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5/22/06 (sent answers to Ms. Allen on 5/24)

We are in Adeline Heeny’s class. Her cousin Jonathan Craft is on your ship. We saw his picture. We are her friends. Our teacher is Mrs. Allen. We are studying penguins. We have learned a lot about the Emperor penguin. We are sending this e-mail to you because we want to learn more about the Antarctic. That is where the Emperor penguin and many other penguins live. We have been looking at the sea animals that you are studying. We saw krill and squid. We know penguins eat them. Here are some questions we have about your project. Can you please answer our questions? Thank-you for helping us.

[Thank you, Jon, for orchestrating the completion of this long list of questions!!]

Brandon: How cold is Antarctica?
The ambient temperature yesterday was about ~32°F (0°C) during the day, but it has been colder. The wind chill can make it feel much colder. The wind chill has been down to ~0°F (-20°C). The water temperature ranges from ~34 to 28°F (~1 to -2°C). The reason the water temperature can dip below the freezing point of water (0°C, 32°F) is mainly because the water has salt in it that reduces its freezing point and in deep water the tremendous pressure from the water above prevents freezing.

Kirsten: Did you see any penguins?
So far we have only seen one penguin; however, we have seen a pod of Killer whales (Orcas) and a pod of Humpback whales. The whales probably weighed several tons and were a spectacular site.

Derrick: Did you see rockhopper penguins?
No, because rockhopper penguins are found in the Galapagos Islands not in Antarctica.

Tolu: Have you found a ribbon worm yet?
Yes, we have collected a fair amount of ribbon worms (nemertines). The ones we found were red and small, but there are some species of nemertines in Antarctica that can grow to ~ 1 meter long.

M'Ilan: Where are you sleeping on the ship?
Two people share one state room where they sleep in bunk beds. The rooms also have lockers for our clothes, a desk, and a private bathroom equipped with a shower.

Sydni: Why is the plankton so small?
The word plankton means “wanderer” and generally refers to organisms whose movement in the oceans is dictated more by oceanic forces (currents, temperature gradients, etc.) rather than their swimming. Being small may be an adaptation to a planktonic life, because small size could enable them to be more buoyant in the water column.

Jason: Did you find an octopus?
Octopuses live on the bottom of the ocean, so they are benthic organisms. We have been collecting organisms from the bottom using a trawl net and we have found some octopuses. All the octopuses we found were small and fit into the palms of our hands.

Adeline: Why are you collecting things from the ocean?
71% of the Earth’s surface is covered by oceans, yet many of the world’s oceans remain understudied. Antarctica is one of the last unspoiled environments on Earth and the oceans around Antarctica are teaming with life. We are working to better understand the diversity of marine life (mainly invertebrates) around Antarctica.

Kim: Are you having a great time?
Going to Antarctica is the trip of a lifetime. One has to endure a little hardship, but it is truly an amazing experience.

Marti: Do you sweep on the boat?
Sweeping and cleaning is very necessary, because collecting specimens is a very messy job. There is a lot of mud, rocks, and other unwanted extras. We have to clean after every sample to keep the captain happy and the boat clean.

Ryan: Did you find the sea spider?
On 5/23/06 we found ~30 individual sea spiders (pycnogonids) in a single trawl. The pycnogonids we find in Antarctica are usually quite large, about the size of the palm of your hand. Although pycnogonids are called sea spiders they are not true spiders.

Britteny: How many plankton did you catch?
In a single tow, a plankton net collects 10’s-100’s of thousands of mainly microscopic organisms. The plankton is of two general varieties: phytoplankton and zooplankton. Phytoplankton is essentially plant plankton and zooplankton is essentially animal plankton. Furthermore, some planktonic organisms live their enter life in the plankton, whereas others spend only a portion of their life in the plankton. On this trip we have collected the following plankton: diatoms, radiolarians, copepods, krill, pteropods, salps, ctenophores, siphonophores, chaetognaths, and we are primarily looking for larvae of benthic (bottom dwelling) invertebrates. I understand some of the organisms listed are not very commonly known, but I strongly suggest doing a quick Google search on the internet or look them up in your local library.

Jalen: Are you dropping the camera in the sea or are you diving with it?
Our ship has a small ROV (remotely operated vehicle) called a HyBall. It is equipped with a camera and a few thrusters (motors) that aid in maneuvering the ROV. We use it to view the organisms in their natural habitat. This provides us with insight in the organisms’ lives that trawling can not.

Stephanie: Did you see any Adelie penguins?
Unfortunately, we have not yet seen any Adelie penguins, but it is likely that we will.

Megan: Have you caught a ctenophore (jellyfish)?
We just caught a ctenophore (comb jelly) today (5/23/06); however, ctenophores caught in nets almost never come up in one piece due to their delicate gelatinous composition.

