Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Glacier Walk

Last night I walked to the top of the glacier behind Palmer Station. The view at the top was incredible. This is certainly the most beautiful place I have ever been. In one sense, being at the top reminded me of being on the coast in Mendocino, with the bluffs made of ice rather than stone and trees. You could hear the surf playing up and down the coast. It was the only sound at the top. This is the view to the south southeast. These mountains extend out from Cape Renard, a thumb of land sticking out of the Antarctica Peninsula.

To the east is Mt. William, 1200 or 1300 meters high.

The trail is marked with black flags and signs.

Cape Renard extending past the visible tip of Anvers Island. This is the view over the back side of the Station:

On the way down you get a good view of our glacier:

Most of the way down you can hear two sounds. One is water trickling beneath your feet and the snow. It's the glacier melting at its edge. The other is occasional crashes of ice. At the station you think the crashes are aways ice falling into the water, but when you see how far back the erosion extends, it's obvious that the noise mostly comes form internal rearrangement of the ice as it flows towards Arthur Harbor.

The view of Palmer Station from half way up the glacier:

Our Island paradise. This is the view of the islands we can boat to. On a sunny day like this its hard to imagine the weather can get so fierce that you would be able to get home from the closest rock.

This Adelie welcomed me home.

Then this morning we were visited by two crab-eating seals. This one has been lounging on this iceberg all day.

This chinstrap penguin is curious about what is going on in our refrigerator container.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Ice Studies Two

The mission here is to capture the textures of the ice, both photographically and also with molding material in order to recreate those textures back home in the studio, using the lost wax process to cast textured shapes into glass sculpture . This is an incredible ice sculpture that I fished out of Arthur Harbor a few days ago. There is a picture of me carrying it across the rocks in my post "Ice Chaser". Art may have taken a better picture of this which I will post later.

This morning we had a photo session. Soon Art will figure out how to use his fancy new Nikon 200. This camera is so complicated that it takes a computer genius to figure it out. Meanwhile my little Canon has done a heroic job. I'm hoping that eventually we figure out a way to increase the contrast of the ice surfaces to get more depth and definition of the texture. I need as precise and accurate a record as possible to recreate them in the studio. If they white out in the photos, I'll never have a record of how intricate those surfaces could be?

I found this one lying on the north side of Gamage Point yesterday. I knocked its head off and stood it up on the rocks:
After dinner I went out and it was still there. I noticed that over the six or so hours the ice had smoothed over and the texture had diminished emphasizing the form.

In the middle of the photos session I looked down off the pier to see this texture.

We experimented with different silicone / catalyst / thickener ratios.

It is summer here. The temperature has varied in the past week between about -5ºC and +5ºC. This morning is was drizzling or snowing depending on which window you looked out of. But this afternoon the sun came out so we took a zodiac out to Old Palmer, about one Km away. It was a dazzling ride. By this evening it was snowing again. Art at the helm:

On the way out we encountered this piece of bar ice with its typical battuto texture. Since it had snowed earlier the top was frosty.

Ice bergs typically have 80% or more of their mass in the water.

I caught this shot of the underwater battuto refracting the light through the surface ripples. The water was especially clear today, and very blue.

This bird was guarding our boat at Old Palmer.

Landing on Old Palmer near the cache. We have a two mile boating radius here There are about five caches including tents, radios, and food on the various island and points. Hard to think that the weather gets so severe here that you couldn't get back 1 kilometer to the station. November is supposed to be the snowiest month, even if summer, but we have hardly seen it. Ben told us about being here in October, a few weeks ago, when the sleet was blowing 70 knots. You needed goggles just to go outside. He said it was like riding a motorcycle on the freeway during a snow storm just to walk outside!

You can see the foundations of the old Palmer Station from about 35 years ago.

We walked across this saddle on our way to the ice bridge:

This cave was unbelievable! First, there is the characteristic "battuto" texture on the walls and ceiling of the cave, only large than we have seen in clear ice in the water.

It was dripping and muddy, plus icicles were falling as we watched. We didn't go inside.

Looking up at the ceiling, which was glowing from sun penetration through the ice.

On the way back Mount Williams, in the middle of Anvers Island broke through the clouds for a while.

Suddenly there were icebergs we hadn't seen going in.

I expected to see a Polar Bear sitting there!

But this guy growled at us passing by.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Penguin, Dolphins and comments

Please look again at my posts for the Gerlache Passage and the Neumayer Passage. I added several great shots to each post. I can hardly convey the beauty of those parts of the trip.
No trip to Antarctica would be complete without the penguinos. I admit they are cute, very funny birds who do mimic humans in some of their behavior. I tried to post an AVI moving image file form my camera. It showed this penguin hopping over rocks to the water, looking around, belly flopping in and jetting away underwater. They can really move underwater. Unfortunately, I can't post it here.
This Adelie came over to watch me videoing the glacier and was very curious. Then he turned and scrambled down to the water and dove away. We'll go our to Torgensen Island for more shots later.
WARMING In response to some of the comments: I understand that is area of the Antarctica Peninsula has experienced more warming than any other part of the world, perhaps 5ºC (9ºF) in the past 20 years. Our glacier is retreating a a frightening rate. Bob Farrel, our station manager says, in response to a question about the future in the Antarctica Sun, asked, "You had a glacier?"

It is a giant pile of snow and it has retreated over 120 meters in 20 years (500 feet) from the back of Palmer Station. That's a lot of water to add to the oceans if you multiply it by all the snow and glaciers on this peninsula.

These are birds we saw on the Gould in the middle of the Drake Passage from Chile. We were never without birds along side, even when over 1000km (700 miles) from land.

I believe these are Commerson's Dolphins. Very entertaining as we were leaving the waters of Tierra del Fuego. Beautiful and very fast. These guys would dive under the boat and surf the bow wave. The photos are thanks to Frank Howell or Raytheon.

Weather Room

Today I wanted to write about our weather room. This little place, Palmer Station, is a hub of communications and monitoring equipment. In another post I will show some of the scientific experiments that are being monitored here, from the magnetosphere to the seismograph.

But first I just have to show these two pictures of our sunset last night. Although it never gets dark here, the sun goes down at about almost 11PM. It rises at 3:15AM (We are on Chilean Daylight Time, three hours behind London GMT.) Yesterday evening the sun and colors just went wild.

Here are our tide tables:

This one shows the salinity of the water. I'm not sure about the units. The water is rather more fresh than out in the open ocean. I had observed on the Gould as we were crossing the Drake that the salinity was close to 33 as opposed to 20's here.

Maybe we are in for some weather. The barometer is dropping slowly.

Yesterday's air temperature almost made if up to freezing.

I think that curly, stormy looking thing is headed our way.

The summary for the continent:
The weather room.
With all the monitors.