ARMADA logo ARMADA Project -- Research and Mentoring Experiences for Teachers National Science Foundation logo


Journals 2007/2008

Megan O'Neill
Fairhope High School, Fairhope, Alabama

"The development of an Arctic ice stream dominated sedimentary system, the southern Svalbard Continental Margin (SVAIS)"
Spanish Research Vessel,
B.I.O Hesperides
July 29 - August 17, 2007
Journal Index:
July 25,26,27 - 28 - 29 - 30 - 31
August 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9
           10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16
           17 - 18

Additional Resources

August 14, 2007
Tuesday/Martes: Questions from Students

My students started school last week at Fairhope High School in Fairhope, Alabama. My substitute, Mrs. Garrick, and Marine Science Teacher, Stephany Hannon, have been keeping them up to date with my journal entries. Following are some questions that they sent for me to answer. Several of them I will have to further explain with photos when I return, but will do my best for now! I look forward to meeting those of you that I don't know yet!

  • London Bicker - What kind of dolphins did you see?
    White Beaked Dolphins - they are very beautiful with white, gray and black markings and different than the plain gray ones we are accustomed to in the Gulf of Mexico.

  • Eric Farmer - How does it feel to be so far away from home?
    It is amazing to realize just how far away I am and very exciting. This is by far the farthest that I have ever been from home. It really is fantastic to see different parts of the world to be able to better relate to people and the global world that we live in. I love meeting new people, finding out about other places and seeing different sights. Especially large mountains as there were in the town where I landed, Longyearbyen. It is so very different than the area where we live and gives a greater understanding of the wonders of geology when you can see it all around you.

  • Kristine McMillan - Is this for points? What do you enjoy most? Do you miss us? What do you miss the most since you have been gone? What is the coldest it has gotten since you have been there?
    Always tackle every assignment as if it was for "points" and you will be successful throughout life (especially in my class!).
    I really enjoy learning about the scientific work that is being done and the Spanish culture. It has been a treat to be able to learn so much above and beyond the science part! It helps me to appreciate the fact that people are essentially the same everywhere you go on the planet and have so much in common.
    Of course, and I cannot wait to meet you!
    I am missing fresh, local vegetables and running on land the most! I have been working out on a stationary bike and a treadmill, which I am thankful for, but am ready to actually move while I exercise! I am NOT missing the heat at all! I have heard reports of how the heat index has been over 100 degrees Fahrenheit! Yikes!
    The coldest it has been has only been around 7 degrees Celsius (an easy way to convert to Fahrenheit is to double this number and add 32 - so about 46 degrees F). It is usually warmer and actually does not feel that cold - there is low humidity and I have lots of warm gear to keep me warm. It is all about the gear for being prepared!

  • BJ Stallworth - How many plant species do you have on board?
    Only one that I know of in the area we call the lounge - which is where there is a small kitchen and couches for relaxing, reading and napping! The plant is just a typical houseplant that is grows along a vine - Mrs. Hannon will be able to name it I am sure - she is very knowledgeable about plants, more than I!

  • Cierra Bosby - Are you having a fun and exciting time? I always wanted to go there and see how pretty it is.
    Absolutely - it is the chance of a lifetime! I will share many photographs with you when I return so you can appreciate just how beautiful it is!

  • Bryce Toifel - What is a zodiac boat?
    Giovanna Hano - What is a zodiac boat? Have you seen any other animals besides dolphins?
    Angel Simmons - What does a zodiac boat look like?

    Obviously you guys are all sitting together! Zero points for originality! Still a good question about the "zodiac boats" for whoever thought of it first! :) A Zodiac boat is actually a rubberized, inflatable boat that has an outboard motor used for transporting things back and forth to the shore from large ships that cannot go into shallow waters. "Zodiac" is the brand name, like "Xerox" for copy machines and "Kleenex" for tissues. I have great photos of these boats that I will show you! Angel - Yes, I have seen different sea birds and many whales and reindeer (while I was on land, which I have not seen for approximately 2 weeks!)

  • Roland Winkles - What is the most interesting thing that you have eaten?
    The most interesting thing is by far the squid cooked in the black ink that it produces. Otherwise food has been fairly similar to what we have at home - lots of seafood, potatoes, rice, salad, fruit and a yummy Spanish dessert - "flan" which is made of mostly eggs and sugar.

  • Josh Simon - Have you seen any penguins yet?
    Good question -This is a common misconception that a wise scientist here, Toni Calafat, believe was started when French scientists first traveled to the Arctic many years ago and described a bird that is now extinct in the Arctic as a "penguin". Then when explorers traveled to Antarctica at the South Pole, they described a similar bird as a "penguin", which still exists there and a movie was made about a couple of years ago, The March of the Penguins, which I love. I actually believe that our culture gets it confused because of a Coca Cola commercial that used to run around Christmas that had a cartoon of polar bears and penguins ice skating together! - These two species actually exist on opposite ends of our planet - Remember - Polar Bears in the Arctic (North Pole) and Penguins in Antarctica (South Pole)
    However, there are some birds up here that are called Puffins that I am anxious to see and will let you know if I do!

