Vanessa's Blog

Entry Index
Here's what you said...
Oct. 18, 2006 - CDC, Christchurch, NZ
Oct. 19, 2006 - From Christchurch, NZ to Antarctica, McMurdo Station
Oct. 20, 2006 McMurdo Station
October 21, 2006 - The Outdoor Safety Lecture
McMurdo Station - October 22, 2006
Hut Point Ridge - October 23, 2006
Field Safety Training = October 24th and 25th
Back at McMurdo—October 26, 2006
Oct. 28th, 2006 —Halloween at McMurdo
The Teacher's Learning Curve - Oct. 29, 2006
Meet Dr. Shane Kanatous — Oct. 31, 2006
Seal Tracking — November 4, 2006
A Question for All of Us to Think About — November 14, 2006
If You Could See — November 26, 2006
Fog — November 28, 2006
So What’s So Cool About A Rock? December 5, 2006
Dear Stephanie's Class — December 11, 2006
World's Apart — December 16, 2006
Changes — December 18, 2006



Here's what you said...

In my last blog, I gave you some questions to think about.  Here were a few of your responses…

benMy friend Benjamin, who currently resides in Los Angles, California, wrote in and said the following..

(He also said that he really enjoys cake!) =)

 



4.  I guess I've had good friends in Taiwan and Brazil.  Unfortunately, I quickly lost touch with my Taiwan friends (this was when I was younger and didn't know yet how precious good friends are).



5. If I could make a friend in any country it would be in Benjaminland, so he/she could tell me how to get there.



6. The Lord of the Rings movies were filmed in New Zealand.



7. So many species of plants and animals in California are threatened by interlopers.  Non-native red foxes have easily adapted and threaten native rodents, rabbits, reptiles, and ground-nesting birds.



Here’s what some of the students from my class had to say…




•    You were traveling 62.14 miles per hour.  We found this by using a conversion chart (Kamri).



•    17 degrees Celsius is 63 degrees Fahrenheit (we used the computer and found a conversion

       chart) (Kamri).

Metric Conversions

Distance

1 km = 0.62 miles

Temperature

°C = (°F – 32) / 1.8

°F = (°C x 1.8) + 32



•    This is what LUCY wrote about her friend from another country.  “She was from Italy and she spoke Italian, she was shy, short and very polite.”



•    For the invasive species question, Brianna wrote,  “The pigeons are making this city disgusting because there are too many of them.  Pigeons poop too much over everything and that's nasty.”

I’m not sure if Pigeons are invasive, but they sure are annoying!!



For question #2 there were a couple of different conjectures.




Benjamin thought…



Is it because of the blue-green algae?  Or is it the depth and clarity, which scatter the longer wavelength colors and allow only blue to scatter back to the surface?



Kamri thought…

We think there is nothing in the water (like animals and plants) and that is why it is so turquoise (Kamri).



Scientists come up with many conjectures and/or hypothesis in their work.  They often find out that their original thoughts need revision and further testing, so they go back to the drawing board and try again.  This is a natural part of the scientific process.



The lake featured in my photo acquires its beautiful turquoise from the rock flour (sediment) in the water.  “This so called flour was created when the lake’s basin was gouged out by a stony bottomed glacier moving across the land’s surface, with the rock-on-rock action grinding out fine particles that ended up being suspended in glacial melt water.  This sediment gives the water a milky quality and refracts the sunlight beating down, hence the color.”

-From The Lonely Planet Guide to New Zealand
























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Oct. 18, 2006 - CDC, Christchurch, NZ

A Foreign Language. 



Today we went to the USAP’s CDC to receive our ECW gear, which included a Yazoo, a pair of Gauntlets, and boots of either F-DX or Bunny. 



Confused?  So was I. 



cdc signThis was my second trip to the United State’s Antarctic Program’s (USAP) Clothing Distribution Center (CDC), and I can’t say that I felt all the more experienced for having watched the introductory video twice.  The two fluorescent orange bags oforange bags Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) lying in front of me were extremely intimidating in their own right.  Since my acceptance into the ANDRILL/ARISE program, the ECW gear has been a reoccurring conversation topic.  Every individual who has traveled to Antarctica has been issued the same standard set of gear, yet each of these individuals seems to have a different piece of advice regarding the clothing.  However, above all else, everyone agrees that ECW is, at the very least, essential for a comfortable existence in Antarctica.  



On the other end of the spectrum, ECW can become essential for survival in Antarctica.  Given the extreme variability of the weather, and given that those weather changes can occur quickly and with little warning, no one is allowed to travel away from McMurdo Station without a complete set of ECW clothing. 



The clothing you are issued in Christchurch is the clothing you live with for your entire stay in Antarctica.  Therefore you must try on every single piece.  You must make sure every piece zips, buckles or velcros properly.  And then each piece must be repacked back into its designated orange bag.  One bag is designated “hand carry,” which means that it goes onto the plane with you, and they won’t let you onto the plane without it. 



As far as Acronyms go, there is a complete appendix to ANDRILL acronyms listed on pgs 66 and 67 of the “Guide to Participation fro the ANDRILL McMurdo Ice Shelf Project.”  I counted 101 acronyms.   It’s a foreign language to me.

What's Inside the Bags?



wall of gloves



How Many Pairs of Gloves?













boots













Challenge:

An acronym is a word formed from the initials or other parts of several words, for example, “NATO,” from the initial letters of “North Atlanticme in big red Treaty Organization”

Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

    Find as many acronyms and what they represent and email them back to me.  I’ll post a few in my next blog.

Question to think about:

    What does the acronym “ANDRILL” represent?



















  The Big Red Parka



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Oct. 19, 2006 - From Christchurch, NZ to Antarctica, McMurdo Station

We arrive at the CDC at 4:00 am.  (I woke up at 2:30 am).  We immediately head into the dressing room and change into our ECW clothing.  Wearing your ECW gear is a requirement to board the plane.  I’ve boarded many flights, but never one like this.  I wait in a sea of red -- everyone dressed in red parkas and boots that weighed five pounds each.  Our check-in agents aren’t dressed in the blue uniforms of a major airline, but in the camouflage of the United States Air Force.



Excitement doesn’t begin to describe what I’m feeling inside.  Today is a very special day for me in so many ways.  As a child, I spent my free time in the creeks and swamps of the pasture below my house.  In that pasture, I built a lasting curiosity about the natural world.  East Tennessee is a beautiful place, and I never dreamed that life would take me so far away from my Tennessee mountain home.  Moving to New York was a big step, and a BIG change.  After nine years, New York is home, but Tennessee is dear to my heart. 



