Gib Finney’s sequel to THE POWER OF UN
Old Gib’s Avatar
20 June 2008, Finney @ 7:28 pm

[This post written 6/20/08; position: lat -58’09”, long -42’36”; temp 0C; wind chill -10C]

June 20th turns out to be a very special day in Antarctica. I have been so busy keeping track of ROV launchings and plane flights, lasers and ice caves and weird sea creatures, that I didn’t think about it until this morning, when Adam sent around an email greeting from Palmer Station. June 20th is summer solstice. For all of you on the northern half of the planet, it’s the longest day of the year. I am thinking about that and feeling a little wistful, imagining what it’s like at home right now. In our town, it has probably been a hot day, maybe with some thunder showers, but not enough to cool things down much. Pretty soon, kids climbing trees and playing catch will stop and sniff the air as their parents start barbecues. They will eat dinner outside on screened porches, because it’s too warm to be inside. And when they’re done, they’ll race back out into the neighborhood to meet their friends and play some more before dark. The great thing is, it’ll be a long time before dark. At nine-thirty, the fireflies will just be coming out, because this is the summer solstice — the day when there are more hours of light than on any other day of the year.

But that’s at home. Here in Antarctica, everything is backwards. It’s not the summer solstice. It’s the winter solstice — the shortest day of the year! Believe me, we are not eating outside here. At Palmer Station, the people who are staying in Antarctica all through the long, dark winter are sitting down to a big, fancy dinner with wine tonight, making a celebration out of it. After all, what else could you do? Better than whining about it, as my dad would say. But I haven’t told you the craziest part yet. After dinner, they go out and jump into the sea! I am serious. Dude. The water is -1.5C. That is colder than freezing! I don’t think they are going to let people jump off the Nathaniel B. Palmer. But if they did, I would not be dumb enough to do it. They must be pretty desperate for stuff to do down there!

Before I started thinking about the solstice, I planned to do a post about Dr. Vernet and her diatoms, and I guess I will still do that, especially since diatoms remind me of crystals and ice, so they seem like a good subject for the shortest day of the year.

Diatoms are these tiny, tiny plants that live in water. You can find them in lakes as well as in oceans, like down here. They are so small you can only see them with a microscope. One of the coolest things about them is that they spend their lives in these little structures they make out of silica, which is the same stuff sand and glass is made of. No kidding. These things are so weird they are like from some other planet. In the picture above, the ones on the left are Corethron criophilum. The one on the right is Asteromphalus sp. I hope I spelled those right. Dr. Vernet and her helpers (who are the ones who use all those purple gloves) take water samples every day and look at them all to see what kinds of microscopic life forms they contain. They find some amazing stuff, that’s for sure. Next time I go swimming in the lake, I’m going to be thinking about what else might be in there with me that I can’t even see!

Of course, you probably are also waiting to hear about what happened next with Strike. As you probably recall, he had just announced that he was from the future, which did not surprise me at all. How else could he be warning me about things before they happen?

After he said that, I said, “All right, but that’s only half the answer. How did you get here? And why did you come?”

He sighed. Seriously. It was a sigh, even though he probably has no lungs. “You sent me,” he said. “I probably should not have told you that.” He sounded so miserable I almost felt sorry for him.

I sent you? You mean, Old Gib sent you?” I was referring to my future self. The one who grows up to be a scientist and invents the unner, which makes it possible for me to save my sister Roxy’s life. Unless you have read The Power of Un, you don’t know how weird I turn out to be. It’s like this. When I first met Old Gib in the woods near our house, I thought he was a homeless ax murderer. I have a lot of trouble thinking of Old Gib as in any way related to me. “Why did he send you instead of just coming himself?” Which is what he did last time. He came in person to deliver the unner to me. And I have reason to believe he did some other things, too, while he was at it. Or I did them while I was at it, depending on your preferred point of view.

“It’s too hard to come back in person. It’s easier to send an avatar, like Strike,” said Strike.

“An avatar,” I repeated, feeling dense. As far as I know, an avatar is the character you pretend to be in an online game or an RPG. I did not get how Strike could be an avatar. At least not at first. Then I started thinking. An avatar can’t do anything on its own. It is just a substitute for the real person who is actually playing the game.

