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Ask us questions about Antarctica!

Email: Terry.Palmer@tamucc.edu

29 November - Room 16, Papamoa School, New Zealand

Do you release the sea animals you catch? Samantha

Unfortunately no. We analyse the animals to see how much contaminated chemicals get into their body and we can't do this with the animals alive. 

 

What is your coldest temperature? Callum and Max

The coldest we have felt this season was when Jason was in Happy Camper School and it was -12 oC (+10 oF) with a wind chill of only -17 oC (+1 oF)

 

Do any plants grow in Antarctica? Max and Callum

There are very few plants in Antarctica because of the small amount of bare land, extreme dehydration and the extreme cold.  Most of the plants that do live in Antarctica live on the Antarctic Peninsular and on more northern islands.  There are two species of flowering plants that occur and several species of more basic plants such as mosses, lichens, liverworts and fungi.  There are about 100 species of mosses, 25 species of liverworts, 300 to 400 species of lichens and 20 or more species of macro-fungi. (source)

 

Where do you sleep? Room 16  

We all sleep in big 2 or 3 storey high dormitories.  In each storey there are around 20 rooms, with each holding 2 or 3 people.  The rooms we stay in have a set of bunks and a regular bed. Most rooms have a little fridge for snacks and a couple of small closets. Jason and Terry's room has a TV. Steve and Andrew's room does not.

 

Have you ever found any fossils in Antarctica? Daniel

I have never found a fossil in Antarctica.  Most of the rocks I see are volcanic so they don't contain fossils.

 

 How did pollution start in Antarctica? Ethan

People polluted as soon as they came to Antarctica but it didn't have a major impact until the late 1950s.  Early visitors and explorers were more concerned about survival and exploration than removing all of their rubbish.  The amount of pollution increased when the number of people increased.  The region around McMurdo Station started to be a lot more careful about harming the environment after Greenpeace did a series of protests in the 1980s.

 

25 November 2010 - Room 15, Papamoa School, New Zealand

How long are you in Antarctica for? Kayla

We will be here for close to four weeks (from 11 November to around 10 December hopefully).

25 November 2010 - Rooms 14 / 15,  Papamoa School, New Zealand

1.       How do you transport your vehicles to Antarctica? Scott Souness

Most of the vehicles in Antarctica come down by ship. The odd one may come down in the C-17 plane but this is rare. Click this link to see loading and unloading of the ship at McMurdo Station.

 

2.       How deep is the Antarctic Sea? Hayden Mahy

Oceanic water can be very shallow or very deep in Antarctica depending on where you are. The deepest our divers dive for us is 37 m (120 ft).  The oceanic water surrounding Antarctica, which is sometimes called the Southern Ocean, has a maximum depth of 7 235 meters (23 737 ft, source).

 

3.       How tall are the Adelie Penguins? Alex Higgins

Adult Adelie Penguins are around 70 cm (2.3 ft) tall.

 

4.       How long do seabirds such as Skuas live for? Kaeden Sarrich

The lifespans of seabirds varies greatly. The South Polar Skua, which lives around McMurdo can be expected to live around 11 years. A Snow Petrel lives for 14 to 20 years.  Some Albatrosses can live for over 50 years!

 

5.       Have you ever been for a swim in the Antarctic sea? Kayla Henson-Bright

Yes I have. Well more like a dip. I don't stay in the water long at all after I jump in.

 

6.       How fast can a snow mobile go? Jayden Tidd

I'm not sure how fast they go. We got them up to 100 km/hr in our obstacle course the other day although they go a lot faster.  The speedometer goes up to 250 km/hr but I would guess they go around 180 km/hr.  When we went out to Cape Royds, we had to go slow because one was towing a sled and we had to drive next to each other for safety reasons.  The ice can also be a little bumpy to go too fast.

 

7.       How tall are the Emperor Penguins? Rihannon Wiliams

Adult Emperor Penguins are typically 1.15 m (3.8 ft) tall.

 

8.       How many ice caves have you seen? Cory McConnell

I haven't seen too many ice caves, maybe 3. There are many around but they are hard to find and sometimes dangerous because there are usually cracks and crevasses around them.

