Mail Day and Fish that Don't Freeze
OCTOBER 18, 1999
The mail arrived today. Two pallets full of it. Of course, I did
not get my carry-on luggage that I mailed to myself nor did I get
any of the stuff my folks sent but I did get the order I made with
Amazon.com last week!! Oh, well, at least there were a lot of happy
people here today. And tomorrow we should see the results of 2 more
pallets and another 20,000 pounds is at Christchurch waiting for
It had to happen eventually so I guess sooner is better than later-I
fell down today. Headed to lunch I took a shortcut down a little
hill and slipped. Recovery was very rapid but I was caught in the
act. This gal looks at me and I tell her she didn't see anything;
just me performing some Antarctic ice-walking tricks.
OCTOBER 19-20, 1999
Weather is getting warmer but the wind blows to beat all get out
and it is cold. However, on Thursday, the wind disappeared and it
was almost warm out. Very nice and bright with the sun actually
causing the skin to feel hot in its radiance.
What I like during the day is to see the moon circling overhead
and being to notice its change of shape as the days roll into one
another. Since the moon never seems to set, as I assume the sun
is relatively weak and never able to outshine it in the heavens,
I enjoy looking for it in different parts of the sky during the
passing of the day.
an effort to enrich my knowledge of this area and its fauna (so
to speak) I attended a lecture on the cod caught in these waters.
It was given by the "Cod Man", Art Devries, who has been coming
down here since 1961!!! What a racket!! He's spent 38 years studying
fish here. What a narrow focus. When he tried to get conversational
in his lecture he'd stumble, hem and haw. But when he got technical
with words and equations that had us reeling (pun intended), he'd
be on a roll. Amazing man.
The water under the Ross Ice Shelf at depths exceeding 500 meters
is under tremendous pressures and does not freeze (one of the characteristics
to keep things from freezing.) It actually does not freeze until
it reaches -3.2 degrees Celsius.
As it passes under the ice shelf it rises to the surface and nucleates,
forming ice crystals which then form sub-floor ice under the normal
surface ice that exists. It attaches itself to the surface ice and
increases the ice depth by a considerable amount.
When the scientists fish here they pull up their lines to find
them full of attached rime ice down at the 30-60 meter level. Further
from McMurdo, the ice forms up to a level of 160 meters. The mystery
to be solved is how the fish can take in this water, which is cold
enough to form ice crystals, through its gills yet somehow does
not freeze itself solid.
In experiments, the scientists would take some of these fish and
when their serum is cooled and the fish returned to water they'd
flash freeze. Yet if their serum was warmed and the fish returned
to the water and the water slowly cooled to below freezing, they'd
not freeze. So something in the fish's serum reacts to temperature
and this is the mystery---what is in the fish's serum and the DNA.
Today is the last day the sun sets. It does so at about 1 AM and
rises again at 2. Tomorrow it stops setting. Imagine, one hour difference
per day! From now on the sun will circle overhead in a slightly
tilted angle (higher in the east than the west) through the skies,
all the while gradually increasing in height until December 21st
at which time the tilt will shift to the west and it will eventually
set sometime in February.
Read more of Vilmar's adventures