Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Winter in Antarctica

Hi Sea Fans!

I got to do Winter in the Antarctic too...thanks to Sabrina!  Becs left for warmer weather in the UK and I stayed behind to see what goes on when it's REALLY cold!!

When it's cold and windy...it's REALLY COLD AND WINDY!
Every person who stays over winter gets to go camping for a week away from base.  These are the only holidays that the staff get to go on.  I went with Sabrina and Malcy and we ran into some nasty weather.  We didn't mind though, we snuggled up in the warm tent and played games and read books...a good way to relax! 
I'm getting ahead of myself though, I still have some photos from the end of summer:
CTD being winched up. (In other words, a mini crane-type thing is used to let the CTD down and pull t back up again).
I went out with Sabrina to do a CTD cast.  This is when a special piece of equipment with sensors, attached to a line, is dropped down to 500m below the water.  It measures salinity (how salty the water is), temperature and depth.   A fluorometer (tells how much phytoplankton is in the water) and PAR sensor (this measure the amount of sunlight available for the phytoplankton) are also attached.

Typical CTD results for Summer are:
* high surface temperature
* fluorescence (due to large numbers of phytoplankton - the plant plankton)
* high levels of sunlight
* low salinity (melting snow, ice and sea ice means lots of freshwater to dilute the salt)

Typical CTD results for Winter are:
* low surface temperature (sea water freezes at a lower temperature than fresh water because of the salt in it)
* low fluorescence (in winter there is not enough sunlight for the phytoplankton to grow)
* low levels of sunlight (sometimes there is NO SUNLIGHT!)
* high salinity

On our trips out we also got to explore the ice from the boat.

There are lots of different kinds of ice:

  • the really thick ice where even humans can walk is called FAST ICE,
    Photo: Barbara Wienecke
  • the ice I'm sitting on in the photo above the fast ice is called BRASH ICE.  There are lots of bits of ice that float on top of teh water and get pushed around by the wind and ocean currents.
  • Check out http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/about_antarctica/geography/ice/index.php for more...
I must run Sea Fans, more to come soon so stay tuned! : )
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Monday, August 26, 2013

Internet-inspired aquarium crafts

Hi Sea Fans!

I was surfing the web and realised that I haven't put any crafts on my blog for a while so I got all inspired by some of the stuff and thought I should share them with you:

Make your own robot from www.funathomewithkids.com 
 Instead of the robot, why not make a fish?!  Lips, eyes, fins, scales..the list is endless, just make sure they have a magnet on the back and then they'll stick to the can.  Your own aquarium version of Mr Potato Head.
Glue painting from www.jugglingwithkids.com
 All you have to do is pour the salt onto the glue drawing and then drop food colouring over.  Rainbow-coloured jellyfish could work really nicely!
Stamps from www.makegrowgather.com
 These designs are drawn by you with a ballpoint pen onto foam and then the foam is stuck onto a piece of wood to make it into a stamp.  Fish, sharks, jellyfish, dolphins...anything you can draw!  If you're not much of an artist, photocopy a picture and place it face down onto the foam.  Use a cotton bud and spread nail polish remover over the entire back of the picture and when you lift the paper you'll see the design printed on the foam.  All you need to do then is to go over the lines with your ball point pen.
Twig heart from www.makesomething365.blogspot.com
 These are twigs/branches that were painted and then wired together in the shape of a heart.  The same concept could be used for a fish or maybe a jellyfish or octopus body and then you could make some cool dangly legs out of vines or another creeper's branches.  Fishy au-naturale!
Alphabet collection from www.parents.com
 Random items beginning with the letter in the box are collected and put inside that letter box here but why not make it a little more difficult and make it sea-themed?!  The items can be soft toys, magazine pictures, drawings or crafts.  eg. A - anemone (amigurumi is a fun way to learn how to crochet...look it up and you'll be hoooked.  If not, then get Mom or Gran to help), M - Mussel (Mom may have made a seafood dish for supper and you could keep the shell), S - Sand (beach sand is easy enough to collect)...
Splat monsters from www.raisingsparks.com
 These splats would look so cool as porcupine puffer fish.  Drop some watery paint onto the page and then use a straw to blow it into a splat...then decorate with wiggly eyes and add features like fins.  Glitter would add the wet look.
Personal puzzle from www.theartroomplant.blogspot.com
Here, a booklet is made with a few different faces, bodies and legs and those are put together as see above.  Then you can make yourself into weird and wonderful creatures.  The same can be done for marine animals.  Use magazine cut-outs, pictures from the internet or get artistic and draw or paint them yourself (eg. penguin, seal, shark, fish, eel, seahorse) and then cut each picture into a head, body and tail/back end.  It's easier if you draw the body and tail parts because then you can make sure that the sections are the same size with pre-cut pieces of paper like the booklet above.  If you use internet or magazine pictures then you can play with this like a puzzle and won't make a booklet.  Either way, you can have some fun making original animals!  You can go one step further and decide on their habitat (where they live) and what climate they live in according to their bodies.  (Think ADAPTATIONS).

