November 12, 2010 Finally some leisure, followed by more work
Yesterday was a day of leisure, then work, then some more leisure time. We started out just checking email, relaxing enough. Then it was off to the aquarium. There is an aquarium in Phase III (bottom floor) of Crary Lab. They study creatures that live all around McMurdo Sound. One of the more abundant fishes, various species of genus Trematomus, are held in a variety of 200+ gallon tanks with sub zero sea water. Isaac and Sandwich gave us a short tour explaining some of the science being conducted on the fish.
Trematomus are found in the sub-freezing (-2 C) waters of McMurdo sound. One of the major studies taking place is understanding physiological responses to increases in water temperature. Isaac and Sandwich will raise the water temperatures in small increments all the way up to 6 C or so. At this point the fish can no longer survive, sometimes not even making it past 2 C. They then dissect the fish exploring for responses in cell replication at the various temperatures.
Also in the aquarium is a touch tank with various animals also found in and around McMurdo Sound. There are sea spiders, a variety of anemones and corals, sea urchins, sea stars, and other prehistoric looking animals. It was difficult to actually hold some of the animals for more than just a few seconds since the water is so cold!
What special adaptations might animals in Antarctica need to survive versus animals in more temperate waters?
From the frigid waters of the Crary aquarium it was time to practice assembling the the over-winter GPS frames. With extremely cold temperatures and high winds, out goal is to assemble and connect the frames and GPS electronics as quickly and efficiently as possible. We are leaving 5 ice sites out over-winter and 3 rock sites, all requiring this larger frame setup. Each unit can take anywhere from two to five hours to setup. You can see why we want to be quick about this.
The final task for the day was to head down to the helo hanger and practice the steps that will be taken when exiting the helo while on The Byrd. We are landing on a heavily crevassed glacier 200 miles from McMurdo. Every sequence of the landing process must run like a well oiled machine to ensure maximum safety.