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29 November, 1999

Monday November 29, 1999

Got up at 0220 this morning, I just could not sleep. I have a lot on my mind: last week of project, plans for dry valley, plans for redeployment, what's going on at school, a new roommate, how is everything with Darcy and all my children?

In any case, got to Crary about 0250 and began finishing up a journal. Got everything ready to role and went to send it and suddenly my entire address book was gone. That address book as of yesterday contained 286 names and email addresses.

I was in shock. I closed everything out twice; I tried other computers, I even sent a pan\pan\pan to Darcy, of course there is nothing she can do either. I was devastated. I do not need to spend my time (I don't have the time I am working many 20 hour days now) typing in all those addresses again, but then again I don't even have those addresses. Now that I think of it, I don't even have my kids email addresses. What to do? Well, I had other work to do and since the computer help people wouldn't be in for two hours I tried to do other work. Too frustrated and upset. So I sat around and drank hot chocolate.

Finally help arrived. They don't know how; they don't know why my book disappeared all I care about is that they found it. Thank goodness. I am oh so so relieved. I sent out journals and now must go to a meeting.

Barb and I worked all day on a survey for the parcticipants and the collaborating teachers. We struggled with every word trying to make it concise yet clear. Obviously not an easy task, at least for me. I tend to pontificate. I left the Crary at 1530 hours, so far that's a1300 day and there is more to come. Went to do my laundry and got to dinner about 1730 hours. I shared dinner with Thomas Nylen, a geologist with the LTER project who will speak tonight to our group.

As usual I had to play doorman for our groups since Crary is locked after 1730 hours. By the time I got up to the room tonight's speaker had already started to discuss the topic of the night, the antifreeze molecules that are found in the blood of certain Antarctic fishes. These molecules, I believe she said there were eight different ones are all protein structures and have molecular weights ranging from 30 to 80 kilodaltons. (Who knows what a kilodalton is? I'll help "little", its 1000 daltons.) Evidently these molecule bind in such a way that the water molecules cannot freeze. This allows fish to live in water whose temperature is -1.5oC. Unreal! As I said I got to the presentation late so missed most of it. What I did not miss tough was the trip to the fish antifreeze lab (AKA aquarium). Here there were specimens of the Antarctic cod, not really a cod, called Mawsoni, plus several other species. These fish, the Mawsoni, get quite large. How about 249 pounds worth of largeness. Unbelievable!

In the same area there were many non-icthyological species as well. In fact, there were probably more different species of invertebrate marine life in these tanks then all the macroscopic species of animals found on the entire continent of Antarctica out together.

There were a multitude of different Echinoderms (starfish) including one that is very numerous in McMurdo Sound called Odonaster validus. There were four or five varieties of Porifera (sponges) including the very pretty and quite large, cactus sponge Dendrilla membranosa. They had numerous Cnidarians including several types of sea anemones and corals. The phylum Mollusca was also well represented with the typical squid like critter know as Clione antarctica , a couple of octopuses and a very uncommon mollusk, at least one I had never seen before in real life, known as a nudibranch. These were amazing critters. The most interesting things to me were an Isopod, probably 5" long, and another Arthropod known as a Pycnogoid (Sea spider). This spider like organism was about 4'' across and is a very aggressive predator feeding on many of the Cnidarians, including corals, jellyfish and sea anemones. These tanks were truly something to behold.

The second speaker of the night was Thomas Nylen, a glaciologist working for the LTER project (Long Term Ecological Research) in the dry valleys. Dr. Nylen talked about the dry valleys, that set of four valleys that supposedly represent the driest and coldest place on the planet earth (see my journal of 11/24/99). The annual melted precipitation is < 6 cm/year and average mean temperature of -2oC. This is remarkable.

Tom stated that one of his tasks was to monitor the mass balance of the glaciers in these valleys. Mass balance refers to a comparison of the gain in the build up of snow and ice as compared with the loss of ice. He does this in a very labor intensive and non-techological way. Be drills hole into the glacier and sticks bamboo rods into them. Then twice a year he goes to each pole and measures both how much the snow or ice level has changes, to within 1 mm. He also monitors how far the glacier moves down valley. These poles are located on the glacier by a system of satellite triangulation's known as a Global Positioning System or GPS. A GPS unit of the type used by Tom can give a resolution down less the 1cm. That means he can find this pole's original location on the entire earth and not be off as much as 1 centimeter (and there are 2.54 cm = 1 inch). Now that some kind of precise science!

Tom stated that glaciers lose mass in two ways. One is by sublimation, where solid water, ice, changes directly into water vapor and the other is by melting. In Antarctica 80% of the mass is lost through sublimation and 20% by melting. There is little or no change in the mass balance that can be seen. Tom said that is because things move slowly in Antarctica he stated it would take an Antarctic glacier about 1000 years to move as far as a typical Alaskan glacier moves in 10 years. One hundred times slower.

Another project that Tom is working on is involved with the dating of different layers of dirt and debris found in the glacier. He referred to this a process as Optical Simulation Luminescence (OPL). He described it in the following way: When light hits ice some of it gets absorbed, that light will escape over time and what the OPL system does is somehow measures the amount of light left behind in the ice. This amount is then compared it to the amount that would be there today in the ice. Using this number one can work backwards and find out how old the ice is. Tom said one of he toughest things to do is to collect his three-foot cores, without exposing them to light. Tom will be at Lake Hoare when I am there next week. I am hoping he will allow me to work with him. I'll keep you posted.

Well it is now 2347 hours and that makes today just about 22 hours long I am tired and not really feeling well. I think I'll go to mid rats and then call it a night. Till tomorrow.


Penguin Pete the Polar Man

This is an example of a about 140 pound fish, the biggest Mawsoni caught was 249 pound so almost 100 pounds bigger then this one. Wow! <> Photo by De Vries Research Team

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