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Hi Sea Fans!

Antarctica is so cold and now looking at some of my photos I feel that chill all over again (I checked and Rothera is -9.3 degrees celcius today!!)...even though I'm sitting next to a fire!

Wow, it seems like forever since I was sitting in that plane going so far south for the first time.
Quite different to an SAA/BA/Emirates/KLM...etc flight!
Rothera station is the BAS's (British Antarctic Survey) largest Antarctic science facility. Researchers study the survival and adaptation (changing to be better suited to the environment) of plants and animals in the sea and on land.  Antarctica is a huge, frozen wilderness that pushes the men and women who work there to their limits (I was obviously unaware of how harsh and cold it was going to be...a bit like when I went up to Alaska!), but understanding this environment is so important for understanding the way our world works.  

My first Antarctic animals - penguins!  Please note the shorts and t-shirt...MAD!!
After a while, some of the girls thought I was a bit mad to just be wearing shorts and T-shirt (rightly so!), so I got a handmade pair of thermal overalls like the rest of the crew - thanks Sabrina! Anyway, back to why I was there...

The long-term monitoring programme involves regular measurement of sea temperature, water chlorophyll contents (the green stuff), major nutrients, ice cover and thickness, sedimentation (materials being deposited on the seabed), and the activities of a number of benthic invertebrates (animals that don't have a backbone that live on the bottom).  I got to meet the base's marine biologist and the marine assistant.
Bel, the marine biologist on base.
Part of the marine assistant's job is to collect samples for the long term monitoring program BAS has been running for 15 years, throughout winter and summer. 
Helping Sabrina, the marine assistant, take water samples.
 This is how Sabrina explains what she does and why: 
"The ocean is a big ecosystem, so everything is connected. In the summer, when the sun shines a lot, all the little plankton (which are little plants called phytoplankton and little animals in the water column called zooplankton) grows and reproduces. We take weekly water samples and filter the water through 4 different mesh sizes (biggest first and than smaller and smaller). 
That means that we know how much of each size of phytoplankton is in the water. Bigger things feed on the plankton which are also eaten by even bigger animals like humpback whales or seals, which we frequently see in the bay during the summer. 
In the winter, most of the light goes away and we even have a couple of weeks without the sun at all. This means that the phytoplankton doesn't have any light for photosynthesis (when sunlight is used to make food - the same thing plants and trees do on land). So they are just waiting in the water column for the next summer. 

We do not have sea ice in the bay every year in the winter so sometimes, when there is no ice, the wind mixes the water up a lot which means that all the plankton is stirred up. 
I was there for the first bit of Antarctic ice!
We have found that when the water was not protected by sea ice and all the plankton is stirred up that the next summer the phytoplankton is not ready to grow and reproduce which again means that there is not as much food for all the bigger animals. This can potentially get worse with global warming (when everything gets warmer and there is less protection for the plankton over the winter, they will not be in the right spot to grow and reproduce).

We also look at some nutrient levels in the water (ammonia). All the other water samples are put into bottles and sent back to the UK where different places analyse them. They look at things like:
 * isotopes (so that they can find out whether the meltwater comes from glaciers or snowfall), 
 * carbon dioxide  levels in the water (the ocean and especially the ocean around Antarctica is       a big carbon sink, which means that it takes the carbon dioxide produced by things like cars       and factories out of the air), 
 * other nutrients, HPLC, viruses, Barium and dissolved organic carbon".  
I didn't feel so good on the boat all the time...sea sickness is BAD!

Sitting up front made me feel a lot better, I even got a chance to drive the boat!

The front of the boat was where I stayed every boat trip after that experience of sea sickness!
I think that's it from me for today...so much to tell you still but I'll leave it for another day.  Thanks again to Becs, Sabrina and Bel for showing me what you do!

Have a great week Sea Fans.
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