I want to start by telling you that I am asked every second about my kids! My shipmates are so impressed that my students are not only reading this blog but you are posting your thoughts about it. Keep it up!! I love seeing them. My shipmates do too!
Yesterday we were in Antarctica but really it was an island. Today, we stepped foot on the actual continent. We had to get up very early today. Mr. Sanders and I were lucky. We were part of a group that was given a special zodiac tour (a small boat) of Brown Bluff and then we were brought to the coastline for more exploration. We were greeted with “Good morning, Good morning” once again with a different weather report. It was going to be 9 degrees Faranheit with a wind chill that would be slightly BELOW zero! I had to be sure to bundle up very good! After breakfast we waited for our group to be called. The zodiac tour would be first.
Paul took us around Brown Bluff. It was clear where it got its name. The beige land soared high over the snow. You could see the layers of sedimentary and volcanic rock soaring to the sky. We toured small icebergs and searched for Adelie Penguins. Oh, were they cute! I really believe that it is impossible to take a bad photo of these little guys. We saw them hopping above the ice, sliding into the ocean and running around as if they were playing tag. The water was beautiful and remarkable as you look at the way it carves into the bottom of the icebergs – often making a blue hue in the ice. After an hour, it was time to step foot on the continent “proper.” Our zodiac landed on the shoreline. The shore was black with various sized stones and fine-grained black sand. Brown Bluff is the site of ancient volcanic activity.
We were guided to first WALK ON AN ACTUAL GLACIER! Whoa! This was pretty neat. The first part of the trek had us walking along this very narrow path. One small step and Mr. S. would be swimming with the krill! I was very careful and a little nervous! After that part we gathered and then made our way up the slide of a glacier. The wind was scream and cold. I had to work hard to make it to the landing spot of our party. The ground was quite slippery, steep and icy. Mr. S. was out of breath getting to the top. Finally, we made it! Whew! I stopped and took in the scenery and caught my breath.
Then, it was time to make our way back down the iceberg to the initial base camp. This was harder to do than one would have though. The footing seemed less stable going down the iceberg and the wind was forcefully pushing us down. It should be no shock that Mr. S. fell flat on his bottom! Ouch! I brushed myself off and got back to shore.
The second part of our landing brought us to an Adelie Rookery – the place where the penguins nest their eggs. We were all very excited to hear that there were some baby chicks. I wasn’t able to get a photo of any because they were shown to us very quickly. The naturalists said that they were probably just 2 days old and required good protection from the cold and the wind. It was SO exciting to see.
The photo below is Eric Guth giving a lecture about the ice down here!
We then came back to the boat. Right after lunch, there was an announcement that everybody should get on deck for a gigantic tabular iceberg! We guessed at how big it was – perhaps 3 or 4 football fields. From a distance, it looked like a sliver above the water. As we got closer and closer, more and more details became to come alive! Giant carvings of ice and snow were shimmering in the sunlight. The vessel was driven around the iceberg so we could observe the magnificent beauty of this ice sculpture. I was also lucky enough to have a lecture in the afternoon on icebergs from Eric Guth. I learned many things. First glaciers form from snowflakes, to granular snow, to firm snow and finally becoming glacier ice. It can take hundreds of years for a glacier to form. It takes a lot of pressure and snow over the years to build up the layers for the snow to become ice. The official definition for an iceberg is a body of ice flowing downhill by the influence of gravity. Did you know there are warm-based and cold-based glaciers? Can you figure out the difference? An arête is a razor-like ridge in a glacier where one glacier begins and another one starts. There is a center dome of ice in the center of Antarctica pushing out towards the coastline to the path of least resistance. Also, there are ice streams moving the ice towards the shores. The ice shelves are a result of those ice streams dumping ice into the water. This creates an ice shelf moving out into the water. Also, can you find out how are icebergs given their names? So much information was given – and we have only talked about the, “tip of the iceberg.” J
In the process of watching this incredible spectacle, Killer Whales appeared! My photos of them were not so good, but it sure was exciting. We saw families of them swimming all around the boat. What was even better is that there was a lecture in the afternoon by John Durbin and Holly Fearnbach . They are Killer Whale researchers and have devoted their lives to Killer Whales all around the world. Their lecture was most informational and I learned some stuff! First, Killer Whales stay in family groups their entire lives. Mom is the boss! They have cultural traditions (feeding specialization). They eat salmon. They are very chatty and socially active. Because they eat the big salmon, they are in danger themselves. Sometimes they get caught by fishermen who are just trying to get salmon. Some killer whales eat marine mammals. Those Killer Whales are quiet so the marine mammals do not eat them. They eat different seals, dolphins, porpoises and the juvenile calves of whale species. Some eat sharks – and they are chatty because the sharks cannot hear them. There were lots of good questions but one of the most important was, “Have you ever seen them attack a zodiac boat?” John said that he hadn’t and thought it would be very unusual – but not impossible. The Killer Whales DO like to eat things above the water! Mr. S. is NOT Killer Whale food!
John and Holly say, “Hello” to all of the kids at Walt Disney! They thought it would be a good idea to give you guys a challenge. See if you can find their website by searching “Antarctic Killer Whale tracking.” You might need to put in one of their names. Let’s see what you can learn about Killer Whales! You might even be able to see some of them being tracked on their website!
Above are pictures of the Killer Whale that appeared! John is talking to us and finally there is the crossbow system they use to track the whales!
Mr. Szymanski is a 1st grade teacher at Walt Disney Elementary School in Chicago, IL. He is bringing the world to his classroom with the help of National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions. Here, he chronicles his adventures to Antarctica and South America in December 2014.