Gib Finney’s sequel to THE POWER OF UN
Non-hamburger Hamburgers
30 May 2008, Finney @ 8:43 am

Hi, hi. Sorry I haven’t been posting much, but the Internet in Punta Arenas is pretty weird. Can’t get onto it half the time. (or more!)

We are having a great time exploring the town. It is pretty safe, so we can go places on our own if it’s close to the hotel and we come back and check in every hour or so. Last night we ate dinner at a hamburger place, except the hamburgers weren’t like any hamburgers we ever ate before. More like sliced meat on pizza bread. There was a big soccer game on TV in the restaurant, and I snapped a picture of these two kids outside looking in (see above).

Also, Punta Arenas has more dogs than any other place I’ve ever been. I will try to put up some pictures of them soon. Meanwhile, WE HAVE SEEN THE SHIP and it is great. We are leaving the hotel today, and will move onto the ship. Tomorrow we will leave for the open sea. I hope the water is smooth, and if it’s not, I hope I don’t barf too much. I don’t think I will, because I love carnival rides and never have trouble on them. Rainy is a little worried, but I bet she’ll be fine. More soon!

Punta Arenas is Real!
29 May 2008, Finney @ 5:27 pm

I am writing this fast, because I am tired in the most awesome sense of the word. We got to Punta Arenas at about 3:00 this afternoon after a way long plane ride from Dallas to Santiago and then further, to here.

We got to see the ship. It is BIG, and painted totally great colors. Also, we tried to talk to kids who were watching TV through the window of a hamburger place, but we didn’t speak Spanish and they didn’t speak English, so we just all smiled and pointed.

There are tons of dogs in Punta Arenas. Maybe I can put up some of the pictures I took of them tomorrow. Okay, Ash wants the light off now. Actually, so do I.

Plans of Mice and People
27 May 2008, Finney @ 7:53 am

As my dad says, “Oh the best-laid plans of mice and men.” The picture above is a bunch of our new icebreaker friends standing around at the airport in Dallas waiting for their suitcases to make it to the baggage claim. Rainy took this with her trusty cellphone, because our cool new cameras are packed and it was too hard to get them out and then have to repack them again right away.

You might wonder why in the heck we were picking up our luggage in Dallas, since we were supposed to go all the way to Punta Arenas. Well…it’s because the best-laid plans of mice and men never seem to work out the way mice and men think they will. (Rainy is looking over my shoulder and shaking her head, and saying it should be mice and people, or mice and men and women. WHATever.) I am just glad my supply of Mentos, Jolly Ranchers, Atomic Fireballs, and gumi worms was in my carry-on bag, because my big suitcase is lost. I hope they find it, though, because otherwise I will have to wear long underwear that is WAY too big.

Our flight to Santiago was totally cancelled. The bad part is that we were supposed to be in Punta Arenas checking out the icebreaker by now. The good part is that the airline people got us awesome rooms in a big hotel in Dallas. I’ve never seen anything like this. When Ash and I open our door to go out, we’re not, like, in some dumpy stinky hallway. We’re on a balcony that is eight floors above the lobby. Looking over the railing, we see this creek and the tables at the restaurant and stuff, but it’s all indoors. Outdoors but indoors. So you can stay cool in the air conditioning but still feel like you’re outside. Ash and I had omelets and bacon and juice for breakfast, and we got the chef to put some of everything in them, which included jalapeno peppers. Dooooood. I had no clue my tongue could feel so hot without actually being on fire. Rainy said she would just have fruit, because fruit is better for you. But then the bacon smelled so good and she was so hungry, she had a whole bunch of bacon, too.

So we are supposed to get on a plane for Santiago and then Punta Arenas tonight, but not till about 9:00. I guess we will have to sleep while we’re flying. I talked to Mom and Dad on the phone. Dad laughed and said the thing about mice and men. Mom is strangely calm. She said, “Predictable.” And, “Well, Dr. Smith knows there’ll be you-know-what to pay if they don’t take good care of you.” She always says “you-know-what” when she means a swear word. We are having fun thinking up all the words she really wanted to say.

