30 November, 1999
Tuesday November 30, 1999
I woke up at 0715 hours I was really beat and did not feel well. Got over to the Crary lab by 0800 hours and spent an hour doing emails. I then finished up yesterday's journal and got it off to the multitudes. My next chore was to forward pictures of the dry valley to parcticipants in the group. Finished that up and grabbed my gear and headed over to Scot Base for a few hours.
I wanted to ship some stuff home so got a box from the supply office and took it to the station post office. It cost me $6.32 and they claim the package should be back in Massachusetts possibly before I get home. Better then home.
We had our class tonight and had two speakers, Teri McClain from the fish lab and Dr. Marco Taviani, an Italian paleobiologist and geologist. Teri is the same woman who presented last night. I won't go into great depths except in two areas.
First she explained a little more about how they believe these protein based antifreezes work. According to Teri the proteins, act almost like an antibody antigen reaction, binding to the ice crystals as they form in the blood. These proteins, with their ice crystals are then transported to the fish's spleen. At that point the spleen somehow processes them, but how this process works is a mystery.
The other thing she did was to explain the way Antarctic fish stratify themselves in the water. Immediately below the surface of the ice is where the Borhrevinchi (Borchs) reside. If you were dealing with typical depth of the water in the area the bottom would be at about 450-meters, and there on the bottom you would find two varieties of fish the Loenbergii and the Devreisii. If you were to go up, about 100-meters off the bottom this is where the Antarctic cod (Mawsonii) are found. Another group of fish the Bernacchi, the Hansonii and the dragon fish are all found between 30 and 70 meters of depth. We then took this group to the fish lab for a tour.
Upon return to the conference room where we meet our next guess lecturer Dr. Marco Taviani from Bologna, Italy had arrived. As you know from previous journals Marco worked on the Cape Roberts Project. He initially talked about, what I guess you'd call the philosophies of science. He was very adamant that often times scientist have too rigid of a have preconceived ideas as to what the answer will be to a certain problem. Then, if it does not turn out to be as they predicted, they become upset with the results saying that the project failed, when in fact it simply means that there must still be pieces of the puzzle missing. Dr. Taviani continued to pontificate on about science philosophies and said "knowledge is not what you know, but how you think."
Marco began talking about being a geologist and a paleobiologist and then went immediately back to his original point of concern, some scientists' mind sets. (He is no slouch when it comes to fieldwork and research. He has made 15 expedition to Egypt, 35-research vessel cruises all over the world, and has worked on every single continent.) He basically said: Drilling into rock is like drilling into our ignorance, the deeper we drill the more ignorance we discover. His point being that even though part of the CRP failed, according to some people, because it did not do exactly what some people thought it would, it was a monumental success because it raised more questions and gave some answers. ("Geologists are blessed, if they are not blind".)
I pushed him a little to talk more about his work here. It was like his pride just popped out of his body. He is, to say the least, motivated, humorous, honest, excited, enthusiastic and has that magical thing I like to call "fire in the belly". (Gee, I know someone else like that.) He started to describe some of the macrofossils that they discovered in the core, fossils that date back to roughly 32,000,000 years ago.
He told us there were 240 fossil horizons discovered and that they were mostly marine shells like clams, scallops, mussels and snails. They had also discovered fossils of coral and brachiopods. (All of these fossils suggesting a relatively warm deep marine environment.) Marco said that they had also discovered teeth of ancient fish and numerous Echinoderms, but he seemed very impressed that they had also discovered the leaf of a deciduous tree (A beech I believe he said.). The significance of this is that it shows that the land too was a relatively warm climate. This would have to be to allow this species of tree, and probably more, to live here during that time frame [32,000,000 years ago]. Marco said these fossils were most prevalent from a depth of about 350-meters, an era known as the Oligocene. He went onto say that the most numerous fossils came from there about 32,000,000 years ago and no fossils were from the old rock from 350,000,000 years ago; stressing that there was obviously a major void in between. Wow! An amazing story told by an amazing man.