Travel has become a very important aspect of my life.  Seeing new countries and being immersed in different cultures has opened new doors and provided me with many new perspectives.  I’ve learned so much and made many new friends along the way.  For instance, I met Benjamin while working in Brazil with Habitat for Humanity. 



I spent the summer in Lebanon meeting a whole new part of my family.  I have sixteen beautiful nieces and nephews in Lebanon.  I also learned a little bit about what it is like to live in a country at war.



Today, when I step off of the plane and onto Antarctic soil, I will have visited all seven continents!!  It was a goal that I never thoughtfully made, but an accomplishment of which I am very proud.



So as I step onto the plane, I am filled with excitement and wonder – the anticipation of what is unknown. 



******************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

off the plane on the iceThe plane ride to Antarctica is an adventure in its own right.  The Air Force runs all flights from Christchurch to McMurdo.  We rode in a C-17.  The C-17 is HUGE, and as I entered the plane I did think, “How earth can something this big fly?”

 





plane gus

















The inside of the plane looks like a cadaver with it’s skin pulled back, muscles exposed – it’s working parts available for anyone to see.  There are rows of traditional airplane seats and two rows of cargo like seats running along the sides.  In the back is cargo, and a lot of it, the supplies that are necessary for the day-to-day life of McMurdo.







me and piolitsAnd inside the cockpit of the plane were too very friendly pilots, who receive visitors with great hospitality.















As the plane approaches the landing strip, everyone on the plane begins putting on his or her extra ECW gear, gloves, Yazoo caps, and, of course, their red parkas.  The door of the plane opens and suddenly everyone’s breath is now visible with the condensation of the sudden cold. 



As I step out onto the ice, I am AMAZED!  Amazed at the majesty of the Transantarctic Mountains, and the untouched beauty of pure white.  At the same time, the sudden rush of cold shocks me, a cold I have never experienced before.   I fumble to take a picture, and take off my gloves to complete the task.  My fingers freeze in literally a few seconds, and I begin to understand the importance of liner gloves.  As I breathe in the cold, I begin to feel each individual hair on the inside of my nose freezing.  We climb into the shuttle and it takes the whole 15 minute ride for my fingers to begin to thaw – and I instantly realize Antarctica sets its own rules.



Geography Challenge:



•    Here are some cities I’ve visited.  Can you name the countries were they are located?

    (a) Rio De Janeiro  (b) Paris  (c) Dahab  (d) Tripoli  (e) Rome 

    (f) Beirut     (g) Damascus (h) Queenstown (i) Cairo







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Oct. 20, 2006 McMurdo Station

Weather oct 20

Just the Facts!!

Pizza for Lunch                    Roast Beef for Dinner

New Vice = Soft Serve Ice Cream with Granola - at dinner only ;)













The ARISE participants attended our first MIS Science Team Morning Meeting today.  There will be a meeting every morning at 9:30.  The nature of these meetings will change as the project progress.  Today were updated on the progress of the sea riser placement.  EVERYONE is anxiously awaiting the arrival of the first core, a soft sediment core, which should come up around Oct. 23.

I met with two members of my assigned science team today (sedimentology/physical properties), Larry Krissek and Gavin Dunbar.  Larry spent a long time explaining some basic things that I will need to know to complete my assigned work – creating smear slides.  Larry was a very patient teacher, and I was amazed by how he explained, in such a precise matter, something that had previously been completely foreign to me. The Teacher Becomes the Pupil! He showed me how I will be using a ternary diagram (at left) to classify and name sediment samples.  I’ve always known that classifying is a very important scientific skill, but seeing just how precise this classification system is amazes me.







ternary















-diagram taken from ANDRILL SLIP





The hands-on work for the sedimentology team will not start until the first core comes up.  Until then, the scientists are busy making preparations, reading, and writing – but most of all anxiously awaiting the core.



In the meantime, I also wait and write.  My next big adventure will be Happy Camper School.  Everyone who wants to go on a trip outside of McMurdo Station (this includes the drill site for ANDRILL members) must take this survival-training course, which includes spending one night out on the ice.



The adventure continues =)



Questions to Think About:

    Different kinds of scientists use different kinds of classification systems to classify many different kinds of things.  The Taxonomic system show at the right is an example of how biologists classify animals.



Geologists use very specific physical properties to categorize minerals.  Write in and tell me some of those properties!





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October 21, 2006 - The Outdoor Safety Lecture
weather oct 21Just the Facts!



Tuna Casserole and green beans for lunch.

Spaghetti for dinner.

Bedtime reading:  The Lonely Planet Guide to Antarctica.







Today I attended the “Outdoor Safety Lecture.”  The lecture is mandatory if you plan on taking any of the hikes around McMurdo station.  Taking hikes around McMurdo involves you filing a plan with “efoot,” which is part of the McMurdo inTRAnet.  Although you can take some short walks around the station without filing a plan, most hikes require that you hike with a partner, file a plan, and check out and back in at the fire station.  If you don’t check back in at the fire station, they send out a rescue team to look for you!  Of course all of these measures are precautionary and put in place in the interest of your safety.



Here are some things I learned at the Safety Lecture.



How we Loose Heat                                             How we Preserve Heat



Radiation                                                                 Clothing -- No Cotton!

Convection                                                              Drinking Lots of Water

Conduction                                                              Eating the right kinds of food

Evaporation                                                             Exercise







Stages of Frostbite

                           

                                When Frozen                                 After Thaw



Mild/Superficial    Skin is pale and red.                           Skin is red and pink.

                               Movement = Mobile                        



Moderate/Partial   Skin is pale.                                      Skin is red and swollen,                               Movement = Stiff but Pliable             with possible blisters.



Severe                    Skin is pale.                                      Bloody, Black Blisters.

                                Movement is very difficult.    







Stages of Hypothermia



•    Mild, cold diuresis (that means you need to go to the bathroom a lot!)

•    Severe Shivering and the “umbles”  (the “umbles” = mumbling and        

      stumbling)

•    Shivering stops, you may want to lie down and take a nap

•    Lose of vitals  -- no apparent breathing or pulse







Questions to think about..




    Why do you think it is so important to hike with a partner in and around McMurdo Station?

    Why is it that your fingers and toes are the first to go numb in extremely cold temperatures?








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McMurdo Station - October 22, 2006
weather oct 22Just the Facts!

Sunday Brunch = French toast, Bacon and Home Fries (people must sleep in on Sundays Because the Cafeteria looked like a ghost-town).

Dinner – Turkey Casserole – looked gross tasted good.

