Monday, December 31, 2007

Monday, December 31

Wow - what an great day we had yesterday! ROAMers spent the past one and a half days organizing and analyzing data from their research projects in Antarctica - and they have found some really interesting results. What is the effect of penguin colonies on water quality? What impact do tourists have on the Antarctic environment? Are glaciers retreating in Antarctica? What is the distribution of different plant communities on the peninsula? How can we take the lessons we've learned during our field research in Antarctica to classrooms across the US? All of these questions will be answered soon! Here's a photo of Sarah & Katie looking at algae samples.

Today we are taking a break from our labwork to see some more of the fascinating Patagonian environment. ROAMers have chosen between adventures in horseback riding, sea kayaking, mountain biking and sailing. And tonight all 34 of us will celebrate the incoming new year at a group buffet dinner.
Happy New Year everyone!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Dec. 29

Yup - we're the luckiest people in the world.

The afternoon before we left Antarctica the captain stopped the ship in the middle of the Gerlache Strait so we could watch 7 humpback whales feeding on krill around the ship. It was amazing! Then we braced ourselves to enter the Drake Passage, but once again, we shouldn't have worried, the crossing was relatively smooth.

We are now back in Ushuaia finalizing our research projects - we will post more info soon. Thought you'd like to see a photo of the group in Antarctica on Cuverville Island.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Wed. Dec. 26

Well... this is our last day in Antarctica. We have been moored in the harbor of Port Lockroy since last night. We will head ashore to this museum and post office in just a few minutes. This British Station is one of the most highly visited sites in the area - and will be where we get our passports stamped from Antarctica! They do some interesting research here comparing penguin colonies that tourists are allowed to visit, with penguin colonies that tourists cannot access, to determine if tourists adversely affect penguin breeding success. At this site, there appears to be no negative impact. Have I mentioned already that we tourists are required to stay at least 5m (15 ft) from all wildlife? Penguins can get stressed if humans approach their nesting sites too closely, and if their eggs are left unattended, they may get eaten by predatory birds like the skuas. OK - I'm off - I don't want to miss any of this last day in Antarctica!

Tonight we enter the Drake Passage again. Will it be as smooth as our last crossing? That is the question of the day...

Dec 25 - part 2.

Hey folks - I had to run to a meeting - but here is some more news. I forgot to mention in my first xmas post that Peterman Island was the southern-most point of our expedition - but also some of the warmest weather - funny how that happens! OK - xmas... We ended our day with a ROAM Christmas gift exchange complete with very creative presents, lots of Ushuaia souvenirs, and great books and Malbec (of course). Quark served us a fantastic xmas dinner, as per usual, the food here is first class. And our day ended as it began, with more whales (Minke this time)visible around the ship.

Hope you are all having a great holiday! Feliz Navidad!

Tues. Dec. 25

We got the perfect xmas present this morning as humpback whales traveled beside our ship for an hour before breakfast. The ship then passed through the stunning mountains of the Lemaire Channel. We landed atPeterman Island under bright and sunny skies to see our first Adelie penguin rookery - with chicks on the nest! Cute! The skuas used ourdistracting presence to try and steal the chicks from the nest. In the afternoon, we got our first real taste of cold, snowy Antarctic weatheras we took a zodiak cruise around the Pleneau Islands to see the fantastic tabular icebergs in the area.

Mon Dec 24

After a somewhat rough night time crossing of the Bransfield Strait, we woke to beautiful sunny skies on xmas eve for our visit to CuvervilleIsland. Over 5000 pairs of gentoo penguins breeding on one island. It was an amazing sight (and smell!). The aquatic ecology group found lots of algae in the water, while the terrestrial group turned into mountain goats to reach an extreme site with tons of amazing moss and lichen. Many of us also went on a hike to the top of the island to view the icebergs in the bay. Next, we traveled to Paradise Bay - our first landing on the Antarctica continent itself - where we took a zodiak cruise to see calving glaciers, Weddell seals and beautiful icebergs. The education and outreach group brought out the 15 promise banners from El Paso schools for a photo at Almirante Brown station. To end this perfect day, we had an xmas eve BBQ on the deck of the ship - yes that's right - an open air cook out in Antarctica! Santa even cruised byon a zodiak. Who knew he came from the South Pole?!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sunday, Dec. 23

Deception Island Rocks! We started the day apparently blocked from entering the caldera (collapsed volcano) at Deception Island by seaice. But trusty Captain Igor rammed the ice sheet with the bow of the ship several times until his careful calculations and observation resulted in a huge crack traveling through the ice about 500m. We were in! We first went to Whaler's Bay where geothermal activity heated up the sand so that water nearby was 18 degrees Celsius. Perfect for a swim- that is until you swim past the warm zone into the freezing cold Southern Ocean. Almost all of us went for a dip! Next we went to Telefon Bay where we saw several smaller calderas, and went for a great hike which ended in a snow slide down to the beach. Now we just need to make it out of Deception Island, or will the sea ice be blocking our path?...My bet is on Captain Igor!

