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21 November, 1999

Sunday November 21, 1999

Slept late, all the way until 0720 hours. Boy I needed that.

Went over to computer lab about 0930 and ended up getting a message saying I have too much stuff in my files. I spent morning cleaning them out and after I had done that a tech showed me how to do it in one quick step. No problem. I learned. I sat with Bert and we chatted about life. He has volunteered to give a presentation to our class on Monday night. He will talk about the radar that he designed and patented. He is a nice guy and appears to be most talented. We have been acquaintances for about 7 years.

I just went to send my journals and bumped the computer and the adapter to the network broke off. I hope the can fix this because if it can't I am in big big trouble. They are trying to find a technician as I type. I told them that there would be absolutely no problem with me paying for it and that when I got home I would ship it to them. About an hour later a young tech Robbie Lebin showed up. He is the guy who helped me work through my software problems early on. It required replacing both the "doggle" that I broke, as well as the network card. He checked with his supervisor and I was told I did not have to pay for it, it was simply my tax dollars at work.. Thank you , thank you, thank you not just or not requiring me to pay, but much more importantly for just solving the problem.

Today was open house at the Crary lab for the Cape ROBERTS PROJECT (CRP). This is a multiyear and multinational: Australia, Germany, NZ, UK and USA; program designed to collect 1,500 meters of drill core from offshore of Cape Roberts, McMurdo Sound, Antarctica The purpose of this project is to provide a better understanding of Antarctic history through the late Cretaceous and early Cenozoic ere. Events during this period, which extends from the before the final breakup of Gondwanaland through the onset of glaciation are at present not well understood. The CRP will provide new data about the development of the west Antarctic rift system, the subsidence history of the Ross Sea, and ice-sheet fluctuations on Antarctica during this time period.

Cores are drilled through the ice, through the sea and finally into the sea floor. No small task in milder climes, but here unbelievable. Once these core are taken out they are looked at. One group headed by Dr. Lawrence Krissek will take these cores and describe and characterize the stratigraphic successions the core. These will be used to reference for modeling observed marine and geophysical events. Once these cores are describe multiple projects will look at documenting age, through chemical, physical and biological means.

The project of Dr. Ken Verosub deals with looking at the periodic shift of the Earth's magnetic field. This is thought to occur at specific intervals, I believe he said 200 times in the past 200,000,000 years. What literally happens is that, for some unknown reason, the north pole of a magnet that points north will in time point south. This transition stage may be as short as 8,000 years. The data sets that he showed me are unreal. The equipment that he determines the polarity with is in itself a story and a half, but his data clearly showed, even to this awe inspired novice , that indeed at different times in the history of this core (different core depth, the deeper the core the further back in time) north was south and vice versa. WOW! By looking at the magnetic field of a 730-meter core out of the bottom of the sea you can help determine its age.

The project headed by Dr. Rosemary Askin, and worked on by a fellow TEA, Bruce Smith, is the Initial Palynological Characterization of the CR Drill Cores. This team will process the core sections, separate of materials by various chemical and physical means and in the process will collect various palyomorphs (Organisms that have non-mineral outer covering.).

These organisms marine (dinocyst = cyst stage of dianoflagelates, things similar to the critters that cause red tide) and nonmarine (spores and pollen) will be looked at by other groups to establish the biostratigraphic and paleoenvironmental record. Biostratigraphic means to find organisms of a known age, determined by the fossil record and radioactive dating, and place them in a parcticular time of the earth's history. Paleoenvironmental record means to see what kind of organisms are found there and what type of environment, as we know it today, would allow these organism to grow there.

For example. I meet a very outgoing, friendly, fun loving with an amazing sense of humor and remarkably talented Italian researcher named Dr. Marco Triviani. He shared with us his finds which included snails, scallops and even leaves from about 34,000,000 years ago, all of which are believed to be at least to be hither to fore unknown species. Species, that Marco with pride and humility said, upon my pushing of the point, will have at least part of their scientific name given to them by him. I could not think of a more appropriate person to name them. These newly discovered critters will add pieces to the biostratigraphic record; they will instill others to search for yet more answers and then discover more questions and the scientific process will go on. He was inspirational with fire in his mannerism that made these 34,00,000 year old fossils come alive with the same fire and energy as a the guy who discovered them. He pointed out, the romantic side of the science, in that the leaf he discovered was totally serendipitous to his work.

Another researcher Dr. John Wrenn presented work he had done on the palyomorphs. He showed slides of the organisms that he had found and shared the process of extracting them from the core.

Dr. Peter Webb went one better. He had sample of the core there, he explained how it was ground into tiny grains and then he had a collection of those grains in a box. With the aid of a microscope, he afforded us the opportunity to try and find his critter of study foraminifera. These are single celled ameba-like organisms that have a shell around them. I took my hand at the process and after a few minutes not only found one, but also isolated it, put it onto a slide and could determine what group of foraminiferan it was. I'm impressed. "Oh lord ain't it hard being humble, when you're perfect in every way".

The people of the CRP showed us the actual core samples, how they are cut, categorized, processed and packed for return to the researcher's institutions around the world.. It was really exciting to get the big picture of what this project can and does do; and to see some of the individual projects that make this project's broad goals come to fruition.

I finished up at the Crary lab at about 1800 went to dinner and tried to find Bert, but to no avail He said he would be either at the Coffee House or Gallagher's. Maybe he's tired too. I went back to my room and fell asleep.

Sleep well,

Penguin Pete the Polar Man

Dr. Ken Verosub shows Barbara Schulz around lab where measurements of changes in the Earth's magnetic field are measured. <> Photo by Peter M. Amati, Jr.

Dr. John Wrenn explains what palymorphs are, how the are obtained and what their significance is. Photo by Peter M. Amati, Jr. <>

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