 

 

24 November 2010 - Room 16, Papamoa School, New Zealand

 

Why do you have to take all your rubbish away from Antarctica?  Skye  

We take all our rubbish away because we have no where to put it.  If we didn't take it away, we would have mountains of rubbish and that would be bad for the environment here.

 

Why is Antarctica so cold and windy? Samantha 

Antarctica is so cold because it doesn't get much warmth from the sun.  The poles get less solar radiation (direct sun rays) than the equator so warms up less.  Sun light hits the poles at a greater angle than at the equator so has to warm up a larger area with the same amount of solar radiation (for more information see link). In addition to effects of latitude (north and south on the Earth) Antarctica gets colder because it is covered with snow and ice, which reflects sunlight,  has very little moisture in the air that could trap warmth that is reflected from the ice and is high in altitude.  If a place is close to the sea, the place is usually more mild than a place that is far away. That is why the interior of Antarctica is so much colder than the coast.

It is windy because there is a high pressure air system that lies on top of the south pole.  The south pole is cold and high (around 3 km high).  Heavy cold air travels away from the south pole toward the coast picking up speed as it goes.  This causes strong winds to occur on the coast of Antarctica.

 

How do starfish live in Antarctica? Callum   

There is a lot of food in Antarctic waters because of high nutrients and also a lot of light in the summer time. Click this link to see a video of starfish in McMurdo Sound, not far from McMurdo Station.  The starfish push out their stomach when feeding so that they can digest large amounts of food at a time. Antarctic starfish are partly adapted to cold waters by having slow physiological rates (metabolic, growth, development and activity rates).

 

Have you ever found any fossils in Antarctica? Daniel

I have never found a fossil in Antarctica.  Most of the rocks I see are volcanic so they don't contain fossils.

19 November 2010 - Rooms 14/15. Mrs McLeod/Mrs McKay/Mrs Travers, Papamoa School, NZ

1.        What is your favourite thing about Antarctica? Maddi Still

My favourite thing about Antarctica is the isolation and beauty that the isolation brings.  Looking out to the almost endless amount of sea ice and surrounding ice-capped mountains is awesome. The people that are here are also fun people usually.

 

2.       How cold can Antarctica get? Georgia Heron

The coldest temperature recorded in Antarctica (and the whole world) is -89.2 C (-128.6 F). This temperature was recorded at Vostok Station in 1983.

 

3.       Why is Antarctica so cold? Anahera Brown

Antarctica is so cold because it doesn't get much warmth from the sun.  The poles get less solar radiation (direct sun rays) than the equator so warms up less.  Sun light hits the poles at a greater angle than at the equator so has to warm up a larger area with the same amount of solar radiation (for more information see link). In addition to effects of latitude (north and south on the Earth) Antarctica gets colder because it is covered with snow and ice, which reflects sunlight,  has very little moisture in the air that could trap warmth that is reflected from the ice and is high in altitude.  If a place is close to the sea, the place is usually more mild than a place that is far away. That is why the interior of Antarctica is so much colder than the coast.

 

4.       Does it snow in Antarctica and how often? Ashleigh Muddiman

Yes it does snow but not very often.  It is generally so cold that moisture does not form in the atmosphere, which does not allow snow to form.  It snows mostly on the coast. We measure rainfall by calculating the amount that would fallen if it had fallen as rain rather than snow.  McMurdo Station receives around 200 mm rain-equivalents of snow, whereas the South Pole receives about 7 mm (source). In comparison, Whakapapa Village by Mt Ruapehu receives 2200 mm of rain/snow.

 

5.       Where do the penguins live in Antarctica? Nicole Cameron

Penguins live all along the coast of Antarctica in places that are easily accessible to the coast. Some penguins, such as the emperor penguin, spend part of their life cycle (the winter) away from the coast.

 

6.       How do you make the tube that you climbed into and how did you put it in the ice? Hunter Paku

The tube is made of sections of metal tubing that is bolted together. The Reedrill drills a big hole in the ice and then the tube is lowered in with a crane or winch. The top of the tube is attached to a large bar of metal to stop it falling through the hole any further.

