Ask a Question

Photos from UAB in Antarctica group on Flickr, related to this post
Posted on 02/04/10

Have just a question in general? Ask it here and get an answer from the team.



  1. Is it cold in Alabama?
    Posted by Susan Kurre on 02/16/10
    Greetings to Jim McClintock. Wish we could get a hold of that "antarctic clothing" you have there... you'd make a killing if you marketed it in Birmingham now!!! It's freezing! Our family is so excited following your amazing journey, and wish you and your team much success with your research and with all your endeavors. We look forward to learning of your new discoveries and fascinating results. Stay safe! The Kurre Family
    1. Posted by Jim on 02/23/10
      Greetings Kurre Family! I am delighted and honored that you are following along on our research here in Antarctica. With new postings every other day, we'll keep you busy! Hope it has warmed a bit in Birmingham!
  2. General information questions
    Posted by Terri Reece Schoenrock on 02/21/10

    What are the average water temperatures for your dives?
    If you see mammals during your dives, which do you see?
    If you can, compare the sea life to Monterey Bay sea life.
    What is the most exciting thing that has happened on one of your trips? The scariest?
    If you could summarize the research you were doing into a single elevator trip, how would you characterize it? (Elevator is going up just 10 floors.)
    How many students have gone to Antarctica with you?


    1. Posted by Jim on 02/23/10
      Hi Terri! Here are the answers to your questions! 1. The average seawater temperature during our dives hovers around freezing (32 F). 2. The mammals seen during dives include fur seals, weddell seals, and too commonly, leopard seals. 3. The sea life in Monterey is similar in that there are seals, sea stars, macroalgae, etc. But all the species that are here are different than those found in California! 4. For me, one of the most exciting things that happened on a trip was discovering a small sea butterfly (marine shell-less snail with wings) that is abducted alive and carried on the back of a little shrimp (amphipod). Because the butterfly is chemically defended (distasteful), fish predators that try and eat the shrimp carrying a butterfly spit them out and they happily escape unharmed. This was such a marvelous discovery that it was published in one of the world's most prestigious science journals, Nature. 5. The scariest experience I had was watching a leopard seal come right up between the legs of my dive buddy in the Ross Sea many years ago. He was seated on the edge of sea ice with his legs dangling in the water! 6. Our research examines how bioactive chemicals play important roles in how marine communities are structured. We also are interested in learning whether the bioactive chemicals that have evolved for defense could also fight cancer, AIDS, cystic fibrosis, viruses,and other diseases. 7. Gosh - we have had many graduate students come to Antarctica over the years. I believe it is now up to eleven graduate students and four postdoctoral students.
  3. Re: Ask a Question
    Posted by 3rd grade Science Lab Class on 02/24/10


    Hello from South Mississippi. My name is Steve DeWitt, and I teach Science Labs for elementary students. We are covering Antarctica in our 3rd grade class, and we have some questions for y'all.
    1) Have you rescued any penguins that you have researched?
    2) What inspired you to visit Antarctica to do your research?
    3) What is it like in Antarctica?
    4) Have you swam with penguins while they were feeding?
    5) Is Antarctica big?
    6) How many times have you visited Antarctica?
    7) How long do you stay in Antarctica during a typical trip?


    Thank you for enabling students to share in your experiences.