I hope the next time I write, I will have a view of the Nathaniel B. Palmer out my window!

Donald’s Heart Wins
19 May 2008, Finney @ 7:32 pm

Back again. Lately I have had some trouble sleeping. I keep thinking about Antarctica, and it’s like a combination of Christmas Eve and going to a new school. We might see whales and penguins and albatrosses. But it might be dark and scary, too. I have been reading this book, Shackleton’s Valiant Voyage, about Ernest Shackleton’s trip to Antarctica a hundred years ago or so. He went to the same place we’re going to — the Weddell Sea. Dude. Even though he loved Antarctica, the ice crushed his ship, and he had a horrendous time before he finally got home again. I mean, not that I think we’re going to get crushed by ice. I’m just saying. Plus, there’s Mom, who is still having a cow about the whole thing. Dude.

But that’s kind of off the track. What I really want to do this time is finish the Donald Frog story, which is taking way too long to tell. I have to finish it up, so I can tell you more about the things that are happening now, instead of stuff that happened months ago. So here’s the short version.

In our last episode, Ash and Rainy and I decided to put Donald back out in the freezing woods, because he wouldn’t eat the crickets we bought for him and we didn’t want him to starve. But when we got to the woods, we found a note from my future self, Old Gib, who has figured out how to travel through time and keeps getting in touch with me in various weird ways. To really understand all this, you will probably have to read The Power of Un. But for now, let’s just say I found out about Old Gib this last year in a pretty traumatic way. His goal in life seems to be to keep me on the right track in a world which, believe me, is full of wrong tracks.

The note said, “Donald is your ticket to the science fair. Don’t lose him. VTY, Gibson Finney.” At this point, we were only thinking about entering the science fair. We didn’t have a project, and we hadn’t been able to figure one out that wasn’t totally stupid. At the time, Ash and I weren’t hot on science fairs, because we thought they were kind of dweeby. But Rainy said we should do it anyway because if I don’t do science, how can I grow up to be Old Gib who invents time travel? And the note from Old Gib pretty well clinched it.

We were on our way back from the woods carrying Donald wrapped up in a ball of brown leaves when Rainy stopped right in the middle of the street and said, “Omigosh. Omigosh.” She was staring right at Donald, who was in my hands.

“What?” said Ash. “What? What?” He was looking at Donald, too, because she was. You know how it goes. “What’s wrong? Is he dead?”

Rainy punched him on the arm. Don’t ever let anybody tell you girls can’t punch hard.

“Ow!” said Ash. “What’d I do?”

“You guys, Old Gib is so totally right! Donald was frozen solid, but he’s still alive. How could that happen? I mean, all we have to do is figure it out, and we’ve got the science fair project of the century.”

Which, of course, was absolutely right.

So we spent the next two weeks basically living like totally deviant hermits instead of kids, rushing home or to the science lab right after school every day, wimping out of basketball practice, leaving Ash’s Wii untouched, not even stopping for Tang or hot chocolate. The first thing we did, of course, was go to the Web and find out everything we could about common wood frogs. We found this guy, Dr. Costanzo, who is an expert in Ranus Sylvatica wood frogs at a university in Ohio, and we emailed him and eventually even talked to him on the phone. He helped us decide how to do our experiment and answered other questions whenever we had them. Hey, Dr. Costanzo, how are you?

And we talked to our science teacher, Mr. Batcabe, otherwise known as The Batcave, what else? For a teacher, he is reasonably cool. Like, you could imagine seeing him at a baseball game, or eating in a restaurant, or someplace else that is not school. The Batcave was totally blown away by our idea for turning Donald into a science fair project.

And it’s a good thing, because he helped us with the hardest part, which was keeping Donald at a constant temperature of -4 degrees Celsius for 72 hours while we took turns watching him to see if his heart beat at all during that time. (BTW, scientists do temperatures in Celsius instead of Fahrenheit like average Americans. I don’t know why. Maybe I’ll find out on the icebreaker. But here’s a very cool thing that converts Celsius degrees into Fahrenheit degrees so you can see how cold we had to keep Donald.)

