Saturday, December 25, 2004

While out at Cape Bird we ran into ole Saint Nick himself. Apparently he is sick of dealing with the regulations of the Elven union and is negotiating with penguin representatives in an attempt to outsource most of his work to the Adelie penguins. Talk about globalization! Posted by Hello

Merry Christmas and the penguins of Cape Bird.

Merry Christmas from Antarctica! It's Christmas day down here (we are a day ahead of the States) and all is peaceful. For the most part everyone has the day off and even better for all the contract workers, it's another one of those rare 2 day weekends. So everyone is feeling pretty joyful right about now. The big Christmas party was last night. They held it in the heavy equipment building. It was a good time for all with good food and live music. Tonight is our big Christmas dinner. The only thing missing is some fresh eggnog. I had some of the Borden's ultrapasturized eggnog (the stuff that lasts for years without refrigeration), that was no good.

Earlier this week we went out to Cape Bird, the northern most tip of Ross Island. We wanted to collect sea urchins from this location. We are interested in differences in reproductive ecology between different populations of sea urchins residing in the McMurdo Sound area. So we flew out there in a helicopter and got dropped off for the day. Because the location is so far away from McMurdo, we can't get the usual dive hole drilled out there. But it turns out there are some huge cracks in the sea ice which Dave and Rob can dive through.

The cool thing about Cape Bird is that there are several Adelie penguin rookeries there, so there's always a good chance or running into some of Antarctica's most interesting citizens. We were not disappointed as we had many penguins stopping by our little diving operation to check us out. As I've mentioned before, penguins have no natural predator on land (or sea ice). So they have no fear of humans and they approach them quite happily to see what going on. The great thing about Adelie penguins is that they are probably the most indecisive animal on Earth. They see you, run towards you, stop, run away, stop, run back towards you, stop, run away.... you get the picture. The Adelies are very different from their cousins, the Emperor penguins. As the name suggests, the Emperors are quite snobby. Humanizing an Emperor penguin event would be like this: Emperor penguin waddles up to you, looks you up and down several times, walks away completey unimpressed with your existence and wonders what god in heaven would waste several millions of years of evolution to create such a useless biped.

But this day was about the cute little Adelie penguins. We saw no Emperors. We ran into a couple of Kiwi researchers who were camping out at Cape Bird studying the penguin rookeries. They said it was okay if we approached the rookeries (but of course maintain a polite distance so as not to disturb the penguins). It was amazing to see these cute little penguin chicks huddle up underneath their parents (moms and dads take turns babysitting the chicks while the other goes on foraging trips for food) trying to stay warm. Very very cute. Of course it was also sobering to keep in mind that most, if not all, of these chicks face a very bleak future because of the miles of sea ice separating the parents from the open sea where they get their food. The parents can't jump in the water and swim away, but need to walk 50 to 100 miles to get to the ocean. This means most of the chicks will eventually die of starvation. You're probably thinking, "But Doug, you said there were cracks in the sea ice. That's where you guys went diving. So why can't the penguins get in the water there and swim to the ice edge?" Good question. The penguins can get in the seawater through the cracks. But they can't swim to the open water because they need to come up frequently for air and with all the ice between the entrance point and the open water, they would suffocate along the way to the open water (unless they happened to find another crack system in the sea ice). Hopefully a large storm will come in and blow out the sea ice, allowing the parents to feed their babies.

So here's a few pictures of our big day at Cape Bird. Hope you enjoy. And I hope everyone out there has a wonderful Christmas and a fantastic new year. To the Family (Mom, Dad, Steve, Jeff, and Uncle Allan): I miss the hell out of you guys. Next year I'll be sure to get out to Ludlow for a proper Christmas.

