sit on icebergs. Lately I have been seeing them standing at the peak of pieces with sharp slopes and can only stand and wonder exactly how they managed to get up there. All I can really say about it is that they are surely safe from all predators in such locations.
On board the ship life is continuing as normal. The geologists have been busy taking cores and I am sure they will be backlogged when I get down to help them after lunch. I am getting better at finding shell-like material, but I still have an obscure fascination with chips of whiteish-green quarts that I think look a heck of a lot like shell fragments. Maybe today will be better.
Matthias gave a very nice talk about neutrino physics and IceCube last night in the galley. As usual the “explanation” left most people with more questions than answers (Not that it was poorly presented, just that it is the nature of the business). I limited myself to one question, about neutrino oscillation, and still managed to receive a look of “you really had to bring that up now”. I was also informed that if another presentation is required from our group, then it is my turn to step up to the plate…
Still no ping pong action, though the brackets have been up for a few days now. It is pretty amazing that I have not seen my competitor since he showed up to tell me that I was in for trouble two days ago. Probably once work related issues calm down the competition will begin.
For now I am off to enjoy lunch (followed by pea soup and pancakes tonight!). I hope that everyone is doing well and enjoying the entry of spring at home. I can’t wait to see green again.
Life on the boat is pretty much the same as always. Our computers continue to run with few problems since we solved the small problem earlier this week. The wind has let up, but has been replaced by some dense fog making ice watching very hard. However, the decrease in drifting has let the other scientist go back out and begin to work again. The geologists have found the wedge on the ocean floor that they were looking for that indicates the location and direction of the glacier expansion out to the edge of the continental shelf and have been getting long cores that contain layers from many distinct geological periods, as well as abundant amounts of life and datable material. It is nice to see smiles on everyone's faces again, and while they now work constantly, they seem to be a lot more satisfied with abundant amounts of productive work as compared to what they had before.
Only other big news for the moment is the start of the ping pong tournament today. Lots of good competition ahead and I will begin my run for the top spot against the ships computer technician, hopefully my emails will continue to make it out if I beat him...
That is all for now. I hope all is well at home.
The storm continues to rage around the Oden, but it seems to have lost some force in the later hours of the day/early night. Once again coring operations were not possible because a steady position cannot be held when waves nearly reach the level of the deck! Even so I think I have gained some sea legs; as I am not wearing a patch this time around and have not had a lack of appetite or nausea, yet. However, the pitch and roll of the ship makes darts and ping pong very interesting and sleeping gains a new dimension as well.
Today was very relaxed, and I took the opportunity to think about the time I have spent on the boat so far. The sights and new experiences have been great so far, and even a bit overwhelming at times, but it has all been more than I expected when I step out of my door one Monday three weeks ago. I was talking about these things with one of the PI's on board (Lars-Anders Hansson) while in the sauna tonight and we got into an interesting conversation about one of the things that has startled me the most recently, periodic traditions.
Before I left I did not consider the importance of having something to mark the time on board. I figured that time would just take care of itself and soon enough I would be home again. Even when I got onto the ship I was able to neglect it at first. Dressing up for dinners on Saturdays and eating navy pea soup and pancakes every Thursday seemed to be an odd and unnecessary idea. But it is not that simple. Sitting down to eat with the same people for three meals a day for a few weeks, without seeing anyone else regardless of where you go, can get a little tiring after a while. Even trying to escape is not always useful, the vastness of the blue sea can be very inspiring and relaxing at times, but sometimes it is just overwhelming and trapping.
For a little while, I struggled with this new setting. And then it started to come to me. In a place where it is light nearly any time you go outside, how do you mark the end of your day? Take a nice sauna and relax. When weekends disappear to the endless work cycle of collecting data how do you tell what day of the week it really is? Make certain days special. It is truly amazing how little things like this help your mind to cope, and now I find myself dressing in my best for Saturday dinner and getting back in line for a second round of pea soup and pancakes. I have really enjoyed all my time so far, and now I am sure that I will be able to continue unabated for the rest of the trip.
