23 November, 1995

November 23, 1995

Location: 66 20' South Latitude x 79 45' west Longitude Approximately 180 miles from Peter I Island.


My day started today at 12:00 midnight. Jim Lundy and I switched watch shifts. My new watch partner is Dr. Marta Ghidella from the Argentine Antarctic Institute. She is a fascinating person who began her career as a parcticle physicist and is now doing research on gravity anomalies in Antarctica. She is also involved with a project with the European Space program to launch a satellite to be positioned over the Antarctic to collect a variety of scientific data about the area.

Today was also our first day to make a time change. At 2:00 AM local time we changed our clocks back to 1:00 AM. Today, Thanksgiving, was 25 hours long here on the ship. I had been up many times past midnight during the cruise, but we had never been this far south. Throughout the whole watch, the sun never set. As we moved west toward New Zealand, the sun hovered on the horizon. It seemed to pause there, a small sliver of yellow orange caught between dusk and dawn. The sun seemed to taunt us with its indecision. Would we have darkness or would it be light? Following less than an hour of gray dusk, the morning sunrise began at about 1:00 AM.

People on the ship are awake and wondering around at all hours of the day and night on the ship. It seems as if everyone's internal clocks are broken. Meals are really no longer an indication of what time of day it is.

Thanksgiving day here on the ship was a perpetual turkey feast. Turkey, and all the fixings, four kinds of pie, cakes and cookies were available all day. The cooks went out of their way today to make the meals special and memorable. Everyone ate their fill of turkey. A few diehard football fans posted scores of the day's games that were emailed to them by family and friends. People shared stories about home and the Thanksgivings that they had spent away. It was a nice day filled with greetings of "Happy Thanksgiving" and shared memories.

The seas have been very kind to us. We have all adjusted to the motion of the ship, and we are maintaining good speed on our course toward New Zealand. We have been averaging 11.5 knots today, and are approaching our first away point, Peter I Island. We are using this as reference for distance traveled. The total of 3900 miles to New Zealand is so large that the 200 miles or so that we travel each day seems inconsequential. We are closing in on Peter I, having gone over 600 miles. We all look to the day when we will have gone 1000 miles marking one fourth of the trip home.

The multibeam sonar mapping of the sea floor is going well. The system occasionally has computer problems, but the technicians are very efficient and get the data flowing again as quickly as possible. Most of the sea floor in this area is very flat, but we occasionally locate a small sea mount or ridge formations. All of these features are new and will add to the information about the topography and history of the sea floor in this area of Antarctica.

We experimented with new ways to plot the maps today. We adjusted the plotter so that each map represents about twelve hours of travel time on our cruise. We put two maps on the same page so that we can see an entire day's worth of data on each map.


5th Hour Chem.: A normal life is pretty impossible on a research ship. I have mentioned before how difficult it is to keep track of time. Sometimes it seems as if hours and days are meaningless and that time is measured in the number of tasks completed and meals eaten.

Our station at Marsh Base was our only opportunity to actually visit Antarctica. The whole cruise is designed to collect oceanographic data for geochemistry and geophysics research.

I am looking forward to doing some star and planet gazing when we reach New Zealand. We will have a couple of days travel and change over there.

Wis Rapids Science: Thank you for all the colorful comments. I miss you all and cannot wait to share some "stories" with you. Keep studying hard.

WFPHS: Families that are stationed at Marsh Base remain their for the entire year. Although flights come into and out of the base regularly, station personnel typically only leave for emergencies.

A typical tour of duty at Marsh Base is one year. The military service person and his family are relocated to the base and are provided with housing for the entire year. The children are enrolled in school there and as normal a daily routine is maintained as possible. The number of families and children change as new men are stationed at the base.

The Marsh Base is a military base. The Chilean government feels that Antarctica is an extension of Chilean territory. The Base is primarily there to maintain a presence on the continent so that Chilean interests are protected.

There are bases all over the Antarctic Continent operated by scientists and military persons from all over the world. The largest US bases are McMurdo and Palmer stations. There is also a station at the south pole as well. Antarctica is an independent research area. All countries with bases here must adhere to the rules of the International Antarctic Treaty.

Woodside Grade 2: We have not seen any polar bears, because polar bears are only found at the north pole, not the south pole. Antarctica is the south pole. The only animals that are found on land here are penguins, sea lions, and seals. We have talked on the ship about what would happen if polar bears were brought to the south pole. They probably could not survive, because the environment here is quite a bit different that at the north pole.

One knot is equal to about 1.1 miles per hour. The knot is a measurement of distance made up by the English. Since the earth is almost a circle in shape at the equator, the English divided the circumference into 360 equal divisions. Each of those divisions was divided a second time into 60 smaller pieces. The distance on the globe of these small pieces is about 1.1 miles and is the measurement of one knot.

The Drake passage is an area of ocean south of tip of South America where oceans from the east, west and south come together. Because there is no land in this area, winds can blow for great distances and produce huge waves without them hitting land and stopping them. Huge storms are very common with winds of 100 miles per hour and waves of over 40 feet. It is one of the most difficult places in the world to sail.

A Zodiac is a small inflatable boat. It looks like a small boat that you would fish in. It is about 15 feet long, and floats because it has pontoons that are filled with air on each side. A small motor is used for power. Because the boat is made of rubber and is filled with air, it floats very easily on the water. About eight people can ride in a Zodiac at one time.

Thank you for the invitation to visit your class and show you pictures of the trip. I hope that we can do that one day.

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