Penguins chilling out at Cape Bird. Posted by Hello

Here they come! The first penguin scout party draws closer to our diving operations. Posted by Hello

One lone penguin tries to keep the peace. Posted by Hello

Two Adelie penguins pose for the camera.  Posted by Hello

Portrait of an Adelie penguin.  Posted by Hello

Penguins exiting the water. Posted by Hello

I am Penguin. Here me roar! Santa can only hold the flag and look on. Posted by Hello

Penguins approaching us making their way back to the rookery grounds. Posted by Hello

Friday, December 24, 2004

Christmas 'chinoderms

Well, it looks like those crazy Antarctic echinoderms can't get enough of the holiday season. Their latest death-defying stunt was to use their superpowers to form a seastar Christmas tree, topped with a brilliant sea urchin (for once the seastars weren't stars at all). This latest wonderment of nature was witnessed and photographed by the diving safety officer for McMurdo, Rob Robbins. It is impressive that with the harshness of the local environment these Antarctic echinoderms appear to be very tolerant of huge differences not only in evolutionary lineages (afterall sea stars and sea urchins split from each other hundreds of millions of years ago) but also in religous perspectives (see echinoderm Menorah below). A worthy holiday lesson for us all to keep in mind. Posted by Hello

NSF press release on killer iceberg (and the Russians are coming!)

The following is a press release from the National Science Foundation (NSF). They are in charge of running McMurdo Base. It was released in response to the doom and gloom article in CNN (and other places I assume).

A new development that occurred after this release is that the US just finished negotiations with the Russians for a second icebreaker. So this season there will be a US and a Russian icebreaker trying to clear out the sea ice. Pretty exciting. The Russians save the day! In exchange I think we're giving the Russians some logistical support (eg letting them run some Antarctic operations out of McMurdo). Looks like the Yanks and Russians are allies in this Cold War (Reagon would love it)...

Annual long-range supply effort, icebreaking operations are on schedule

National Science Foundation (NSF) officials said today that iceberg B-15A is not blocking access to McMurdo Station, the U. S. logistics hub for much of the nation’s research activity in Antarctica, contradicting widely circulated reports to the contrary.

Karl Erb, Director of NSF’s Office of Polar Programs said the real effect of the enormous iceberg had been to shield large parts of the Ross Sea from wind and ocean currents, with the result that sea ice had formed over a larger area than usual in the sea-lanes approaching McMurdo Sound. Before McMurdo Station can be resupplied icebreakers have to open a channel each year through which the resupply ships can proceed, and the icebreaker task will be more difficult this year. Erb expressed confidence that the U.S. Coast Guard and its crew aboard the icebreaker USCGC Polar Star will succeed. He added that NSF is currently arranging for a backup icebreaker that can assist the Polar Star if necessary. This is in response to a Coast Guard recommendation.

“There is absolutely no truth to reports circulating widely that the stations are facing a crisis when it comes to supplies of any kind, including food. Personnel at McMurdo and South Pole stations are in no danger,” Erb said.

Some news media have conveyed the misimpression that an enormous iceberg, B-15A, is blocking ship access to the McMurdo Station seaport.

The U.S. research station at the geographic South Pole is more than 800 miles inland, and supplies are airlifted there from McMurdo after arriving on ships.

B-15A is a fragment of a much larger iceberg that broke away from the Ross Ice Shelf in March 2000. Scientists believe that the enormous piece of ice broke away as part of a long-term natural cycle (every 50-to-100 years, or so) in which the shelf—which is roughly the size of Texas— sheds pieces much as human fingernails grow and break off.

The berg initially drifted toward McMurdo Sound and grounded near Cape Crozier on Ross Island. It has since broken into pieces that still are very large. Some remain in place, but the largest splinter—B-15A, approximately 100 miles long—is moving north at roughly 1-3 three kilometres per day.

The berg’s fate is unclear, as it depends on unpredictable winds, tides and other forces, but possibilities include colliding with the floating Drygalski Ice Tongue or continuing north, eventually to melt. If it’s the former,
the impact with the ice tongue could come as soon as Dec. 24.

The U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star left Seattle, Washington, on Nov. 4 and should reach the edge of the sea ice about Dec. 27. It will begin immediately to cut a channel in the sea ice for the supply ships.