The ice cream machine is empty until Tuesday =(







Antarctica is the coldest, driest, windiest place on earth!



My hands are the reddest, most chapped and hangnail ridden things I’ve ever seen!  I have used a quarter of a tub of udder cream in one week. That’s right, Icow said udder cream.  It was the strongest thing I could find, but now I’m wishing I had brought Bag Balm!  My dermis and epidermis and my inner-dermis are dehydrated.  It feels as if ever ounce of moisture has been sucked out of my body.  There’s not much I can do about it, so I just keep drinking water and slathering on the udder cream!





penguin crossingTonight I had the privilege of watching a movie entitled “Emperors of the Ice” by Paul Ponganis.  One of the most exciting things about living in the McMurdo community is that you have access to all kinds of scientists who are on the cutting edge of scientific research.  So the two scientists, Geraold Kooyman and Paul Ponganis, whose work the film represented were at the screening in the “galley” (cafeteria) and available for questions.



“Emperors of the Ice” explores the disruption of a penguin colony near Cape Crozier.  Two “super” icebergs named B-15 and C-19 were involved in this disruption. B-15 is about the size of Jamaica.  It collided with the shoreline of the Cape Crozier penguin colony.  The scientists theorize that the collision of the iceberg forced the bird colony to break up into smaller subgroups.  The collision also created changes in the ice that made finding food and navigating the terrain difficult for the penguins.



The scientific community speculates that enormous icebergs like B-15 are forming due to accelerated climate change and changes in temperature.  All the more reason why the ANDRILL project is so important – so that we can all have a better understanding of the climate of the past and predictions for the future.



For more information on the Cape Crozier penguin colony, visit the links below:




http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/news/02/pr0291.htm

http://antarcticsun.usap.gov/oldissues99-2000/99_1114/penguins.html




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Hut Point Ridge - October 23, 2006

weather oct 23Just the Facts!

Lunch – Chicken Sandwich and onion rings.  Dinner – Roast Pork, steamed carrots, salad with FRESH TOMATOS (Where did those come from?) Dessert – Granola with Milk (ice cream machine still broken, suspect the milk is powdered)

Bed Time Reading – The Lonely Planet Guide to Antarctica

  • James Cook circumnavigated the globe three times and discovered more territory than anyone else in history – but he never quiet made it to Antarctica.

sea ice





Today, a small group of ANDRILLians attempted to hike the Hut Point Ridge.    The wind on the ridge was very strong, and the footpath was very narrow.  In a normal situation, this kind of terrain would feel normal for me.  However, going on a hike in Antarctica requires appropriate ECW gear.  I personally find the gear quite restraining.  Due to the cold wind chill, I also needed to wear my facemask.  I tend to huff and puff up hills and I found the mask made it a little difficult to breathe and I felt a bit claustrophobic.  Above all, however, I just could not find sure footing in those clunky FDX boots.  As we reached the top and the wind grew stronger, many of us decided to turn around and head back towards home.  My heroes Julian and Christian braved on and finished the hike.  Julian, who is a great mountaineer, returned later in the day and hiked the loop again in the opposite direction.

McMurdo from the hut

On a personal level, I felt a little disappointed and defeated.  If I set a hiking goal, I expect to finish it.  So, I intend on making a visit to Skua Central (McMurdo’s version of a second hand store) to find a pair of hiking boots.  I will not be undone by Hut Point Ridge!







I returned to my room early tonight to pack and prepare for Survival Training.  As I packed, I could still feel the strength of the wind – its force against my body.  Inside I felt small bubbles of anxiousness arise as I wondered how I would handle the next 48 hours on the ice and at the mercy of the Antarctic weather.

packing



 DID YOU KNOW?



•    McMurdo publishes its own newspaper entitled, “The Antarctic Sun.”  This Sunday edition newspaper provides information about the happenings in and around McMurdo as well as broader news pertaining to Antarctica.  You can access “The Antarctic Sun” online by visiting antarcticsun.usap.gov.




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Field Safety Training = October 24th and 25th

weather oct 24 and 25

The ANDRILL Scientific Logistics Implementation Plan (SLIP) states, “If you wish to participate in ANDRILL field trips that require travel beyond marked trails you must have completed an overnight field-training course (taught by RSPC Field Safety Training personnel).”  The citizens of McMurdo often refer to Field Safety Training as “Happy Camper School”.  This two-day experience is comparable to an initiation or a right of passage.  After completion of the course, graduates share their experiences with pride, relating the particulars of their two days out on the ice such as the temperature, where they slept and just how cold they actually felt.  They feel the satisfaction of having accomplished something, and their reward for this accomplishment is true membership into the Antarctic community. 



My Happy Camper School was scheduled five days after my arrival in Antarctica.  I knew that the training required me to sleep outside and that I would be exposed to elements for approximately 24 hours.  I also knew that Megan had just completed her Field Safety Training the day before our arrival at McMurdo.  Megan greeted us with a nasty cold and a bit of frost nip.  Megan assured us that, despite the extremely cold temperatures (-20° actual temperature and -40° wind chill), she had learned a lot of really useful information.  Megan is a very positive young lady. 



Although my work in Antarctica will not require me to stay in the field, I will have the privilege of taking a few day trips via helicopter.  When dropped off at your destination by the helicopter, you are left with one large, red survival bag for every two members of your travel party.  This is a necessary procedure because at any given time and at any given location in Antarctica the weather could change and change drastically.  The weather might prohibit the helicopter from returning to pick you up.  If this were to happen, there are enough provisions in the red bags for two people to survive off of for several days.  Field Safety Training teaches participants how to use the tools in the red bag and to prepare them to deal with the weather in an unexpected circumstance. 



In a more general sense, field-training instructors teach practical ways for coping with the cold, listening to your body, and staying warm.  These are very important skills.  Many people in McMurdo are required to work outdoors for long hours.  Many scientists live in tents out on the ice for long periods of time in order to conduct research.



Day One



matt and bagWe started our training in the Science Support Center.  Instructor Matt introduced the red bag that we would be learning a lot about in the next two days.  He dumped the bag’s contents onto the floor.  The bag included one mountaineering tent with various tent stakes and a hammer, two sleeping bags, two ground mats, a whisper-light stove with one canister of fuel, some extra clothing (a hat, socks, and gloves), a mountaineers saw and shovel, and enough food to last about five days (some dehydrated meals and food bars.)





deltaAfter listening to some instruction on how our body retains and loses heat and basics about frostbite and hypothermia, we loaded onto a delta and headed for the happy camper site often referred to as “snow city.











