Derya on December 9th, 2010

It has been a few days since we have left Rothera but I am just getting around to wrapping up my final thoughts. The three days spent at Rothera made everyone feel better– not that 5 weeks on a ship is a terribly long time (given that the crew sails for 4 months before going home) but going outdoors for a walk, indoor climbing, skiing or crawling into a crevasse was a nice change. I also found it challenging to think about what it would be like to over-winter at a remote place where there can be no access 6-7 months a year. Having spoken to some of the winterers, especially the divers who dive year-round, now I don’t think it would be that bad an experience at all.
Speaking of diving, we visited the Bonner Lab, where the marine biologists who are also divers work. They keep samples of most of the species they can collect by diving (Antarctic octopuses live deep so they can not be collected by divers). They do temperature change experiments to see how the species (or if the can) adapt to warming waters. They cut of arms off the brittle stars (who are capable of growing them back) and then monitor the rate it grows back at different temperatures. They dive with dry suits, along with a high pressure steel tank and a pony bottle. They use full-face masks which allow communications to the surface through pushing a button. We were told this was brought along as a safety measure after the incident in 2003 where a leopard seal drowned a marine biologist who was snorkelling.

Jeff teaching us how to climb

Walking back to the JCR from the base

The dive locker

The decompression chamber, around which the whole building was built

Looks like there was a disagreement about which way was up! Photo by Clay.

snowboarders going back up the hill

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Derya on December 9th, 2010

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Derya on December 7th, 2010
Richard, the purser on the JCR, was the first person to welcome us onboard. He made sure we settled into our cabins allright, went over the safety procedures and led us into lifeboats during the first emergency drill. My sister was a purser at Turkish Airlines for a while, so I wanted to chat with Richard and find out what it is like to be a purser on a polar-bound ship as opposed to a commercial airline.
DA: Where are you originally from?
RT: I am from Sunderlend, in the UK, where I still live. I went to college there, and studied catering.
DA: What do you learn when you study catering?
RT: You learn to be a chef. I was 16-17 at the time. I grew up with a mother and grandmother who cooked all the time, they would cook for days and bake delicious pies and cakes. They used to let me help while cooking too. But as a part of studying catering, you also learn about being a waiter at a restaurant, planning and running receptions, hotel management etc.
DA: What did you do after graduation?
RT: I had a part-time job before graduation, which turned into a full time job later. After graduating, I was a commis chef- a junior chef – at a hotel in Sunderlend. At that position you go around various stations in the kitchen such as sauce, dessert, vegetable, salad… Later I was promoted to be in charge of a station, doing different sections.
DA: How did you get to Antarctica from there?
RT: I Joined BAS in 1999. My first job was actually a base chef, I over-wintered at the Halley Station. But I should mention I was the head chef in a hotel for 7 years in the northeast of England. I spent 2.5 years at Halley without a break.
DA: At an Antarctic Base with only a dozen or so people, does a chef work non-stop? Is there another chef that could take over if you felt sick, or just needed a day off?
RT: No, there is only one chef. The chef works 6 days a week, and on Sundays one of the winterers takes over. There is no full hot breakfast though, it’s mostly cereal, so the chef cooks lunch and dinner six days a week.
DA: We have heard that one year at Rothera, the base faxed a 6-page list of the food supplies they would need for the coming winter, but somehow only the first page of the fax reached BAS. And nobody realized this until the shipment came in at the end of the summer and the winterers ended up with only 1/6th of the food they needed. Is Halley also remote like Rothera where no planes or ships can come 6-7 months a year during the winter?
RT: Halley is a bit more remote than Rothera actually. Planes come on the skiway but there is no runway. Ships would arrive in December to do the main relief, take 2 weeks to offload, go to Stanley, load up, and then come back in February to take all the summer personnel away. This would be the start of winter. There’d be about 16 people spending the winter.
DA: The people at Rothera mentioned that the fresh food and veggies run out within a month. Then the potatoes and onions last another month, but they are basically out of everything fresh in the third month. What would you cook for the rest of the winter months?
RT: Normally BAS orders the food when you go there for the first time. You can advise on the amounts the following years. Anything you need more or less of, you can mention next time around there is a shipment. So once the fresh food is gone, we use frozen and dried food. Actually frozen veggies are just fine; you can treat them as fresh vegeatables.
DA: From Halley, how did you get to work on the JCR?
RT: I had applied for a position on the ship and actually got the appointment before I left the base. I started on the JCR as the Chief Cook in April 2002. The chief cook works 7 days a week for 4 months on board. All of the crew are 4 months on, 4 months off. I Did that for 2 trips. Then the purser decided to retire so I got that job in May 2003.
DA: What does a purser do on the JCR?
RT: It is like being a hotel manager. Think of it as hotel services, hotel accommodation. I order all the food, wines, beers, the chocolate you girls eat, crisps, the shirts and sweatshirts we sell with the JCR logo. I also administer everyone’s personal accounts – there could be up to 48 scientists onboard (DA’s note: we don’t use money on the ship. Every has a credit card number provided to BAS in advance so whether you have a beer or a chocolate bar, you mark it off next to your name, and Richard tallies the marks at the end of the cruise to charge that sum to your credit card). I also do what we call the Safety Induction and and make sure all the scientists muster correctly at emergency drills. In an emergency drill, in preparation for a real emergency, we muster all scientists at the muster points, and once everyone is there with their special survival suits and personal flotation devices, we take them into the life boats and brief them in there.
Normally the chief cook decides the menus, and passes them over to the purser, 1-2 days in advance. Last year on a very busy science cruise where we had to work 24 hours, the chief cook, Ash, got sick for a few days. I worked in the galley for the day shift and Jamie, the 2nd cook did the night shift.
DA: How many times have you sailed to the polar regions?
RT: I have had 11 trips total. I like the Arctic a lot. The West Coast of Greenland, with still calm waters is fantastic. But I am always surprised by how the Antarctic never ceases to amaze me. Its beauty and the wildlife is just amazing every time.
DA: What do you do during your 4 months off?
RT: I travel and relax. I also like to take photos, and cook. You can see my photos on my website. I like to keep fit. I did ice climbing while at Halley. I also enjoy reading biographies and travel books. I keep a diary of my travels as well as my time on the ship.

