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4 May, 2003

The Exploring Gene

By looking at the past images that I have sent to be posted, you can see that the environment that we are living in now is considered extreme. While in Kangerlussuaq or the coast of Greenland, temperatures were not quite so extreme. During spring and summer, temperatures increase enough so plants are able to grow and survive throughout the year. Along with the plants come animals. There are large insect hatches that usually start around June 1st and continue through summer. Birds and mammals exist along the coasts living off the vegetation and animals making up the lower food chain. The success of these animals varies greatly on the weather. The biomes that make up the Kanger area are mainly tundra. The land is considered permafrost meaning that the frost never leaves the ground. The top foot can thaw out leaving a slightly wet or soft condition but the underlying ground is constantly frozen. In the case of rain, the water can only soak into the ground about a foot and then starts to puddle up leaving a soft upper area.

The ice sheet is a much different biome. Any rocks that exist are covered under 1000s of feet of ice. There are no plants or signs of alga or bacteria. Looking across the ice sheet toward the horizon all you see is drifting snow moving from one place to another. The conditions are very sterile. Any animal that would find its way 150 miles from the fertile coast to ice sheet must be lost. Surprisingly enough, yesterday we had a small song bird of which we did not know the species fly into our camp. Occasionally, a bird will set out and explore the ice cap. With such cold temperatures the birds must keep flying. If the bird would stop at our camp for a rest, he or she would die from the cold temperatures. Hopefully this little bird had enough energy to make it back to were it came from.

Why would a bird or animal venture out into such an extreme climate? This morning when it was 30F I was wondering the same thing. Why would 5 humans intentionally go to an extreme climate and camp for nearly 20 days. As the little bird was probably looking for something better so are the scientists that established this camp to drill for ice cores. Once these ice cores are returned to the United States to be analyzed, scientists can look at information from the past to help them make better decisions in the future. Not much different than the little bird that was trying to find something better its species.

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