When we exited the delta, my immediate thought was “this can’t be all that bad.”  We were dropped of in a beautiful location at the base of Mt. Erebus.  We could see Scott base, White and Black Islands and Mt. Discovery.  Ahead unfolded the beautiful Ross Sea Ice Shelf, and way off in the distance we could see the ANDRILL drill rig, made to look tiny by the distance between us.

erebus





eric and stove

Inside the Instructor’s Hut it was cozy and warm.  Eric taught us how to trouble shoot the whisper-light stoves that are so essential to survival.  The flame provided by this stove melts snow for water.  That melted snow then becomes your life line, providing water to drink, hydration for dehydrated food, and a heat source (by filling your water bottle with hot water and putting it by your feet or under your arm pits you help your body maintain its core temperature.) After our stove instruction, we had some lunch, picked up our sleeping bags, and then headed for our campsite.



Our job was to create our own “snow city.”  We would learn to use various pieces of equipment to build shelters that would provide protection from the bone chilling wind and a place to light the stove and melt snow.  The shelters needed to include a snow wall to protect the mountaineering tents, which cannot withstand the strong winds. 



A Scott’s Tent, however, is quite strong and you can actually use it as part of your wall.  The Scott tent was named after the explorer, Sir Robert F. Scott, who designed the tent.  That design has remained relatively unaltered over the last 94 years.  The tent is made of canvas and has two ventilation pipes near its top, which make it possible to cook inside the tent.

scotts hut

Building the wall is really hard work.  You start by making a hole in the snow that is about waist deep.  You then use a saw to cut out snow bricks.  These bricks need to be approximately the same size.  Eric taught us to use our saws to measure the bricks.  After the bricks are cut, wall builders use their shovels to pry up the bricks and then load them onto the sled.  The wall builder puts the bricks in place.  In our case it was Dr. Gerhard Kuhn, an ANDRILL scientist working on the geochemistry/petrography team, who was quite good at wall building.  Building the wall was a lot of work, and it took everybody working as a team to build it.

wall sequence



 

As we were building the wall, we were also preparing other parts of the camp.  We set up mountaineering tents, built snow trenches,



mountaineering tents

and we all worked together to make a snow quinzee.



Quinzee one







quinzee two





quinzee 3

























quinzee 4



Once the bags are pulled out, the center is hollow and looks much like a cave.  The small hole in the side of the quinzee is filled in, and a separate entrance way is created by digging through the front of the snow mound.



By this time we were all very tired.  Eric and Matt would soon leave us, and we would be on our own for the night.  Each person was assigned “finish-up” jobs and several people worked on lighting stoves and melting snow to create the hot water we would need for dinner.  Despite being busy and moving around a lot, I was very cold.  Even though I was wearing two pairs of gloves, my hands had been cold for most of the day, and it wasn’t getting any better.  As I worked, I battled the cold in many ways.  My sunglasses would fog up from the condensation from my breath, and it froze to my hair creating icicles. My nose turned white (a sign of frost nip) so I had to put on my facemask. 



It was approaching 8 o’clock.  All I wanted was to eat a hot meal and go to bed.  Dinner was dehydrated pasta that contained chicken and tomato.  I poured hot water into the pouch and let it sit for fifteen minutes.  I drank some hot tea while I waited. 



After dinner, each person picked out a sleeping spot.  Some people chose between a Scott tent and a mountaineering tent.  Others chose to sleep in the trench they had worked so hard to make.  Betty and I chose to sleep in a quinzee.

blue cave

From the inside, the quinzee looks very cute.  The light peeping through the cracks of the ceiling glows in a hue of light blue.

me in bagIt took me a very long time to get situated for bed. I worked and worked to cover myself in as many layers as possible.  It took me a long time to pull the zipper of my sleeping bag all the way.  I slept with three layers of clothes.  I stuffed extra clothes into my sleeping bag to create additional warmth.  I put on my hat, and wore my bear claw minutes.  It still took me a long time to get warm, but finally I went to sleep.



I woke up at 4 a.m.  My feet were FREEZING.   In fact, my feet were so cold that they actually hurt.  I tried flexing the muscles in my toes and rubbing my feet together, but not much helped.  In my mind, I knew that if I got out of my sleeping bag and put on some extra socks that my feet might get warmer, but I just couldn’t convince myself to pull the rest of my relatively warm body out of the sleeping bag.  I spent the next two hours in fitful sleep, my feet waking me up periodically to remind me that I was in Antarctica.



Day Two



I convinced myself to get out of bed around 6 a.m.  Betty spent most of the night awake and cold and she had left the quinzee about an hour earlier.  Getting dressed was very difficult.  I put on extra layers and applied toe warmers to my feet then headed off to the bathroom.



frozen bettyAt this point, Happy Camper School had become a mental game.  All day yesterday, the instructors had told us that we were really lucky that the weather was so pleasant – “warm” they had even ventured to say.  I knew that by Antarctica standards that a wind chill of

-24° was warm.  As day two started, however, no one could convince me that it was warm by any standard.  Eric and Matt would be picking us up at 8:30 a.m. to go back to the instructor’s hut.  In the next two hours we had to break down camp, put away all of the tools, and line up all of our bags for pick-up.  So I did the only thing that I could do to combat the cold, I worked.  The entire time that I was working, I repeated over and over in my head “Just two more hours…Just one more hour…just thirty more minutes.”





I’ve never been so happy to see two people in my life as I was to see Matt and Eric.  After we loaded our bags onto the Pisten Bully, we headed to the Instructor’s Hut.  As many of us settled into the warmth of the hut, we couldn’t help but doze off as Eric explained the ins and outs of hand-held and high frequency radios.  Our cozy comfort was a little premature.  I was shocked whenever the instructors told us that we would be spending more time outside playing out “scenarios.” 



Scenario One:  Your Pisten Bully has caught on fire and all you have left is a survival bag and a high frequency radio.  No one can pick you up for at least 24 hours.  You have twenty minutes to set up a camp using only the tools in your survival bag.  Ready set go.



And then, he made us do it all again!  We had to set up a mountaineering tent, build a snow brick wall, start the stove and boil water, and make the high frequency radio work in twenty minutes!  I looked at Matt like he was crazy.  Reluctantly, I started working.  After all it was the only way to stay warm.  Our team moved quickly, each one taking on a role.  I carried bricks and helped to construct the wall.  We actually finished the task in less than twenty minutes.  I felt very proud and amazed at how much we had all learned in just a day, and I began to think that I just might know what to do in an emergency situation.



