Mission Antarctica: Students Ask

Dilworth Asks

Students asked how we stay active.

Here is a video that shows some of the things we do to stay in shape:

Record ID:32 does not exist!

Students also asked how we get power for the station.

Here is a video about the station:

Record ID:27 does not exist!

Steve and Xavier ask how cold is it?
Joe Right now it is -12°C or about 12°F. For the past couple of days it hasn’t fluctuated much and was usually between -12°C and -5°C. JG (Joe Grzymski)
Yajaira asks how is the snow?
But the second part of the question was cut off! The snow is great. It is light and fluffy- perfect for spotting bird and penguin tracks. The penguin tracks are starting to appear around station but I haven’t seen one since we went out on the water. JG
Jacqueline asks if I’m cold?
Sometimes I get cold but I try to dress warmly when going outside to avoid hypothermia. We try to wear layers of clothes so we can take away layers if too hot or add them if too cold. When I work with my hands in the water or with all the wet pieces of equipment my hands definitely get cold- no avoiding that! JG
Daniel asks if I like pop tarts and do I see the moon?
Last night I saw the moon in the east sky and a beautiful clear shot of the planet Jupiter setting to our West right after the sun went down. As for pop tarts- I don’t care for them…I’m more tempted by the homemade cookies Keith and Marci (our cooks) make. JG
Anthony asks if we see a lot of penguins?
Not yet. The penguins should be arriving pretty soon- a lot of Adelie penguins will make their nests on Torgersen Island - right across from Palmer Station. I’ll be sure to post some photos. JG
Odalys asks what type of technology do we have and how do we communicate with the rest of the world?
We use a satellite connection to communicate, receive our internet connection and keep in touch with you. The satellite internet also provides phone access over the internet. JG
Xavier also asks if we’ve seen the Abominable Snowman?
Also known as the Yeti- I believe it lives in the Himalayas – but the abominable snowman doesn’t know how to swim so he can’t get to Antarctica. JG
Dylan didn’t ask a question but commented that he could not bear the cold in Antarctica.
Lots of people say this but then when they come down here and see how incredibly beautiful it is they get used to it. Plus, if you dress warmly it really isn’t that bad. Some days, in winter, if you were to head to the top of Mount Rose it would be just as cold as Antarctica. JG
Katie also did not ask a question but commented that she loves going to science, hopes to learn more about animals and loves using the iPad.
We of course think that science is without a doubt the coolest subject in school. And, we hope you are learning lots about science in Antarctica! Let us know what else you’d like to be able to do on the iPad to help you in school and we’ll see what we can do. JG
Lucy also commented that she loves life science because they get to use iPads.

What else would you like to do on the iPads? JG

Thanks Dilworth for your questions!! If you have any more just let us know.

Scarborough Asks

Questions from Scarborough Middle School, Scarborough Maine
Mr. Bennet and Ms. Marceau's classes
Ms. Marceau (left) and Mr. Bennett's (right) 7th grade homerooms
Jackson wants to know if you’ve ever been sea sick while taking your samples?
Bethany I have not yet been sea sick while out taking samples although I am prone to motion sickness. We have been lucky enough to sample on calm water thus far and I will be sure to let you know if I become ill- sea sickness is never fun but the excitement of being in the field is always worth the risk! BG (Bethany Goodrich)
Ryan wants to know how long the boat trip to Antarctica was?
Deneb The trip from Punta Arenas, Chile to Palmer Station took six days on the ship, Laurence M. Gould. We had planned for five days, but there was so much ice in Dallman Bay that we could not get through. So, Captain Joe turned the ship around to attempt another route and we finally made it, just a day late. DK (Deneb Karentz)
Maggie and Caden want to know how many organisms you find in a day?
Deneb Looking at seawater through the microscope is the only way we can identify which phytoplankton species are present. Water is collected and examined everyday and typically there are at least 25 different species present. If you add in the zooplankton (microscopic animals in the water) the number is closer to 35. DK
Skylar wants to know how the plankton change during the season?
Joe Great question Skylar! The plankton change in a few ways during the season…the number of plankton go up and down depending on light, nutrients and other environmental conditions and the different species of phytoplankton also change. It would be like throwing lots of different seeds in the yard and one year tomatoes grow and another year peppers grow…our job is to figure out why we sometimes get the tomatoes of the ocean and other times the peppers. JG (Joe Grzymski)
Dylan, Sammy, Lydia and Pragya want to know what kind of wildlife you’ve seen while in Antarctica?
Bethany Thus far I have seen a few seals and many birds- including a few penguins (although far off in the distance). As the weather gets warmer I anticipate seeing more wildlife. BG
Caroline and Hannah want to know how long you’ll be in Antarctica?
Deneb We arrived at Palmer Station on Aug 7 and will be leaving on November 27. DK
Spencer and Sam want to know how cold the water is?
Deneb We measure the water temperature every day and it is about -1.5 degrees C (29 degrees F). Because of the salt content, seawater freezes at a lower temperature than fresh water, which would be 0 C or 32 degrees F. So, at -1.5 degrees C seawater is still liquid. Between now and when we leave in November, the water temperature will warm up only slightly. DK
Emmett wants to know if you’ve ever gone in the water on purpose?
Deneb Not me! Although I did fall in once by accident and it was not fun. DK
Joe There is a tradition to jump in the water after the boat leaves- I’ve been in many times on purpose. It takes your breath away. JG
Liz wants to know if you’ve gotten frostbite?
Bethany Yes, but not yet in Antarctica. BG
Joe I’ve spent 7 field seasons in Antarctica and my fingers, toes, ears and nose have all suffered minor frostbite. Normally, this just means your skin peals off and it isn’t too big a deal. However, my toes were frostbitten more severely when I camped at high altitude in Antarctica and it was -50. That cause more lasting damage – the main result being my toes are cold a lot and don’t get warm too easily. -A small price to pay for such a great place to work. JG
Halina wants to know if Clair likes to work with trash?
Clair Working with trash in Antarctica is great. I love my job! Most of the time I get to set my own schedule and work on what I want (because no one else wants to work with me). But there is always a job to do--everyone on station makes waste and it's my job to take it from them. The normal waste (not the hazardous stuff) is usually more physically demanding so I get some exercise and get to work outside. The Hazardous waste is more complicated and requires research, so I get to learn things and puzzle out how different chemicals should be categorized (plus it gives me inside work to do when the weather is really bad). When I was in seventh grade, I never planned on being a Wastie in Antarctica (it's not something most 12 year olds dream about I guess), but I am happy to be here now. The garbage men and women back in the States have a tougher job than me (they have rats, bugs, and smells to deal with) and next time you see them collecting your trash, tell them Thank You! Clair
Haley wants to know more about your daily life there?