Saturday, Dec. 22

Thanks to our amazingly smooth crossing, we are here half a day early, sowe got to visit 2 landing sites: the Aitcho Islands and Half Moon Island. We've seen thousands of gentoo and chinstrap penguins, and acouple of Adelie penguins. We were especially lucky to see a King and a Macaroni penguin - both of which were far from their usual range. The sub-adult elephant seals put on quite a show practicing their battles that will be performed for real when they are mature enough to fight for mates.

Friday Dec, 21

We are crossing the Drake Passage, often referred to as the roughest ocean in the world. HA! It is as smooth as a swimming pool! Fiona, a ship's naturalist, tells us this is the calmest she has seen in over 60 crossings. Tomorrow we see Antarctica!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

We're off!

Well folks -
We are off to Antarctica later today!

The whole group has headed to Tierra del Fuego National Park for the day. They will have an authentic Argentinian BBQ in the open air, and see Nothofagus forests, spectacular views of the Beagle Channel (named after Darwin's ship - see photo), and exotic invasive beavers! Yes, it's true. Beavers are considered a pest here in Tierra del Fuego. They were introduced many years ago for the fur trade, which never really amounted to anything. Now the beavers are destroying landscapes and forests in this new environment. As a Canadian (eh?), who is proud of the history of beavers in the development of our country, it is interesting to be someplace where my national symbol is considered a pest. It's like an American visiting a place where bald eagles are unwanted!!

At 4pm we all are meeting to board the ship and then it is down the Beagle Channel to the Drake Passage. By early morning we will be sailing through the open waters and towards Antarctica. Sometime late Friday or early Saturday morning we will see our first icebergs... and then later on Saturday we will probably see land! Some of our ROAMers will be REALLY happy to sea land. The Southern Ocean is the roughest ocean in the world and the boat will probably be rocking back and forth and back and forth and.... well you get the picture, there might be some sea sickness, but it will all be worth it when we get to our ultimate destination - ANTARTICA!

We will try to post a few blogs from Antarctica, but these will likely be few and far between. We will update you with all the big news when we get back in 10 days.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mitzel en el fin del Mundo Parte 3 (Mitzel at the end of the world part 3)

Mañana es el gran día!!!! Mañana subimos al barco Orlova que nos llevara al sur de nuestro planeta!! Pero hay malas noticias…Se dice que el viaje cuando pasemos por el pasaje Drake, será bastante difícil y se espera que el 99.9% de la tripulación nos den mareos, ya que se dice que las olas son bastante grandes y la corriente muy fuerte… creo que me la pasare dormida todo el camino y totalmente drogada con mis medicamentos = P Así que piensen en mi por las siguientes 72 horas mientras caminen por tierra estable…= S Bueno aunque pasando ese pasaje se dice que se calmara el viaje pero mejor hay que prevenir que lamentar… Apenas termine de empacar mi ropa y el regalo del intercambio que haremos con algunos de los participantes. Esa será nuestra Navidad mientras uds. están en casa con su familia disfrutando un rico chocolate caliente, o calientitos (se me antojaron…) con un rico buñuelo y bajo cobijas calientitas…Eh…yo no…YO estaré en compañía del frío de la Antartida y llorando porque los extraño a todos!!! JA!!! No se crean!! Me la pasare padrísimo y tomare muchísimas fotos para todos uds.!!

Piensen en mi en esta Navidad y también recuerden que los quiero mucho!!!

Pero a primera hora mañana iremos a un parque de la ciudad que no tengo idea como se llama pero creo que haremos lo mismo que ayer, escalar, escalar, escalar, y más escalar…. = )
Ah…se me olvidaba decirles que lo que más se come aquí es el cordero…guacala!! = P

Besos y los mejores deseos en esta Navidad de parte de la “becerra” (aka. Mitzel, o sea YO!)

Too cool plants!

Too cool plants!
As Bill said, we took a chair lift up a mountain just outside town yesterday to see the famous Martial glacier and practice research techniques we will use in Antarctica. There had been a great deal of snow, so it was hard to pick the glacier out of the blanket whiteness. The chill wind began to blow as we dangled from our chairs, but when we got off the lift, the trail was steep and most of us where shedding layers as we climbed.
Notable plants:
Nothofagus is the tree that helped establish the theory of plate techtonics! It grows on all of the fragments of old Gondwanaland. I like the pretty crimped leaflets.
The cushion plant: You can see why it called a cushion. It grows very slowly in the cold alpine ecosystem, but can reach hundreds of years of age. It actually retracts its roots in winter to keep them from freezing, I learned. This growth form is found all over the world in alpine conditions. Apparently, it can modify the local habitat so that a diversity of other plants can grow. It is warmer than surrounding vegetation; we measured with our techy heat sensor. Izzy found several insects and other invertebrates in it, too.

