Tag Archives | Palmer Station

Divergence

True to its name, Project CONVERGE brought together people from all over the world to study the food web at Palmer Station. But now our month on the ice is over, and it’s time for us to go back home; in other words, it’s time for CONVERGE to diverge.

As we said our goodbyes to our friends at Palmer and to the incredible scenery surrounding it, we couldn’t help but notice some signs of the passing time. Icebergs were smaller; the thick cap of winter snow on the glacier had melted away to bare ice; and it was actually starting to get dark at night. Click through the slideshow to see more signs of the changing season:

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Most of the Project CONVERGE team is now back home. Down in Punta Arenas, Chile, the Laurence M. Gould is already loading up a new set of scientists and preparing to head back across the Drake Passage to Palmer Station again. We’ve had an unforgettable time on our Antarctic expedition, and we hope you’ve been able to share with us an idea of what it’s like to live and work among the penguins, seals, whales, and icebergs.

Thank you for reading this blog and being a part of this project. The questions you sent in, the ones you asked during the video calls, and the ones that you’re investigating on your own, have made you an important part of Project CONVERGE, too. We’re looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible during our science symposium in April. Until then, stay warm and don’t let the penguins bite!

The Kind of Change You Can’t Say No To

The Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest warming places on Earth. Around Palmer Station, the average winter temperature has risen by more than 10 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 50 years. That might sound slow in human terms, but in terms of the rate the Earth normally goes through big changes, climate change is moving like a racecar coming around a curve.

Because the Palmer area is warming so fast, people who have worked at Palmer Station for many years have had a front-row seat for these changes. Even now, clear signs of the recent warming are all around. Today we went out with Donna Fraser of the Project CONVERGE penguin team. She’s been coming to Antarctica for 25 years—click through the slideshow to see some of the examples she showed us:

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Our time at Palmer Station is drawing to a close. Tomorrow, the ship that brought us here, the Laurence M. Gould, will tie up once again at our dock. There will be a frenzy of activity as the scientists pack up all of their gear, move out of their rooms, do the last of their laundry, and have their last meals in the Palmer galley. The Palmer staff and the Gould crew will spend the day loading crates of gear onto the ship, and we’ll depart on Tuesday morning.

We’ve enjoyed writing and photographing this blog immensely. While we’re on the ship, we’re going to send a wrap-up post to bring you up to date on what the scientists found at the end of their field season, and what’s next for Project CONVERGE. We’ll also do our best to answer the remaining questions that you’ve sent in—so if you’re still curious about something, please send us a comment!

Test Your Memory With “What in the World?”

Many years ago, when your trusty blog writer and photographer were little, we used to open up each new issue of National Geographic’s kids magazine and look for a feature called “What in the World?” It was a quiz game where they would show an extreme closeup of something rather ordinary—a pencil tip, or a junebug, or a flower petal—and the reader had to guess what it was.

We thought we’d play a game of “What in the World?” on the Project CONVERGE blog. Let’s see how good your memories are: Each of the first six photos in the slideshow is a closeup of one of the photos that has already appeared on the blog. As you look at each one, try to remember where you’ve seen it before, and guess which post it was in. Then keep clicking—we’ll show you the full photos in the second half of the slideshow.

Are you ready? Click through and see how many photos you can identify:

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To see the photos in their original context, see the following posts. How many did you get right?

Orange Islands: Listening for Echoes of Krill
Candycane Mirrorball: This Is Life at 64 Degrees South
Urban Planning: How Gliders Work: A Look Inside the Blue Hen
Brush Strokes: Big and Bad, or Just Misunderstood? Meet the Southern Giant-Petrel
Drawn by a Ruler? Here Comes the Neighborhood
Black and White and Slightly Pink: Sights and Smells of Summer in an Adelie Penguin Colony

Sheathbill: The Most Peculiar Bird of the Whole Peculiar Continent

Much is made of Antarctica’s incredible wildlife: throngs of krill; seals piled together like rolls of carpet; regiments of penguins; whales puffing clouds into the sky. But there’s a creature arguably more incredible right outside our door here at Palmer Station. In fact, if you leave the door open by mistake, it’s likely to come inside and have a look around. It’s a bird called a snowy sheathbill, and some call it the largest land animal in Antarctica.

It hurries toward you on stout gray legs, looking like a cross between a pigeon and a chicken. It seems fearless as it walks to within a yard of you and looks up with an inquisitive black eye. Or you’ll glance up to find a pair of them waiting on the eaves of a building, as if holding on to the silent knowledge that eventually, you will drop something edible.

They’re such a constant presence here that they’re like honorary staff members, and the people who work here have developed a mixture of bemusement, tolerance, and admiration for them. Although they do wish they wouldn’t poop so much. Click through the slideshow to learn more about this singular animal and its contribution to station life:
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This Is Life at 64 Degrees South

We’re still trying to get to the Wauwerman Islands to do some work on the radar station there, but once again today the weather did not quite cooperate. In the meantime, life goes on at the station. Boats go in and out of the water; radios crackle with check-ins and location updates; people gather in the galley for hot, home-cooked meals.

Palmer Station operates like a small town or a big family. There’s lots of science work to do, and plenty of possibilities for fun in between the work. The 44 people here work together to get things done and then get together in groups for games, projects, hikes, music, and more—or set off with a radio and some snowshoes for some solitude on a glacier hike. Click through the slideshow for more scenes of life as usual on Palmer Station:

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What Do Whales, Seabirds, and Seals All Have in Common?

Tuesday was a day off for the staff of Palmer Station. The day was sunny and calm—perfect conditions for a favorite off-duty pastime called recreational boating. We boarded a zodiac with station staff including the carpenter, logistics supervisor, satellite communications engineer, and utility mechanic. We loaded up with sunscreen, donned sunglasses against the brilliant white light, and pulled on orange float coats for safety. Everyone had a camera at the ready, and we set off to explore icebergs and islands.

For us it was a great introduction to the animal inhabitants of Palmer Station. We saw mammals, flying birds, flightless birds, and even a small but indispensable animal that keeps the whole ecosystem ticking. Can you guess what it was? Join us on our zodiac tour in the slideshow below, and find out the answer at the end:
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Because krill are at the heart of the food chain, scientists pay a lot of attention to them. Krill are also at the center of Project CONVERGE. The team wants to know whether tides and convergence zones help bring together krill into concentrations high enough to serve as feeding hotspots for penguins. Radar helps the team map the currents and convergence zones. But how do they find out where the krill are? In our next post, we’ll go out with the scientists to answer that question.

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