Life at the South Pole

GNG_frostie.eyesFor today’s focus on global hotspots we present perspectives
from four guestbloggers talking about global climate change, undoubtedly one of
the greatest challenges facing our generation. Of course, while global warming
is HOT, it’s not quite a SPOT, or even a series of spots. And in fact, certain
“spots” maybe even get colder or drier as a result of global warming, not
hotter and wetter! Though global warming manifests itself most overtly in the
North and South Polar Regions and places like Iceland, it impacts all the Earth’s
ecosystems. Clearly, it’s a tricky issue to understand, which is why we’re so
lucky to have four guestbloggers helping us out today!

Later on, National Geographic’s Ford Cochran will describe
the tea kettle-like conditions brewing in Iceland. Then, the UN Foundation’s
Ozlem Esckiocak will encourage you to take action by signing the Youth Climate
Pledge. Finally, you’ll hear once more from National Geographic’s Danielle
Williams, who presents Community Action Plans developed by team members with
the Earthwatch/HSBC Climate Change Partnership. But first we’ll hear from
Joanna Cyprys, Production Manager with the Global
Nomads Group
. Joanna is part of a team studying impacts of climate change
on the Antarctic Continent, and sharing their discoveries with students across
the globe via blog and teleconferencing. Read on to hear more about Joanna’s
research, daily achievements and struggles, and her first penguin sighting!

Why am I Here?

So why am
I here on the coldest and driest place on earth?  Well, Global Nomads Group (GNG) (, which seeks to bring the world to
the classroom through interactive dialogue via videoconferences, along with
other educators and scientists, are all part of an expedition to study climate
change through analyzing rock sediments. The entire science team in Antarctica is committed to not only discovering more
about climate change, but also educating youth about the importance and relevance
of this work.
Today, the climate is changing faster than any time of the
last 65 million years. Warmer ocean temperatures are feeding more powerful
hurricanes, while mega heat waves and droughts are occurring in record numbers.

In partnership with The Offshore New Harbor Project (which is part of the
Antarctic Geological Drilling Program), GNG is hosting a series of Virtual
Classrooms from Antarctica from October through December to study evidence in
Antarctica from the last time carbon dioxide levels were this high — 34 million
years ago! By examining our world’s past, we hope to get a glimpse of our
future; as global warming has become an inevitable reality.


Life at Camp
Well, I’ve had quite an eventful
first 5 days on ice. It all started with my helicopter ride which I some how
made it through without losing my cookies…just barely though. Shakira [Brown-Petit,
a teacher from Harlem], and I have never been
on a helicopter, so our pilot, Murphy, decided to take on a joy ride. We
started off cruising out around the back of
Ross Island and over Scott Base, which is run by the New Zealanders. Then he thought it
would be fun to fly us up in the clouds and rotate the chopper from side to
side as we weaved our way through a mass of whiteness. We dropped back down
below the clouds and flew over a bunch of icebergs, pressure ridges and few
other field camps. To top it off he landed us on an iceberg before dropping us
off at camp.



After the ride of my life I
arrived at camp! What a site it was. Everyone was outside taking pictures and
helping us with our bags. It was a pretty sweet homecoming especially since
everything was all set up since we arrived a few days after everyone else.


The first night I did not sleep at
all. I was pretty cozy in my Arctic Storm sleeping bag but just could not relax
enough to sleep. At 6 AM Steve, our P.I. (Principle Investigator), blew a conch
to wake us up, yes I said that right “a conch.”

Breakfast was at 7 AM and by 8 AM
everyone was scurrying off to the field for the day. I had the privilege of
staying back to adjust and get myself set up. Since I was staying back at camp
I was designated to take care of some camp chores. I did the team’s dishes and
then cut blocks of ice to make water. Our water source is an iceberg that’s
about a mile from camp (the one we landed on in the chopper). Just about
everyday someone rides a snowmobile out there with a sled and cuts large chunks
of ice off the iceberg. The blocks of ice are then brought back to camp,
chopped into smaller pieces and boiled into water.

After dinner I went cross-country
skiing with David, one of the grad students from Montana. We took off from the back of camp
and headed towards the iceberg. It was gorgeous. The light, the mountains and
the feeling of gliding across the sea ice, was amazing. It was a prefect end to
my first day.

On day two at camp I was sent out
with the team to work on the seismics. There are two intersecting lines that
are designed to give you a 3D picture of what is going on under the sea ice.
The lines are flagged every 100 meters. The flags signify where to drill holes
in an attempt to obtain imaging for specific sediments. The equipment moves
along the line to collect the data. First, a hole is made in the ice using a
huge drill. Then a machine, called an airgun, is dropped in the hole. Dr Marvin
Speece, the Co-Principal Investigator and resident geophysicist yells,” fire in
the hole” and off goes an explosion. The explosion causes vibrations that are
recorded by microphones called geophones. The data from the geophones is
recorded on computers that are able to build images from the sound energy that
is released and bounced back to the surface. This is all part of the process of
imaging the layers of the earth below the water. It was an exciting day of
watching the data collection and getting to observe what this expedition is all
about.  This process is laying the
foundation for a future drilling expedition that will gather the actual
sediments which reveal the climate conditions of the Greenhouse World of 34
million years ago. This will give us a clue as to what is in our future in
regards to climate change.

Then by day four it was time to
catch a chopper back into town (McMurdo Station) for the week’s Global Nomads
Group videoconferences. Before heading into town the moment I had been waiting
for arrived….I saw my first penguin! The day I arrived at camp I found out that
just about every day penguins had been coming up to camp. Since I arrived I had
not seen any and thought they were purposely not coming around anymore. As I
sat and waited for the chopper I got a call from Luci (our cook) and Luke (camp
manager) saying there was a penguin. I ran outside and scanned the horizon but
could not see a thing. I looked harder and off in the distance was a black dot.
Could that really be a penguin? I grabbed my coat and off I went charging
toward the dot. As I got closer I could start to see the shape of the penguin emerge.
It was glorious. The penguin was indeed the cutest little creature ever. It
walked right by us and made its way toward our camp. It waddled around by our
tents, looked around, and then took off to find its friends or food.

Penguins are awesome!


Remember, there’s more to come
from Ford Cochran, Danielle Williams, and Ozlem

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