A typical work day for me involves waking up to my alarm- hitting snooze- waking up to my second alarm –hitting snooze- laying in bed figuring out what I will wear that day (pretty easy considering my simple wardrobe here in Antarctica). I get dressed and head down to the galley where I indulge in coffee and mediocre yogurt and listen to Deneb and Joe attempt the morning crossword puzzle.

We have a team meeting and begin our day of field/lab work-which typically includes running instruments, filtering water to collect samples, and if we are able to: going out on the zodiacs to collect samples. When we go out into the field Joe makes me delicious sandwiches. I also wash lots and lots of equipment.

My day includes far more than working with samples however, I indulge in lots of laughter, take photographs, look around and try to soak up the beautiful surroundings, interview the people who work here so I can put together videos for you all to watch, update my blog, listen to music and sing and dance (which Austin finds incredibly frustrating). I eat delicious meals prepared by our awesome chef Keith and retire to the couch by the fire where I catch up on data entry and outreach projects before engaging in conversation with friends on station. I bop around the hallways saying hi to people and seeing what they are up to and poke my head in on Joe and Deneb in their offices to see what they are doing during off hours. Deneb teaches me about the plankton and shows me beautiful pictures. I call my mom and she sometimes puts my cat on the phone. Then I typically go to bed. BG

Erin wants to know what you’re hoping to learn from studying phytoplankton?
Deneb Our project is designed to investigate how the phytoplankton responds at the genetic level to the changes in temperature and day length that take place between winter and spring. The water temperature will get warmer and days will get longer with more light available for photosynthesis. The information we collect will contribute understanding what controls phytoplankton growth in the oceans. DK
Brennan wants to know what kind of trash Clair gets the most of?
Clair Hmmm. Probably most of my trash is either Cardboard or Compactible Waste. Almost all our supplies arrive here in cardboard boxes of various shapes. We save some of the boxes for shipping things back to the States, but everything else comes to me. I could build a whole house out of all the cardboard that gets thrown away down here. I get to break down the boxes, cut them up, and then make big bales by hand. The Compactible Waste is usually really common stuff like used paper towels, some thin plastics, and other squishable things. Sometimes a lot of bubble wrap is thrown out and I get to pop it all. At first, this was fun, but now all the joy has gone out of that job and I try to get other people to do this for me. And every now and then someone throws something out that still looks usable, so I present it to people at the Station Meeting and see if it can get reused. The most efficient way to recycle something is to reuse it, or find someone else who wants it. Clair
Kendra and Gabbie want to know if you’ve ever fallen in the water?
Deneb Yes, I have. It was very very cold and not something I would do by choice. DK
Joe I only go in on purpose. JG
Alex wants to know if you can eat any of the animals there? And if not, what do you eat there?
Deneb Well, we could eat some of them, but we are not allowed to. The birds and mammals here are protected internationally by the Antarctic Treaty, and for US citizens we have to obey the Antarctic Conservation Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, both laws passed by Congress. Fortunately we do not have to go out and catch our own food. The US Antarctic Program ships down groceries and there is a large supply of food on station. If it can be frozen, canned or freeze-dried, we probably have it here. Fresh fruits and vegetables are hard to come by. They come in with the ship, but often do not last until the next time the ship visits. Keith is our cook and he does a wonderful job making sure we have good things to eat. He also makes sure everyone gets to eat what they like, so if people have allergies or are vegetarian or vegan or whatever, they will not be starving at Palmer Station. DK
Smarlin and Rachel want to know where you sleep?
Bethany On the bottom bunk- I probably hit my head on the shelf next to my bed or the top bunk at least 4 times a day. BG
Marc wants to know the longest time you’ve ever spent on a boat?
Deneb For me that would be about 7 weeks. I was on a research cruise on the Nathaniel B. Palmer that went from Littleton, New Zealand to McMurdo Station. I have also spent long stretches at sea doing research- many cruises lasting between 4-7 weeks. DK
Elizabeth wants to know the longest stint you’ve done in Antarctica?
Deneb Six months – August to February at Palmer Station. DK
Anton wants to know if you miss your family?
