Sunday, October 4, 2009

Crary tour

Went on my first guided tour of Crary Lab today. Crary is the main science building on base. It's named for Albert P. Crary (1911-1987), who was a great polar physicist and glaciologist and the first man to set foot on both Poles. He led extensive research and many scientific expeditions in Antarctica.

The building consists of 3 levels and provides lab facilities for biological, geological, astronomical, and atmospheric research, as well as a library and meeting rooms and an aquarium.

The tour was really excellent and touched on a variety of subjects. Myself and the new doc were the only ones who showed today, and when doc had to leave early it ended up as a private tour. Lots of interesting discussions on current science projects, including camera research on the low-light hunting habits of Weddell seals, local atmospheric monitoring, seismic stations that are part of the global earthquake detection system, work on Erebus (including a camera that records footage of the constantly venting/erupting crater), and an ice microbe study.

The Weddell seal group was there when we arrived but were running out in order to capture and retrieve footage from the 3rd of 5 seals they've equipped with monitoring devices during Winfly. A member of a Kiwi science team was in; theyre wrapping up a study involving drilling cores of sea ice and subjecting the microbes found at the bottom of the ice cores to varying temperatures while measuring their changing health and ability to produce and store nutrients. Interpretations hopefully to give insight into the possible effects of global warming and sea temperature changes. Also discussed a recent series of mysterious dog deaths on North Island NZ beaches. For what is it worth opinion in our little Antarctic outpost is that the dogs were killed by tetrodotoxin, a byproduct of a cyanobacterial algal bloom which was concentrated by carnivorous sea slugs, which washed up on the beach and were eaten by the dogs. Tetrodotoxin is an extremely potent neurotoxin (its the one found in pufferfish); the dogs died within minutes of ingesting the sea slugs.

This is a good excuse to post pictures of sea slugs (nudibranchs), which are my favorite ridiculously beautiful sea creatures. (altough the ones in Antarctica only come in white, and aren't poisonous- actually I was just holding one unfortunate enough to end up in Crary's aquarium)

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