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Derya on December 7th, 2010
My 12 year old cousin Elif posted a comment the other day asking me how many species of penguins there were and which one I liked the best. So far we have seen three species: Emperor, Chinstrap and Adelie. Out of these that I have seen with my own eyes, I like the Emperors the best. I think it’s because they are the biggest, fattest, tallest and despite being birds, they resemble birds the least, which makes it more interesting to me.
As for the other species that exist, Elif, the ship’s 1st officer kindly let me borrow a book on Antarctic Wildlife, and I am going to refer you to that (see the images below). We don’t have good internet access here, but you do at home, so you should do a little bit more research on the various penguin specie. They all live in the southern hemisphere, but not just on Antarctica.  In fact most live in temperate areas, and one even in the tropics.  But what do all these places have in common?  Cold ocean currents.
Also lookup what penguins eat, what preys on them, find out if they can smell and how they communicate. I think some of our followers such as Mr. Quinn’s class at Kilkeel, N. Ireland, and younger ones such as Ted’s son Ian (5) and my sister’s son Alp (7) would also enjoy learning about penguins.

A Complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife - The Birds and Marine Mammals of the Antarctic Continent and Southern Ocean, by Hadoram Shirihai

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Derya on December 5th, 2010

Left to right: Derya, Susanne and Kerri, in case you can't tell, we are all smiling.