    1. Posted by Maggie on 03/01/10
      Hello Steve and your class of future scientists! How cool that you are studying about Antarctica and are using our website. I am delighted to answer your questions. 1. Although the research I have done and am currently doing in Antarctica has never been on penguins, I have helped other scientists (ornithologists) with their studies. One year scientists were putting small tags on the flippers of Adelie penguins in order to identify and track their travels around Antarctica. My job was to help hold the penguin while the tag was slipped on. The scientist and I would make sort of a penguin sandwich – the bird in between the two of us. I was behind the bird with my arms wrapped around, pinning its flippers quiet. I tell you penguins are strong! I had to use a bear hug on those knee-high penguins! Understandably, upon release I got a good spanking by strong flippers! I was black and blue in spots the next day! 2. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a biologist. All along the way I have been lucky to have great science teachers (like Mr. DeWitt!) to fuel my interest. In college, one of my biology professors, Dr. Mary Alice McWhinnie inspired me to do Antarctic research. She was one of the first women Antarctic scientists and when I graduated from college she asked me to be a member of her research team! The laboratory facility here at Palmer Station is named in her honor. A picture and plaque describing her science achievements hangs in the hallway and each and every day when I walk by that I silently thank her for my first opportunity in Antarctica which has lead to many more. 3. Antarctica is a natural laboratory for scientists with endless questions to answer. Antarctica is beautiful beyond words and images but we will try to capture its beauty and share some of its scientific mysteries through our website so check often! 4. As a diver, I have indeed swum with penguins - both the standard black and white tuxedoed Adelies and the orange footed and beaked gentoo penguin (my favorite!). Penguins of all types are flightless birds but wow can they fly in the water with those strong flippers flapping.. They soar like a bird in the air and zoom around very fast in the cold water. I have not been swimming with them while they are feeding though. 5. Antarctica is huge! It is about 1000 times bigger than the state of Mississippi! It is about as big as all of the United States plus all the states from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Ocean! AND in the winter, when the ocean surrounding this huge continent freezes Antarctica becomes about twice as big. Can you imagine 2000 times the state of Mississippi?? 6. This is my 18th trip to Antarctica. Thank you Dr. McWhinnie! 7. A typical Antarctic expedition has me away from home about 4 months. This year our project will stay in Antarctica until early June. Be sure to keep on eye on our website these next months. In the meantime, be scientists yourself and thinking up more great questions for us!
  4. Re: Ask a Question
    Posted by Dave B on 02/24/10

    How long will you be at Palmer this trip?

    1. Posted by Chuck on 02/24/10
      Dave - Great to hear from you! Jim will be here through the third week of March and the rest of us will be staying until the beginning of June. We are settling in and very much looking forward to another productive and enjoyable season here at Palmer.
  5. Re: Ask a Question
    Posted by Kates Grandma, Maurine on 02/26/10

    When collecting specimens of algae or other substances what do you collect them in to bring them to the surface without damaging them?

    1. Posted by Chuck on 03/09/10
      Most of them are pretty tough and we can bring them to the surface in mesh bags. Then in the boat we put them into buckets of water to transport them back to the aquarium building at the station. Sometimes though, particularly with some of the invertebrates, we need to keep them wet the whole time. So we put the bucket under the surface of the water at the boat and transfer the bag directly into it.
  6. Re: Ask a Question
    Posted by Terri Schoenrock on 02/28/10

    This is not a question. I was doing some random research this evening, wondering how you all were faring (post-Tsunami warnings), and I found this information. I am so very impressed!

    Amsler Island (64°45.8'S 64°05.2'W / 64.7633°S 64.0867°W? / -64.7633; -64.0867) is located off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. It is named after American marine biologists Charles (Chuck) and Margaret (Maggie) Amsler of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The island is a triangular rocky plot of granite land approximately 1.3 miles (2.1 km) long and 0.6-mile (0.97 km) wide at its widest point. It was once thought to be part of a larger island known as Anvers Island because the gap between the islands was covered by the Marr Ice Piedmont. Rapid recession of the ice revealed this as a separate island in 2004. The United States Board on Geographic Names chose this name in 2007 in recognition of the Amslers' three decades of research in the Anvers Island area. Amsler Island was the original site of the United States Antarctic Program research base Palmer Station from 1965 until the current station approximately one-half mile away was constructed in 1968.

  7. Re: Ask a Question
    Posted by Mrs. Griswold on 03/09/10

    What a pleasure it is to find your website, having had it shared with us by a relative, Anne Gallagher, of one of your colleagues, a marine biologist currently doing research. My small class of second and third grade (gifted) students are delighted to read your recent account and have the ability to ask questions of you. These questions soon will follow.

    Thank you so much for providing such an engaging, informative website.


    Linda Griswold
    1. Posted by Maggie on 03/10/10
      Linda, thank YOU for introducing your students to our website. Send on the questions!
  8. Re: Ask a Question
    Posted by Emily on 03/09/10

    Hi my name is Emily. I'm 9 years old and in 3rd grade and I go to Greenbrier Elementary School in Arlington Heights, Illinois. In school, I am studying the Wandering Albatross. Have you ever seen one in your Antarctica trip? Have you seen its nest?
    How cold does it feel like in Antarctica? How do you bundle up so well? What was the best memory while studying Antarctica? It must be cool to be a scientist.
    One more question! How did you feel when you were going away to Antarctica?
    Thank you very much.

