Friday, February 13, 2009

PLANNING THE FIRST ACTION



The principal investigators, Raytheon field camp staff, the captain and a
few observers got together this morning to plan our first science
operations in Antarctica. Surrounded by charts in the conference desk in
the lounge, the first sketches of our landing plan on Antarctic soil
started to be drawn. Getting a ride with us on the ship are two other
groups of scientists: geologists and paleontologists that will be setting
temporary study camp sites in James Ross Island in the Weddell Sea and
Livingston Island on the South Shetland Islands. (See red dots in the map
below for site position). The paleontologists in particular are interested
in looking at fossil records of mammals that have lived in Antarctica
millions of years ago. Currently, there are no terrestrial mammals living
in Antarctica as you likely know (remember polar bears only occur in the
Arctic). They want to find some missing gaps of speciation events that
took place a long ago and that explain some of the biogeographical
distribution patterns of mammals currently living in South America and
Australia, continents that were once connected as one single giant land
mass, together with Antarctica.


We are all excited to help with the field camp operations. We will be on
shore for two whole days bringing supplies from the ship using Zodiac
boats. Some people will be in the water passing cargo from the Zodiac to
people onshore and others will bring the supplies to the areas selected
for building the camp sites. Our ocean based field sampling along the West
Antarctic Peninsula does not start until the end of next week, after all
of the land based field teams have been successfully left at their
temporary homes on the ice.
So far the weather is still cooperating and the Drake passage has been
smooth so far. We hope it stays like that until we have crossed it
completely. Stay tuned for the next few days to find out when we spot the
Antarctic continent from our ship’s portholes. Hasta luego!




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