Hopefully the weather will clear soon so we have work again. But for now, I will simply continue to enjoy the real and imaginary forces acting upon my body and reminisce on what has come to pass.
For now, cheers all.
Life in Pine Island Bay has been gaining a little bit of steam the past few days. We have had a few days of amazing weather, water calmer than a small lake, and good temperatures with no wind. This has lead to a flurry of activity with all the other scientists on board. The glacial geologists have gotten some good cores and found some date-able material last night, the biologists have collected enough specimens to begin testing their hypothesis about how UV light affects pigmentation of their microscopic krill, and the oceanographer has been getting lots of promising data about warm deep water, part of the mechanism that leads to the retreat of glaciers and ice sheets.
Because of the flurry of work, yesterday was take your astrophysicist to work day. Matthias went to the front deck and helped with the deployment of water sampling equipment while I kept to the aft deck with the geologists. I helped sieve samples and look for shell pieces, for dating. Overall it was informative, and I got to look at some very interesting rocks, though I cannot say I shared the same passion for dirt as my coworkers. After the processing of the first core there were some technical difficulties and I got reassigned to help out the cruise director, Sven, in cleaning some tools that had been exposed to salt water during Drew and Matthias leg.
Overall we have been having a very productive time here, which is good because the seas are rolling again, meaning we cannot take any scientific data. At the moment things are pretty gentle, just a few degrees roll, but it is enough. Our data acquisition system has been running into problems more frequently than before, but we think that we have fixed the problem. Just need to keep a close watch on it for the next day or two.
Cheers for now, sorry still no good internet. Hope everyone is well.
At the moment we are still combing the ocean floor for good sediments to look at; apparently with this new technology on board (called multi-beam and chirp) the geologists prefer to take fewer and more quality cores rather than many less ideal ones. As for our experiment, I backed up the data this morning and everything is still running well. (Quite amazing compared to the run of bad luck experience at the very beginning of our venture. Everyone please keep your fingers crossed for continued success.)
Sounds like we will have good weather for at least today and tomorrow and will stick to the open ocean of outer Pine Island Bay for as long as we can looking for good sediments in this less explored region. However a storm will be coming our way soon and we will have to make our way towards the relative safety of the inner bay when, hopefully before, it hits.
Hope everyone is well back home!
Life at the bottom of the world is still pretty slow at this point. We encountered some heavy fog on Sunday morning that lingered until just this morning (Tuesday). Because of that the traveling speed had to be cut from our usual blistering pace of 10 knots to around 6-7 knots, depending on how far we could see. That put us a bit behind in reaching Pine Island Bay but really just meant that everyone on board got another day of relaxation.
It was actually very interesting to observe the Captain as he watched for and avoided big pieces of ice coming out of the fog. At one point we passed a single berg that was about 2 miles long and reached under the water about 280 meters. It was very surreal and unnerving though because we encountered it in the middle of the night during some heavy fog and it formed a wall of ice on one side that stretched as far as you could see on both sides yet we needed to remain very close to it so the ships sonar specialists could attempt to determine its depth and structure. Today we are back to beautiful weather though.
Our current location is 72° 34.53'S 114° 27.95'W and we have clear skies, low wind, and temps in the 30's. Making it a great day to stop and get a few test cores. The first was taken just before lunch and showed that there was only half a foot of sediment above the bedrock meaning we need to move farther east. Now we are on the move again to wherever they think they will find thicker sediments. Unfortunately Matthias and I have been kindly asked to wait till later, when more help will be needed, to get our pants dirty. (Because there is a limited amount of work during these practice runs and since most of the coring crew has never done coring) So for now we are still just taking care of the Data Acquisition (which continues to perform beautifully) and watching for wildlife and more breath taking bergs.
On an unrelated side note, I have been sending out emails to everyone on board to collect together all of the URL's for bloggers on this trip. Some are in Swedish (though you can just use google translate to read them) and some are just photo blogs. Regardless, I figured it would benefit everyone to have a more broad view of the happenings of the ship. So here is the list of links for your viewing pleasure.