“Dude,” I said, as the truth hit me. “You’re Old Gib, aren’t you!”

My Theory Confirmed
19 June 2008, Finney @ 10:24 pm

[This post written 6/19/08; position: lat -57’49”, long -43’40”; temp 0C; wind chill -19C]

There is some big news about Strike today. But first I want to tell you about the pictures, which are “still” shots from the videos the Ice Mosquito made while flying. Which it did again today, by the way, in frighteningly windy conditions. But it dropped its beacon successfully and returned to the helodeck without crashing. Today’s pilot, Steve E. was so happy he looked like he would burst. I don’t blame him. It was AWESOME. Ash was so ecstatic he was jumping around and screaming.

The top picture is a shot of the underwater shelf that sticks out from the iceberg. (It’s the blue-green part.) You can sort of see the cliff face of the iceberg, too (the gray part). I know the middle picture looks like a robot spider. But it’s actually the beacon, just after the plane dropped it, and before it hit the ground. You can see the protective Nerf football. I meant to ask Brett or Paul what the things sticking out are. I think they are probably meant to cushion the beacon an extra amount, but I’m not sure. The third picture shows one of the cool little lagoons this iceberg has. You can see underwater ice shelves in this one, too. You can also see that this iceberg is just as smooth on top as the other one.

Also today there was another successful mission for the Phoenix ROV. It got very close to the iceberg and stayed there for an hour looking around with its video camera and pumping lots of water samples for the chemists. That was great all by itself. But then at the science meeting, Dr. Twining said the samples seem to confirm the suspicion that there will be extra iron in the water near the iceberg. This is very good news!

Now for the big news about Strike.

In the morning, Ash usually gets up before I do and quietly gets dressed and goes down to the galley to eat early with the engineers. Meanwhile, I lie in bed for another hour or so, usually sleeping peacefully. This means I usually miss the big breakfast cooked by Nestor and his crew, but I don’t mind. I am not a big breakfast kind of guy anyway. Cereal or a couple of cookies is fine with me. So I was lying in bed this morning, sleeping away, and suddenly I hear, “You should get up, Gib. You’re going to miss the plane flight. It’s at 8:30.”

At first I thought it was Ash, so I mumbled, “Okay okay, all right already.” Then I realized the room was dark and Ash wasn’t in it. Which caused me to say, “What the…?” and sit up too fast and bump my head on the upper bunk.

There was Strike, sitting on my blanket, staring at me with his beady black eyes. “What is it with you!” I said, rubbing my head and feeling generally crabby. “Why do you have to talk while I’m asleep instead of talking when we want you to? Can’t you just be a normal stuffed penguin? For your information, I am never going to do what you tell me to again unless you stop acting so devious. I want to know who or what you are and how you got on this icebreaker!”

“Oh dear, don’t get so upset, it’s all right, now now…” said Strike. I was pleased to see him acting a little flustered for a change. He’s usually so robotic.

I picked him up and squeezed him. “I am done messing around. Tell me right now or I’ll squeeze you to smithereens.” In truth, I didn’t know whether squeezing him would hurt him or not. I knew ripping his head off would hurt him, but it seemed unnecessarily mean and possibly not very smart.

“Oh, come on, Gib. You already know, don’t you?” said Strike. My squeeze didn’t seem to be bothering him at all.

I already knew? That stopped me in my tracks, because in fact, a theory had been forming in my brain over the past 24 hours or so.

I gulped. “You’re from the future, aren’t you? Old Gib sent you, didn’t he?”

“You are correct,” said Strike. I’m sure he would have smiled if his cloth and stuffing face had allowed it.

Purple Gloves
18 June 2008, Finney @ 10:29 pm

[This post written 6/18/08; position: lat -57’49”, long -43’40”; temp -14C; wind chill -28C]

Today started out to be pretty ordinary, except it was our coldest day so far, and there was snow. This meant we couldn’t stay outside for more than a few minutes at a time, even in our Antarctic extreme weather clothes. Dude! It gets cold where we live — cold enough to freeze frogs. But it doesn’t feel anything like this. When you go outside, it’s so cold your eyes water. Then your tears freeze on your eyelashes. Then the snot freezes in your nose. I am serious. Just imagine how your fingers feel while all this is happening. Actually, that’s easy. After about four minutes, you can’t feel them at all.