Officials agreed that the position of B-15A presents no obstacle to navigating the ship to the ice edge and beginning its work of opening a channel through this year’s roughly 80 nautical miles of sea ice. In a normal year, the icebreaker clears a channel through perhaps 10 miles of first-year ice.

In some prior years, the Coast Guard deployed both the Polar Sea and the Polar Star to open the channel but the Polar Sea is in dry dock for a major refit. NSF is negotiating to bring a chartered icebreaker to assist the Polar Star this year.

NSF, through its Office of Polar Programs, manages the U.S. Antarctic Program.

# # #


NSF program contact: Al Sutherland, 703-292-7457

Useful links:

Fact Sheets:
U.S. Antarctic Program
Significant U.S. Science Discoveries from Antarctica
Scientific Logistics at the Poles

Press releases:
Enormous Iceberg May Be in Its Death ThroesCollisions with another large berg may doom B-15A to a breakup
Motion of Massive Antarctic Ice Berg Causes Another Immense Berg to "Calve"

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agencythat supports fundamental research and education across allfields of science and engineering, with an annual budget ofnearly $5.47 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states throughgrants to nearly 2,000 universities and institutions. Each year,NSF receives about 30,000 competitive requests for funding, andmakes about 10,000 new funding awards. The National ScienceFoundation also awards over $200 million in professional andservice contracts yearly.

Useful National Science Foundation Web Sites:
NSF Home Page:
News Highlights:
Science Statistics:
Awards Searches:

Friday, December 17, 2004

The state of the sea ice.

A lot of people have been writing me, or people I know, asking about how the penguins are doing and what's going on with this enormous iceberg parked out side our back door. For those of you who haven't seen the article, it's on the CNN site:

What's happening is that the Ross Ice Shelf is in the middle of a calving event. Huge chunks of this enormous glacier (the size of Texas) are breaking off and floating around in the Ross Sea. These events seem to occur about every 50 years or so. This in interesting because McMurdo Station is only about 50 years old. So this is the first time in the station's history that it has had to deal with the Ross Sea becoming littered with enormous icebergs. By enormous, I mean really, really, really big. Like the iceberg takes up the entire horizon. The largest iceberg, B15A, is close to the size of Ross Island, where McMurdo Station is located, and has been described has the largest floating thing on the planet right now. Not only is it a huge obstacle, but it also creates another very significant problem: persistent sea ice. The surface of the water in the Ross Sea freezes in the winter. But as summer approaches the rise in temperature and the energy of late winter/early spring storms causes most of the frozen sea ice to break apart, thus allowing ships access to McMurdo in the summer (an icebreaker is sent down every year to break a channel through what little ice remains between the open ocean and McMurdo). These ships provide vital equipment and supplies needed for the town. These huge icebergs cause the sea ice, also called fast ice (cause it doesn't move, it's held fast) to stay around. The reason for this is rooted in some complex oceanography, but the upshot is that the icebergs create a stable structure that the sea ice adheres to and, more importantly, the icebergs block warmer ocean waters that would usually circulate around the sea ice. This keeps the water around the sea ice much colder and therefore stops the usual progression of the break up of sea ice during the summer months.

This creates problems for both the humans and the wildlife. The sea ice around McMurdo is very old, having not been thawed or blown away for some 5 to 6 years. This has allowed the ice to thicken to about 16 to 18 feet! Very tough work for an icebreaker. Luckily, not all of McMurdo Sound is that thick, since the sea ice has blown out in other areas in more recent years. Still, the iceberg has caused the ice edge (where the sea ice ends and the open ocean begins) to be about 100 miles further north than it usually is. This means that the icebreaker (provided by the US Coast Guard) has that much more work to do.

Two years ago the ice was very hard to clear out for the same reasons. It took 2 icebreakers to clear a channel for the resupply vessel. Even then it was very delicate work because the channel was full of ice chunks that were up to 14 feet thick. The resupply vessel has a reinforced hull, but it is not an icebreaker. Pieces of ice that big could easily rip the hull open. In fact, that year the fuel resupply ship did not even enter the channel for fear of the ship busting open and spilling fuel all over the pristine Antarctic waters. Instead, fuel lines were laid down over the sea ice and the fuel was transferred that way.

