Encounters Waay Down Under (Antarctica)

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Entries in Adelie penguins (2)


Wistful Reflections of Antarctica

It’s been hard to put into words a final entry wrapping up what I learned and experienced and otherwise savor from my little journey to a slice of Antarctica. Not just because business has taken over my “normal” life back in the northern hemisphere. But also because I’ve been so wistful, and maybe resisting the fact that I’m so far away now. Which is to say Antarctica—in particular Palmer Station, its human and non-human residents, and the majestic vastness and personality of its landscape, stoke my heart.

I’ll let photos do most of the talking (a few here, but more are in the photo gallery on my website).  You can also read several science stories/blog entries I wrote for OnEarth magazine, at www.onearth.org/author/smoran.

 A few memories and reflections:

* Yes, I did take the “polar plunge” into the 31-degrees F Southern Ocean one night, after asking whether anyone had ever died or suffered a heart attack from jumping in (“no” and “no”). It sucked the air right out of me.  I never would have done it if not for the outdoor hot tub we all jumped in right after.

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Palmer Station: Swimming in Science, Mystery and Sleeplessness 

It would appear that I’ve been delinquent. I have no excuse, after all, for not writing since I arrived a week ago at Palmer Station, located toward the northern tip of the crooked finger of Antarctica’s western peninsula. After all, the sun hardly sets, so who needs to sleep? In fact, it’s damn hard to sleep, not only because you’re swathed in the most stunning sunsets most nights (officially it sets now at 11:20 p.m., but it really just dips coyly behind the mountainous Wauwermann Islands  for a short while, offering a starless, pre-twilight hue until it pops back up again a few inches to the left).

In fact I got about two hours sleep last night/this morning, attempting to write a blog (for OnEarth magazine: www.onearth.org/author/smoran) and prerecord an interview for Tuesday’s (tomorrow) radio show in Boulder (tune in to KGNU's “How On Earth” science show, at 8:35 – 9:00 a.m. MT) to hear my interview with Alex Culley, a microbial oceanographer, who’ll intrigue you with tales of the mysterious and possibly critical role viruses play in the marine food web and the impact climate change is having on everything—from the invisible microbes to the charismatic Adelie penguins and giant humpback whales.

 Also, follow my and two other journalists’ meanderings –- and fabulous bird and other photos--on the blog of Chris Neill, a senior scientist at Marine Biological Laboratory. He’s our principle investigator and science tutor (or task master) during this MBL-funded science journalism fellowship. (http://palmerstation.wordpress.com/

The highlight of my week so far: rolling overboard from a Zodiac on Saturday to learn how to be rescued from the 32-degrees Fah (give or take a degree) Southern Ocean off of Palmer.  I could feel coolness, but not the cold, of the frigid water that I bobbed in. But when water licked my ear and trickled down my neck thanks to having forgotten to tightly zip the face wrap, let’s say that was refreshing!

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