25 February 2010
Not too many people can say they have seen a Polar Bear and a Penguin in the wild. To do so one must go to the far North and the far South. Polar Bears live only in the High North and Penguins in, and near Antarctica.
I like penguins best, they don’t consider me a tasty snack.
My travel colleage on our National Science Foundation expedition to Antarctica sent me some great pictures Wednesday. Ann Posegate of the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) is one of those few people who have a natural “eye” for composition.
While I was shooting video, she got some great still shots. Well that’s my excuse anyhow!
The picture at the top and side are of Adelie Penguins. There are over 2 million in Antarctica. We visited a huge colony near Cape Royds.
Antarctic treaty regulations forbid disturbing them, but all you have to do is to sit down within sight of them. They will soon waddle on over to say hello and check you out.
WHNT-TV will air the video I shot in Antarctica on Monday and Tuesday. I’ll post the video up here after it airs.
I’m very lucky to have one of the most talented photojournalists I’ve ever worked with putting together my story. David Wood a photojournalist at WHNT-TV has the tough job of editing my amateur video. In my 30 years doing weather on TV I’ve only shot video once before, on my trip to the High Arctic in 2007.
Sometimes the beauty was so incredible, we had to stop and convince ourselves we were really standing there. Here are some more pictures. Ann shot them unless otherwise labeled.
That snow hut was surprisingly comfortable. We had to learn survival skills at McMurdo before we left for the field camps. Antarctica is a dangerous place. The beauty can be deceptive. The weather can change in minutes.
Visibility can drop to less than 50 feet in blowing snow. Imagine taking a short walk within site of your building and suddenly all you see is white. It happens and people have died. The NSF has strict safety rules and mandatory training for everyone on the ice.
It matters not if you are there for a week or a winter.
People keep asking me if I was cold. The answer is no. The extreme cold weather (ECW) gear is very good. You don’t take your own coat to Antarctica. The NSF provides you with very good clothing. I sweated a lot more than shivered!
Carrying all that clothing and wearing the very warm “bunny boots” is hard work. Much more so at the South Pole. The elevation of over 3,000 meters makes eveything more difficult there.
The cold is a dry cold too and you can get frostbite very quickly. Almost before you realize that you are uncomfortable. I got just a touch of frostbite on my cheeks and eyelids, but it was very minor.
Sometimes you have to remind yourself that you are standing on the sea and not land. When we got those great shots of the Adelie penguins near Cape Royds, we landed the chopper on sea ice. The first thing after landing, the helicopter officer jumps out and drills through the snow and ice. If he has a meter of ice, we are safe.
Needless to say, it would not be good for the chopper and all of us to fall through into the sub freezing waters of McMurdo Sound. There would likely be no rescue.
One thing I took away from the experience is to appreciate the difficulty in obtaining scientific data. So many times, I would look at data from ice cores etc. and not appreciate how difficult and even dangerous it was to obtain.
The ice cores being drilled in West Antarctica might very well be the most important science being conducted on the planet. They will tell us a lot about how our climate has changed in the past and how it will likely change in the future.
Hope you enjoyed the pics and thanks to Berke Breathed from whom I stole the title to this post. Remember Opus??