    1. Posted by Maggie on 03/10/10
      Emily I really enjoy watching seabirds soar over the waves. The wandering albatross is one of my favorites to watch - despite its large size (its wingspan is longer than the average third grader is tall!) it is a graceful bird and very powerful flyer. They do not nest in this area but do in northern islands like South Georgia and Kerguelen. It is still summer in Antarctica so the temperatures have been similar to what you have in Chicago right now. The other day though we had a heat wave - 53 degrees Fahrenheit! That's really warm for Antarctica! As such, I have not been wearing alot of my heavier clothes but as our summer turns to fall I know I will be looking for extra layers of wool and fleece. The best memory I have of Antarctica is simply the joy of waking up in this spectacular environment every day. How lucky I am! Yes, I agree that science is cool. Keep studying and enjoying learning and asking questions.
  9. Re: Ask a Question
    Posted by Matthew on 03/09/10

    Hi my name is Matthew I live in Arlington Heights IL. I was wondering if you have seen the emperor penguin because I am studying it. Have a cool time researching.


    1. Posted by Chuck on 03/09/10
      Hi Matt. Emperor penguins do not get this far north in Antarctica except on very rare occasions. I have never seen one here at Palmer, but have seem many of them when I have worked at McMurdo Station, which is much further south (78 degrees south latitude). They are very beautiful animals, and shockingly tall when you are used to seeing the other, smaller penguin species.
  10. Re: Ask a Question
    Posted by Madison on 03/09/10

    Hi I'm Madison and I go to greenbrier school in arlington heights IL. I was wondering, have you ever heard a Chinstrap penguin say anything? I'm learning about them. Have you even seen one? They are said to be arguably the most beautiful penguin. If you didn't see them or hear them, do you know anything about them?

    What do you eat for breakfast? Is it fun out there? Do kids send you emails ALL the time? Did you jump off a 5 star cruise? Do you like to send back all the emails you get? Anyway, I hope you have a good time there.

    From, Madison

    1. Posted by Chuck on 03/09/10
      What I eat for breakfast depends on what the cook makes. She makes different things most every day. We still have fresh fruit, though, and I almost always have more of that than anything else. The fruit came on the same ship (a research ship, not a cruise ship!) we did about three weeks ago and will be gone soon. We will get more when the ship next comes back from Chile in April. Unfortunately, things are tough in Chile because of the earthquake and we may not get as much as we are used to. I have a lot of fun here, including answering questions like yours!
    2. Posted by Chuck on 03/09/10
      Madison -- Chinstraps are my very favorite penguin. I think that they look "stately" with that band of feathers under their head. Of the three species of penguins that we normally see here at Palmer (Adelie and Gentoo are the others), Chinstraps are by far the least common. I don't know that I've ever heard one call in person, but they certainly do make sounds.
  11. Re: Ask a Question
    Posted by Laurel on 03/09/10

    Hi my name is Laurel
    I am in 2nd grade and I go to Greenbrier school in Arlington
    Heights IL. I'm studying Krill.
    I was just wondering have you ever seen Krill? And how much Krill could you hold in your hand? I saw a picture of Krill and the Krill had a yellow spot. Does Krill really have a yellow spot?

    If I were you I would think studying Antarctica is so cool
    From Laurel

    1. Posted by Maggie on 03/10/10
      Laurel I spent many years studying krill so I have seen tons of them. For some of the experiments I did hold krill by cupping them in a small pool of water on my palm. The biggest krill I have seen was about two inches long, not counting its long antennae. Hmmm, a yellow spot on a krill? If it was just behind the krill's stalked round eyeballs it was either the stomach (a small triangle) or another organ sort of like our liver. Since you can almost see through krill you can see the color of both of those and if the krill is well fed, both will be dark green or black. If the krill has not eaten much lately, both areas would be very pale and could indeed be yellow. Thank you for your question and I think Antarctica is cool too!
  12. Re: Ask a Question
    Posted by Danny on 03/09/10

    I'm in third grade, and I'm studying the killer whale I hope you can tell me more about it. Does one person only study one thing in Antarctica, or does everyone study everything?
    Have you seen a killer whale? I have seen pictures but not in real life.I hope you write back soon.