This involved filling a little Styrofoam cooler with ice and rock salt and setting Donald (in a nest of dry leaves we got from the woods) on the ice with a thermometer to make sure he didn’t get too cold. It turns out even a wood frog can die if it gets too cold. Out in the woods in winter, they stay covered with leaves under the snow, and it actually keeps them pretty warm — around -4 Celsius. Heh heh.

Every now and then, we had to add ice or add salt to keep the temperature right, and we did this for three days and three nights. Also, we had to be careful not to let salt water get on Donald, because salt water is poison to wood frogs. This was murderous. Stressful and boring both at once. As Ash said, he felt like he was sleepwalking, except when he felt like he was going to have a heart attack. Plus, speaking of hearts, once every hour we spent five minutes staring at Donald’s heart, which pushes up his skin a little bit when it beats. At the end of the five minutes, we wrote the results of our observations in a notebook. Which looks like this:

12/11/07 – 11:00-11:05 p.m. – no heartbeat
12/11/07 – 12:00-12:05 a.m. – no heartbeat
12/11/07 – 1:00-1:05 a.m. – no heartbeat
12/11/07 – 2:00-2:05 a.m. – no heartbeat
12/11/07 – 3:00-3:05 a.m. – no heartbeat
12/11/07 – 4:00-4:05 a.m. – no heartbeat
12/11/07 – 5:00-5:05 a.m. – no heartbeat
etc., about a million times

As you can see, we did this 24 hours a day, even at 3:00 in the morning. Not once did we see Donald’s heart beat. Our conclusion: wood frogs can survive for at least three days, freezing cold, without their hearts beating even once. We also did not see him breathe even once. How cool is that? I wish I could do it. I would spend the night lying in the snow looking up at the stars, and if it snowed on top of me, I wouldn’t care.

Dr. Costanzo says that as soon as the temperature gets down to freezing, wood frogs start making this sugary stuff called glucose. Also another thing called urea. Glucose and urea stay wet and liquidy at colder temperatures than water, and the frogs sort of fill themselves with it. So their cells are full of this stuff that protects them from the cold, and they don’t freeze to death. It’s like they are superheroes. Sort of.

To finish the story, we spent days and days getting all of this work together and setting Donald up in his Styrofoam cooler at the science fair. And (fanfare, please) WE WON!! Then we did it again in the regional competition.

After the regionals, a newspaper wrote an article about us. The reporter asked me what I hoped to do in the future. I said I hoped to be a basketball star or a fighter pilot, even though I know that’s not what my future looks like. What was I supposed to say? I hope to become an old guy who looks like a homeless person but invents time travel? Then, just at the end before the reporter hung up the phone and ended the conference call interview, Rainy said what she’d really like is to go to Antarctica someday, because we had found out there were fish down there that could survive in the cold, cold water, a lot like Donald, and she wanted to see them. We all agreed that would be cool beyond cool. (Well, okay, we didn’t really say cool beyond cool. Under the circumstances — it being about Antarctica — that would have been dweeby beyond dweeby.)

The icebreaker team researchers saw the newspaper article, they phoned Rainy’s parents, and there you have it. Did we say yes? No duh. Thank you, Donald. 🙂

P.S. We returned Donald to the woods, smothering him in leaves right near the stump of the yellow Ticonderoga pencil, where, so far, he is living happily ever after.

8 May 2008, Finney @ 8:07 pm

Whoa! One of the MBARI engineers, Kim Reisenbichler (I hope I spelled that right) just sent us an email to let us know that we are probably going to see a volcano erupting as we fly over Chile on our way to the icebreaker, which is going to be happening May 26. I got a Spiderman calendar for Christmas (the tag said it was from Roxy, but seriously, how is a six-year-old going to buy a calendar? It’s safe to say she had help). And I have been marking off the days. There are only 18 left before we leave.