Some of the researchers, like the biologists who are working on the MOCNESS, get up before the sun rises, when everything is at its very coldest. And some stay up very late, and it gets way cold then, too. And they have to stay outside for hours. I don’t know how they do it, except they must have gloves that are a lot better than mine. Also, a lot of them wear balaclavas. Otherwise their faces would get frostbite. Plus, now that I think of it, there are these little packets you can put in your pockets that get warm as soon as they are exposed to air. It is a chemical reaction that produces heat. It seems like magic, though, to be able to put your hands in your pockets and feel a toasty little packet in there to wrap your frozen fingers around. My dad made me bring a bunch, and I am glad. Lots of people on the ship have them. But they don’t help your face very much.

The engineers were ready to launch the ROV again, but called it off at the last minute. The waves got too big. So it’s been just the usual stuff today — sorting the day’s catch from the MOCNESS and taking water samples. Searching for something fun to do, first we tried to get Strike to talk again. But as usual, he did not cooperate. In fact, for the past day or so he has been a very ordinary stuffed animal. I know there is something very weird going on there. I just want to know who or what he really is. There is some kind of big secret there, and I am very tired of not being in on it.

Ash suggested that we go down to the galley and he would make us hot chocolate and we could hang out in Adam’s office again. But after we got the hot chocolate, we decided to go to the computer lab instead, where we could check our email and I could work on my blog a little. Once we got there, Rainy started looking at all the pictures other people had put on the public drive, and there were some really great ones there! For a couple of hours, we just looked at pictures, and it was really fun. It’s cool to see what other people thought was important enough or interesting enough to take pictures of. There are TONS of pictures of icebergs, of course, and also sunsets and sunrises. But also lots of pictures of icicles and of people outside all bundled up in their special clothes.

After we had looked at them all, we decided to pick the funniest one and put it on the blog, so that’s what I’m doing now. The top picture is one I took during our first day on the ship, when I peeked into Dr. Vernet’s lab and saw a box full of purple things that turned out to be latex gloves. I wondered what they could need that many gloves for. It turns out they use them all the time in their work with sea microbes (which, by the way, are quite cool, and I will do a blog about them soon). But I wasn’t the only one who thought the gloves were interesting. The bottom picture is P.D. This is the best and funniest picture we found on the public drive. There is another one of Rob that is funny and strange, but I will save that one for another day.

The Phoenix Rocks Our World
17 June 2008, Finney @ 10:32 pm

[This post written 6/17/08; position: lat -57’49”, long -43’40”; temp -9C; wind chill -29C]

Rainy and Ash and I are all sitting around in the office of Adam Jenkins, who is the guy on the ship who everyone goes to if they have questions. Not that we have any questions. It’s warm in here, which is capital G Good if you have been outside in the cold weather all day, which we have. Also, Adam has a couch, and it’s big enough for all three of us to sit on, and he is letting us drink hot chocolate while we’re here. We would be insane to be anywhere else.

Some nights, it is easy to write this blog, and other nights it is hard, and it is hard tonight. Rainy says it’s because I’m tired, and maybe she has a point. I wouldn’t mind being in bed right now with The Golden Compass catching up on the adventures of Lyra and Yoric the ice bear. So Ash came up with the idea of doing a post that is mostly pictures tonight, which we all agree is a great idea.

When we got up this morning, it was colder than usual, and outside there were small, dry flakes of snow whirling in the wind. The iceberg, A43K (I think it needs a better name, and will ponder it), looked as if it went on forever, disappearing into the mist.

Today was a big day for the engineers, who were ready to launch their ROV, the Phoenix. Here you can see Paul McGill and Steve Rock taking a last look at it before opening the big doors to the sea. Paul put a flashing beacon lamp on it, so they might be able to see it if it got lost after dark. Just a precaution, which turned out to be unnecessary because things went so well!