    1. Posted by Maggie on 03/10/10
      Danny I do not study whales but I have been lucky to see killer whales (orcas) on many occasions. You have probably learned that they are actually a dolphin and the largest member of the dolphin family. They travel in groups, or pods. I once watched a pod chase down a humpback whale which must have been sick or hurt because it was dragged out of sight by the orcas. They will also eat seals and penguins. Antarctica is a natural laboratory where anyone can study anything they want. Our project studies the communities in the water, other groups study birds, others whales, etc. I like to observe all I can even it is no my specific research. Keep on learning about orcas and I hope someday you can see one in real life too!
  13. Re: Ask a Question
    Posted by Katherine on 03/09/10

    I am studying Gentoo penguins and I'm in 3rd grade. I'm 9 years old I go to Greenbrier Elementary. I would like to know how many animals you usually see in a day and when was the last time you have seen a Gentoo?


    1. Posted by Maggie on 03/10/10
      Katie, Gentoos are my favorite penguin! I really like their bright orange beak and I was so pleased to swim with a small group once. They look especially cool in the water. It is summer in Antarctica so there are many types of seabirds that have come to the islands around our station to nest. There are several types of seals that are around now too. So, people aside, on land I may see as many as twenty different types of animals on a daily basis. That number increases greatly when I go underwater. Just the other day I was out in a boat and saw a few gentoos. We have no shortage of life to admire!
  14. Re: Ask a Question
    Posted by Laurel on 03/17/10

    I really like penguins. Have you ever seen one?

    1. Posted by Chuck on 03/17/10
      Sure. All the time! There was a Gentoo on the rocks below and not too far from my office just about 30 minutes ago. We saw several when I was out diving this morning. The chicks have fledged already from the nearby rookeries so there are not as many around as there would have been 6-8 weeks ago. But they are still a regular site. We also see Adelie and Chinstrap penguins. If you click on the YouTube button on the right, you can see a couple short videos that Ruth made about the penguins.
  15. Re: Ask a Question
    Posted by Katherine Mandziara on 03/17/10

    Thank u for answering my questions. I did a presentation on Gentoo penguins today. Has fall started in Antarctica yet? Will you be leaving soon?

    1. Posted by Maggie on 03/17/10
      Hi Katherine the Gentoo Expert! I know you must have had fun learning about and presenting on gentoos. Fall is just around the corner by the calendar in Antarctica. Your spring will herald in on the Vernal Equinox, at the same time, Antarctica will greet the Autumnal Equinox. Our two hemispheres will have in common twelve hours of daylight and twelve hours of night. The following day however, you in the northern hemisphere will have a longer day, the southern hemisphere will have a longer night. I will not leave until early June. The days then will be very short with the sun setting well before dinner time. It is so cool - keep checking on our website and you will see how we alter our outdoor activities as our daylight shortens.
  16. Re: Ask a Question
    Posted by Emily on 03/17/10

    Thank you very much for answering my questions! I never knew Antarctica can reach 53 degrees fahrenheit! Heat waves in the U.S. can go over a 100 degrees!

    1. Posted by Maggie on 03/17/10
      Emily - how nice to hear from you again! Yes, that was a very warm night. Not at all typical for Antarctica but as you know weather can be crazy anywhere. I wish you a beautiful spring of comfortable temperatures, beautiful flowers and delicious fragrances (especially lilacs!).
  17. thanks
    Posted by Madison on 03/17/10

    I didn't know that chinstrap penguins were that rare. Thanks for writing back!

    1. Posted by Chuck on 03/17/10
      They are not rare everywhere on the Peninsula. They are much more common to the north of us. Plus, there is not a rookery for them very close to station as is true for the Adelies. It makes them that much more special to see here at Palmer though!
  18. Re: Ask a Question
    Posted by Danny on 03/17/10

    Dear Maggie

    Thank you for the response. I look forward to writing to you soon.

    From, Danny

    1. Posted by Maggie on 03/17/10
      Hi Danny! I was out in a zodiac boat today helping some of our team dive. One of the folks in the boat said they wanted to see some orcas today in the water. We did not though. Keep learning about orcas and everything else that interests you!
  19. Re: Ask a Question
    Posted by Laurel Hart on 03/30/10

    have you ever seen an Emperor penguin?

    1. Posted by Chuck on 03/30/10
      I sure have! However, never around here. It is exceptionally rare to see one this far north in Antarctica. But I have seen many when working at the larger US research station called McMurdo. It is in the Ross Sea and much further south (almost 79 degrees south latitude while here we are at 64 degrees south).
  20. Re: Ask a Question
    Posted by Ask a Question on 04/07/10

    Thanks for the answers. It such a good way to find the answers of any question.