Hope you all enjoy. For now I think I am going to go outside and work on my tan : )
Hello again everyone,
Sorry about the lack of post yesterday, the ship took a pretty hard one two punch that kept most of us in bed for the day. There will be more on that when I get to that part of the update.
Matthias and I found the ping pong table on Thursday afternoon and have been practicing and taking on many challengers on the ship. So far it has all been in good fun and in smooth seas, but I heard that there will be a tournament soon, and that the seas would be getting a little rougher someday soon. (They actually did on Saturday morning)
That night I attended a presentation about some secrets of the Oden, mostly it was about the different roles it has played in the past and what it could be outfitted for if need be. It turns out that Oden was originally designed to double as a mine laying ship with 4 locations for 50 calibers on the 4th deck, 2 smaller 30 calibers on top of the bridge, and two mine laying rails along the sides. If the Oden were fully decked out for battle it would be one of the most heavily armed ships in the Swedish Navy (slightly ridiculous if you ask me). Luckily the Oden has never seen any of these mounts put on and probably will never need to. Other than that the boat mostly serves as a government icebreaker and scientific vessel, keeping ports clear and scientists happy.
It really has been doing a great job with the later. The cooks on board are always preparing something delicious for everyone, and on Friday night we had a formal party to celebrate the (hopefully) successful cruise. (So far so good with the data acquisition system, though we had to restart it last night) We started with wine in the bar and then transitioned to a very nice three course dinner with lots of schnapps toasts all around. It was a very good traditional Swedish affair and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves quite a bit.
After desert was cleared away everyone transitioned back into the bar where the full liquor supply had appeared (usually it is hidden to keep the crew a little more straight and narrow). Everyone had a great time and we had all retired by a reasonable time. However, at some point in the night we got into some long waves and the boat had taken to rocking about 10 degrees at most. However, when you already are struggling to keep things under control the constant rolling of a ship will not spare you any mercy. Even when I attended lunch the crowd was a bit thin and there are still a few people I have not seen yet at this point. So all in all, it was not the best of situations, but we had a really great time getting there.
Only other really big event on ship lately has been the "sunsets". While it has not yet gotten dark the sun is really trying for it. The past few days the sun has dipped down to graze the horizon from about 10P-2A and has been making some very beautiful and colorful sunsets and really enhancing the blue in the bergs that are floating by. I will include a few pictures of them to give an idea of how they appear.
For now we are still in the open seas (71° 51.32'S, 134° 32.69'W) but will get into Pine Island Bay soon where we will again encounter a little bit of ice and then probably have to start breaking through some thick sheets to get to where we will do our coring and sonar surveying of the ocean bed. From what I hear we will begin coring tomorrow and will be doing it non-stop for a week at least.
For now I will leave you all with a smile and some nice colorful pictures.
Just a quick word or two again today. We are in transit again after an afternoon and early morning mooring session. During my down time last night I attended a movie about the people that exist at the end of the world, McMurdo station, that was done a few years ago. It was very good and portrayed a pretty true picture of the diverse and interesting situations you can hear about if you take the time to talk to the "locals". As was said in the movie, there are a lot of PhD's down here scrubbing toilets just for the experience that the end of the world has to offer. Not so much on the Oden though. Most people here have not given up the dream of higher education, and even among the crew many of them are still continuing education when they are not at sea.
After the movie was over, and I talked to my fellow attendees about what we had seen and the impact it had on us, I donned on my one hour jumpsuit (one hour being the amount of time you could survive in 3 degree Celsius water. So, more like a 45 minute suit since the water temperature remains a balmy -2 degrees Celsius) and headed outside to see if I could find any work. The sun was still shining behind some clouds even though it was 11PM. That is one part that I really do enjoy, no matter how tired or gloomy the inside of the ship may seem, all you need to do is step outside into cold air and sunshine and you are pretty well woken up at that point.
I found a group of people gathered around two biologists taking water samples to determine how UV radiation and predation affect krill pigmentation in the Antarctic. I was asked to be the photographer for the session and handed my measly Nikon D40 off to my friend Becky for an upgrade to a much nicer D8000. I rather enjoyed the process and enjoyed test driving my hand held Lamborghini. Upon collection of the final sample, and resumption of our sailing I went to search out the sauna for a well deserved warm up.