This year though, more icebergs have moved into the area and caused the ice edge to be even further away, making the above option a much more difficult one to carry out. Also, there will only be one icebreaker this year (the National Science Foundation tried to get a second, but it never worked out). So as mentioned in the CNN article, this iceberg has created very large logistical problems concerning how to resupply the station. There are stores emergency foods and fuel, to be sure, but no one wants to eat 10-year-old frozen hot dogs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It will be very interesting to see how this problem gets solved, especially in the long-term. Hopefully the icebreaker will be able to clear the channel all by itself, but to some people supposedly in the know, they don't think it's likely. Some rare, late season storms would help out as well, so that more ice might blow away. Truly vital supplies (food and fuel) can be flown it, but not without an enormous cost that the NSF would probably like to avoid.

The other side of this iceberg situation is its influence on the biology of McMurdo Sound. The most notable problem is that the penguin rookeries in Ross Island face a very grim outlook (as discussed in the CNN article). This is because the parents rear their children at established rookeries on Ross Island. They take turns going on foraging missions where they walk to the sea ice, swim and get food, return to the rookery and regurgitate the food up for the chicks to eat. Only problem is what used to be a short walk to the sea ice (the rookeries were seemingly established during better times when the sea ice blew out) for the parents has now turned into a Homerian Odyssey of hundreds of miles. By the time they return to the rookery, if they return at all, they've used up all the food just to make the journey. This results in the penguin chicks dying of starvation. The closest penguin rookery to McMurdo (at Cape Royds, an Adelie penguin rookery) is likely to lose all their chicks this year. Zero survival. Very grim. This too could happen at a couple of more rookeries. These giant icebergs have already worked over the Emperor penguin rookeries at Caper Crozier. The rookeries there were smashed to bits and pieces when these island-sized icebergs initially fell off the Ross Ice Shelf and rammed into the frozen sea ice where the Emperors established their breeding grounds. It's very difficult imagining something 100 miles long smashing into your house.

The sea ice is also experiencing another problem. The last 4 to 6 weeks have been extremely warm here. Well above freezing (the high temperature today was 39F). The sea ice around the station and where the sea ice runway is located is very thick and its structural integrity is not about to compromised anytime soon. The problem is that with the warm temperatures we've had it's caused the 16 feet thick ice to turn into 14 feet thick ice that is now covered in 2 feet worth of slush. The road that goes from the hard ground of Ross Island to the frozen sea ice of McMurdo Sound (called 'the transition') has suffered the worst. This road is covered now with huge puddles of standing water, some up to 3 feet deep. The road to the ice runway is filled with these puddles as well (the constant driving of vehicles on the roads has dramatically increased their degradation in these warm conditions). This has resulted in the sea ice now being closed to just about everyone. The sea ice runway is closed as well. This means that planes bringing personnel and supplies to Antarctica from New Zealand can no longer land on wheels, but need to be equipped with skis (the runway on the permanent Ross Ice Shelf is different from the hard surface provided by the frozen sea ice and thus only ski equipped planes can use it). This change in landing gear severely limits the amount of cargo the planes can carry. So the good life of fresh food and mail packages being delivered in a timely fashion that was experienced during the days of the big C-17 and C-141 jets are now over. With the ski equipped planes handling the cargo, fresh food and mail fall very low on the priority of cargo to be shipped. People (myself included) don't know if Christmas packages sent by friends and family will arrive in time for Christmas. But this is not a huge problem, its just means the easier days of fresh food and mail aren't as frequent anymore (harsh continent indeed!).

So that's the state of the sea ice. Wow, that was a long post. You may not hear from me for the next 2 or 3 weeks. I've also put a photo in that shows Ross Island and these huge icebergs floating around the Ross Sea wreaking havoc on our little Antarctic operation (and the poor penguins too!).