Preparations in the Field

December 18, 2007

In the afternoon on December 18, we made our way to the local ski hill, which sits at the base of a glacier. The goal of this field experience is to learn about the local setting and how it compares and contrasts to conditions we will see in Antarctica. Craig and Aaron gave overviews at various spots along the way in order to identify both terrestrial and physical geological information including specific traits of plants and grasses, the U-shape of the valley of a glacier area and the distribution of plants. In small groups, we also practiced using the GPS monitors and marking points throughout our journey on the mountain and to practice using the technology. We also had instruction in the use of a compass, both in the field with maps and without maps. This was practical in the sense that it allowed us to look for ways to keep oriented in areas that we have never visitied or where reference points may be difficult to determine. While nearing the top of the hill, the groups began to practice the specific field experiences to see exactly how much time would be involved in the set up, collection and tear down. This rehearsal time was critical as a group will in reality have between 1 and 1 ½ hours at a given site from which to collect data. This was especially critical for the terrestrial, aquatic and physical sciences groups.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mitzel at world's end Part 2 (Mitzel en el fin del mundo Parte 2)

Bueno, es la una y media de la mañana y aquí me tienen escribiéndoles… Hoy fue un día bastante intenso. Empezó nuestro día con la ya común junta de la mañana en la que continuamos trabajando en nuestros proyectos. Tuvimos una lección de fotografía, la cual aun no estoy muy segura, los profesores nos entregaron el equipo para utilizar en nuestra adquisición de datos y terminamos la junta con las indicaciones de la presentación que tendremos que hacer en unas cuantas horas en la junta. Alrededor de las dos de la tarde, fuimos a visitar el glaciar Martial. Recuerdan las montañas de las cuales les platique al principio cuando llegue al aeropuerto? Pues este glacial se encuentra justo en ellas. Y ahí estuve para presenciar la grandeza de las montañas y el frío de la nieve que las cubre. Mi condición y habilidad realmente fueron cuestionadas en esta excursión!!!! Realmente no se cuanto recorrimos pero se que la inclinación a la que estábamos escalando estas montanas era realmente horrible!!! Por un momento sentí que ya no podía mas…pero la vista que tenia frente a mi era tan impresionante que solo me quedaba seguir escalando. Sobre piedra, tierra, lodo, y nieve tuve que caminar. Nuestra misión era ver el glaciar mientras otros miembros del grupo se dirigían a una región donde imitarían los ejercicios y experimentos que llevaran a cabo en la Antartida. Nunca había estado cerca de científicos reales, y miren que son realmente sorpresivos. De regreso solo esperaba y ansiaba ver las combis que nos regresarían al hotel. No sentía mis pies, mis tobillos me decían “Ya no mas!” quería bañarme, traía mucha hambre, y aparte tenia mucho trabajo que hacer. Por eso es que escribo a estas horas…

He estado bastante ocupada y no me da tiempo de pensar en nada que no sea este proyecto. Estoy muy contenta con lo que hemos hecho. Aunque hemos tenido algunas dificultades estoy segura que el grupo a la hora de trabajar, estaremos listos. Ya estamos planeando lo que cada quien hará en el barco y cuando lleguemos a los sitios en la Antartida. Mi porción la haré solamente en el barco ya que son encuestas y algunas entrevistas, pero cuando pongamos pie en la Antartida ahí trabajaré con los científicos de los equipos para ayudarles a recaudar información y otras cosas que necesiten = )

El jueves salimos rumbo al continente de hielo y regresaremos el 29 de Diciembre. En esos días estaré completamente desconectada pero creo que podremos hacer podcasts y algunas llamadas a las estaciones locales de El Paso. Estoy un poco triste porque no he podido escribir en mi diario pero lo haré una de mis prioridades = )

Desde Argentina les mando muchos besos y abrazos y espero verlos muy pronto!!!
(Mike did you get all this? = P)

The Entire Group Emerges

December 17, 2007

Last night, Craig gave an overview of the town and the plan to come. After that, we went through Ushuaia and had a nice dinner that included seafood and local flavors. The weather is also pretty nice, in the mid 50s with intermittent clouds and wind. It is good weather for our blue fleeces, and we thank our sponsors for them greatly. They also help to identify the group all around town. There are a number of tourists here embarking on this type of journey, so we do not feel so alone or isolated. We are looking forward to meeting more people as we prepare for the ship.