On our second night at Rothera, the over-winterers at the base were invited onboard the JCR to have drinks at the bar. A very good crowd showed up and we got to meet the base’s dive officer, divers, field assistants, plumbers and marine biologists. We had already met the base doctor, Claire, the day before since she was kind enough to lead us for a short walk around “The Point”. One of the over-wintering field assistants, an outdoor enthusiast and originally  an outdoor sports equipment vendor from New Zealand, Alan, made us an offer we could not refuse – a visit to the inside of a glacier! He said that only four people could go at a time, so Susanne, Kerri and I kept this a complete secret until the next morning.

Before this trip, my snow experience was limited to the snowmen we used to make in our backyard in Ankara in the 90s, and in terms of ice, two years of ice-skating experience is the best I can come up with. So while a trip inside a glacier sounded very exciting, I have to admit it made me a bit nervous as well.
When we met Alan the next day, he had already prepared us a set of crampons, helmets, ski goggles, carabiners and ropes each. We were wearing many layers of warm clothes underneath waterproof shells, as if it was one of those days we had to work 12 hours on an ice floe. The entrance to the crevasse was up a hill and Alan said there’s only room for one person on the skidoo, so we sent our very experienced Susanne along with Alan to set up the ropes. Kerri and I walked up a steep hill which got windier and windier as we ascended. We stopped frequently to catch our breath, cuss about the steepness of the hill, and take photos of Rothera lying underneath our feet.

Left: Kerri, Right: Derya, against the beautiful Rothera.

About a half hour later, Kerri and I met Alan and Susanne at the entrance to the crevasse and Alan lead us in. 10-15 meters under the surface, surrounded by amazing shapes of ice and complete silence(other than our giggles), we explored for nearly two hours, completely fascinated by what was around us.

Alan showing Derya the ropes

safety lines that we hooked ourselves on to

Kerri and Susanne

someone crawling down a hole

Alan at the exit

Alan was happy to take us 3 exploring in the glacier

We were having a great time

Susanne is an experienced climber, mountaineer and she guided us on how to do things the right way

Alan and Derya, towards the way out, with light from the surface filling in

Susanne, Kerri and I had a day we will never be able to forget. I couldn’t help but think that maybe we owe this unforgettable experience to

crampons

the ‘favor’ the Dash-7 has done for us!

