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21 January 2005

Well, we're back in Bloomington. It is nice to be home again, but we miss the warmth of the summer in Antarctica.

We did not return alone, however, as we brought a plethora of pterobranchs (both adults and larvae) back to Illinois Wesleyan. As you may imagine, our conversations with airport staff about not irradiating these animals would, to an outsider, be quite amusing. To us, these were somewhat stressful situations. “Really there are little animals in these thermoses” was often received with a wee bit of skepticism. One security person spilled a bit of water on the conveyor belt, and then encouraged a co-worker to touch the water saying “when in your life are you going to get another chance to touch seawater from Antarctica.” We offer thanks to all those understanding personnel and to the various food vendors that gave us ice for our attempts to keep these critters below 5 degrees C.

You should know that we have established a “pterobranch condominium” in the Invertebrate Zoology refrigerator. The larvae that survived the 29-hour transit from Punta Arenas, Chile, have undergone a metamorphosis and are establishing new colonies. This is really quite exciting. I dare say that Illinois Wesleyan is likely to possess the largest (and only) collection of living Antarctic pterobranchs in Illinois, and perhaps even in North America.

When we returned to campus we had our first opportunity to examine the Web site describing our trip. We thank Jeff Hanna and Jake Kronika for establishing and maintaining the site. We were very impressed and delighted with the number of “hits” on this site (>4400 at last count). We are hopeful that these daily installations were able to successfully convey our life and respective research projects during this four week cruise aboard the R/V Laurence M. Gould.

We are both on sabbatical this semester and eagerly await many of the samples we collected on this cruise. The frozen material has already arrived, but there are three boxes of specimens somewhere between Punta Arena, Chile, and Los Angeles, CA. Each day we wait impatiently for the phone call stating that they are really en route to IWU. When they finally arrive we will begin to examine our specimens and these samples should keep us busy for quite a while. We are also plotting to find ways to return to this inspiring place.

There were so many magnificent sites ranging in scale from massive glaciers moving ever so slowly to the sea to the diminutive and elegantly beautiful larvae of sea stars. We feel lucky to have had the opportunity to explore and collect and study animals from such an extreme environment.


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