 

7.       What sorts of food do you eat in Antarctica? Kaelin Taute

We eat all sorts of food. At McMurdo Station, we have a big cafeteria, which we call the galley, that reves us up buffet style meals. For breakfast we can have cereal, toast, eggs, yoghurt, bacon and other breakfast type foods.  Lunch and dinner are generally the same; we have two meaty hot main meal options and one vegetarian hot meal option and soup. The meat can be pork, beef, chicken or seafood.We have almost anything you can think of in some form (except for meat pies). The galley always has nice bread and for lunch we can have custom made sandwiches.There is always dessert at dinner time.  It is nice to have people cooking for us and washing all of our dishes.

 

8.       Have you ever been attacked by an animal in Antarctica? Isaac Teki

I have been attacked by a skua, which is a big brown seagull-like bird (see link).  I have been attacked a couple of times because I was too close to their nests and another couple of times because they were trying to steal food from me.

 

9.       Where does the green tube in the ice lead you to? Alex Higgins

The green tube leads us under the sea ice and into the water.  There is a small viewing room that we can watch fish and seals swim around from.  We will put a photo us in the 'extra photos' section of the website in the next few days so you can see the tube from underwater.

 

10.   How many people stay at Scott Base at one time? Jasmine Woolams-Sanders

Scott Base can hold up to 85 people.

 

11.   How cold is the Antarctic water? Dominic Hahunga

Liquid seawater around Antarctica can get down to around -4 C (28 F).  It can get that cold without freezing because the salt water has a lower freezing point than freshwater, which freezes at 0 C (32 F).

 

12.   How many people would stay at Antarctica altogether? Lewis Farr

About 4000 people are in scientific bases in Antarctica in summer months.  There are also around 30,000 tourists that visit Antarctica each year. (see link)

 

13.   When you travel away from the base, how do you know how to get back again?  George Mano

We don't travel very far so we don't have many problems finding our way back.  If we do go far, we can use maps, follow flagged trails or GPS. You can usually see pretty far in the summertime because it is always light and there is a lot of flat sea ice (at least around McMurdo Station).

 

14.   Do any people die in Antarctica? Raquel Voschezang

Many explorers and whalers have died in Antarctica in the early to mid 20th century. Not many people die in Antarctica anymore, although deaths still occur occasionally.  Four French pilots and researchers dies in a helicopter crash in October.

 

15.   What are penguins enemies? Devin Garrend

Penguins probably don't like skuas because skuas eat penguin chicks and eggs.  They also don't like leopard seals and orca because these mammals eat adult penguins.

 

16.   How long are you staying in Antarctica? Lana Alesana

We will be here for close to four weeks (from 11 November to around 10 December hopefully).

17 November 2010 - Danika Kelly, Papamoa School, New Zealand

What has been your coldest day in Antarctica?

The coldest day that we have experienced this year is -11 degrees Celsius (13 degrees Fahrenheit).

15 November 2010 - Papamoa School, New Zealand

1.       What are the Southern Lights?  What colours are they? Cody Franks.

The Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) are a colourful display of mostly green and pink lights that show up in the night sky in spring and autumn in the southern hemosphere. The Southern Lights are caused by the collision of solar winds with particles in the Earth's atmosphere.  Solar winds are streams of atomic particles (mainly electrons) that flow from the sun.  The interaction between solar winds and the Earth's atmosphere is heavily affected by the Earth's magnetic field.  Electrical discharges formed by the collision of solar winds and atmospheric particles are channeled along Earth's magnetic fields toward the poles.  Closer to the poles, the electrical discharge is great enough that elements such as oxygen and nitrogen are energized and these elements then release different colours. These colour changes can be seen at night when there is no sunlight.  (Information sourced from Antarctic Connection).

 

2.       Do Eskimos live in igloos in Antarctica? Grace Stickings.

Eskimos live in the Arctic (Northern Hemisphere) so no there are no eskimos here.

 

3.       We were  wondering why you do so much drilling.  These are some of our ideas:  to take samples to test to see if there is anything inside that is out of the ordinary; to get water; to go fishing in; to see how deep the ice is; so seals and penguins can get air.  Are any of these correct? Rooms 14/15

We drill small holes so that we can figure out if the ice is thick enough to drive over.  Then we drill large holes so that the divers can jump in the water and collect sediment for us.