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Derya on December 4th, 2010
The internet connection onboard is very slow, and there only two computers that have internet. In the first couple of days I tried accessing my blog through these computers in order to publish my posts, but the page just would not load, so ever since I have been e-mailing text and photos to my husband Elron Yellin in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, and he has been religiously posting them online for me. Email onboard however, is through satellite and it is set up that with only a couple hours delay, even photos of large sizes can be sent or received. I explained all of this because I have not actually been able to view my blog since the first week of November. However, every time someone posts a comment, I get their name and that comment in an email.
A couple of days ago, an interesting comment was posted by Colin Quinn, from Northern Ireland. It turns out that one of the engineers onboard, Dan Bird, is from Kilkeel, Northern Ireland, and his mom Ruth Bird is a school teacher there. One of her co-workers, Mr. Quinn and his class have been following our blog. I was very happy to find out that the website I started to keep my family up-to-date is now being followed by many people from different places. I had hoped to document what it is like to make an Antarctic voyage for the first time and also highlight, as best as I can, why the scientists are going to great lengths for their work. I am very grateful for all of you following and please do post comments. That way I can respond to you.
Mr. Quinn’s comment gave me the opportunity to interview Dan, 21, a cadet just out of college, on an Antarctic vessel and find out how he ended up here.
DA: So you are from Kilkeel, Northern Ireland. Is that where you went to college?
DB: I went to university in Liverpool, studying mechanical and marine engineering. I graduated in 2010 so this is my first job out of college.
DA: Do you work for BAS now?
DB: No, a training company placed me with the JCR, I am not a BAS employee. Once my assignment is done here, the company will place me in another vessel, it could be cruise ships,local ferries, tankers…
DA: How long have you been on the JCR and what do you do as a cadet?
DB: Since September 2010,so 4.5 months now. On the JCR we shadow one of the more senior engineers, 2nd or 3rd engineers. They show you everything you need to know. Then every 3rd day, those engineers are on duty for 24 hours, so I have to shadow them. In that case I’m not responsible if anything goes wrong but it is a really good way to learn.
DA: What are the regular things you do everyday?
DB: We do day work from 8 AM to 5 PM checking if the machineries operating as they should– every day you do checks in different things, checks the engines, check if purifiers are running, check evaporators and so on.
DA: The last few days we are low on fresh water. How does the ship make fresh water?
DB: We take sea water in, then boil it at 60 C under pressure, then condense it back basically. You then pass it through a mineralizer to get fresh water. We can hold 212 m^3 fresh water, make about 20 m^3 a day as long as we are in open water. The consumption on board with a crew of 31 and 18 scientists right now is about 14-15 m^3 a day. Lately we haven’t been able to make fresh water because we are at Rothera, and before that we were in the ice. Basically we have to get back to open water.
DA: Did what you learn at university studying engineering give you some hands-on experience for this job?
DB: No, we didn’t do much hands on work at school, I got all the hands-on experience on the JCR. I think I will be continue to go out to sea after this. I like it a lot. will go home after xmas times. older brother, software engineer in London.
DA: You are a cadet now. When will you get to be an engineer with full responsibility?
DB: To qualify, I have to take an oral exam by the maritime coast guard in the UK. These will be mostly safety questions; they want to make sure you won’t endanger yourself, they’ll ask technical questions such as how a system works. Being a cadet now, when i qualify i’ll be 4th engineer. Then I have to work two more years between to go from 4th engineer to 3rd. Obviously if you get promoted, you get paid more as well.
DA: What does your family think about you going away for so long?
DB: My family misses me but I had been living away for 3 years before this anyway, so they are used to it. When I’m on the ship I send emails every day.
DA: Since you’ve been on board, has there been any big engine room problems?
DB: When we left the UK, we had a major fuel leak on one of the engines. 100-150 L of fuel was spraying out in the engine room. Thankfully that got fixed. Then when we got to Stanley, we had a leak on the cooling systems. The stern thruster was overhauled earlier, but that job wasn’t done properly so last week it stopped working. We are running without the stern thruster now. It’s handy to have but not necessary.
DA: Is there anything you’d like to say to the students following us from Kilkeel, Northern Ireland?
DB: Yes, do everything Mr.Quinn Says!

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Derya on December 3rd, 2010
Yesterday and today we were able to get go ashore and walk around Rothera for a change. We visited the base’s library, computer room, bar and its cafeteria. There was a nice timeline of the photos of the Rothera over-winterers since the 70s, and very interesting photos of the first explorers roughly 100 years ago now. From the photos it seemed to us that only starting in the late 90s women spent winters here. Since we went ashore and ate the base’s fresh baked cookies, the Rothera people are invited onboard the JCR tonight for a casual cocktail after dinner. Tonight or tomorrow, a half dozen people from the base will move onboard and we will sail out towards Stanley (sigh!) Sunday morning. Since more people will be coming on board, we had to squeeze in an extra person into our cabins.
During our walk, we saw a “family” of elephant seals relaxing behind one of the buildings, one chinstrap penguin, and several Adelie penguins. These two (new to us) species of penguins were much smaller than the Emperor penguins we were used to seeing on the ice, and because of that, to get up from their bellies onto their feet, they don’t need to use their beaks. They just push up with their wings. The 2-3 we met were very fast on their feet – perhaps they didn’t like our presence, they were running around from side to side frantically, at a very impressive pace!

Approach to Rothera. Residents watching JCR's arrival.

This came onboard the JCR. I am standing right next to the tire so you can guess how big it is.

JCR at Rothera

Susanne, Derya, Kerri, now all roommates

Frantic little Adelie

Chinstrap penguin

Elephant seals relaxing

A dozen of these seals make very funny snoring noises.