Recent satellite image of the waters (and icebergs) surrounding Ross Island. The yellow area just left of McMurdo Station shows where the sea ice edge is usually located during the summer. The red line displays the basic path the icebreaker and resupply vessels would take to get to McMurdo Station. However, the huge iceberg, B15A, is not only blocking the path of the vessels (not a big problem since ships can simply avoid it) but is causing the sea ice edge to remain a hundred miles or so further north. The northern tip of the Ross Ice Shelf can be seen as the white area in the lower right of the photo just off of Ross Island. This is where the large icebergs are born.
 Posted by Hello

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Here's a great photo for all you Hanukah lovers out there! Our science diver/graduate student, Dave Ginsburg took this picture. You can imagine just how shocked he was to be diving under the frozen sea-ice of McMurdo Sound and come accross this large and highly organized group of Jewish echinoderms celebrating the glory of Hanukah by taking the shape of a menorah! While this formation may seem quite subtle to some, Dave, being of Jewish persuasion himself, immediatley understood what was going on and took this photo. Now I share it with you. Happy Hanukah! Posted by Hello

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Quarterback U?

Congratulations to USC Trojan QB Matt Leinart, this year's Heisman trophy winner, and USC's 6th winner (tied for 2nd place with Ohio State). People used to call USC Tailback University. Now that a Trojan Quarterback has won 2 of the last 3 Heisman trophys perhaps USC will be called Quarterback University. Our all star running back, Reggie Bush, came in 5th place for Heisman voting. Reggie was always a long shot for winning simply because to college football purists he doesn't touch the football enough (which is fair), but anyone who has watched the Trojans this season knows that his presence has made all the difference. He is the quintessential game-breaker.

Anyway, this makes the BCS championship game all the more exciting (even though I hate everything about the BCS). For the first time ever, two Heisman quarterbacks will be squaring off against each other, along with 2 Heisman finalists running backs (Oklahoma's RB Adian Peterson came in second place and is an amazing RB).


Friday, December 10, 2004

Fight on Trojans!!!!!!

This blog is typically dedicated to the activities of my research life here in McMurdo. However, I can't help but change course for a second and congratulate the University of Southern California Trojans. Incase anyone didn't read the fine print about me, I am a USC Trojan. Been one for a while now and it fills my heart with joy to see my football team go from PAC-10 cellar to co-National Champion (don't worry Ken, I'm not gonna disrespect LSU). And now with the regular season behind us, including an all too scary game against our cross-town rivals, UCLA (who played an excellent game), we are headed to the National Championship game again. And this time it appears everyone agrees there will be only 1 National Championship game, the Orange Bowl, USC vs. Oklahoma. Even better the Orange Bowl will be played on the 4th of January, which just so happens to be my birthday. I think a Trojan victory over the Sooners would be an excellent birthday gift.

It's been a strange football season, cheering on USC from all the way down south in Antarctica. I'm accustom to going to all the USC home games. Luckily, AFRTS (Armed Forces Radio and Television Service) has treated us pretty well. We got to watch 5 or 6 USC games down here. All others games were vigilantly monitored through the McMurdo internet and its modem-like bandwidth. Not the most fulfilling way to watch football, but it is a harsh continent afterall.

And so USC went wire to wire ranked #1 in both polls, an achievement that has not been completed by a football team in quite some time. Two of our players are Heisman finalists (QB Matt Leinart and RB/wide receiver/all around clutch game-breaker Reggie Bush) as well. To celebrate this joyous time, myself and a couple other die-hard Trojans decided to get out on the sea ice and have a cigar (the good ones you can't get in the states...)and bring the ole 'SC flag with us (Cardinal and Gold never looked so good!). It was a beautiful day on the sea ice and we even got to see some Weddell seals. We were at a location called Little Razorback. It's a tough and sharp outcropping out of the sea ice of volcanic rock . The island, along with a couple other islands in the vicinity (Big Razorback, Tent Island, and Inaccessible Island), actually makes up part of an enormous volcanic caldera that has since been submerged by the Ross Sea. These islands are simply parts of the caldera that stick up above the seawater level. Anyway, I digress. So here's a couple of shots marking the occassion.