The groups have spent the day working on the planning for each group’s activities and the mechanics of each day to come. Each group also gave an overview of their projects so that the individuals and groups can see crossovers and areas that need assistance. We also went out by teams on a treasure hunt in order to explore sites around the town. Interestingly, they also have a skatepark in town, which I hope to visit during the week. In the evening, we went to La Reuda, a restaurant that serves up traditional Argentinean barbeque meat (lamb, beef, ad sausage – cordero, carne de res, y salchicha).

Views from the End of the Road

December 16, 2007

We have all arrived in Ushuaia Argentina after 2 groups endured a 30 hour plus travel with most members experiencing 5 flights and 3 countries including the US, Chile and Argentina. The group all seem to be in high spirits and that has helped energize and uplift everyone, including the faculty. Personally, I oscillate between times of responsibility and organization, but also between times of reflection and relaxation. As one of the people behind the effort, it is great to see this project being lived out in the eyes, attitudes and behaviors of the students. We also at this point are a group of 34 people, and we were able to gain almost all of our first groups bags (18 out of 19 at this point), still missing is Sergio’s stuff. Everyone is rallying and working together to help each other in whatever products they are working upon at this time.

Monday, December 17, 2007

First days in Ushuaia

I’m Katie Noonan, a High School teacher form Oakland California. I want to say “Hi!” to all my students and invite them to will join in the discussion here (OK- EXTRA CREDIT!!!). As part of the first group of IPY-Roamers to arrive in Ushuaia, I have been busy dusting off my Spanish phrases, checking out the prison and natural history museums and sampling the fantastic centolla (that’s king crab).
I have been struck by how similar the environmental challenges are here to our own. There is a surprising amount of graffiti on all kinds of city buildings. It seems to be political and social, but not gang-related. There is a plastic problem here, too. Just as in our city streets, there are bottles, bags and wrappers along the curbs, heading toward the ocean. A lot of construction is going on here with the tourist boom, using lots of cement (a CO2 contributor)! I did see some signs of recycling going on (a newspaper collection point). The shoreline shows a telltale green scum indicating eutrophication from an outfall and city runoff.
Along the waterfront, we noticed a huge ship container lot – a mini-Port of Oakland. What is coming in and going out in these? I am researching this. Fish is an important export here, but that’s a whole lot of fish. The crowds along the streets at night seem younger than the average in the U.S. I watched an amazing demonstration of break-dancing in the city plaza. The IPY-Roam Spanish Group interviewed some of the teenagers in tonight’s podcast.
We are getting our research projects finalized in these days before we get on the ship. It is hard work, but it will pay off when we get South.

Mitzel en el fin del mundo (Mitzel at world´s end)

Hello everyone!!
Well, the rest of the group got in yesterday around 3 pm after a full day of traveling... can you say exhaustion!?!? But we´re finally here. Yesterday was a day to rest and get the initial feeling of the town. A group of us went up and down the main road here in Ushuaia looking at places to eat and just getting to know the area a bit. After that, we came back to the hotel, Cap Polonio, and rested before dinner. After dinner, we came back to the hotel and I passed out... I was sooooo tired, I even woke up a bit late this morning for our initial meeting... but I think i´m going to be ok for the rest of the time, I just had to get that out of th way...

Will now turn to some spanish for my family...

No se como explicarles la emocion que siento al estar aqui... Fue un viaje sumamente cansado pero al llegar al aeropuerto y salir de el y ver la inmensidad de montañas y la nieve que las cubria, fue placentero. Ayer tuvimos la oportunidad de conocer un poco de la ciudad y juntarme con amigos para cenar. Despues fue puro dormir, bueno al menos para mi... bueno y ya me conocen = P El dia de hoy tuvimos juntas y trabajos en grupo la mayor parte del tiempo. despues salimos a hacer una busqueda de lugares con la ayuda de frases.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Jose's Virtual Corner

Since I was going to keep a daily journal of the events encountered that day, I decided to share them with you.  This is my little corner to record my daily thoughts and events.  To view my daily thoughts click on comments and there you will see them.   Feel free to comment on them or ask questions.

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Yay, we're here!!!

Hello everyone!!!

Seventeen of us have just arrived here at the beautiful Ushuaia. Flying over the Andes was quite an extrodinary experience. We are doing this official group blog to announce that we will keep this updated. So please do check this periodically and make comments. We will post an instruction blog shortly to explain how to post a comment.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

5 days to go...

All the ROAMers from UTEP went to a Bon Voyage event hosted by UTEP president Dr. Diana Natalicio. She joined us for a photo - all the ROAMers are wearing their ROAM jackets and Dr. Natalicio wore her US Antarctic Program jacket! We couldn't find a jacket to fit little Galilea!
5 days to go...