That is about all that has happened recently. We currently have nice weather again and appear to be passing through an ice-field. More than likely not a lot will happen science wise today because we have a few days transit to Pine Island Bay where the coring will begin, though I hear we will do a test coring today if we can find a big enough piece of ice to dock against for a while.
Until next time,
Today will be rather short I think, since not a lot has happened.
We have been passing through areas that range from dense but thin sea ice to large icebergs that dwarf the ship in length and height. It is interesting to sit at the bridge and watch the captain navigate through the “path of least resistance” through particularly rough spots. Amazingly it is not passing through the ice that causes the most shaking and rolling for the ship, but passing through waves only a few meters high. The front of the boat really acts like a ram in situations like this and absorbs a lot of energy from the oncoming waves.
So far the worst weather came while we were working on the deck yesterday. The coring group onboard decided that they would put the canvas siding on the frame of their tent on the aft deck while the winds howled at 50 mph and 2-3 meter seas battered the ship periodically. The canvas really only stood to make a good sail once you got some wind under it and caused a mess as we tried to properly attach it. Eventually we had to have people, Matthias, Rodrigo, and I, climb the 12 foot scaffolding to get things going in the correct direction. Ironically at about that time I learned that our instructions consisted of a single picture of the tent set up from last year. Three hours later we had one side up and took afternoon coffee. Luckily we gained good insight into how the other side and roof should go up and
So far today there has been no extra work so I have been spending time watching passing bergs and the assembly of the soon to be deployed mooring line. That is about all to report from the Oden today. I hope everyone is well back home.
Icebergs dead ahead and all around
At the moment we have struck out from McMurdo a ways into the open seas and the major events outside at this point are the large icebergs that drift slowly past. They are an impressive sight to see, and come in all shapes and sizes. For today’s pictures I will have a size comparison so that you can get an idea of how big they really are. I took this last night right before bed. Matthias and I were snapping a few shots and I zoomed in on the picture I had just taken to find that there were little Adele Penguins sitting on the berg that you could not see with your eyes. The first one is taken with my zoom lens all the way in and the second is a crop of the first so you can more clearly see the penguins.
Of all the animals I have seen thus far the little Adele is by far my favorite. As we were leaving McMurdo yesterday we had to break some pack ice to get out into the ocean. There was a group of us sitting and watching for wildlife, there were actually a number of Orcas in the area as well. As you approached a group of Adele they seemed to pay the ship no mind until it was too close to ignore any more. Then, one of them made a motion and they all went scampering off the far side of the ice like mad. It really surprised me how quickly they can walk, and how quickly they must swim; because, on a few occasions they would jump back up onto the ice they had abandoned. Apparently to see if the ship was gone or something, only to find that the ship was still there and then make a quick turn and go back into the sea. The other part that really gets me is that when they come out of the water, often enough they will land on their feet, not their bellies. As you can tell I really do enjoy watching them, and if it were legal, I would totally be bringing back a flock to live in Wisconsin (I think they would rather enjoy it up there since the weather is so similar.)
So far the temperature has not been too bad at all, I would guess that when it is nice and sunny the temperature remains somewhere just above freezing. However, since the wind is always blowing at about 40 mph or so the wind chill really gets to you. Luckily you can generally just pick the side of the boat that is not in the wind and it is actually pretty nice to just sit outside and take it all in. So far the whole experience has been great. The data acquisition is mostly taking care of itself, everyone on board has been very nice, the food is better than what I would get at a nice restaurant at home, and even the rocking of the boat in the open seas is relaxing and reassuring at this point (No bad weather so far, keep your fingers crossed please).
That is all for recent news really. We did have a very busy time while we were docked in McMurdo with all the loading and unloading and touristy kinds of stuff to do. We got in just after lunch on Sunday. Matthias and I took a route straight through town to the base of Observation Hill, it is not a mountain or anything by any means, but it is by far the largest thing that I have ever climbed in my life (and probably the most fun too). We made it to the top in about 40 minutes with a few brief stops along the way and what a view! We got lucky that day because the clouds had cleared away completely and we had a wonderful view of everything. Truly breathtaking.
