Our main research mission—and our daily blog—will kick off just after Christmas. But the science team has already put in a ton of effort (actually it was about 8 tons of effort, as you’ll see in the slideshow). Scientists and technicians from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, spent several weeks in November setting up radar locations on two small, snowbound islands near Palmer Station. These solar- and wind-powered stations will scan the horizon and generate detailed maps of the ocean’s surface currents for us. That’s crucial information that will help the rest of the science team piece together why the penguins forage where they do, and where their food is.
So how do you build a radar station on an uninhabited island with no power? Find out in this photo gallery:
After two weeks of solid work, the team had the two radar stations (plus one at Palmer Station itself) up and running by November 15. They spent the next couple of days calibrating their system. By November 16, Dr. Josh Kohut was logging into the radar systems all the way from his office at Rutgers University in New Jersey, in between donuts. He analyzed the data and produced these colorful maps of surface currents in the vicinity of Palmer Station. (The small red dots mark the locations of the radar stations.)
The brighter colors indicate faster-moving water. The scientists (and many of the students who follow along on this blog) will use these maps to figure out where and when krill might accumulate, creating possible feeding grounds for penguins. And that’s what the rest of the group will be studying when they arrive in January.
Hank Statscewich, Dr. Peter Winsor, and the rest of the installation team boarded the Gould and returned to Punta Arenas, Chile, soon after; they’re now back home in Alaska. Meanwhile, Dr. Kim Bernard, Shenandoah Raycroft, and Megan Cimino have arrived at Palmer Station, and we’ll check in with them soon.
(Thanks to Hank Statscewich for his descriptions of the work, and to Peter Winsor for the photographs.)
You only get to eat donuts after you have actually gone out in the zodiac, Josh!