8 December 2004

Goodbye from Stacy

It's our last day today, so we approach the morning with a combination of desperation to finish packing, and regret for all the things we have not yet done. Of course we opt to take 3 more samples, and head out to the Penguin Ranch that is headed up by Dr. Paul Ponganis. They have just finished up their work and so we are able to do a plankton tow through one of their holes, which are over deeper water than our coastal holes, and so will offer a contrast to the plankton and larvae we have collected in our nearshore holes.

Packing up...

Or taking more samples!

Dr. Ponganis does research on Emperor Penguin physiology, and there are 5 animals remaining in his camp that are due to be released this evening. In the meantime, we have to keep the penguins out of the hole while the plankton net is in it, as we don't want to entangle them. Since they are very interested in getting in the water, and we don't want to interfere with them more than is necessary, this is somewhat of a challenge.

One of the 5 Emperor Penguins remaining at the ranch.

The group of them, plotting on how to get around us and into the water.

After successfully completing the tows, we struggled back along the very melted road. Today the ice conditions got so bad that the runway was shifted from its location on the seaice to Williams Field, a skiway on the permanent Ice Shelf. This means that our flight scheduled for tomorrow will be on an LC130, a ski-equipped aircraft. It is also unusually early in the season for the ice conditions to be so poor.

Emperor penguin feet, in the rapidly melting ice.

Us, in the rapidly melting ice!

We spent the rest of the day in the desperate packing mode. But our minds were more on all we had completed, and the ongoing mysteries of the Antarctic marine ecosystem that we have not yet had a chance to explore. This is an unusual and perhaps unique location, in that it is possibly the last undisturbed ecosystem on the earth. Nowhere else have the top predators in the ecosystem not been hunted and their populations significantly impacted. Their top-down impacts on the entire ecosystem are intact and nowhere else do we have the opportunity to study this.

A farewell to Mt. Erebus, McMurdo, and Antarctica.

This is an incredible place, in the undisturbed marine ecosystem and the chance we have had to look at how our activities impact it, as well as in the chance to just experience the raw beauty and be reminded to respect our small, connected planet.

Thank you for sharing our research and our adventure!

Lets see the next day!