We decided that we would make our way to the Kiwi (New Zealand) base first and proceeded to take a little bit less traveled, and a lot steeper, path down the other side of the hill. Then a walk around the base of the hill to the main road between the two bases. We ended up hitching a ride about half way between them. Unfortunately you are only allowed to visit the gift shop if you do not have an invitation to be there, but it was nice all the same. Actually I had a great time because they had knives for sale and I was in desperate need of one since mine was lost when I went through security in Minneapolis. So now I get to carry a knife from Antarctica wherever I go.
I left a little bit ahead of everyone else and caught a ride back to McMurdo to search out a friend I had met on the plane ride down from the States. He is a winter-over cook there and I needed to convince him to cook me up a good cheeseburger and fries before I don’t see anything like that for a month and a half. We had a nice chat and then I wandered back to the boat to help with the loading of supplies and setting up of labs.
We left sometime just after the end of the Super Bowl yesterday and it looks like today will be very lazy. Everything is tied down and not much work will be going on. Maybe I will get a tour of the engine room today, I am not sure. I think I will go outside and see if I can find anything to do after I take coffee.
Hey everyone! Not a lot has happened since my last post, but I will give a quick update.
Outside is still amazing as ever. The sun came back out today and the wind has calmed down, so I decided to go outside and enjoy the wildlife and scenery. I think I was out for about 2 hours and saw 1 emperor, 10 seals, a few flocks adele, and a minke whale. Plus Mount Arebus came out from behind the clouds and I got a few good pictures of it spewing ash into the sky. After a while though, I had to come inside and leave the outdoors alone so I could let my fingers warm up and tell you all about it.
Last night all the project leads gave presentations about the mission of their experiments while we are on the cruise. It was all very interesting, but it seems that it is very focused on the retreat of the glaciers over the past 100 years and if there is an extreme situation occurring in Antarctica. Matthias and I also put together a presentation on IceCube and the purpose of our experiment on the boat. Matthias presented and I think everyone was very impressed and a bit awed about it. I know I got a lot of questions, while we were at the bar later in the evening, from everyone.
Today we are leading the ship out of the channel that we have breaking for the past little bit and then heading back to McMurdo to get our supplies and equipment and to spend a little bit of time on land before we take off. Should be a good time, and I will be sure to get some good pictures and try to talk to people living there.
For now I am going to go check out the labs of the other scientists and see if anyone needs help. I hope you are all enjoying your weekend. If you have any questions you can email Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will try to get them to me so I can answer them for you.
Hello from Antarctica today. I am actually writing this as I sit in the airplane somewhere over the mountains in Antarctica. I feel so lucky right now, as does everyone on the plane I am sure. We all had a pretty short night at the dux delux last night. I think most of us were in bed by 10pm. Thankfully, my bags arrived during the night as well. Our original departure time was 4am, but we got two calls from the polar program changing the time. The first one moved our departure time back to 7am, and the second moved it back up to 5 am.
After a little bit of grogginess, some ginseng (to help wake up in the absence of coffee), and a tooth brushing I joined everyone on a trip to the clothing distribution center. We were instructed to put on all of our clothing (way too hot) and proceed to the baggage check in. After a short stand in line I was instructed to wait in a seating area for everyone else. Martin and I snacked on our breakfasts provided by the hotel and chatted. I also finally met Matthias this morning. Turns out he was around most of the time; I just never realized he was with us. Hopefully I will get a chance to talk with him more once we land because we got cut short by a presentation on safety in Antarctica.
After that we were shuttled to our awaiting C-17 and prepared for takeoff. The ride so far has not been very comfortable. I slept for about an hour and then awoke with a headache, but the view out the windows is amazing. I am sure that I will be including at least one picture of the mountains or ice flows that we have been passing over. We should be landing soon. I will write more when I get a chance. This is all so exciting.