Here is everybody bringing the Phoenix out of the lab onto the A-frame deck. Right after this, they hooked it to the big winch and lowered it into the water, which was rough and dark and scary-looking. The Phoenix looked small but brave. Upstairs in the aft control booth, Brett Hobson and Alana Sherman were ready to work the controls together while Paul did communication and kept an eye on the read-outs.

And here’s the final picture — the Phoenix headed for the iceberg, working just the way everyone hoped it would. The birds were as curious about the Phoenix as they were about the Ice Mosquito yesterday. I am sure they have never seen anything like this. After all, nobody has. 🙂

Today’s story has a totally happy ending. The Phoenix sent back very cool pictures of the iceberg. They aren’t as good as the ones we got from the old ROV, but they are pretty good, and they show the underwater parts of the iceberg. The Phoenix also collected seawater samples for Tim and Ben, much closer to the iceberg than the ship could ever go.

All I can say is, engineers ROCK! Hooray for the Phoenix!

Ice Mosquito Rules
16 June 2008, Finney @ 7:21 pm

[This post written 6/16/08; position: lat -57’49”, long -43’40”; temp -6C; wind chill -20C]

This trip is so strange. Every day I get up and I think, I wonder what amazing thing I’m going to see today that I’ve never seen before and maybe *nobody’s* ever seen before, because that’s pretty much how it is. Sometimes it’s because the scientists and engineers are doing things nobody’s ever tried before, like looking underneath icebergs with a video camera or dropping beacons with a miniature airplane, or building a new ROV out of stuff they found in cupboards. Sometimes they’re looking at things I’ve never seen before, or even imagined before, like those weird salps and jellyfish, or diatoms, which I haven’t even talked about yet. Or they’re doing stuff like figuring out how much a piece of ice the size of a city weighs, or measuring the iron in a bzillion gallons of seawater with a thing that looks like a torpedo. Or sometimes we see birds and animals that have never seen a human being before, like those penguins or…or the Minke whales that followed us today! Then there’s Strike, who I’m pretty sure is the first and only of his kind.

The day started out with our first sight of the new iceberg (which sort of has a name, which is A43K; more later about how they name icebergs). Dude. It is humongous. The size of a city, I am serious. We’re not sure how wide it is yet, but it is about 15 miles long, and about as tall as the iceberg we just left! It took us three hours just to cruise around it. Then, since the sea was smooth and there was hardly any wind, Dr. Smith and Captain Mike got everybody together and gave us a talk about how to stay safe while the radio-controlled plane (a.k.a. the Ice Mosquito) dropped a beacon on A43K and then came back to the helodeck. Mostly, this was about staying far, far away from anyplace where the propeller might go. Ash has been helping out with the plane, so he got to stay down in the helodeck hangar during the flight, but Rainy and I and most other people had to go up to the lookout deck and watch from there. That was surprisingly okay, actually. We had a good view of the whole flight.

Which was totally AWESOME. Kim was the pilot, Steve E. supervised and got the engine started, Alana held the antenna, Paul recorded the data from the camera and the flight recorder, and Jake and Ken were up in the ice tower doing reconnaissance. In the picture, you can see Kim and Steve on top, and the plane flying over the iceberg on the bottom one. The takeoff was perfect. The birds were totally curious, and bunches of them started following the plane. If you look close, you can see them in the picture. Kim did a few turns to get a feel for the wind (which was very light today) and then flew over the iceberg. When the plane was right over it, he dropped the beacon. In the video pictures, you can see it — snug inside the Nerf football — falling onto the snow and bouncing, about the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. Then he brought the plane back. (I will try to put up some pictures from the video tomorrow.)

The landing was not so smooth. In fact, it was kind of a crash. The plane was damaged, but it did not go into the water. We retrieved the whole thing. And the GPS beacon is working well. So now the Ice Mosquito has a place in history. We believe it is the first RC airplane ever to successfully deliver a payload onto an iceberg! This is a very big deal, because up until today, the only way to do this was with a helicopter, which is expensive in a major way, and dangerous, too. People have died doing it. Today we proved there is a better way! Right here on the NBP, history was made.