  21. Re: Ask a Question
    Posted by Liz Prosch on 04/08/10

    Greetings from Hoover Alabama:
    Antarctica is beautiful,and it appears that your lives are busy and very enriched. However, do you ever get lonely or experience a sense of isolation in such a remote place? What do you do in your leisure time?
    What happens if someone becomes ill or needs emergency care?
    Thanks for making us UAB alums very proud!

    1. Posted by Chuck on 04/09/10
      Liz -- Thanks for the kind words. It is indeed a great place and we are wonderful people. Of course, we all miss family and friends at home. It is easier for Maggie and me than for many since we are here together. Still, Palmer really is like an extended family and there is a great sense of community. The camaraderie really helps.
    2. Posted by Chuck on 04/09/10
      For leisure, there are actually lots of things to do. Our science team works a great deal, but of course everyone needs some time off! There are often games going on in the evenings and the station has an extensive video library. There is also a small but well equipped gym. Later on when the snow stays around, there will be opportunities for cross country skiing in the backyard (rocky area behind the station) and on the glacier that rises behind the station.
    3. Posted by Chuck on 04/09/10
      Everyone has to pass very extensive physical exams before being allowed to come down, so everyone is healthy to start with. If someone gets hurt or ill here we have a very well stocked medical clinic with equipment that allows high resolution video and diagnostic equipment output to be shared with specialists in the US. Jim wrote a blog earlier about Dr. Jo, our physician, and there is also a video about her and the clinic.
  22. Questions for Virtual Trip 4/28 from Goshen High School
    Posted by Dr. Helgeson on 04/27/10


    Randy: Why aren't there any large carnivores, like polar bears, there?

    Mary-Michael: Do you make igloos and how do igloos keep people warm?

    Kacey: What are the average temperatures there?

    Caleb: What is the oldest rock the geologists have found using the special instrument to date rocks by how long the sun has touched the rock?

    Jonathan: How hot and cold does it get there?

    Nicole: Does it snow there, or is it too cold all year?

    Dr. Helgeson: I would like to hear about the plant that kills melanoma cells.

    1. Posted by Chuck on 04/27/10
      Randy -- Polar bears are an Arctic species. They evolved there and have no way of getting here across all the warmer climates in between. However, there are definitely large carnivores here. The top predators are Leopard Seals (definitely recorded to be 12 ft in length with good evidence for females as large as 15 ft long) and Orcas (Killer Whales) which as you probably know are much larger than that.
    2. Posted by Chuck on 04/27/10
      Mary-Michael -- We don't make igloos here but at the larger US Antarctic Program base further south (McMurdo Station) one does learn to do that in field survival school (locally known as "Happy Camper School"). Snow and ice are actually very good insulators and they do a good job of blocking the wind. So they protect you and allow your body heat and the warm clothes you wear to keep you warm.
    3. Posted by Chuck on 04/27/10
      Kacey and Jonathan -- The temperatures here range widely throughout the year. At least the air temperatures do. In the summer a "typical" warm day can be in the 40's Fahrenheit. A "typical" cold day in the winter can be in single digits Fahrenheit. I really can't say what an average is. The water temperatures are much more stable, ranging from a little above 29 F to 35 Celsius normally with the coldest possible being a little below 29 F (because seawater freezes about there). On a few days per year the average water temperature gets up to 35 F and once a year or less, it gets as high as 37 F.
    4. Posted by Chuck on 04/27/10
      Caleb -- That is a great question but pretty far outside my knowledge base as a biologist. There are no geologists here now but I will try to find out the answer to your question and if I do, I'll post another reply. Sorry not to know myself.
    5. Posted by Chuck on 04/27/10
      Nicole -- It does indeed snow. We are in the northern-most ("banana-belt" 8^) part of Antarctica and when we first got here in February most of the precipitation was falling as rain. It is close enough to winter now that the rain is probably behind us for good now. There isn't much snow yet, perhaps 4 to 6 inches now that it is packed down. But I don't think we'll see bare ground again during our last five weeks here.
    6. Posted by Chuck on 04/27/10
      Dr. H -- The anti-melanoma compounds are produced by a colonial tunicate. Tunicates are animals that are the simplest members of the same phylum we belong to, Cordata. Their larvae have embryonic structures that developmentally-speaking are just like our spinal cords. They are invertebrates because they have no backbone, but their tadpole-like larvae do have the equivalent of our spinal cords.
  23. Re: Ask a Question
    Posted by Travis Eubanks on 04/28/10

    What research are yall doing to find a cure for melanoma?