Scenario Two:  You are staying in a hut with a few fellow researchers.  One of your group members steps out to use the outhouse.  A condition-one storm sets in and he can’t see to get back to the hut.  You and the rest of your team members must attempt to find him using only a rope that’s about 150 feet in length.  To simulate a condition-one storm, you will wear buckets over your heads while trying to complete the task.



bucket headsDuring this exercise, my teammates and I realized just how hard it would be to find your own way around in a condition-one, and even more difficult to locate someone who is lost.













At two o’clock in the afternoon, we hiked out to the pick up spot and were picked up by the delta and headed back to the Science Support Center to finish up our training.  We all slept the entire ride back.  Back at the center, we refueled stoves and put away supplies.  We watched videos on the Dry Valleys and helicopter safety.  All the while, we were basking in the warmth of the heated building.



I crawled into my bed freshly showered and exhausted, but satisfied that I had survived my initiation into a community located on the driest, windiest, coldest place on Earth.





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Back at McMurdo—October 26, 2006

weather oct 26

Here’s what you said…



Phoebe from New York City provided us with some interesting acronyms:

SCUBA = Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus

HOMES= Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, & Superior

RADAR = Radio Detection And Ranging

PIN = Personal Identification Number

NASA = National Aeronautics & Space Administration

ROY G. BIV = Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.

Kamri provided these acronyms:

NBA = National Basketball Association

WNBA = Women Basketball Association

Dejeour sends these in:

NYC = New York City

YMCA = Young Men Christian Association

  • The acronym ANDRILL stands for ANtarctic DRILLing.

Sylvia and Chloe wrote in and ask:

What kind of rock is under the sea bed under Antartica?

lionelIn order to answer your question, I asked ADRILL sedimentologist Lionel Carter for help. 









The rock cores that we will pull up from the ocean bed will consist of mostly sedimentary rock.  The scientists working with ANDRILL want to find out the age of the sediments and how they were formed.  There are many clues inside the sedimentary rock that scientists examine to help them determine age and the climate of the earth at different time periods.



One of those clues is microfossils.  Members of the sedimentology and paleontology teams examine smear slides under a microscope to look for microfossils. Smear slides are made by dissolving tiny samples of sediment onto a microscope slide and then evaporating the water away with a hot plate, leaving only the sediment.  (While I’m here, I’ll be making smear slides!) 

Microfossils come in two kinds, plant and animal.  The sedimentology and paleontology teams work to identify these fossils.  Different kinds of plants and animals need different kinds of conditions to live. Some of these organisms, like plankton, need warm temperatures and open water to survive.

diatom

A common sea-ice diatom, Nitzschia stellata to learn more about phytoplankton and other Antarctic life forms, please visit www.spg.ucsd.edu/antarcticareu/wildlife.htm



Others, like sea ice diatoms, do just fine in the icy cold.  By identifying what microfossils occur at specific depths of ocean floor, scientists can form theories about the climate of certain time periods.



Another clue contained inside the sediment is carbon level.  In the very top layers of sediment, scientists can measure carbon levels to determine age.  This method can only be used on the youngest sediments, such as glacier sediment deposited in the last 50,000 years.  (Wow, that’s old to be young!)



Another group of scientists, the paleomagnetologists, measure the magnetic signature of the sediments.  The earth’s magnetic field has changed over the ages.  About 780,000 years the earth’s magnetic field changed drastically.  In fact, the earth did a magnetic flip!  The north magnetic pole and south magnetic pole actually flipped and switched places.  Paleomagnetologists use the 780,000 year-ago flip as benchmark in determining the age of sediment.



Sometimes, the sedimentologists find volcanic ash in the core.  Volcanic ash contains crystals.  The crystals are made up of elements.  Scientists can measure the isotopes of the elements to determine when the volcano erupted.  Volcanic ash is one more indication of the age of the sediment, and thus another clue about the climates of the past.





It’s a good thing we have so many scientists around here, because solving the mystery of the earth’s past is a complex problem!  Rocks sure can tell amazing stories.



Question to think about:



•    There are three major categories of rock.  I wrote about one kind, sedimentary rock, in my blog.  What are the other two major categories of rock?





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Oct. 28th, 2006 —Halloween at McMurdo

weather oct 28Just the Facts!

Grilled Ham and Cheese for Lunch.



  • In 1820, Peter Harvey (a member of Palmer's crew on Hero) was the first black person to reach such a high southern latitude.













julian and me





Tonight I celebrated Halloween at McMurdo Station (that's me and Julian), and it was quite an event.  When people work as hard as they do around here (everyone works at least 12 hours per day 6 days per), they also take their “play” time very seriously.  The majority of McMurdo’s citizens showed up in elaborate and creative costumes.  EVERYONE had a splendid time.



midnight at mcmurdoWhen I came out of the party at midnight, two things immediately caught my attention: first, the beauty of the midnight sun. 















halloween moon



Then off just a ways north of the sun, was the moon, hanging out in its first quarter.  This was the first time I had noticed the moon since my arrival at McMurdo station.  The great Luna is very important to me and I watch out for her wherever I go.  Seeing the moon made me feel a little bit more at home in this strange and icy land.















moon in nyc

But it also made me wonder what was happening under the moon in the New York City!





Questions to think about:



    If I was staring at the setting sun, what direction was I facing?

    Think about what midnight looks like where you live.  How is this picture of midnight in Antarctica different than midnight in your hometown?  Why do you think they are different?






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The Teacher's Learning Curve - Oct. 29, 2006


weather oct 29







Yesterday was a very big day for the ANDRILL team.  It was the first day we had a Core Summary, followed by a Core Tour. 



Before it’s arrival at Crary lab a core sample goes through many stages including: first scanning, transport from the drill site to McMurdo, splitting it in half lengthwise, and then a second scanning.  The working half of the core sample comes into the lab through a garage door and is greeted by the night shift of sedimentologists.  These nocturnal scientists work hard to examine the core carefully.  They look at the core closely at the different layers in the core.  They also examine how tightly the sediment is compacted.  The sedimentologists also look for the presence of small rock fragments embedded in the finer sediment.  These are drop stones that have been released from ice floating above the seabed.   Each piece of information and each characteristic of the core is put together to form a “big picture” understanding of that section of sediment core.



Sedimentologists Larry Krissek presents the team’s conclusions to the whole ANDRILL team each morning meeting.   This presentation is referred to as a core summary.   After the core summary, everyone meets in the lab to have a look at the core for themselves.  During this time, Lionel Carter gives  “the core tour.” During this tour, Lionel gives an overall historical picture of this one-meter of core that may cover thousands or even millions of years.



