01 December 2004

Update for Dec. 1 Ė Kathy

Today was a bitterly cold and windy day, not what we had come to enjoy as an Antarctic summerís day. But that did not faze us, and we headed north to the Adelie penguin rookery at Cape Royds. We were looking forward to seeing the penguins, but our reason for going was to see if we could collect marine life offshore of two streams that carry penguin guano into the ocean. We were looking for natural enrichment, a miniature McMurdo sewage outfall, penguin variety. For this we needed special permission, as the colony is protected. Visitors must remain at the edge of a marked perimeter and nowhere near their walking route to open ocean. With our permit we were allowed to come closer, but never close enough to get in their way or alter their behavior.

By 0830 we were on our way, four of us in the pisten bully and Jen and Andrew on ski-doos. Being small, I offered to ride in the back of the pisten bully. Big Mike graciously volunteered to accompany me. Here is our view from the back!
As we approached Cape Royds, the seaice became more and more cracked. Jen and Andrew were our crack surveyors, checking whether they were thick enough for our loaded pisten bully to cross.

Our first view of the Cape Royds penguin colony with Adelies heading out to sea, wherever that is. Look at how discolored the rock is by centuries of penguin guano. Adelies return year after year to the same nest and the same mate.
The ice edge is still around 150 km away. Penguin researchers donít think the Adelies will be able to make such long treks to feed their chicks. The long distance is thanks to the offshore B-15 icebergs blocking the ocean waves and preventing the sea-ice from breaking back to Cape Royds as it usually does at this time of year.

This Adelie didnít make it. Now itís food for the skuas, which also attack the Adelieís eggs and chicks if given a chance.
Stacy prods the cracks, hoping to find one that is wide enough to allow us divers to get through. Whatís this penguin thinking?

While waiting for Stacy to decide on a good dive site, I admire the ice formations on the pressure ridges.
I discover one which has become a tunnel with skylights.

All the tidal cracks opposite the colony are frozen shut. We have to drive ocean-ward before we find one. It is a nice one, though, and we all enjoy it. Underwater, the ice is coated with brown ice algae. But the crack lights up like a neon blue lightning streak.
After we have all made our dives, we head to shore and visit Sir Ernest Shackletonís hut, which he built on his 1907-9 expedition to conquer the South Pole. They came within 97 miles before blizzards, frostbite and lack of food forced them to turn back, the farthest south until Roald Amundsen reached the pole in 1911.

Shackleton had both dogs and ponies.
Before we leave, we skirt the Adelie colony, respecting the perimeter rules. The Adelies are hunkered down on their nests, facing into the wind. In the centre of the colony is a fence with a gate, which counts and weighs the penguins as they go through. We wonder what the Adelies think of that.

Back in town, and we discovered that itís been decorated for Christmas! Even the Adelies are sporting Christmas caps.
Tired, and heading to bed, I stop, mesmerized by that breathtaking view of Mount Discovery. In three days I must leave McMurdo. That memory and the many events that fill this journal, will stay with me. So many good times, so many exhausting days, so much comaraderie. I hope, through this journal, that we have captured the essence of what this arrestingly beautiful Antarctic environment means to us. And I hope that you have felt it too and one day will experience this magnificent place in your own way.

It has been a privilege and an honour to have been part of the team, Team Kimwipes, B-010. Thank you, and good-bye.

Kathy Conlan

Lets see the next day!