Bethany I always miss my family although I have not had a chance to spend more than a few months with them since I graduated high school and left for college in California (my family lives in Massachusetts and New Hampshire). I am used to long periods away from them and keep in close contact with them by phone and email. Sometimes I am sad that I cannot see them more but am usually very distracted by all the exciting and wonderful opportunities and projects I participate in here in Antarctica. BG
Andrew wants to know what’s been the most surprising thing you’ve learned from testing the water?
Joe So far we’ve learned quite a bit…first…I think we have a good sense of how healthy the phytoplankton are when they don’t have too much competition, have plenty of nutrients and just enough sunlight at the end of winter to grow. And we’ve learned that even when not much is happening the phytoplankton tend to find the spot that makes them happiest…right now that means that the big plankton are at the surface and the little plankton are deeper in the water. Finally we’ve learned that the phytoplankton closest to Palmer station are quite different than those less that two miles away…that makes a big difference when sampling. JG
Sawyer wants to know your favorite thing to do in Antarctica?
Deneb Study phytoplankton! DK
Joe Work with Deneb! JG
Nate wants to know if there’s coffee there?
Joe Oh, Nate, you have no idea. There is coffee galore. We are fanatics about coffee. There is a fancy espresso machine a bit smaller than the one you find at Starbucks, there are coffee roasters and there is the incredible coffee that my friend Carl roasted and gave me to drink while in Antarctica. We love a hot, delicious cup of coffee in the morning and especially on the boat when our hands are freezing! JG
Matt wants to know what the hardest part of living there is?
Bethany The hardest part of living in Antarctica for me is not being able to go for long walks alone in the woods where I can stop and take naps in the sun and listen to songbirds. I miss being able to plop down on the ground outside without getting soaked by snow. BG
Joe For me the hardest part is balancing doing fieldwork and keeping the rest of my work life in order while I’m away for months at a time. Also, I missed tomato harvesting season and did not get to make tomato sauce for the rest of the winter. JG
Connor wants to know more about the special clothing and equipment you have to wear?
Joe When we arrive in Punta Arenas Chile to meet the boat we pick up special clothes provided for us by the United States Antarctic Program. These clothes are called ECW gear…that stands for Extreme Cold Weather gear…but down here at Palmer where it really isn’t that cold we mostly prepare for being cold by getting wet. So we wear lots of waterproof gear and special suits that keep you dry and floating if you happen to fall into the freezing cold water. The most dangerous part of boating is potentially falling into the water as you would very quickly get hypothermia. On our website you’ll see us in our ECW gear. JG
Kyle wants to know more about living at sea?
Joe Living at sea is wonderful (especially if you don’t get seasick). It is pretty special to wake up and watch the sunrise with a clear path to the horizon and do the same thing for sunset. Night on a ship is very special as it is a perfect place to see lots of stars and be lulled to sleep by the rocking of the boat. Typically, when you do science on a ship you work long hours and it can also be exhausting. Being on an icebreaker is a different experience especially when breaking ice because it is LOUD! Similarly when you are in a storm…well that can be quite scary and hard to sleep because you have to hold on most of the time! JG
Nick and Jacob want to know how cold the air is?
Joe The air temperature has varied from a low of about -20°C when we arrived to 0° or 1°C a few days ago. Right now it is -7° and the wind is blowing 20mph. JG
Jack wonders why you need to do this research on plankton?
Deneb We are studying the phytoplankton because they are so important for the biosphere. They are microscopic, but are the base of the food chain. Without phytoplankton there would be no other larger organisms in the oceans – no krill, fish, whales, seals, birds, etc. as they would have nothing to eat. They are also a major contributor to oxygen (O2) in the atmosphere, the oxygen that we breath comes from the process of photosynthesis and since the oceans cover over 70% of the earth’s surface, oxygen released from phytoplankton is a significant amount. In addition to releasing oxygen, photosynthesis takes up carbon dioxide and can help to lower the amount of this greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. DK
Noah wonders what the information on plankton will help you do?
Joe Information on the plankton will help with many different things: understanding even better how the global carbon cycle works, making biofuels so we don’t need to burn oil and gas, understanding how plants grow- so important for our food supply but also things that could help with human health problems. Lots of drugs that help us fight cancers and infection come from organisms found in environments like Antarctica, the rainforests and coral reefs…all places being detrimentally impacted by global warming! JG