Just in case that wasn’t enough, Steve E. shot some more marker harpoons, we got to see whales (not sure what kind they were this time) and snow petrels (which aren’t usually seen this far north), and the new ROV — which the engineers have named The Phoenix — passed its last test and will have its maiden voyage tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. Another exciting day ahead! The only possible problem is the barometer is falling, which means we might have stormy weather. Time will tell.

Strike Strikes the ROV
15 June 2008, Finney @ 10:18 pm

[This post written 6/15/08; position: lat -57’49”, long -44’28”; temp -7C; wind chill -23C]

Hi, everybody. Elizabeth had a couple of questions about my last post, the one with pictures of some of the gross stuff the scientists are finding in the ocean around here. First, Elizabeth, those are grown-up jellyfish in the picture. I know they look like they might be eggs, but they are really grown-ups! Also, I asked Stephanie to tell me about the differences between salps and slugs. She says that although both salps and slugs are pretty slimy, salps are very different. A slug looks pretty much the same, whether it’s in water or not in water. Salps look a lot prettier when they’re in water — like little glassy barrels — where they drift on the currents and use their muscles to pump water in one end of themselves and out the other. They catch food from the water as it goes through them. The reddish brown spot is the salp’s stomach. Some salps can even glow in the dark! I’ve never seen a slug that could do that. 🙂

Well, Strike has outdone himself today. This morning when I woke up, he was nowhere to be found. It took us most of the day to find him. We looked everywhere. First we went up on the bridge and asked Captain Mike and First Mate Rachell if they had seen him, which they had not. Then we went to the little lab where the planes are. (By the way, Lorenzo, the team has decided to take your suggestion about what to call the plane. It will be named the “Ice Mosquito.” There aren’t any real mosquitoes in Antarctica, so our plane will be the only mosquito anywhere around! Thanks!) Strike was not with the planes. At lunch, he was not in the galley, which I guess is not all that surprising, since I have never seen him eat anything.

At today’s science meeting, we asked the scientists if any of them had seen Strike. Sure enough, the engineers who are working on the new ROV said, “Yeah! He’s down in the electronics lab! We wondered where he came from. Is he yours?”

Which I didn’t really know how to answer. I mean, he’s certainly not mine. I doubt he belongs to anybody but himself. He has a weird attitude.

Down in the lab, we found him right on the bench where the engineers are putting together the ROV. I said, “Um…has he made any…uh…sounds, or anything?” I didn’t really want to ask if he had said anything, because I didn’t want to get teased about being too old and…whatever.

Judging from the weird looks I got, though, Strike hadn’t said anything to anybody. They just found him down there among the wires and soldering irons. What he was doing there we may never know, unless he decides to start talking again! I took a couple of pictures in the lab. The top one speaks for itself. The bottom one is the new ROV, looking almost as funky and homemade as the unner. I bet there is duct tape on it somewhere.

Gross Junk
14 June 2008, Finney @ 9:01 pm

[This post written 6/14/08; position: lat -57’49”, long -44’28”; temp -5C; wind chill -25C]

First order of business, as my dad would say, is questions people have asked. We only have one new one today, from Niknik, who wonders if the creatures in the last picture (on “Penguins!”) are krill. The answer is, yes, the orange ones are krill. I don’t know the exact name of the little dark green one. I do know it is a zooplankton, but so are krill!

Today has not been my idea of a fabulous day. I mean, nothing bad has happened. Strike has not spoken, for example. In fact, we tried to make him talk (by sitting in a circle on the floor of Rainy’s cabin — which is cleaner than mine and Ash’s — with Strike in the middle and no lights on except the emergency flashlight and beseeching him in serious and ghostly voices) and he wouldn’t say anything at all. Very frustrating. But nothing exciting happened, either. We have been going around and around the same old iceberg. Outside, it is cloudy and gray and cold in a nasty, sputtery way, and the ocean is close to black. There are no penguins or whales anywhere, and it’s snowing, but not enough to be fun. There is too much wind to fly the plane, and the kite’s not ready yet.