We have finally arrived at McMurdo station. Turns out there is a hour and a half bus ride involved with getting from the air strip to the station itself. During the ride we saw an emperor penguin; though someone said it was plastic, and some seals, though I was too far away to say what kind they were. Now half of the crew has taken a "taxi", also known as a hagglin, out to the Oden and the rest of us are waiting in the mess and enjoying some coffee. For the record, it is no colder here than the day I left.
We finally arrived on the Oden! Lots of things to do and see now (I actually have seen seals, adele and emperor penguins, and Orcas within an hour of being on the ship). At this point we will be sticking around McMurdo until Monday night. It is so nice to be able to step outside and look out onto the ice as we continue to clear the channel for the soon to depart cargo ship.
First thing was to get situated in our rooms. Matthias and I are rooming together in the Royal Suite (where the King and Queen room when they come on board). The room is nice and everything is tied down in case major “shifts” happen. The only down side so far has been that a cabinet that fell while Drew and Matthias were on in the English Channel was not completely fixed and now makes loud banging noises when we run into large chunks of ice. I ended up stuffing a towel in it last night for a temporary fix so that I could sleep, and now have put some more permanent padding in to prevent the problem.
After unpacking we joined everyone else for a wonderful dinner of beef stew and pizza, and a quick briefing on ship conduct, everything seems to be pretty common sense and curtsey. Matthias and I have began monitoring the computers, but the system seems very self sufficient, except for a problem with the UPC (battery backup power supply) this morning, though it seemed to fix itself after a little bit of down time. The only error that the system will not fix is a java error that writes empty files. We keep popping in every few hours to make sure that the data is good, but other than our morning routine it looks like we will be able to assist other projects once they get underway. Today we have been occupied with preparing a presentation to give to the rest of the crew to explain IceCube and our part on the ship.
Other interesting things to note; it is much colder today. About 5 degrees Fahrenheit and winds around 35-45 mph. It has made going outside a little bit tougher, but people keep coming and saying that they have been seeing whales and penguins so it is not yet enough to dampen people’s sense of adventure.
That is about it for today. We have a muster drill soon that I should be prepared for because we will be learning how to put on our survival suits. Later tonight we will get around to our presentations. Hope it goes well, though it only needs to be a few minutes long.
Until next time, cheers.
Hello again. I am back and well rested, I think I may have fallen off the bed if I stayed up much longer last night. I would like to send my thanks to Jim today for recommending this great place, and a superb breakfast. I am so sad that I have to be up and out of the hotel at 4am tomorrow, and will miss having it a second time.
We also received instructions on how the check in process will go for the flight tomorrow. We get checked baggage up to 150 lbs and a carry on, as well as what’s called a boomerang bag for a change of clothes. The idea being that if we get turned back and they hold our bags, which they would, we at least have some clothes to change into for the next day. Overall it was an overwhelming and scary time. There are a lot of parts that can go wrong and mean you are missing something when you get to the ice. However, I think I understood it all and should arrive just fine with the help of my new friends.
After that we boarded for a short and uneventful flight to LAX. At this point Russel and I were joined by most of the cooking staff for McMurdo's winter and they all seemed to share his enthusiasm for the Oden. It seems that the ship is of something a little bit more than a hull and some engines around that part of the world; as it allows nearly all of the supplies for living on Antarctica to enter the harbor in McMurdo each year. The flight to Sydney was also uneventful, though far too long for my taste; about 14 hours of flight time. I worked on Electricity and Magnetism and got some well deserved "vertical" sleep.
We arrived into Sydney around 6am local time and had to make a run through security and the terminal to make our flight to Christchurch. However, as we would all find out upon our arrival, our checked bags did not run as quickly as we did and all United States Antarctic Personnel on the flight arrived in New Zealand without any checked luggage. Hopefully it will all be there when we go for clothing distribution tomorrow. After clearing customs I found my shuttle and half of the scientific crew for the Oden with it. Many of the scientific crew are Swedish and, except for a Canadian, they all have to keep in mind that we can't understand them. Luckily almost all Swedes know English. They all are very nice and are staying in the Windsor B & B Hotel with me.
