Monday, February 6, 2012

Mrs. Fridson's class asked:
How are things in New Zealand? We wanted to know what foods you ate in Antarctica and to let you know that here in Farmington Hills, it was 4 degrees this morning. That sounds colder then it was in McMurdo.
Wow, that's getting pretty cold.  At McMurdo Base there is a cafeteria that serves food for all the people who are living and working there.  We were provided with three hot meals a day at McMurdo.  My favorite food there was the fresh baked bread.  Things were a little different at the field camps.  We took food that was canned, dehydrated, or frozen out to field camps.  We cooked regular meals, like chilli, or soup, or rice and beans and vegetables, but we made it from food that had been preserved.  We had cheese and milk, but we made the milk from a powder mix and the cheese was frozen, so we had to thaw it out first.

Mike cooking at a field camp

Mrs. Cooperman's First Grade asked:
Thank you so much for answering our questions. Today we thought of one more! We were having a discussion about the top 3 things we would want to bring with us on a trip to Antarctica. One student thought to bring a cell phone. Would it work? Is there a phone system where you were?
That's a good question.  We use VHF (very high frequency) hand held radios and satellite phones for communication when we are in the field.  However, we can't use cell phones because there are no service providers or cell phone towers in Antarctica.  The top three things for me are good coffee, a good book, and sunglasses.  I love coffee, and if I want good coffee I have to bring it with me.  A good book is important for long long flights, or when I have to wait a long time for a helicopter to come pick me up from a field site.  Sunglasses are important because the sunlight is very intense in Antarctica because it's daylight 24 hours a day and because there is so much ice around to reflect the sunlight.

Here I am "using" a VHF radio at Lake Fryxell Camp

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Mrs. Radner's Fourth Grade Class asked:
When the insects are 'dormant' like you said, is this like polar bears who curl up in caves over the winter? 
In some ways it is similar.  Both animals that hibernate (like birds and some mammals) and small invertebrate animals in the soil (like nematodes) slow down their metabolism to deal with the cold.  Metabolism is a word for the chemical reactions that occur in a living organism's body.  Animals like some nematodes in the Dry Valleys do this by anhydrobiosis, which means they get rid of the water in the cells in their body.  When water freezes inside living cells, it kills them.  So these animals get rid of the water in their cells before their body temperature drops below freezing.  This way, there is no water left in their body to turn to ice crystals inside their cells in the winter time, so freezing doesn't kill them.  Some mammals and birds go into an inactive state called torpor to conserve energy during the winter months, but they still use chemical reactions (metabolism) to burn fat to keep their body temperature above freezing so that ice crystals don't form in their cells.  Brown and black bears hibernate, but apparently polar bears do not.   Although, I don't know if bears technically use torpor when they hibernate.
About the penguins, in what part of Antarctica did you see the penguin?
I saw penguins near McMurdo Base and Scott Base on Ross Island.  I saw an Emperor Penguin near the New Zealand base (Scott Base) near a pressure ridge on the sea ice.  I think it was lost.  I saw some Adelie Penguins near the U.S. base (McMurdo) on the sea ice where it was starting to break up.  There were also plenty of Weddell Seals near these openings in the ice.

A lost juvenile Emperor Penguin near Scott Base
Adelie Penguin near McMurdo Base
The curious Adelie Penguin sliding along the sea ice 
What's the difference in weather between New Zealand and Antarctica? Today in Michigan it is 36 degrees Farenheit, so according to your blog, Antarctica and Michigan had the same temperature. That's amazing! We always thought it was much much colder in Antarctica than in Michigan!
It is in the middle of summer in Antarctica right now, and it is the middle of winter in Michigan right now, summertime temperatures in Antarctica near McMurdo are the same as winter time temperatures in Michigan.  In the winter, Antarctica gets much colder.  It is summertime for the southern hemisphere (the part of the world that is south of the equator) right now, and New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere, so it is also summertime here.  It was in the 60s (degrees Fahrenheit) when I was in the southern part of New Zealand.  It's a little warmer where I am now, in the northern part of New Zealand.  I think it is in the upper 70s or low 80s.  People around here have told me it has been a cold summer so far.  The northern part of New Zealand is closer to the equator than the southern part of New Zealand, so it is warmer.  Just like Florida is closer to the equator than Michigan, so Florida is warmer.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Hi everyone.  I have been doing some traveling in New Zealand and out of contact.  I will post answers to the questions soon along with some new pictures.