So we have spent the afternoon down in the lab again, where the biologists are still sorting through stuff they are getting out of the MOCNESS nets. We took pictures of all the grossest stuff we saw. Here are some of the things, if you look to the left. On top is a picture of these jellyfish that look almost exactly like eyeballs. I wanted to squish one to see what it would feel like, but Rainy said it would be immoral, and Stephanie the biologist didn’t look too happy about the idea either. In the middle is a close-up of a salp just like the one Rainy stuck in Ash’s face day before yesterday. I think these are the grossest of all, because they totally remind me of a big glob of snot with something unspeakable in the middle. The bottom picture is a jelly worm with a long, complicated name I forget now. If you look close, you can see its row of vicious little green teeth. I wonder what it looks like when it eats. I suppose you can see the food going down! The worm was lying there right in Danni’s hand. Hideous to the max. Danny is Rainy’s roommate. I wonder if there will be jelly snot stuff all over the door handles in their cabin now. I have decided never to touch the handles again.

I asked Dr. Kaufmann why they spend so much time sorting the stuff from the nets. He said, “You mean, what do we hope to learn by sorting it?”

“Yes,” I said. “That’s what I mean.”

“If we sort it, then we can say ‘of the total biomass, X amount is krill’ or salps, or whatever else we find. Where X is a number. Numbers are good, because they are precise. It’s always more convincing to have a number than it is just to say, ‘It looks like we have a lot of krill here.'”

Which I guess makes sense. Numbers. That’s science for you.

Mystery Pockets
13 June 2008, Finney @ 7:30 pm

[This post written 6/13/08; position: lat -57’49”, long -44’28”; temp -1C; wind chill -18C]

First, hi, Lorenzo, I will answer your latest questions. Plus, we are sending the name “The Mosquito” to the airplane team. We Three Musketeers all love this name and think it would be great for the second plane. Also on that subject, it looks like the weather is turning bad. (You might notice it’s colder today than yesterday.) Which means the chances of flying the plane in the next few days are not so great. So Steve E. and Kim have been building a kite (!), and Jake is working on a bigger, stronger slingshot. The slingshot speaks for itself, but the kite is a new idea. They don’t have the perfect materials. At the moment, the kite frame is plastic hose, and the kite fabric is heavy duty garbage bags. They will do a test today to see if it will lift the weight of the GPS beacon along with the Nerf football. The kite’s name is Crusader Rabbit, which Steve says is an old cartoon character from when he was young.

Lorenzo’s second question is about the iceberg, and why it is so flat on top. First, I know an iceberg that’s over 2 miles long seems huge, but out here, it’s actually pretty small. In a couple of days, we will be moving to one that is humongous compared to this one, believe it or not. This iceberg (and the new one we will soon be seeing) are both “tabular” icebergs. Dr. Helly explained to me that this comes from a Latin word, “tabula” that means a board or tablet. Our word “table” comes from this same Latin word. So tabular icebergs are supposed to be flat on top. But why? It’s because tabular icebergs are pieces that have broken off from big glaciers on the Antarctic continent, or from the ice shelves, which are big sheets of ice extending out into the sea, like the Ross and Larsen Ice Shelves. So, in a way, you could say this iceberg was born flat. It’s just a small piece that broke off from a big, flat sheet of ice, and probably not all that long ago — a year maybe.

The picture above is one of the weirdest things I have seen lately, and as you know, I have seen a few weird things lately. At the science meeting a couple of days ago, Paul McGill showed us the few minutes of video they got from the ROV just before they lost contact with it. This is what it saw under the iceberg! Underneath, the ice has all these strange little pockets all neatly arranged in a pattern, almost like a golf ball. Nobody knows for sure what this is all about — why these pockets happen, or what they are exactly. For that, we will have to wait, but we’re hoping it won’t be too long. The Amazing Engineers, Alana, Paul, Steve E., Kim, Brett, and Marko are at it again. They have spent the last few days roving around the ship looking for bits and pieces to make a new ROV out of! It’s like they’re on a scavenger hunt. All kinds of things might be useful for building a new ROV. They have found a couple of thruster motors no one was using, and a video camera and other stuff they will mount on a frame. It will be “rough n’ ready” compared to the old ROV, but maybe it will work, just like the guys in the old movie “Flight of the Phoenix,” one of my favorites to watch on rainy days, who make a new plane out of a crashed one.