After a quick break we all went out to get dinner, drinks, and socialization. Everyone seems very nice and I can't wait to get to know them better. However, for now I have to say goodbye. The bed I am sitting on and typing is offering some very tempting "horizontal" sleep that I don't think I can resist much longer. I will hopefully have time to write tomorrow and supply some more pictures of this beautiful place. Until tomorrow, adios.
Today is the last day of this trip to Sweden and Samantha's and my training. We have spend a lot of time over the past few days hammering out details of checks, rechecks, back up procedures, mailing procedures, calibrations, thresholds, run times, recording rates, pretty much anything and everything that could happen. Serap and Paul are both very happy with the work that has been completed so far and feel that things should go smoothly in the next few days as the other students and workers arrive to prepare for the actual launching of the ship. Samantha and I took the day off to enjoy the city and the sun, which finally decided to peak its head out from behind the clouds. Now it is time to pack and get some rest before heading to the Copenhagen airport in the middle of the night! I will end this with a collection of some pictures I have taken this week that I have been saving for a special occasion. I believe that time is now. Please enjoy. The night shots where taken off the boat in the shipping yard, and the day shots are from in and around the medieval fortress Kärnan.
Today was day three at work on the Oden. It has been cold and wet for the past few days so the warmth of the computer room is always something to look forward to. Serap's cables arrived yesterday so the IceTop tank complete with working DOMs is now taking data and getting some final tweaks before we determine the run matrices for the voyage. Hopefully Paul's H-3 detectors will arrive and be installed on Friday so we can get some experience with those as well before we have to head back. Serap and I have spent the past two days debugging and rewriting python scripts designed to extract basic information about hit rates, thresh-hold and high voltage levels, temperature, and pressure from the DOMs. Together we have gotten everything in a format so Paul can write a program to create summaries for all the information obtained daily so it can be emailed from the ship during the voyage. As far as major technical work that has been about the extent of it aside from a major cleaning of the DomHub by Sam.
On a less technical side of things the crew seems to be used to our presence on the ship now, since we are the only scientist present, and is interested in our work. I think it's just because they want to use our ice for their drinks once we finish with it, but I will take anything to be on better terms with those big guys. Also, we went on a tour of the upper levels of the ship from the second mate on hand, though I cannot recall his name at this time, and it is as impressive inside as it is out.
The bridge of the ship is quite amazing and up to date. There are two types of sonar on the ship for viewing the ocean and the ocean floor. One is a fast scanning type that returns images of the sea floor up to 2km below the ship. The second is even more impressive, it scans into the ocean floor up to 200 meters below the surface. Here are a few pictures of the bridge
Most of the equipment was turned off as the ship is now at dock, but I can imagine it will be a very active place once the cruise gets under way, and especially once the ice breaking begins.
Other than that the ship included the sorts of things needed for day to day living. Laundromats, kitchen, lots of cabins, conference rooms, exercise room. And of course.
Overall it was a good and informative tour and I can only hope I will remember a quarter of it so I can get around on my first day when it actually comes time to take my ride.
On the same day we got to meet a group of NSF and Swedish Polar Research dignitaries that were on the boat getting tours and learning about the projects that will be occurring during the research portion of the voyage from McMurdo to Punta Arenas. We opened up the freezer container to let them have a peak at our very "cool" experiment then took them inside to our computer room to warm up and give an explanation of the purpose of the experiment as well as an overview of the equipment present in the room.
They seemed impressed and pleased about everything we had to say, which in turn made us very happy.
I think that is about the extent of my news over the past few days. I will leave you with a few pictures of the boat and the freezer container this time. I hope everyone is doing well and I can't wait to see you all again soon!
Samantha and I successfully arrived in Helsingborg yesterday after meeting Serap and Paul in Copenhagen. The travel was smooth and we all seem to be over our jet lag already. We got in contact with the crew from the Oden this morning and went out to see it for the first time today. (It is docked here) It is very impressive and massive. Sorry for the lack of pictures, but I forgot my memory card for my camera in my computer when we went. I will be sure to include some in my next post.
"Don't fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have."