 During my first core tour, I was a little lost.  So I asked Julian to re-explain the information to me in simpler terms.  He did this very well.  I’m realizing that, as a learner, I understand things much better when I can see a picture.    The diagram helped me understand Lionel’s explanation much better, as did Julian’s explanations.



julian's diagram



You may not be able to read Julian’s explanations very well so I’ll interpret.  In the bottom part of the core there was hard mud.  That may mean that an ice sheet was sitting on that mud and squashing it.  In the next layer of sediment, there were some drop stones.  These drop stones indicate that the ice melted and dropped some rocks in the sediment.  In the very top layer, the sedimentologists found some microfossils, tiny little indicators of plant and animal life. 



Put it all together and what do you get??
 



This core shows a climate change from very cold, when ice sheets were formed, to a warmer climate with some open water allowing for microscopic life.  This change occurred over a period of approximately 20 thousand years.





Thinking Challenge:



    Pick three photos of yourself that you feel represent how you have changed over time.  Examine the photos very carefully.  Describe each photo in as much detail as possible.  Put the photos together as a personal timeline and explain how you’ve changed over the years. 



dogs





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Meet Dr. Shane Kanatous — Oct. 31, 2006

kanatous

I ask Dr. Kanatous for an interview after learning that he is originally from Brooklyn, New York.



Educational History



Xaverian High School, Brooklyn, NY

South Hampton College of Long Island University — BS in Marine Science

Texas A & M University — Ph. D. in Exercise and Skeletal Muscle Physiology



What made you want to become a Marine Biologists?




I was a Jacques Cousteau baby.  I watched the Jacques Cousteau series on television, and had all of the Jacques Cousteau books.  I looked at all the pictures before I could read the words.  I was completely fascinated with the ocean and marine life.  I wanted to see it.  That was the wildfire.



Can you talk about some of the important stepping-stones in your career?



During my senior year at Xaverian High School, I had the opportunity to meet and discuss a career in marine biology with the Director of the New York Aquarium, Dr. George Ruggieri.  Dr. Ruggieri encouraged me to pursue a degree in Marine Science at Southampton College of Long Island University. 



When I was a sophomore at Southampton College, I spent a semester at sea.  We travel on a schooner from Gloucester, Massachusetts north to Appledore, Maine and then down the Atlantic coast, ending in the Dominican Republic.  Until this time the farthest I had ever been from home was Coney Island.  We saw dolphins, whales and sharks on a daily basis.  Everything we were learning about in the classroom was only a field trip away. 



During my senior at Southampton, I became an intern for Dr. Gerry Kooyman in the Physiological research Lab at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego, California.  During that year, we studied the diving physiology and metabolism of California sea lions, harbor seals, thick billed murres, and king and emperor penguins.  (Physiology is the study of the life processes and activities of a living thing or any of its parts or of a particular bodily process such as respiration and metabolism). At Scripps, I developed the basic ideas that would later develop into my Ph.D. topic and set the groundwork for our current project in Antarctica.



What is your work in Antarctica?




We are trying to find out how the skeletal muscles of seals work during diving even when the animal is not breathing. We believe the answers to this question may have tremendous implications for human medicine. By understanding how another mammal has successfully overcome the debilitating effects of working under low oxygen conditions, we may be able to learn new therapeutic approaches to assist humans with heart or lung disease.



How many times have you been to Antarctica?




6



What’s the hardest thing about working in Antarctica?


Being separated from your family



What piece of advice could you offer students reading this interview?



While my basic ideas have matured beyond being the next Jacque Cousteau, I guess the answer to the question of how a kid from New York City becomes a marine biologist is, that he followed his heart and dared to dream big. The best advice I can give is to do whatever it takes to achieve your goal, and never let anyone or anything discourage you from achieving those dreams. Seek the advice and guidance of your parents, teachers and mentors, and remember the road may not always be smooth, but the journey will be an amazing one.



What’s the best thing about your job?



You see such amazing things like newborn Weddell seal pups and penguins.



Other facts of interest



Yankees or Mets?

Mets



Jets or Giants?


Giants



Favorite hobby as a kid?

Touch football



Dr. Kanatous’s parents currently reside in the Brooklyn Heights area.  He travels back to NYC once or twice a year to visit his family.  Throughout the interview, Shane credited his father (Lebanese) and mother (Puerto Rican) for supporting and encouraging him to pursue his dream.



Thinking Challenge:



    During his interview, Dr. Kanatous talked of his passion for oceans and marine life as a child.  He stated, “I wanted to see it.  That was the wildfire.”  Is there a place that you are passionate about seeing?  What is that place?  Why do you want to go there?  What do you need to do in order to make sure that you get

to this place some day?





For more information on Dr. Kanatous's project, please visit the link below:

www.polar06.yesican-projects.ca/



To read Dr. Kanatous's autobiography please visit:

kanatous.polar06.yesican-projects.ca/%7eShane_Kanatous





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Seal Tracking — November 4, 2006

november extremes



Many of you are curious about the wildlife I see on a daily basis here at McMurdo Station.  On October 31st I saw my first Scua.  The Scua migrate away from McMurdo during the winter and return in the spring.  As the days go on I see more and more Scua.





seal at scott





On Thursday, November 2nd, I went to Scott Base to have dinner.  Beautiful pressure ridges lye in front of Scott Base.  As we topped the hill from McMurdo and looked out onto the Ice Shelf, I notice several Black spots on the far side of the pressure ridges.  These black spots were Weddell seals lying out on the ice soaking in a little sun.  (yes, it's the black sliver in the picture.  The tiny white spot in the distance is the drill rig).  I was very excited to see my first seal.  I only wish they had decided to sun bathe on the other side of the pressure ridges, so that I could have a closer look!



On Sunday, Matteo and Julian spotted a Weddell Seal on the road right in front of Crary Lab. Matteo, Julian, Ellen, and I all decided that we would finish up our work and then head out onto the ice for a closer look at the seal.  Unfortunately, by the time we got to the road, the seal had moved on.  Suddenly Matteo said, “Look!  I have found something!”  What Matteo had found was the seals sliding track.  The seal had left a little trail of blood.  We followed the trail for a long time.  In addition to the blood, we also found periodic spots of yellow snow.  Seal urine, another sign that we were heading in the right direction.  Eventually, we saw him, a Weddell seal moving fast across the ice.  In fact, I was in shock at just how fast that blubbery seal could move.  We watched from a distance, not wanting to frighten the animal.  We eventually had to leave the seal and head off to dinner, but it was certainly a memorable encounter with Antarctic wildlife.





