Gib Finney’s sequel to THE POWER OF UN
Our First Icebergs
5 June 2008, Finney @ 7:59 pm

[This post written 6/5/08; position: lat -60’25”, long -55’13”]

First off, Jonesy, I will say hi to Cole for you. We all like Cole a lot. He is cheerful and sure knows how to do a lot of different things. I don’t know if Dr. Shaw and Dr. Twining could get along without him.

Second, Lorenzo had a couple of questions which I will try to answer. The lowest temperatures we have had so far are today’s. We are at -3C, which doesn’t sound so bad. But there is a horrendous wind coming off the icebergs, and it makes the air feel much colder. This is called “wind chill.” With wind chill figured in, today’s temperature is about -21C. Everyone is wearing their heaviest coats and gloves and most people have balaclavas on, too! We have not seen any penguins yet (except Strike). I sure hope we do, but all we have seen so far is cape petrals and an albatross. The petrals are ultra-cool looking. They are black with white checker-spots on their wings. They swoop down and catch fish out of the waves, and they are very good at it. Although we have seen hundreds of icebergs today, so far we have not found an ideal one to study. They are all too small or in water that is too shallow, so we are still hunting for a good one. We won’t fly the plane until we find that perfect iceberg. Don’t worry, I will let you know as soon as the plane flies. Everyone is excited about it!

At the top of this post you can see a picture of some of the icebergs we have seen today. We saw our first one yesterday, and we didn’t know it at first. It was a very foggy day. We went out on deck because someone said there was an iceberg out there, but all we saw was fog. Dr. Robison said, “It’s there. Look closer.” So we all peered through the fog as hard as we could and all at once we saw it. I don’t know how close we were, but in the fog it seemed almost close enough to touch. It was monstrous huge, and had ice caves and looked very mysterious. Today the weather has been clear, so we got to see icebergs in the sun. One weird thing about Antarctica in winter is that the sun doesn’t stay up for very long. Today it rose at about 9:30 and now it’s quarter to three and it is already setting. In the picture, if you look very close, you can see Elephant Island in the background, where Shackleton and his men landed.

Today there has been a lot of science stuff. First, Dr. Shaw and Dr. Twining launched another fish to take water samples. Then the sonar team deployed the multi-beam echosounder on the pole again to see how it was working. Dr. Rock will use the echosounder to make a map of the underneath parts of the ideal iceberg when we find it. The pole fell off somehow and the echosounder was almost lost, but luckily a safety line saved it. Close call! Pretty soon, they are going to send the Phantom remotely operated vehicle out for a test. The Phantom has all kinds of different tools on it including gulpers to gulp in water and sea creatures, video cameras, and robot arms to grab samples. So, lots of stuff going on.

Strike the penguin is still a mystery. In fact, he is more mysterious than ever. He is not always where I left him. Yesterday I left him on my desk and next time I saw him he was on my bed. Ash says I’m imagining things, or the waves were so rough that the rocking of the ship moved him. But that is hard to believe. Stay tuned for further reports!