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What’s It Like On The Ship?

What’s it like on the ship?

What’s it like on the ship?

Click HERE to check out Ms. Debbie’s adventures from the beginning.

Good morning from the Drake’s Passage.  We are currently sailing in some of the roughest seas on the planet.   Last night was a little rough and I understand why many people get sick.  I’m struggling a bit myself.  Imagine moving your body in a figure 8 pattern over and over again, side to side.  And then, every few seconds go front to back once or twice.  That’s the best way I can describe it.  Try walking around while doing it, going up and down stairs, working or eating at a table, or taking a shower (that was an experience!) The hard thing is it doesn’t stop.  You can’t get off the rollercoaster ride! We have at least one more day of it through here.  The boat always has some motion, and I’m trying to get used to it, but this is definitely more intense.

I’d like to take you around the ship and show you some of the places I will be every day.  I’ve already showed you my room, so let’s start where we eat. Our galley is quite nice and the food has been great so far.  We have breakfast every day from 7:30-8:30, lunch 11:30-12:30 and dinner from 5:30-6:30.  If I get hungry in between there are always snacks available. We are given lots of options to choose from. We have a small salad bar, and soup of some kind every day.  The cream of asparagus soup was delicious!  For lunch and dinner we have had tacos, pasta, bbq, and baked chicken so far.  My only hope of not gaining a few pounds is that getting around the ship is a workout!  We have very steep stairs to go up and down multiple times a day, and heavy doors to push open.

Commerson Dolphin

Also, if I want a regular workout, we have a gym.  We have also had trainings that keep us busy. Yesterday I learned to go up and down a Jacob’s ladder. It is the ladder we will use to get into the zodiac boats to travel to area islands.  I found it challenging!  I’m going to have to practice! We also have a lounge where we can watch movies and have meetings.   I think my favorite part of the boat is the bow.

Wandering Albatross

This is the very front end of the boat.  It’s where you can look for all kinds of interesting wildlife.  Here are some of the ones we have seen so far! (check out @aflyonthepole for even more images)

On February 19th, we saw Antarctica for the first time.  It was so exciting to look out the window and see an iceberg!  It’s just magical! In order to be an actual iceberg, the piece of floating ice has to be 16 feet across or larger – that’s about half the length of a school bus. Smaller chunks of ice have the adorable names of ‘bergy bits’ and ‘growlers’. Bergy bits are usually less than 15 feet in size and growlers are usually less than six feet. Despite their cute names, these icebergs can be more dangerous than the big ones, because they are harder for ships to see. Just like snowflakes, no two icebergs are the same. Not only that, most of the iceberg is hiding under the water. Scientists think that seven -eighths of the iceberg is under water. If you cut a pizza into eight slices and eat just one, you can get an idea of what seven-eighths looks like. You can see that almost all of the pizza is still in the box – almost the entire iceberg is hidden beneath the water’s surface!

Our ship is a research vessel.  The LMG (Lawrence M. Gould) participates in “science of opportunity”.  In other words, we are in the middle of the ocean….so we should be doing something for science along the way to Antarctica.  Yesterday and today I have had the opportunity to actually participate in some of this REAL Science research.  For the last 2 days, around the clock, we have been launching XBTs.  This is the abbreviation for Expendable Bathythermograph probes.  These probes are tubes that contain a fine copper thread that is launched from a shooter into the ocean and it is connected through the shooter to the computer.  The probes measure water temperatures down to about 1000 meters.   It was really interesting to watch the probes on the computer as they went down.  We also collected water samples for the last two days.  These will be sent to researchers in the US that are studying the oxygen levels , CO2 levels and nutrients in the water to see if it is the right levels for phytoplankton.


On my last blog, I asked you to think about the lifeboat.  Here is the ICE BREAKER answer!

The lifeboats on this ship can fit 44 people.  We have 2 of them, so there is plenty of room for all of the 55 people on board.  The lifeboat experience would not be very pleasant.  We got to go inside and practice.  It would be very warm and stuffy inside.  The number 1 thing you should bring with you would be sea sick medicine!  There is water and food on board but only enough to last about 3 days. (60 food rations and 134 packets for each boat)  The lifeboat has a motor, but we would not be able to go far, about 140 miles. There are also oars.  It also is equipped with flares , smoke signals and an emergency transponder beacon.  There is even some fishing equipment if we needed to catch our food! I think the number one thing I would take with me would be HOPE that someone would find us soon!


Our ship is an icebreaker ship.  It can get through ice in the water.  Sometimes it is difficult as you have to navigate around large icebergs.  Let’s learn a little bit more about these huge pieces of ice!  Try this experiment at home!

Did you know icebergs consist primarily of fresh water? Icebergs primarily form when parts of glaciers break off or “calve” icebergs. Since glaciers are made from snow, the resulting icebergs are freshwater. What about ice that forms in the ocean? This sea ice often breaks into ice floes when a solid sheet of ice shifts and thaws in the spring. Although the sea ice comes from seawater, it is fresh water, too. In fact, this is one method of desalination or removing salt from water. You can demonstrate this for yourself.

Iceberg Experiment

You can make your own homemade “seawater” and freeze it to make sea ice.

  1. Mix up a batch of synthetic seawater. You can approximate seawater by mixing 5 grams of salt in 100 ml of water. Don’t worry too much about the concentration. You just need salty water.
  2. Put the water in your freezer. Allow it to partially freeze.
  3. Remove the ice and rinse it in very cold water (so you don’t melt too much of it). Taste the ice.
  4. How does the ice cube taste compared with the salty water left in the container?

How It Works

When you freeze ice out of saltwater or seawater, you’re essentially forming a water crystal. The crystal lattice doesn’t make much room for salts, so you get ice that is purer than the original water. Similarly, icebergs that form in the ocean (which are really ice floes) aren’t as salty as the original water. Icebergs that float in the sea don’t become contaminated with salt for much the same reason. Either the ice melts into the ocean or else relatively pure water freezes out of the seawater.

Have fun and I’ll see you on Livingston Island next! Don’t forget to watch Twitter for more pics and video!  @aflyonthepole

Ms. Debbie


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    Check out these webcams of Palmer Stations and a nearby penguin colony

    Get started learning about the Antarctic Midge:

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    Learn all about the work done at the Insect Stress Biology Lab at the University of Kentucky


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