Ash and Rainy and I have had a secret meeting about Strike. We are going to try to have a conversation with him, probably tonight or tomorrow, and thereby find out who or what he is and what he is doing on this ship.

13 June 2008, Finney @ 6:19 am

[This post written 6/12/08; position: lat -57’49”, long -44’28”; temp 0C; wind chill -13C]

I thought a big piece broke off the iceberg yesterday! Hahahahahaha! This is hysterical laughter. The story actually begins last night. Just as I got into bed, Strike was lying on my pillow, and he said, “You’d better wrap you camera in a t-shirt and put it in the cupboard.”

I said, “Wha…?” And then I said, “Ash, did you hear that? Ash!” But Ash didn’t hear because he was asleep. I said, “Strike, why would I want to wrap my camera in a t-shirt?”

“To pad it when the big wave comes,” said Strike.

“What big wave? What’re you talking about you lunatic bird?”

“The one that happens when the iceberg breaks in two,” said Strike.

“I can’t believe I’m having this conversation, especially with a stuffed penguin,” I said. But I got up and did what he said anyway, and boy, am I ever glad. Because in the middle of the night, the iceberg really did break in two. I don’t know if there was a big wave or not, because I was asleep. I didn’t notice. But this morning a giant hunk of the iceberg was floating around a couple of miles from the rest of the iceberg. Dr. Helly says he estimates about 15% of the iceberg broke off.

One of the most awesome parts of all this is that the small piece is the right shape for penguins to climb onto and play! Seriously! We watched them hopping around and sliding down it into the water for a while today. Captain Mike got the ship pretty close. My picture is not the greatest, but you can see the penguins above playing around.

Later, we went down to the wet lab on the main deck, where the biologists were sorting through specimens they brought up last night with this big thing called a MOCNESS. All those letters stand for stuff, like Multiple Opening-Closing etc. I can’t remember what all. But it gathers samples of stuff from the ocean, mostly near the surface. Here are some pictures of Dr. Kaufmann and his helpers sorting through the samples, which are mainly salps and planktons. The middle picture is a polychete, which is sort of a sea worm with lots of legs. The bottom picture is plankton. They were alive in those dishes and wriggling all around, and the scientists let us help with the sorting. Rainy held up a big salp about half an inch from Ash’s face to scare him. Gross, but cool.

Now I just have to figure out how Strike knows what’s going to happen before it happens. !!

Mama Icebergs
11 June 2008, Finney @ 9:11 pm

[This post written 6/11/08; position: lat -57’49”, long -44’28”; temp 1C; wind chill -13C]

I thought this was going to be kind of a boring day. When we woke up, the water was very calm and there was a lot of fog — so much that we could barely see the iceberg. It was warm again, too, not even freezing. So warm that birds were sitting on the deck, see above. I don’t know what kind of bird this is, because I couldn’t see its wings. But I am guessing it was a petrel. Almost all the birds seem to be petrels, except the albatrosses.

It seemed like a good day to stay inside and see what the scientists were up to. So we went down to the main deck and found Vivien and Nicole, who work on microscopic life forms. They were sitting in a little refrigerator room with about a zillion gallons of seawater in big jugs. See above. They get samples of water, and then they filter the life forms out until there’s only one liter of water left and it is chock full of little live things from the ocean. There are so many of them in that small amount of water that it makes them very easy to study. They have to keep the water cold, the same temperature as the ocean, which is freezing or just a little below. Vivien and Nicole are very nice, and very into what they are doing. They said they would tell us when they had microscope slides of the stuff they found. That will be cool.

Then we came back to the cabin to wash up for lunch and dude, Strike was sitting right on the desk and while Ash was in the bathroom, he said, “Gib, don’t get too close to the water today. Something’s going to happen.”

Dude! He about scared me to death! And then it turned out he was right. Just a little while ago, a huge hunk fell off the iceberg and made a big wave. This was the major calve of the century, I think. These are not baby icebergs. More like mommy icebergs. More soon!

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