 

4.       Do you tag animals so you can track them to see how they live? Scott Boyd

We don't track animals but other research groups do. In the past we have seen seals and penguins with tags on them.

 

5.       How quick can you get hypothermia in the Antarctica water? Quaid Forbes

The speed that people get hypothermic in Antarctic waters varies. However most people would get at least mild hypothermia after a few minutes in Antarctic waters if they had no wetsuit or drysuit.

 

6.       Are there any animals are cute but could be deadly in Antarctica? Charlize Krause

Animals that are cute but deadly in Antarctica include seals and orca.  Only leopard seals and orca pose risks to humans however.

 

7.       How deep is the ice? Sophie East

The sea ice that we have been on is between 2 and 7 metres (6 and 22 ft) thick.  The Ross Ice Shelf, which is next to Scott Base gets up to 700 m thick.

 

8.       Where do you stay when you go to Antarctica? Abby Cunningham

Some people stay in tents if they go to remote places. Most of our work is around the station so we stay in 2-3 person dorm rooms.

 

9.       Can the temperature overnight be the same as day time? Maia Ririnui-Komene

It can be the same throughout the day but it is usually a few degrees colder at night.

 

10.   How do you tell the difference between thin and thick ice? Joseph Olsen

We drill a hole in it and measure it with a measuring tape.

 

11.   Do you study the penguins?  If so, what is the difference between a boy and  a girl penguin? Danika Kelly

Male and female penguins look almost identical unless you look very closely.  Some penguins have different bill length or flipper length depending on gender though.

 

12.   What do you do after you have finished your work? Dylan Keepa

After each day of work, we can play pool, read, watch TV, go for a walk and many other things. Eventually we sleep.

 

13.   How big can the icebergs get? Mikayla Du Plooy

Icebergs can get many kilometres length. B15, one of the biggest icebergs in Antarctic waters was 295 km long and 37 km wide (183 x 23 mi).

 

14.   How many ships have sunk there? Jonathan Mcmullen

Many whaling boats sunk early last century in Antarctic waters, especially close to the Antarctic Peninsular.  Luckily, not too many ships have sunk in Antarctic water in recent times.  In 1989, an Argentine Navy ship, the Bahia Paraiso, sank beside Palmer Station on the Antarctic Peninsular, spilling lots of oil. In November 2007, a cruise ship, the M/S Explorer, sunk after hitting an iceberg south of South America.

 

15.   What types of penguins live in Antarctica? Harjit Kaur

There are four types of penguins that breed on the Antarctic continent - Adelie, Emperor, Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins. Adelie Penguins are small black and white ones.  Emperor Penguins are the large yellow black and white ones.  Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins are only found on the Antarctic Peninsula (south of South America) so we won't see any of them. If you include the Antarctic islands there are 17 types of penguin that are found (see Antarctic Connection - Penguins).

 

16.   How many penguins are there? Tarandeep Kaur

There are approximately 8 million penguins on the Antarctic continent, of these penguins, around 5 million are Adelies.

 

17.   Can penguins lay one or two eggs at a time? Danielle Banks

Penguins usually lay 1 or 2 eggs at a time.

 

18.   Have you or one of your friends got stuck on a piece of cracked ice while your friends are on another piece? Seth Garnett

Luckily this hasn't happened to us yet. We usually don't hang out near the edge of the ice where this is most likely to occur.

 

19.   Where does the name Antarctica come from? Jordyn Lewis

The name 'Antarctica' means 'opposit of the Arctic'.  The word 'Arctic' comes from the greek word 'Arctos', (bear in English) which refers to a northern hemisphere constellation.

 

20.   Where is the deepest snow in Antarctica? Lucas Macmillan

The snow in Antarctica generally thickens to form solid ice.  The thickest ice in Antarctica is over 4 km thick.

 

21.   How many seals have you seen? Jody McCaul

I (Terry) have seen around 100-200 seals among all the times I've been in Antarctica. All of the seals I have seen have been Weddell seals except for a couple of Leopard seals.

 

Click for McMurdo, Antarctica Forecast