Dad, you'll be happy to know that I have Hut-10 reserved for an Orange Bowl party.

Two Trojans enjoying a fine cigar on the sea ice, that's Dave Ginsburg on the right, grad student and diver for our research group (Little Razorback Island in the background). Just so you don't think anything weird is going on, Dave is not in a Gimp outfit, it's his drysuit he uses for diving. Without a dry suit he would go hypothermic in the subfreezing waters almost immediately. He hardly ever puts on the Gimp outfit these days.... Posted by Hello

The day the sea ice went from blinding white to Cardinal and Gold! From left to right: Dave Ginsburg, me, Allison Green (grad student in lab), and Jeff Rockholm (USC alumnist). Hopefully after Jan. 4th we'll have reason to break out the cigars one more time.  Posted by Hello

Sunday, December 05, 2004

To meet the Man on top of the World

So, it’s been an extremely eventful week. I had the honor of meeting Sir Edmund Hillary, the pride of New Zealand. Of course his greatest claim to fame and the deed that earned him his knighthood was his successful climb of Mt. Everest (along with sherpa Tenzing Norgay). That was back in 1952.

Perhaps a little less know feat of Sir Edmunds was his role in the British Commonwealth Transantarctic Expedition. Hillary was in charge of laying depots from Ross Island to within 100 hundred miles of the South Pole. Vivian Fuchs (the British component of the expedition) was to traverse the entire continent, starting on the opposite side as Hillary, on tracked vehicles and utilized the depots that Hillary and his men stored along the continent. It turned out that after some interesting setbacks, Hillary was ahead of schedule in laying the depots for Fuchs and he decided to take his crew (traveling in tractors that were basically fit to be used on New Zealand farms) all the way to the South Pole. So on January 4, (my birthday!) 1958, Sir Edmund Hillary became the first human to reach the South Pole overland since Robert Scott. These events also coincided with the International Geophysical Year (1957-1958). Along with getting to the South Pole, Hillary was also responsible for choosing the location and constructing New Zealand’s Antarctic base which would become known as Scott Base (which is located at the end of the Hut Point Peninsula on Ross Island within walking distance of McMurdo Station).

So for all these reasons, Sir Ed (as the Kiwis like to affectionately call him) has become a real hero and ambassador for New Zealand. Naturally, when he decides to pay a visit to Scott Base (again, the base he created) it’s a big deal.

One of the official reasons for his visit was to mark the 25th anniversary of the Mt. Erebus Air Accident. This was truly one of the saddest days in Antarctic history. Air New Zealand used to operate a DC-10 that would fly tourists on sight-seeing trips over parts of the Antarctica continent. On the 28th of November 1979, the plane smashed into the volcano that makes up Ross Island, Mt. Erebus, killing all 257 people on board. Poor visibility was blamed for the accident. In an amazing twist, Sir Edmund Hillary was supposed to be on that flight, acting as a tour guide. Due to prior commitments, he couldn’t go on the flight and offered the job to his best friend. So this accident must have placed an enormous weight on Hillary. In yet another interesting twist, however, Hillary came to marry the widow of his lost friend (earlier Hillary had tragically lost his wife and daughter in a plane crash over India).