FYI: 



The Scott Base Pressure ridges are a beautiful natural phenomenon.  However, they are ever changing and dangerous and therefore off limits.  Although, we can’t get a close up view, from the hill above Scott Base the pressure ridges glow with highlights of turquoise blue.  The pressure ridges are just one more of Antarctica’s majestic features.

pressure ridges

photo by seth white



Pressure Ridges

Pressure ridges are formed by an initial break in the ice structure that is then subject to extreme pressures in opposing directions. The tension continues to build until the ice buckles under the pressure. Ridges are formed on the top surface as well as on the underside of the sea ice. These ridges can be as large as 15-20 feet. The structural integrity of the ice is affected at the points on each side where the ice begins to bow.

http://marsh.cms.udel.edu/~mtl/seaice.html









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A Question for All of Us to Think About — November 14, 2006

weather nov 15



Wrasheed (from CPE 2) was wondering ... Is it really the future there?



I guess my present is your future, which is really amazing isn't it? 



Wow, that's really a great question and it's really making me think. 

Do you think you could do a little research on global time zones and the international date line and tell me what you find interesting?



At McMurdo Station, we follow New Zealand time.  I am writing this blog at 1:40 pm on Wednesday, which means that it is 7:40 pm on Tuesday in New York City. 



  • Can you calculate the difference between Antarctic Time and New York City Time?  What about where you live?
FYI:



check out this link for some information about the international date line;



http://www.socialstudiesforkids.com/articles/geography/internationaldateline.htm



This is not the best time zone map, but it's a starting point.  Check it out.



http://www.mygeo.info/karten/802801.jpg



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If You Could See — November 26, 2006
stanza 1

all photos provided by Julian Thomson



stanza 2





stanza 3



stanza 4



stanza 5


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Fog — November 28, 2006

nov 28 ext

WOOO HOOO!!  39 degrees and you better believe it feels like SUMMER in Antarctica.  I left the big read parka behind this morning, trading it in for my standard issue wind breaker.  I can't believe I ever thought 30 degrees was cold =)















The view from McMurdo is word defying, which is just about the case with every view in Antarctica.  The station is perched on a hill overlooking the sprawling sea ice and ice shelf of the pristine white McMurdo Sound.  In the middle ground is a sliver of the Trans-Antarctic Mountain range: Mt. Aurora, Mt. Discovery, and Mt. Morning.  The background is a sky of the clearest blue one could ever imagine.



During a stay at McMurdo, it might become easy to take this view for granted.  It is just your backyard after all.  Antarctica, however, is a continent that won’t be underestimated or ignored.  Antarctic often reminds those of us here that we are just visitors —not owners or even residents.  Even if I were to never wander off the confines of McMurdo station, I could experience Antarctica’s majesty in the daily changes of the backyard view.



On many days the sky is clear and the mountains look so close that you can pinpoint the stratification lines on their faces. On other days, we may gaze upon a cloudy, stormy mess brewing in the distance.  Staring at the looming weather, we wonder if it will reach the base, bring snow or change our weather condition status. 



One morning, a group of ANDRILLIANS stared out the window of the Crary Library debating a slight difference in the horizon.  At first, we just couldn’t pin point what the variation was, but it looked as if a rock cliff had appeared at the base of the mountains.  Had we really never noticed such a drastic landscape feature before?  Finally, we realized that we were looking at a mirage.  The sudden appearance of rock cliffs was in reality an optical illusion.



Today, after breakfast, as the night shift exited the rear of the galley and headed toward Crary Lab, McMurdo Sound offered us up something new.  Only the tip of Mt. Discovery was visible. A silver curtain hung across the ice.  The shimmering sheet crept like a living thing — a thick presence, and it remained.  By noon, the fog reached McMurdo.  It’s fingers curled around the base of Observation Hill.  It swirled playful throughout the station.



After finishing work, I stood at the foot of Hut Point Ridge and debated whether or not I should take the hike today.  I just couldn’t tell if the fog was lying on the ridge.  Would I be able to see at the top?  Would I be able to climb down?  I decided that I knew the trail well enough by now and that I could find my way around a little fog.



When I reached the top of the ridge, Antarctica rewarded me with a trophy that only this place could offer.  I plopped down on the cold volcanic rock and basked in marvel.

I had hiked above the fog.  There I sat in the sky, on the clouds it seemed, staring at the ebbs and flows of the ridge, the pure blue of the sky, and the twinkling turquoise and white of the sea ice.  And I was glad that Antarctica had invited me for a visit.





Did you notice?



  • There were no pictures in today's blog entry.  I left my camera at home today.  For a moment, on top of the ridge, I really regretted not having it.  Then I decided to work really hard at making a "picture in my mind."  As writers, we will not always have a camera in our pockets.  The next time you have a memorable small moment, work hard to make a detailed picture in your mind. Then run to your writer's notebook or journal as fast as you can and write down a few key phrases that you don't want to forget.  There is more than one way to capture an unforgettable memory!






For More information:



Mirages and other optical effects are common in Antarctica.  Visit this link for some cool pics:

http://www.gdargaud.net/Antarctica/AntarSky.html


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So What’s So Cool About A Rock? December 5, 2006

It’s funny.  You never hear anyone say, “What’s so cool about a dinosaur?”  Dinosaurs are just cool, aren’t they?  But what makes them so cool? 

dinosaur





snake



Perhaps, the biggest contributing cool factor of Dinosaurs is their mystery.  They lived in a time long, long ago — so long ago that we can hardly imagine it.  Yet we do imagine it. We accept it as reality. We create movies about it.  We play with toy dinosaurs and stare in wonder at dinosaur bones in the museum.



We accept dinosaurs as reality at the same time as we wonder in their mystery.  We accept their reality because we have seen the evidence of their existence.  Paleontologists uncover their bones and fossils and study them with great intensity and fervor.  They form theories and then, in light of new discoveries, begin to ask new questions and form new and revised theories.  With each new discovery, they ask, “What kind of dinosaur is this?  How big was it? What did it eat?  What was the climate like when this dinosaur was around?  Why is this dinosaur extinct?”



So if we accept the reality of dinosaurs, wonder in their mystery, and admit that they’re fascinating and cool, then it is inevitable that we can be just as captivated and excited about a rock.  How, you ask?



Simply take yourself back to the time of the dinosaurs.  Envision yourself in their world, their time.  Stare up into the face of a mighty Brontosaurus and gradually work your eyes down her body until you come to her feet. Stop.  Look at her feet.  Now pay careful attention to what’s under those feet.  Sand, soil and rock. 



