Date: January 7, 1997
From: Lori Ross, Palmer Station
(Lori Ross is one of Carol Vleck's research team, studying the reproductive success of Adelie penguins on Torgersen and other nearby islands. These Journal entries come from a series of letters home to family and friends.)
Well, I have worked until midnight again, so I do not have much time to write. I really need to catch up on my sleep. The past couple of days have been really strange as far as sleep goes. Carol, D.B., Don, and I were out on Torgersen all night on Saturday. We were doing our circadian rhythm study, where we needed to take 6 samples every 4 hours. We did the 4 p.m. samples then came back to station to eat dinner and pack up all of our camping gear. At 7:30 we were off to Torgersen again. We took the 8 p.m. samples and decided to process them in the field. Don started the generator and we got the centrifuge running to spin off the plasma from the cells. The centrifuge was a little touchy, but I finally got it running.
Carol took off the plasma and D.B. labeled the Eppendorf tubes. Don "just" made hot chocolate for everyone. I knew we brought him out for some reason. We finished just in time to catch the sunset at 11:30. It was a beauty. I love watching the sun set over the ocean. That is something I am really going to miss when I get back to Iowa. There were just enough clouds in the sky to catch the orange glow of the sun, but they also prevented us from seeing the green flash. The glacier turned green, then pink, then purple. It was wonderful seeing the sun set from a different perspective. Don't get me wrong, I love watching the sun set from the comfort of the galley in BioLab, but there is something about being on an island surrounded by thousands of squawking penguins that makes it even better.
We took the midnight samples and spun them again. We finished around 2 a.m. and I think we were all a little slap happy. We were laughing at the silliest things. D.B. was really on due (sic) with his David Attenborough impression. Finally, Don, Carol, and I climbed inside the Scott tent and D.B. went over to his small tent on the other side of the island. I did not sleep very much at all. I was using this really lightweight sleeping bag that I had grabbed because it was small. By the time 3:30 rolled around, I was really ready to get up and move around in order to get warm.
We grabbed the bucket with all of our equipment in it and headed over to the other side of the island to wake D.B. up. When he finally got out of his tent, he told us that the stomping that we were doing did not really fit into his dream too well. I was glad that we waited until the 4 a.m. samples to start working on the south side of the island, because that was where the sun was rising. It never gets totally dark anymore. It is more like twilight until 3 a.m. when the sun rises. It is going to be weird to see stars again. It has not been dark down here for so long that I have forgotten what it feels like to have a night. Anyway, we were all very tired from lack of sleep, but we managed to get the samples in good time. However, when we tried to start up the centrifuge, it wouldn't work. I think the cold may have had something to do with it. Sheldon is trying to fix it, but I don't think we will be doing any more samples out in the field. That is really too bad. I love true field science where everything is not done in the convenience of a laboratory. It really makes me feel good to accomplish such things.
Since the centrifuge was not working, we got to go to sleep at 5:15 a.m. and I slept much better this time. Don gave me his warm sleeping bag and used the lightweight one. 7:30 rolled around way too quickly, but no rest in science! We were planning to get our 8 a.m. samples, survey our colonies and be heading toward station around 9:30. However, it was such a beautiful morning so we took our time. Don made more hot water, and we had tea and cookies for breakfast. The sun was shining bright in the sky, warming us as we ate. We really got lucky with the weather. It would have been really miserable if it would have been blowing like it usually does; instead it was calm and warm. We ended up staying on the island until 11:00. We just surveyed slowly, took pictures, and enjoyed the sunshine. Then it was back to the lab where we spun and separated the 4 and 8 a.m. samples. I ended up entering the measurement data and did not get to crash until around 2 in the afternoon. I am totally exhausted today, but it was well worth it. How many people can say that they camped out in Antarctica on an island with 6,000 penguins? I feel very lucky to have had this opportunity. I hope we get to camp out on the island again before the end of the season. I am going to go to catch up on that sleep now.
Your Antarctic Correspondent, Lori