For today’s focus on global hotspots we present perspectives from four guestbloggers talking about global climate change, undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges facing our generation. Of course, while global warming is HOT, it’s not quite a SPOT, or even a series of spots. And in fact, certain “spots” maybe even get colder or drier as a result of global warming, not hotter and wetter! Though global warming manifests itself most overtly in the North and South Polar Regions and places like Iceland,
Later on, National Geographic’s Ford Cochran will describe the tea kettle-like conditions brewing in Iceland. Then, the UN Foundation’s Ozlem Esckiocak will encourage you to take action by signing the Youth Climate Pledge. Finally, you’ll hear once more from National Geographic’s Danielle Williams, who presents Community Action Plans developed by team members with the Earthwatch/HSBC Climate Change Partnership. But first we’ll hear from Joanna Cyprys, Production Manager with the Global Nomads Group. Joanna is part of a team studying impacts of climate change on the Antarctic Continent, and sharing their discoveries with students across the globe via blog and teleconferencing. Read on to hear more about Joanna’s research, daily achievements and struggles, and her first penguin sighting!
So why am I here on the coldest and driest place on earth? Well, Global Nomads Group (GNG) (www.gng.org), which seeks to bring the world to the classroom through interactive dialogue via videoconferences, along with other educators and scientists, are all part of an expedition to study climate change through analyzing rock sediments. The entire science team in Antarctica is committed to not only discovering more about climate change, but also educating youth about the importance and relevance of this work. Today, the climate is changing faster than any time of the last 65 million years. Warmer ocean temperatures are feeding more powerful hurricanes, while mega heat waves and droughts are occurring in record numbers.
In partnership with The Offshore New Harbor Project (which is part of the Antarctic Geological Drilling Program), GNG is hosting a series of Virtual Classrooms from Antarctica from October through December to study evidence in Antarctica from the last time carbon dioxide levels were this high — 34 million years ago! By examining our world's past, we hope to get a glimpse of our future; as global warming has become an inevitable reality.
Life at Camp
Well, I’ve had quite an eventful first 5 days on ice. It all started with my helicopter ride which I some how made it through without losing my cookies…just barely though. Shakira [Brown-Petit, a teacher from Harlem], and I have never been on a helicopter, so our pilot, Murphy, decided to take on a joy ride. We started off cruising out around the back of Ross Island and over Scott Base, which is run by the New Zealanders. Then he thought it would be fun to fly us up in the clouds and rotate the chopper from side to side as we weaved our way through a mass of whiteness. We dropped back down below the clouds and flew over a bunch of icebergs, pressure ridges and few other field camps. To top it off he landed us on an iceberg before dropping us off at camp.
After the ride of my life I arrived at camp! What a site it was. Everyone was outside taking pictures and helping us with our bags. It was a pretty sweet homecoming especially since everything was all set up since we arrived a few days after everyone else.
The first night I did not sleep at all. I was pretty cozy in my Arctic Storm sleeping bag but just could not relax enough to sleep. At 6 AM Steve, our P.I. (Principle Investigator), blew a conch to wake us up, yes I said that right “a conch.”
Breakfast was at 7 AM and by 8 AM everyone was scurrying off to the field for the day. I had the privilege of staying back to adjust and get myself set up. Since I was staying back at camp I was designated to take care of some camp chores. I did the team’s dishes and then cut blocks of ice to make water. Our water source is an iceberg that’s about a mile from camp (the one we landed on in the chopper). Just about everyday someone rides a snowmobile out there with a sled and cuts large chunks of ice off the iceberg. The blocks of ice are then brought back to camp, chopped into smaller pieces and boiled into water.
After dinner I went cross-country skiing with David, one of the grad students from Montana. We took off from the back of camp and headed towards the iceberg. It was gorgeous. The light, the mountains and the feeling of gliding across the sea ice, was amazing. It was a prefect end to my first day.
On day two at camp I was sent out with the team to work on the seismics. There are two intersecting lines that are designed to give you a 3D picture of what is going on under the sea ice. The lines are flagged every 100 meters. The flags signify where to drill holes in an attempt to obtain imaging for specific sediments. The equipment moves along the line to collect the data. First, a hole is made in the ice using a huge drill. Then a machine, called an airgun, is dropped in the hole. Dr Marvin Speece, the Co-Principal Investigator and resident geophysicist yells,” fire in the hole” and off goes an explosion. The explosion causes vibrations that are recorded by microphones called geophones. The data from the geophones is recorded on computers that are able to build images from the sound energy that is released and bounced back to the surface. This is all part of the process of imaging the layers of the earth below the water. It was an exciting day of watching the data collection and getting to observe what this expedition is all about. This process is laying the foundation for a future drilling expedition that will gather the actual sediments which reveal the climate conditions of the Greenhouse World of 34 million years ago. This will give us a clue as to what is in our future in regards to climate change.
Then by day four it was time to catch a chopper back into town (McMurdo Station) for the week’s Global Nomads Group videoconferences. Before heading into town the moment I had been waiting for arrived….I saw my first penguin! The day I arrived at camp I found out that just about every day penguins had been coming up to camp. Since I arrived I had not seen any and thought they were purposely not coming around anymore. As I sat and waited for the chopper I got a call from Luci (our cook) and Luke (camp manager) saying there was a penguin. I ran outside and scanned the horizon but could not see a thing. I looked harder and off in the distance was a black dot. Could that really be a penguin? I grabbed my coat and off I went charging toward the dot. As I got closer I could start to see the shape of the penguin emerge. It was glorious. The penguin was indeed the cutest little creature ever. It walked right by us and made its way toward our camp. It waddled around by our tents, looked around, and then took off to find its friends or food.
Penguins are awesome!
Remember, there’s more to come from Ford Cochran, Danielle Williams, and Ozlem Esckiocak!
1. "Frosty Eyes"
2. Base Camp.
3. My first penguin!
4. Teleconferencing with students far, far away.