KyMauri: What do sea spiders eat?
The feeding preferences can vary between species. Many feed on hydroids and nematodes (round worms), some eat sea slug (nudibranchs), others eat various invertebrates or detritus (decaying organic matter).

Kevin: Do you have fire drills on the boat?
Yes, safety is of the utmost importance on the boat, especially when you are in Antarctica and far away emergency rescue teams. We had a real fire alarm go off last week, but it turned out something was burning in the galley (kitchen).
[Guillermo Pizarro Cifuentes added: Yes, we have fire drills, as well as other types of emergency drills. For example: Abandon Ship, Man Overboard, and Security regulations. Everyone must know his/her duties, taking the time for appropriate response in every drill using all equipment and apparatus available on the ship, so that their use becomes automatic. The passengers on every cruise go to the Muster Station in an orderly fashion and receive instructions to follow.

Timothy: Are you going to go on the ice when you get you Antarctica?
We stopped in at Palmer Station, a US Antarctic base, and a number of our crew members hiked up the glacier. The glacier at Palmer is essentially a huge hill of solid ice.



from 6 y.o. Jacob Bailey of Guilford VT

1) Is the storm scary on the sea?
Scary is not the word for it, more like ‘tedious’. The ship is solid, and feels solid, and there are all kinds of safety things to keep water out and heat in. The waves are huge, and if you stand in the Bridge and look down into the water, it makes you feel like you’re in a boat the size of your bathtub, compared to the size of the waves (never this big on Cape Cod!!). So after you’ve seen that, then enough is enough, and you want it to be calm again so you can get back to work and a more normal humanoid routine. We watched a lot of movies, because that one room had chairs that didn’t roll or tip over. [Ellen]

2) Do you know if you get to touch any sea stars?
We get to touch sea stars all the time (and I’m told by professionals that you may freely call them ‘starfish’, like we always did when we were kids). Most of the nets we pull in have more starfish in them than anything else, and that’s what a lot of the sorting is about. There are so many different kinds!!! Most are delicate, but some are chunky and spew goo through their skins to ward off attacks of enemies. Today, we are the enemy. [Ellen]

3) What does it feel like to be on a boat rocking and rocking and rocking?
“As for being on a moving boat.....for me, the first few days [in the Straits of Magellan and near the Falkland Islands] were fine. People tend to develop "sea legs" and get used to the rocking and rolling. However, after we hit the Drake about 4 days ago, I was done for. I couldn't eat, sleep, drink....basically all I could do was be sick the entire crossing. Now that we are at the Peninsula, I”m fine again....but that crossing....I don’t think anyone could EVER get used to that. The little rocking and rolling now are just calming!” [Chris Mah]
Jacob, Chris is right, different people react differently. Most of us are still having trouble just reading your question, when we see the words “rocking and rocking and rocking”, however. It wasn’t so much a being sick as it was to being tired (very hard to sleep when you’re moving in all directions and holding on to the corners of your mattress) and just not feeling great. [I never did throw up. Hurrah!] [Ellen]

4) Do you know if the scientists on your boat have discovered all of the sea stars?
There are many sea stars that live in the areas that we are studying. We have not encountered ALL of the species that are known to live in the area, but we have seen many of the common species that live in the areas we are studying. There are probably many more species waiting to be described however. Most people think that we know everything about even common animals such as sea stars, which as it turns out is not true. Many of them feed and have behavior that is really NEAT!
Some of the commonest seastars that live here are the most spectacular. One of them, has some 50 arms and can capture krill and shrimps with its tentacles and then move them down to its mouth to feed. They also use small fanged claws that cover the surface of the body to hold these animals when they get too close to the surface of the body. If they were any larger, they would be terrifying!
[Chris Mah]



From 6 year old Jacob, of Guilford, Vermont:

Have you found any penguins yet?
We're still milling around in the ocean between S. America and the Falkland Islands to the east, so no land-based animals yet. We will see penguins, though, in a few days!!

What does it feel like in the beds on the ship?
My bed on the ship is quite comfortable. It is a bunk bed with a nice mattress. I've slept pretty well with the boat rolling just a little, but last night the sea became rougher, and I woke up when it rolled me over. There are raised sides at the head and foot, so it isn't easy to fall out

Are you going to pet a penguin?
Penguins are protected down here, so we are not allowed to touch them. We're not even allowed to move toward them in any way that makes them change their position like, to stand up or walk away! From my experience in 2004, I learned that they really aren't very afraid of us, and only move when you get quite close. But one man on the trip experienced young penguins on land one time, and when he sat on the ground, they came up and snuggled right in close to him and laid right down to sleep!!! Wow, that would really be something!!

How cold is it down there when you go outside on the deck of the ship?
Now, out on the deck, it is still pretty comfortable. On the upper decks, when I'm just going out to take photos, I can wear a flannel shirt and down vest. It feels much colder in the wind, but I haven't needed a hat unless I'm out there for more than 10 minutes or so. The air temperature at this moment is 9.8 degrees Centigrade, and with the wind, we're recording -4.7 degrees Centigrade. I have an instruments screen on the wall where I'm working, and can see where we are (Longitude/Latitude) and other current information. Later in the trip, after we cross the Drake Passage (over the next 3 days), I believe we will see more extreme weather - it will definitely get colder.