Luckily for everyone involved, he took the time out of his schedule to give a talk to the people working at McMurdo Base. As you might imagine, he is getting up there in the years (he’s 85). He doesn’t look like a young chicken, but he definitely still has some of that fire in his eyes that I’m sure he needed when going up Everest, or for that matter driving a farm tractor over crevasse fields that were several football fields in length and could swallow entire houses. The talk was fantastic. No powerpoint. Just an old-timer telling stories that were truly amazing. And there was not one hint that all his life-long fame ever went to his head. He was modest, but not at the expense of being engaging. He talked mostly about his traverse across Antarctica. I’d say the high point of the talk was at the end when someone asked him about the most exciting thing he’d done during the years of the traverse. I don’t recall what he initially said, but it sounded like a stock answer that was mildly interesting, but nothing riveting. Then everyone was getting set to leave (there was a crowd of about 600 people there) when a better answer jumped in his head. He called everyone back to their seats and told one last story. Unfortunately memory doesn’t serve me as well as I’d like it to, but the story was basically this: He was flying in a small plane scouting for possible routes for the traverse and he and the pilot were heading back to Scott Base. Somewhere in the return trip Sir Ed needed to urinate very badly. He informed the pilot that things were “getting grim” and that he’d appreciate it if he could land the plane somewhere. The pilot was not too happy about this but he eventually landed on a completely unknown glacier (where crevasse fields just might be eagerly awaiting to swallow their plane). Both of them then walked over to an enormous crevasse and peed off the edge of it and into the darkness below. They then got back in the plane and took off, hoping that they would clear the crevasse they just peed off. It turns out they did, just barely. The way Sir Ed told the story I’m sure is 100-times more entertaining than my rendition, but it certainly put a lot of the early days of Antarctic expeditions into perspective of how different things are now compared to then.

The day after his talk to McMurdo Base he came back to get a tour of the Crary Laboratory. That is the lab at McMurdo that is home to all the scientists doing research in this part of Antarctica. The tour included scientists explaining their research to Sir Ed. So it turns out that I (along with my boss, Donal) got to talk about sea urchin larvae to the first man to climb Everest!!!!!! It was just surreal. And better still, he thought they were cool. Can there be any greater source of confirmation that you’re doing exciting stuff than from the first human to get to the top of Everest? It’s always hit and miss showing people embryos and larvae under a microscope. Some people aren’t comfortable looking through microscopes and don’t even see the animals at all. Well, Sir Ed must have seen them perfectly because he was describing them back to us, and with a tinge of excitement in his voice (really, I’m not making this up!).

So, I’ve included some pictures of the events. I’ve also included a poem that Sir Ed read during the memorial service of the Erebus Air Accident. It was written by Bill Manhire and really is quite moving.

Mt. Erebus (3794 meters high), the largest volcano (and only active one) making up Ross Island, the home of the US and Kiwi bases. The other volcanos on the island are Mt Terror, Mt. Bird, and Mt. Terra-Nova. It is the southernmost volcano in the world. In 1979 a DC-10 passenger jet flew into the mountain and killed all 257 people on board. Nov 28th marks the 25th anniversary of the tragic event. The following is a poem by Bill Manhire that Sir Edmund Hillary read during the memorial service:

Erebus Voices

The Mountain

I am here beside my brother, Terror.
I am the place of human error.

I am beauty and cloud, and I am sorrow;
I am tears which you will weep tomorrow.

I am the sky and the exhausting gale.
I am the place of ice, I am the debris trail.

I am as far as you can see.
I am the place of memory.

And I am still a hand, a fingertip, a ring.
I am what there is no forgetting.

I am the one with truly broken heart.
I watched them fall, and freeze, and break apart. Posted by Hello

Sir Edmund Hillary and the crew of scientists and support staff of the Crary Laboratory. I'm somewhere in the back. Posted by Hello

Sir Ed, examining larvae of the Antarctic sea urchin, Sterechinus neumayeri.  Posted by Hello

Hanging out with Sir Ed discussing larval biology. Life is strange indeed! Posted by Hello

Always a glutton for true adventure, Sir Ed even braved the food at the McMurdo cafeteria. Notice the look of sheer determination. I kid, I kid. The food is fine....Really, it is. Posted by Hello

On the phone with the South Pole. Communications must have been very different in 1957! Posted by Hello

The large crowd of McMurdo residents awaiting the story telling of Sir Edmund Hillary.  Posted by Hello

Sir Ed, chatting with people before his talk to McMurdo Station. Posted by Hello