  • Trent Unknown - Have you seen a polar bear yet?
    Not a live one yet, but I would REALLY love to! There are several stuffed ones in the hotel where I stayed in Longyearbyen. I will take a picture for sure if I see a live one and share it with you!

  • Lance Norwood - How have the people been treating you?
    The people have been extraordinarily nice! Everyone has been so accommodating especially communicating with me, as I only know a little Spanish and a few on board don't know any English! It has been fun for me to learn as much Spanish as I have. I took a short course this summer before I left on Conversational Spanish at Faulkner, but that only gets me so far! I hope to study the language more when I return - I think that Spanish is a very useful language globally! I am sure that Seņora Skidmore will attest to this! The high school teacher from Spain, Catalina Sureda, that is here with me also took an intensive English course before our trip here and has helped me immensely. We are currently working together on a project to make a presentation of our expedition and all of the things the scientists are working on. Our whole group has become one big family by spending so much time together, which has been very special. It seems as if there is constant entertainment even without tv and internet - so refreshing! (this may be hard for many of you to imagine!)

  • Jessica Nelson - How is it being around so many scientists and seeing everything that goes on? Are you seeing a lot of new places?
    It is fascinating to be around so many scientists and see all of the equipment that they use. I am constantly impressed with the problem solving that they do when something goes wrong with the computer software or the equipment. They are brilliant! It makes me relieved to think that these people are studying our planet to find solutions to issues that affect our lives in one way or another!
    As far as new places, I have to say no. Since we left port on July 29th, we have only seen the wide, blue ocean all around. However, it is still beautiful because the sky seems to change often with the cloud cover and the sun that peeks through every now and then!

  • Zach Taylor - Anything you didn't like when you have been gone? Or like been scared at all?
    Honestly, I cannot think of anything that I have not liked. It has all been part of the experience! Some students asked before I left if I was scared to travel all alone so far away to a place where I did not know anyone? My response still is no - while you are traveling, you just have to be aware of your surroundings and have a plan before you leave and hope that it goes as planned and when it doesn't adjust the best that you can. Fortunately, my parents enjoy traveling, so I grew up experiencing and enjoying new places and continue to do so. I also had contact with the people via e-mail that I would be meeting, so I was comfortable that it would be fine once I met up with them! I was right!

  • Dominique Jones - Did you enjoy your time there and what's something exciting that you did or experienced?
    I have absolutely enjoyed my time here. It has been phenomenal and something I never dreamed I could be doing - working on a ship with scientists to discover new things in an extreme place. From mapping the sea floor to taking core samples to learning more about European culture, it has all been great. Possibly the most exciting thing on land while in Longyearbyen was to see the Seed Bank that I described in my earlier journals because I have seen it in textbooks. On the ship, I think the most exciting thing has been learn about the systems used for mapping the ocean floor. Understanding the amount of time and effort that goes into this gives me a greater appreciation for the maps that we use in class of the ocean and also how much there is to still learn about our oceans.

  • A.J. Williams - How do they start drilling?
    Matt Partridge - How does the drill work?

    First they have to map the area with the sonar and choose the spots that will be best to drill. Once the areas are selected, they try to line up the ship within that range. It is not exact, because the ship cannot stay in one place. Next, they use the "piston corer" instead of a drill that grinds through the earth. It has a 2-ton weight that forces a "trigger" core to the seafloor, which in turn forces air out of a 10m (remember 1meter = approximately 3 feet) sampler that pulls in sediment as it pushes through the seafloor sediment. It takes a complex system of cables and cranes to make it all happen. Very neat process that I have a video and pictures of to share!

  • Jackson Rambo - Would you do it over again? If you had the chance?
    Vanita Patel - How is your journey?

    Absolutely I would do it over again! It seems like a once in a lifetime experience, though! Not many can say that they have traveled to the ARCTIC! I have learned so much, which is something I value immensely - to never stop learning!

  • Erica Bonifay - How many people are there from other cultures and do you communicate well?
    On board there are people from Spain, Belgium, Italy, Canada and England. Communication is mostly by Spanish and English. I am very fortunate that most of the scientists speak English and have been helping me learn more Spanish! In the town where we left (which is also the capital of the archipelago, Spitsbergen), Longyearbyen, there were many different languages spoken as many tourists visit there. The predominant language there was Norwegian because Norway is predominantly responsible for Svalbard, although no one technically "owns" the archipelago.

  • Chris Miller - How long was the journey?
    My journey to Longyearbyen (the port town from which we departed) took three calendar days to five different cities and four flights! A total trip time of 33 hours, which included layover time in airports! My journey back is actually, through the same five cities and will take a little less time (27 hours!). Fortunately, going home is much better because I will gain the seven hours difference and will arrive the same day that I leave! My internal clock will however be way out of whack!

  • Aaron Benandi - What is the coolest animal you've seen so far?
    That is a tough one. I would say that the reindeer was the "coolest" because it was just so close - I was able to walk with a couple of meters to it and snap a photo. The whales have been the most spectacular though because they are such enormous, majestic creatures.

What great questions! Hopefully my answers will spark more questions and we can continue these discussions! I really appreciate my students' interest! I hope to set up a teleconference with them via my satellite phone later this week to allow the lead scientist, Angelo Camerlenghi, to answer questions and provide further information! Stay tuned!