Mail Day and Fish that Don’t Freeze

Vilmar on top of the bottom of the world

The land way way down under

Read the complete journals of Vilmar’s Antarctic adventure.


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 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 us.

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.

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.

In 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.

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