That same soil and rock that rested under the foot of a dinosaur still exits today.  Like dinosaur bones, this old rock can be hard to get to, but it holds a story — it’s own mystery.  It holds the evidence of a climate from long, long ago.  Evidence of volcanoes and icebergs, of animals and plants — evidence of the earth of the past. 



core 450







diatom 2





Before I came to Antarctica, I never realized just how cool rock is.  The secrets of a time long, long ago are embedded deep inside the rocks below our feet.   So, every now and then, take some time to pick up a rock, accept its reality and then wonder in its mystery.



Fun Fact:

During the Cape Roberts Project, an Antarctic drilling project similar to ANDRILL, scientists drilled back in time 34 million years.  They even recovered one small section of core that was 380 millions years old.  That’s 315 million years older than the dinosaurs!





Web Link:

Check out NOAA's "Ends of the Earth" photo gallery for cool facts and pics of Antarctica.

http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/corps/antarctic.html




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Dear Stephanie's Class — December 11, 2006

steph's blog2


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World's Apart — December 16, 2006
weather dec 16

While I was writing this blog I was reminded of a song that I really like entitled "World's Apart" from the musical Big River.

I see the same stars through my window

That you see through yours

But we're worlds apart

Worlds apart

And I see the same skies through brown eyes

That you see through blue

But we're worlds apart, worlds apart

Just like the earth, just like the sun

Two worlds together are better than one

I see the sun rise in your eyes

That you see in mine

But we're worlds apart, worlds apart.



Just a reminder, while you are sleeping, someone else in the world is getting ready for school.  At the same time you are eating a hamburger for lunch, someone else is eating fava beans for dinner.  While we live our days at peace, someone else lives theirs at war.



While I am in Antarctica now, I will soon be back home with you.


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Changes — December 18, 2006

dec 18 blog


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October 16, 2006
Arthur’s Pass
I found out an interesting fact at the visitor’s center today. I was reading a pamphlet about protecting the endangered Kiwi bird, and it stated, "70% of chicks are killed by stoats." "What are stoats?" I asked the gentleman working in the center. He showed me a stuffed stoat behind the counter. It looked similar to a small ferret. I further asked if the stoat was a native species to New Zealand. He then told me that New Zealand’s only native mammal species is the bat – everything else was introduced.

5

The Kea is an alpine parrot found only in the mountainous areas of New Zealand’s South Island. They have a harsh ’kee -ahh’ call, and vivid red under wings that are usually only seen in flight. They are outgoing and inquisitive. This one was more than happy to pose for a picture.

Questions to think about:
Currently the invasive species of stoats and possums, and even domestic dogs are doing great harm to the natural environment and native birds of New Zealand. What species in your part of the world are "invasive" and how have they impacted the local environment?

Vanessa



October 15, 2006
From Wanaka to Arthur’s Pass
It was a long day of driving. It rained heavily the whole day, which only made the 7.5 hours of driving feel longer.

Despite the weather, winding through the mountains of Mt. Aspiring National Parks was still amazing. The mist rolling in and out of the mountains gave the place a mystical feel. Waterfalls from melting snowcaps cascaded down the sides of the mountains at every turn.

We stopped at Fox Glacier. We hiked down a rainforest trail to reach the viewing point for this huge glacier. I knew I would soon see glaciers in Antarctica, but I didn’t expect to find one here!

4

A bit of New Zealand Trivia:
What famous movies were shot in New Zealand?

Vanessa





October 14, 2006
Queenstown
After a wee bit of site seeing, we headed out of Queenstown and onto the trail. We hiked for about 2 ½ hours on the Mt. Crichton Loop Trail. Hiking (for one who is not in sufficient shape at least) can often be hard work, but there are few things in life that I have found so rewarding. On this trail we were rewarded with a beautiful waterfall and many scenic overlooks of both lake and mountain peaks, which only further my theory that this place is one of the most beautiful on earth.

We moved on to Wanaka in the late afternoon.  We ate dinner and caught a flick that the Cinema Paradiso.  This was not ordinary movie theater. You can order a delicious dinner before the movie or pre-order for intermission. (Yes all the movies at the Cinema Paradiso still have intermissions.) Inside the theater, you can choose to sit on comfy recliners and couches, or inside the convertible car!

3

Dinner was enhanced with the conversation of some new friends named Norma and Cullen from the UK.

Questions to think about:
Have you ever made a friend from another country? If yes, what did you learn from your new friend?
If you could make a friend from any country in the world, which country would it be and why?

Vanessa



October 13, 2006
New Zealand
Today I drove on the wrong side of the road at 100 all day long. Of course, in New Zealand, the wrong side of the road is the correct side and the 100 is Kilometers per hour.

Luann and I rented a car and headed out today to explore New Zealand’s South Island.  Never in my wildest dreams did I ever image that there was such a beautiful place.

Most of the day we drove with the snowcaps of the New Zealand Alps in the foreground. I grew up at the foot of the rolling and lush Appalachians. I spent the summer on the Sinai shore below mountains of giant red stone. The New Zealand Alps offered me a whole new experience. They are sharp and tall. Majestic. Every ridge looks perfectly chiseled by the hands of time, the rolling of glaciers, the moving and shifting of the earth’s plates.

The rolling hills are not so shabby either. Winding in and out -- from one corner to the next they would change from emerald green, to dry and shrubby, looking like a face of an old mountain man in need of a fresh shave.

Color. I was sad to leave the New York at the peak of the fall, my favorite season. Sad to miss the leaves of fall, and the amazing miracle that nature presents. Here Nature offers a palette of vibrant colors. Fields of bright yellow mustard. Bright, emerald green grass. Flowers of red and orange. But nothing as amazing as the water. The color of turquoise. The kind of beautiful that words just can’t describe.

Then of course, there are the animals. It feels like there are more sheep in New Zealand than people. Sheep in all different shapes, sizes and textures sweep across the landscape. From a distance, they look like cotton balls stuck to the landscape. Then we saw animals that I couldn’t identify - - one that looked like a cross between a sheep and a llama. All kinds of different cows, including one with a long strip down it’s back and one that had a wooly coat.
After a long day of driving, we end the day in Queenstown. Our hotel room overlooks the tourquoise blue of Lake Wakatipu. And I fall asleep wondering if there is any other place on earth as magical as New Zealand.

12

Questions to think about:
  • If I am driving at 100 kilometers per hour, how many miles per hour am I driving?
  • The turquoise blue waters I describe above are those of fresh water lakes. What makes the water such a unique shade of blue?
  • If the temperature is 17 degrees Celsius here, what is the temperature in Fahrenheit?

Vanessa


© 2007-2009 by ANDRILL. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Creative Commons License