But I’m getting off track. To get to the icebreaker, which will be waiting for us in the port of Punta Arenas, Chile, we will fly to Dallas, Texas, and from there to Santiago, Chile. (Where everybody will be speaking Spanish, which I am not so hot at. Rainy is acting all smart because she is hot at it. I am planning to practice a few things like “where is the bathroom.” Luckily I already know how to ask for a Coke. And how to say “please.” “Por favor.” Which is always handy, especially if you are accidentally acting stupid in a foreign country, always a danger.)

I checked it all out and it looks like Kim is right and we are seriously going to see this volcano called Chaiten spewing smoke and lava right after we leave Santiago! Here are some pictures (above), but there is a whole news story and more pictures here. It’s a news site, so WARNING, I don’t know how long the link will be good.

From Me, Ash, about the Airplane
3 May 2008, Ash @ 4:57 pm

Hi. I am trying out doing a post. Writing is not my best thing. I have trouble thinking of what to say. Writing stuff down is sort of a pain. I would rather DO stuff than write it. That is a big difference between me and Gib. But I want to show you these pictures, which Steve, the MBARI guy who is kind of the captain of the radio-control airplane engineering team, sent me yesterday.

This airplane is awesome. It has a video camera, and special bomb-dropping capabilities that will allow it to drop a GPS locator tag on an iceberg. And it has a huge engine so it can fly in the wind.

Above is a picture of the team (Alana, Kim, Steve, & Paul) putting the plane together in the test area.

Above, the plane is almost ready to take off, with its engine running. Yes, that is a Nerf football strapped to the bomb-dropper. Its purpose is to be padding for the GPS beacon. Awesome!

Mom Has a Cow
2 May 2008, Finney @ 4:36 pm

Guess what? Chicken butt. 🙂 Ash and Rainy and I got interviewed by reporters about our trip, who wanted to know all kinds of stuff, like how we got invited onto the icebreaker. If I had the story of Donald the Frog finished, I could have just told them to read it. Which is a good reason to finish writing it, I guess. And I will, but there’s all this other stuff that seems more important during any one-second interlude.

Oh, before I forget, I have been doing a lot of work on the “Who’s on the Iceberg” page. To check it out, look to your right, and choose “Who’s on the Iceberg” under “Pages.” This tells you all the people who are on the voyage with us, and is sort of like the appendixes in the back of Lord of the Rings, except it’s scientists and engineers instead of hobbits and elves.

Things are really starting to move fast now. It’s only 24 days until we get on the plane headed for the very most southern possible tip of Chile and the little town called Punta Arenas where we will get onto the ship. Mom is starting to have a total cow. First, she was worried that we will get lost in the Dallas airport while trying to find our flight to Santiago, Chile. Finally, I convinced her we will be all right because Dr. Smith is meeting us at the gate in Dallas, and besides, if we had to we could find our flight by READING THE SIGNS, like everybody else.

Then Mom stopped worrying so much about that part, and started worrying about the size of the ship. Here is a picture of the Nathaniel B. Palmer. It does not look small to me. But when Mom saw this picture, for some reason, it majorly freaked her out.

I said, “Mom, chill. The NBP is 308 feet long. 308 feet! That’s as long as a football field. It’s REALLY BIG!”

“No, it’s not,” she said. “The ocean is thousands of miles long. And there are all those icebergs out there. The Titanic…” And she started to cry. Which gave me sort of a weird feeling somewhere between my stomach and my intestines, because, you know, parents are supposed to be the brave ones, right?

I said, “Mom, the Titanic was not an icebreaker. The NBP has four gigantic Caterpillar diesel engines. That’s, like, the same amount of power as 12K big, black horses. If ice gets in our way, the NBP wins.”

Then she said, “What if your feet get cold?”

I said, “Mom!! Remember all those fat pairs of socks you bought me?”

But she just kept crying. I cannot win. This made me very worried that she might say, at the last minute, that I can’t go. Which would be catastrophic, as will be revealed at the end of Donald the Frog’s story, if I can ever finish it. Stay tuned.