Entry #1, 5/13/06:
Third Grade, Deb Janosik - Teacher (and mother of our crewmember, Alexis Janosik) Armstrong School St. Louis, Missouri

From Bonnie:
How cold is it in Antarctica?
The temperature varies from season to season, but right now its in the 40s to 50s. When we actually reach the Southern Ocean, it will probably be much colder than that (below freezing) but it can be milder farther away from the coast. Inland, temps can drop below minus 20 degrees. But in the summer it can be in the mid 50s and because of all of the ice reflecting light and the depleted ozone layer, you can get a sunburn pretty easily during the summers.

From Ross:
We looked on the website, and saw a sea spider. Did you see one? What do they eat?
We DID see a seaspider and we will probably see many more. They get to be quite large (about 6-7 inches across). Its unclear what the ones here eat, but probably very tiny particles.

From Angel:
When the water turns to ice, what happens to the fish?
Fish in the Antarctic can continue to be active even in very cold water. This is because there is a substance in their blood which behaves like "antifreeze" in cars and can permit the blood and other functions in fish to continue, even in temperatures below freezing.

Best Regards,
Dr. Christopher Mah, Smithsonian Institution onbard the R/V LM Gould. somewhere in the South Atlantic.

When the water turns to ice, what happens to the fish?
Dr. Andy Mahon of Auburn University also explained how fish have those proteins in their blood that keeps them from freezing. Another thing is, the fish down here don’t live all that close to the surface, and so the top of the water column can have ice in it and not affect those living a little deeper.

Lastly, from Dan Elsberg, Marine Computer and Instrument Expert:
You know how ice cubes float in a glass of water? That's because ice is less dense than water, and the same is true when the surface of the ocean freezes. As the sea water starts to freeze, the little ice crystals float on the top. They can get moved around a lot by the waves, but they don't sink. Because the ocean is very big, even in Antarctica (the southern end of the earth) and in the Arctic (the northern end of the earth) during the long, cold winters the ocean only freezes on top. Sea ice can grow to be more than 6 or 7 meters (about 20 feet) thick. Because of this the fish don't get trapped in the ice, they just live beneath it.

In some places algae grow on the bottom of the sea ice, and when the snow on top of the sea ice is melting, some fish are attracted to the fresh water draining down into the saltier ocean below. Because of this there can be lots of activity among little creatures beneath the ice layer. And where you have little creatures, you get big ones who show up to eat. Whales hang out near the edge of the sea ice to eat. Whales breathe air, so they can't wander too far from the edge of the ice or from breathing holes in the ice. Some times the whales can actually get stuck at a breathing hole in the ice if that hole is so far from the ice edge and open water that they can't hold their breath long enough to swim to the edge.

When that happens in the Arctic, polar bears and Inuits come and eat the whales.



New on 5/16/06

Deb Janosik's Third grade Class
Armstrong School
St. Louis, Missouri

[Answers provided by Dr. Chris Mah]

Pablo asks:
What are the temperatures like in Antarctica and under the sea?
The temperatures on land in Antarctica get to be quite cold (20-30 degrees below freezing) and are close to freezing underwater. However this makes for some unusual animals in shallow waters, as some deep-water animals (such as the sea spider you saw earlier) can actually traverse up to regions shallow enough to be collected and or observed by hand.

Wilasia asks:
Have you seen any icebergs, yet?
Sorry, no. Haven't see any icebergs yet it’s still too warm where we are.

Sam asks:
How do you see inside trenches and at the very bottom of the sea?
In addition to various satellite scanners and other devices, there are also several submersibles that can go down to the deepest parts of the sea [ed. See Journal #6 about the “Hyball”!]. Some of the deepest submersibles can go to 5000+ meters in depth.

Bonnie asks:
How far below the water can you go?
Our nets can sample many hundreds of meters below the surface. So far, the deepest we have gone is about 900 meters, but our mission will not include any deep-rated submersibles and we will not be SCUBA diving for any specimens on this trip as far as I know.

Brielle asks:
How do you keep supplies, and keep warm in Antarctica?
On the ship and in Palmer station, they are kept in protective buildings with heaters or for food, refrigerators, to avoid spoilage. Fresh food is more difficult but can be kept for weeks depending on the goods.

Malik asks:
What's it like being a marine biologist?
It’s the greatest job in the world. You don't have to wear a suit every day (sometimes you do for special occasions) and you get to go and see some of the neatest animals and places on earth.

Theresa asks:
Do you get to feed the penguins?
Penguins are strictly protected by international law, so the only places you get to feed them by hand is at your local zoo!