    1. Posted by Chuck on 04/28/10
      Travis -- Our primary research goals are to understand the ecological interactions that shape these incredible communities, as you know from reading our posts. But in addition, our chemical ecological studies identify chemical compounds that are important ecologically and which also have the potential to be used in medicine or agriculture. So we make these compounds available to places like the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for drug screening. We are very excited that one of the compounds, actually a group of very similar compounds, has shown a great deal of promise in NCI testing for a potential treatment for melanoma. That is all in the hands of the NCI and other medical researchers now. But we continue to identify new compounds and make them available for this kind of screening. Who knows what tomorrow's results will be like!
  24. Re: Ask a Question
    Posted by Aunt Mary Lou and Kindergarten Class on 04/29/10

    Hi Ruthie,
    This is Aunt Mary Lou and my Kindergarten class at St. Vincent Elementary. We have a few questions for you.
    1. Teresa wants to know if it is fun having the job that you have?
    2. Cameron wants to know how you go under the water in those big suits?
    3. Reese wants to know how many penguins have you seen?
    4. Mia wants to know what you are seeing in the ocean?
    Well, that is all for now Ruthie. We will wait to hear from you. I love you.
    Aunt Mary Lou

    1. Posted by Ruth on 05/02/10
      Hi Aunt Mary Lou and St. V kindergarteners! Thanks for sending me questions!
    2. Posted by Ruth on 05/02/10
      1. Teresa: Yes, it is very fun to have the job that I have. I love being a marine biologist. I think marine biology is the most interesting subject in the universe. Being underwater is like being in a different world and there are so many beautiful and strange plants and animals that live there. I love thinking about the way all those plants and animals interact with each other. And then on top of that I get to scuba dive and drive boats and see icebergs! It is a lot of hard work, but it is very fun.
    3. Posted by Ruth on 05/02/10
      2. Cameron: Good question. The dry suit is one of the most important pieces of gear we wear because it keeps us dry. But with all the thick, warm long-underwear we wear under the dry suit and with the big rubber dry suit itself, we are very buoyant. The only way we can sink in the water in order to scuba dive is by wearing a harness around our torso that holds heavy weights. I wear 33 pounds of weight on my weight harness. That is almost 1/4th of my weight! The big tank that holds the air we breathe is also heavy and adds to the weight that helps us sink. And then we also wear 3 pound weights on each ankle so our legs don’t float up. With all that weight, it is really hard to walk around on land! But without it we would never be able to sink. Once we are underwater, the weight doesn’t feel heavy anymore, but it is still hard to move around and swim just because there is so much gear on our bodies. Therefore we swim really, really slow.
    4. Posted by Ruth on 05/02/10
      3. Reese: I have probably seen a hundred penguins. If I had gotten to Antarctica sooner in the Antarctic summer I would have seen thousands! There is an Adélie penguin rookery, or a place where the penguins lay and hatch their eggs, on an island right near our station. When it is the Adélie breeding season, there are thousands of penguins on that island. We missed the breeding season by a few weeks, so we only saw the last Adélie stragglers. We still see Gentoo penguins swimming around pretty often, and sometimes I see them hopping around on the rocks.
    5. Posted by Ruth on 05/02/10
      4. Mia: I am seeing lots of cool stuff. There is a lot of seaweed- more seaweed than I have ever seen underwater. There are tall brown seaweeds like big soft trees. There are seaweeds that look like huge green ribbons and are longer than a school bus. There are red seaweeds that are smaller and look like cabbage. The red ones are my favorite; they look like iridescent pink lettuce or thick purple lettuce. I also see animals in the ocean. I see yellow and orange sponges and sea squirts. These are animals that don’t move and don’t even really look like animals. You should watch some of the underwater videos to see what they look like. I also see soft coral and red, orange, and purple starfish. There is one kind of starfish that can have over 20 arms! It is called a sun star. I see fish too; mostly fat brown fish that sit on the bottom. I have never seen a penguin underwater, but I have seen a seal underwater! They spin around and do flips like acrobats. They are beautiful and swim so gracefully.
    6. Posted by Ruth on 05/02/10
      I love your questions. Send me any more that you think of. Thanks Aunt Mary Lou. Love you and can’t wait to see you. Go Irish!
  25. Re: Ask a Question
    Posted by Ruthie on 05/10/10

    Hi Ruthie,
    It is Aunt Mary Lou and the Kindergarten class at St. Vincent again. We watched your dive today. WOW...that was very awesome. The children have some questions for you.
    1. Jaydah wants to know if there are any sharks in the water where you dive?
    2. Jack wants to know if you have seen any killer whales?
    3. Bailey wants to know if you see any jellyfish in the water.
    4. Kaitlin wants to know if your face was cold when you were riding in the boat after your dive.
    5. Anna wants to tell you that we were studying frogs today and we found out that frogs can live anywhere in the world except Antarctica!!!!
    That is all for now Ruthie. We can't wait to hear from you.
    Be safe!