After class I went with Barb to the water treatment plan where she had arranged a tour with her roommate (Wendy), who just happened to be the person who ran the treatment plant during the night shift. The plant was fascinating. Wendy took us outside and showed us where the salt water was pumped from McMurdo Sound up to the treatment plant. The process of desalination, removal of salts from seawater, is done by reverse-osmosis. Osmosis is the movement of water through a semipermeable membrane from a high to a low concentration; it follows then that reverse-osmosis would still involve a semipermeable membrane, but the water moves in the opposite direction. This is accomplished by high pressure, on the order of magnitude of 800 PSI (pounds per square inch, air pressure is about 14.7 PSI), pushing the water through a semipermeable membrane and then collecting the now "fresh" water. The brine, high salt concentration water, is returned to the sound. The water that is "produced" here is given four injections of various materials most of which are to adjust its acidity and/or alkalinity and the other is to add chlorine to help kill any microbes that might be lurking to cause us harm. This water is then housed in three huge tanks.
The amount of water produced per day is (I believe) 80,000 gallons and the present demand is 72,000 gallons/day. Water is also loaded into tanks and sledded to some of the bigger field camps in the area. The process is amazing. What was just as amazing was the fact that only one person worked in this hi-tech water making facility. A little more stress then I would ever want.
Wendy arranged for us to go next door for a tour of the power plant. Here oil is changed into electrical energy by 6 huge Caterpillar generators. The two people working, Christopher and Richard, explained the control panels; how the monitored the plant and the town for energy consumption; and gave us some insight into how much fuel is consumed per day. Roughly 1000 gallons. Wow!
As we were leaving Wendy came back and asked if we wanted to see where and how liquid nitrogen was generated. Does a duck like water? Back we went to the water plant where she showed us the equipment.
The way it works is fairly simple. Air is let into a compressor which in turn which boosts the pressure, this gas is then released from the pressure and expands. As gases expand due to pressure and are then released they cool. ( Think of lettering the air out of a tire by pushing on the air stem with your finger. As the air escapes, it goes to lower pressure and expands, it cools.) This is done over and over again until the temperature in the tank reaches the condensation point of nitrogen and the liquid begins to collect. (Anyone know what temperature that is? In Celsius and Fahrenheit please.) Just another awesome experience. Wow!
We finally left the water plant about 2400 hours, Barb went to back to her dorm and I started walking toward the sea ice. As I came around the corner of the building the view was breath taking. Clouds and light were creating amazing images on the Royal Society Range, the mountains on the other side of the McMurdo Sound that are, at least their peaks, 70 miles from where I was standing. I still marvel as to how little perspective one has here. This I believe is due primarily to the massiveness of this wonderful place.
At the ice edge there was a rather strange scene. The Kiwi helicopter had landed there and there were a number of people milling around and a huge Caterpillar tractor seemed to be jockeying into position to do something. I figured they were picking up a large sling load (Materials that are "dragged" through the air while held to cables from under the belly of the helicopter. In other words too big to fit inside.) I watched for a while, until the Caterpillar tractor started to return to McTown.. I was hoping to see this happen, but, I am too tired to wait. By the time I got to the galley for midrats the tractor had reached the galley and the driver was headed inside. I asked one of the fellows what he said they him were moving and come to find out nothing was being moved, especially the helicopter. It seems that the Kiwi helicopter had either the ground (sea ice) come up and hit it; or it went down and hit the ground. It had made a "hard landing". Either way, it did not matter, the helicopter was still damaged and awaiting repair. This would create some very serious transportation problems because it has reduced the size of the helicopter force by, I think, 20%.
I ate midrats with one on the Kiwi cargologists (Sean) who knew nothing about the helicopter because it was his night off and he was eating lunch (0030 hours). Working nights is most difficult, I think it is easier just staying up all 24 hours.
Sean ,the young Kiwi, was kind of bumming for he and his wife had just learned she was pregnant the week before we flew down here together and they were missing each other big time. I can truly relate. He told me he would be on the ice until the end of daylight, the last week in February. He asked when I was leaving I told him right now I might be home for Xmas. He was happy for me, but I could see and hear his hurt that he would not be.
Well I left the galley and went to the Crary and worked until 0230 hours. Then, when I fell asleep at the computer, I decided it was time to go to bed.
Good night all.
Penguin Pete the Polar Man
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