Over the coming weeks Ms. Niccoli's first graders and Mr. Brad's preschoolers will be joining us on our science expedition in Antarctica. While we (a science team from various parts of the world) work in sub-freezing conditions and sleep on ice for several weeks on end, the students will be enjoying the adventure from their warm and cozy classrooms. Feel free to follow along on our adventure together.

Scroll down to the bottom of this page to read a little about our science team.

Satellite image of Antarctica, courtesy of NASA. The blue dot is McMurdo. The red dot is our field area on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wildlife in Antarctica

While not many animals can live in the very harsh and cold environments of Antarctica, there is unique wildlife in some areas, especially along the coast. We have been lucky enough to see some of this wildlife when in McMurdo.

We've seen seals on several occasions. They're really fun to watch slide around and sun themselves on the sea ice. Here are some of Landon's pictures of seals sunning themselves on the sea ice.

We have also seen lots of Skua. Skua are a type of fat, brown seagull. I'm told they just look fat because they have lots of extra feathers to keep them warm ... I think they really are fat because they keep steeling my food.

Unfortunately, we have not seen any penguins yet, but we'll keep looking.

(Cartoon from greatbluemarble.com)

Ocean Wildlife
We also went through the "Ob. Tube". A tube or tunnel was built through the sea ice with a little glass room at the bottom. You can crawl through the tube into the room and see what everything looks like under the sea ice. In Clement's picture below, you see the water (blue), bottom of the sea ice (glowing greenish yellow), and krill (little green spots floating under the sea ice). Krill are shrimp-like critters that live in these really cold waters and are food to much of the sea life in the area.

The marine biologists in McMurdo do research on wildlife along the coast and in the cold ocean waters. In their lab at McMurdo, they keep a "touch tank" and science tanks. In the touch tank, they keep some of the animals and organizms that live along the coast - and we're allowed to touch them. Here area a few pictures from the touch tank.

I got to spend some time with one of the marine biologists, Dr. Buckley from Portland State University, who is studying rockcod from beneath the Antarctica sea ice. The rockcod he is researching are a type of fish that live live deep in the water under the ice. Most of them have never before touched the surface of the water or felt air before - they've only felt rocks, water, and the bottom of the ice. While in these tanks, they bob up and down all day long trying to figure out where their ice went. They are really fun to watch. Here are some short videos of these fish.

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