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>Seas: Flat
>Winds 1 knot
>Temp -0.7 C ; w/ wind chill –0.7 C
>Location: Latitude 64 degrees 52.47’ S; Longitude 63 degrees 45.17 W

Above, A seal leaves a telltale track in the ice.
Below: Species found in Antarctica tend to be considerably larger than those elsewhere. For example, this "sea squirt" is bigger than a football.
Bottom: This slimy ribbon worm, typically less than centimeter long is as big as a black snake,
Click on each image for larger view.

15 December 2004

We are just around the corner from Palmer Station, Anvers Island, Antarctica.

Tomorrow morning at eight we will be attached by gangway to Palmer Station. Palmer Station is the smallest of the three U.S. research facilities in Antarctica and houses a maximum of about 33 residents. Unlike the southernmost stations at McMurdo Sound and the Pole that receive aircraft support, Palmer is supported byonly ship operations (the Lawrence M. Gould). The reason for our stop at Palmer is related to cargo and people transport. Large cargo containers will be transferred from the ship and the station for most of the day. The new residents of the LMG will be berthed in modified cargo containers in the hold of the ship.

Our day will be spent in the lab taking photographs (for the first time in two weeks the ship will not continually vibrate) and, later, wandering around the station. The facility sits very near Marr Glacier and, at this time of year, large chunks of ice regularly plummet from the glacial edge to create icebergs. These may not be the massive tabular ‘bergs that we see in open waters, but the noise and the waves created as calving occurs are impressive nonetheless. En masse we will hike to the top of the glacier for our group photograph.

The find of the day came in the form of a really unusual planktonic snail collected in the morning drift plankton sample. This species is a nudibranch or sea slug. As some will recall, the nudibranchs comprise a group of marine snails that have lost their shell as adults and can be among the most vibrantly colored gastropods species. Our find was neither large nor colorful, but it was the "buzz" of the ship. Holoplanktonic forms (those species that spend their entire life in the water column) are unusual among the nudibranchs and, although specimens were common in the plankton sample, there are few obvious morphological features that would suggest that this species is truly holoplanktonic. It’s a bit of a mystery. We will return to Illinois Wesleyan with a few preserved specimens for some interested individual to study and describe.

The scenery in this region of Antarctica is striking, yet none of our photographs correctly capture the beauty of this junction between land and sea. One loses all sense of distance and scale here — what seems a stone's throw away may be 5 miles distant. The mountain tops that are clearly small (by absolute, not Illinois standards) actually rise several thousand feet above sea level. It’s easy to feel small in Antarctica.



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