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Derya on December 3rd, 2010
This morning the captain announced two things: we were low on fresh water so only absolutely necessary laundry and showers, and that we’d be reaching the Rothera base at 9 AM. We gathered up at the Monkey Island to watch our approach to the frozen continent. Shortly after we were moored in, the Rothera base commander came onboard and explained to us that we were welcome to come on shore as long as we obeyed the rules. The rules were to never go beyond the flags posted, and to always have a Rothera-person to escort on any hikes. In 2003, a biologist who was snorkeling from the shore got killed by a leopard seal, so absolutely no diving or snorkeling was allowed. Skiing and hiking, however, were possible. We gathered on the dock after lunch to go for a short hike, lead by the resident doctor. The JCR crew, unfortunately, who probably needed a break on land more than any of us, spent the whole afternoon unloading the cargo they had brought for Rothera. It seems like they have another full day of unloading the food and the fuel they have brought for the station.
It was quite exciting to get out to walk on land, albeit frozen, but not so exciting to walk right by the unservicable Dash-7 airplane sitting outside its hangar, smiling at us in a mean way. I can not help to think I’d be home in two days if the airplane had been working, and the best case scenario now is another 8 days before we can fly out of Stanley to any place.
We will be at Rothera at least until the 5th of December according to the current schedule. Our short hike was very interesting in terms of wildlife and more on that will come later tomorrow.

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Derya on December 1st, 2010
We have been informed today that the Dash-7 flights we were looking forward to, that would take us out of Rothera and into Punta Arenas, Chile, then to home, have been canceled. The airplane needs a part which is being brought over from Canada by a mechanic, and the whole process to make it fly again will take at least 12 days. According to the original plan we were supposed to reach Rothera on the 3rd of December; one Dash-7 flight would go out to Punta Arenas the same day, and one would go out on the 5th, taking all the cargo, JR240 scientists and some others who had over-wintered at the Rothera base, in two sorties.
A decision has been made by the captain and the chief scientist that instead of waiting at Rothera, we will sail back to Stanley, Falkland Islands on the JCR. We are expected to fly out from there to our final destinations on the 11th or the 12th of December, a few days earlier than what would have been if we waited for the Dash-7. Sailing on the JCR another week is actually something most of us are looking forward to, especially since we have completed the scientific ice work as of today. Of course most of us, however, had plans for the end of the cruise that are now spoiled. Chris’s wife Susan was going to fly from Boston to Punta Arenas and meet him there for several weeks of hiking in Patagonia. I was going to Puerto Rico for diving with my other advisor, Roger Hanlon, to film octopus. Keith, a member of the Scottish team, had a family vacation planned in London. Oh well. They say if you make plans God just laughs at you. Not to mention we are low on fresh water and produce on board too. Fresh water can be made from sea water along the way, but there is no canned or frozen substitute for lettuce or tomatoes AND Stanley isn’t exactly a fertile port to stock up more produce.
On the bright side, we finished our entire science mission on a good day today. Despite the heavy winds (IT Johnnie calculated the temperature felt in the morning to be -10 Fahrenheit!! which was 20 F + windchill at 19 knots) all parties collected good data. For the AUV team, the number of deployments throughout the cruise equaled the number of recoveries, which deserves a celebration all on its own. At the end of this last station, Jeff fulfilled his dream of using a chain saw to cut through an ice ridge, and Clay, who had wishfully shipped his snowboard to the JCR back in July, got to snowboard gracefully down a small slope.

Jeff doing scientific research

I know someone who has snowboarded in Antarctica!

The Twin Otter flew really low today

Mythbusters Antarctica: Penguins do NOT fall on their backs if they watch a plane go by.

Is this the last penguin I'll ever see in the wild?

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Derya on November 30th, 2010

Ted Maksym, Chief Scientist on JR240. Photo by Pete.

