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>Seas: What seas? Calm
>Winds 6 knots
>Temp -0.8 C ; w/ wind chill –4.4 C
>Location: Latitude 65 degrees 28.10’ S; Longitude 65 degrees 48.50 W

Above, Sunrise over Astrolabe Island.
Below: Whales have been a familiar sight following the ship.
Click on each image for larger view.

11 December 2004

Without question, today has been the strangest day of this cruise. If today were the only day you visited Antarctica, then you would be certain that all of the stories about the harrowing weather of the Southern Ocean and the waters surrounding Antarctica are fabrications to keep people away. Today has been gorgeous. There are no clouds in the sky, the winds are barely detectable, and the ocean is flat. Despite a wind chill of –4° or less in the sunshine it feels surprisingly "warm" today. The clarity with which we can see distant islands and icebergs is striking. We are continuing our journey south toward the Antarctic Circle. Sunset will occur at 11:35 p.m. and will be "chased" by sunrise at 2:13 a.m. — the moon is always up.

We are continuing our tow – trawl – tow – trawl cycle. Because of a midday dive (yes, that’s right there are people scuba diving in –0.5° C water), our group will just miss the evening trawl (it will come on board as our shift ends at midnight). With this freedom Dr. Balser and I have turned our attention to the latest pterobranch species to garner our attention. Unlike earlier forms that seemingly "leaped" out of their tubes, this most recent species is recalcitrant, and we need to gently remove them from their tubes to collect the necessary samples for microscopy. Dr. Balser’s efforts have been rewarded with a rather nice series of developmental stages that she is photographing with reckless abandon (thank goodness for digital photography)

Several sightings of charismatic megafauna occurred today — just a whisper of a whale blow and several groups of Adelie penguins. As awkward as these birds appear on land they are move easily through the water. As some of the former Comparative Anatomy students may recall, these birds actually swim by flapping their wings underwater. The functional significance of the streamline shape (to reduce drag) is plainly evident as they dive or swim on the surface. A significant source of food for these birds is the euphausid crustacean arthropod, commonly referred to as "krill." These are the "shrimps" of Antarctica and serve as a significant consumer (of phyto[plant]plankton) and a prey (many organisms eat krill — i.e., baleen whales, crabeater seals, and penguins) in this ecosystem. Returning to penguins, their tongues are nicely adapted to deliver krill down to the esophagus. The tongue is covered on the upper surface by long papillae that are directed away from the mouth (they point towards the esophagus). As these birds have limited means of manipulating prey, these papillae serve to direct foods towards deeper portions of the digestive system.

With that gastronomic discussion, I think it time for me to waddle off to the galley and see what treats I can find.

I hope all are well.



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