    1. Posted by Ruth on 05/12/10
      Hi again, I’m glad you watched the video! Here are my answers to your questions.
    2. Posted by Ruth on 05/12/10
      1. Jaydah: There are no sharks in Antarctica. The water is too cold for sharks to live here. This is true for a lot of predators that you always find in warmer waters. For example, there are no crabs in Antarctica either. People are worried about the Southern Ocean getting warmer with global warming because if the waters become warm enough for sharks, crabs, and other predators, they will start to move into Antarctica and change the whole ecosystem.
    3. Posted by Ruth on 05/12/10
      2. Jack: I have not seen any killer whales here. They usually stay farther out in the open ocean and don’t come near our little group of islands very often. But sometimes they do and maybe I will see one before I leave!
    4. Posted by Ruth on 05/12/10
      3. Bailey: I have not seen any jellyfish here yet either. I will let you know if I do, because I think jellyfish are really cool.
    5. Posted by Ruth on 05/12/10
      4. Kaitlin: Yes, my face was cold in the boat after diving because of the wind.
    6. Posted by Ruth on 05/12/10
      5. Anna: Cool! That is interesting to know. Here is another interesting fact: There is only one land animal that lives in Antarctica, and it is a tiny wing-less fly! (Seals, penguins, and birds don’t count as land animals because although they spend time on land, they spend most of their time in the water).
  26. Re: Ask a Question
    Posted by Tom on 05/23/10

    Hi Ruth
    I was wondering what the weather is like now that winter is setting in.
    And also what you are doing in preparation to depart the station?

    1. Posted by Chuck on 05/23/10
      Tom -- [I have Ruth handcuffed to the lab bench finishing experiments so I'll answer. 8^) Actually, it is a beautiful late afternoon and she is hiking on the glacier.] We have had weird weather. As normal, we've had more frequent and, on average, more intense storms than earlier in the season. But many of them the past couple weeks have brought rain. It is very late in the season to be getting as much rain as this. Normally by now the precipitation is all snow. With the snow that is already on the ground, the rain has made for some icy conditions around station. Fortunately there is lots of (sterilized) sand for walkways. For when it gets really bad, each of the main doors have a cache of mini-crampon-like devices that fit over ones shoes or boots for wearing other places, for example around the pier.
    2. Posted by Chuck on 05/23/10
      We have been in early packing mode for a week or more. Maggie coordinates that. We have had to give the cargo folks pretty firm estimates of how much frozen cargo we need shipped to UAB and USF as well as our preserved samples. Maggie has been packing preserved material (in alcohol or formalin) for shipment. She's also packed one huge box with things we are done with. That along with two others for things still in use will be stored in an warehouse in Chile until we come back in February. Each of our different sample boxes, either frozen or preserved, needs four letters detailing what is in them for entry into Chile and the US. Each needs an original signature. We may have as many as 20 individual boxes (more frozen samples than anything else). So on Friday I printed and signed 80 such letters.
  27. Re: Ask a Question
    Posted by paige on 06/02/10

    can you use a working toilet in antartica with out harming the enviroment

    1. Posted by Chuck on 06/02/10
      Yes, I am very confident that we can. As a biologist, I am certain that the extra nutrient input from this small station is negligible compared to that from surrounding birds and seals. More importantly, the waters here are naturally high in nitrogen, phosphorous, and other nutrients. They do not limit the growth of aquatic organisms the way they do many if not most other places in the world. So the kinds of eutrophication problems that one worries about from human waste release other places are not a concern here. The station is concerned about the release of avian pathogens from poultry so no raw egg shells or similar items are ground up other with food waste. They (and all bones etc. regardless of origin) are shipped north in the trash. No lab wastes at all allowed down the drains. All are collected for shipment back to the US for disposal.

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