Many of you who read my previous post probably wondered: “Who is Ted and why are all the prizes paid from his account?” Well, Ted is the Chief Scientist of the JR240 cruise, also known as the Principle Science Officer-PSO. This means that he has to be the most patient person onboard, dealing with weather, changing ice conditions, underwater robots gone missing and 16 crazy scientists, not the mention there is a half dozen people looking for him at any given time, and another half dozen complaining to him at the same time. Luckily, because of his positive attitude and great character, we went through some very stressful times on this cruise with little damage and when the cruise ends in the next couple of days, we will have met most of our goals.

Ted and a local inspector

After coring the ice, Ted carefully divides a core into smaller sections and them puts them in plastic buckets to take onboard.

DA: Where are you from originally?
TM: I grew up in Nova Scotia. I attended college studying engineering and physics in Ontario. I got my PhD in Alaska in geophysics and I’ve been living in the UK for the last four years.
DA: What is it about sea ice you’re interested in, for this cruise?
TM: Sea ice thickness mostly and the role of sea ice in climate. We know the extent of the sea ice, how much area of the oceans it covers,from satellite imagery, but we can not tell the exact thickness due to the snow on top. We are trying to learn how to relate what a satellite sees from above to the thickness so we can get the volume of sea ice.
DA: I see you using an ice corer on the ice all the time, can you describe what you do when you go out the ice?
TM: All the measurements we take on the ice are complimentary. Some people measure snow thickness, others drill to measure ice thickness, and others put out instrumentation to measure melt/growth of the ice. Using all these methods, we want to compare what we see so we can learn more about ice thickness. When we core, we are usually looking for a level,undisturbed spot that would tell us the growth history of the ice. If it’s rough and not very level, it’ll be layers of broken ice. What we try to learn is how the ice grew, and how much snow is incorporated into the ice. The other major thing we are interested in is looking at biology (DA’s note: see Eric’s work) which is often related to structure of the ice. If we have the physical structure, we can learn more about the biology. Then we can link this to what the AUV is sensing because it has radiation sensors that measure light. Eric is also measuring the light. If we can measure how much light is transmitted through the ice, then combined with the AUV data, we can estimate the algae in the entire floe.
DA: Every floe we stop on seems to be different in its own way. Are we going to be able to generalize the results we have gotten, say, for the Weddell Sea and the Bellingshausen Sea?
TM: The idea is to sample as many different floes as you can with different morphologies. We want to look at some floes that are flat, and some that are bumpy with identifiable features in them. We want to see how those features on the surface relate to the features on the bottom. We can see the bumpiness of the surface from satellite imagery and how much sticks up above the ocean, but like icebergs, we don’t see most of the ice below in the water. The trouble is the deep snow you have here makes it difficult to tell the ice thickness, so we are trying to see how that relates to ice thickness.
DA: How did you get interested in sea ice?
TM: People who do polar science do it because it is the kind of thing they love to do anyway. You love the outdoors, the snow, ice, climbing, etc. It is a way of being somewhere for work otherwise you’d only go for vacation. And some of the places we work at, you can’t really go for vacation! I have been working on sea ice for over 10 years now, and have been to the poles 8 times. I’ve mostly been on ships like this one but have also done one ice camp. This is my second time on the JCR; it’s a good, capable ship. It’s a great, comfortable ship to work on. And the food is good.
DA: Is there one cruise among the ones you have been on that is more memorable than the others?
TM: This one because I have a nice cabin! (DA’s note: As the Chief Scientist, Ted’s cabin is on the Bridge Deck, where the captain and the top officers reside, and it is so big we sometimes joke you have to have a map and check with security before you can get to Ted). This is the first time I’ve been a Chief Scientist on a cruise and it is very exciting because we are using the most sophisticated technology (AUV, two laser scanners etc) we can to understand the complete picture of the sea ice. Using the most sophisticated technology of course, also implies we deal with more complications, but it has all been worth it because of the great data we have collected.
DA: Does your wife enjoy the ice and cold and snow as well?
TM: She’s from Alaska so she has had enough time in the snow and cold. She has also worked in the Arctic as a biologist.

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