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Journals 2008/2009

Megan O'Neill
Fairhope High School, Fairhope, Alabama

"Thermal Tolerance of Antarctic Fishes"
R/V Laurence M. Gould
April 21 - June 11, 2009
Journal Index:
April 17/18 - 19 - 20 - 21 - 22 - 23 - 24 - 25
        26 - 27 - 28 - 29 - 30
May 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11
       12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16 - 17 - 18 - 19 - 20
       21 - 22 - 23 - 24 - 25 - 26 - 27 - 28 - 29
       30 - 31
June 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11

June 4, 2009
Penguin Plunge!

The day had finally arrived. Now that science was wrapping up in the lab, the dissections were done, the temperature tolerance experiments were finished and the chemical waste manifests were complete, it was finally time to take a dip in the Southern Ocean. Fortunately, the wind Gods were cooperative once again (must have been that shovel sacrifice still working for us!) and the wind settled down long enough for the air temperature to be a tolerable negative 4 degrees Celsius (about 24 degrees F)! Over the loudspeaker came, "Beakers report to the pier for the jump into the water!" Jeff and Irina came down with their buckets of fish that were the survivors that did not get used in experiments to release as they made their jumps into the minus 0.5 degree C water. Most everyone on station took a break from their tasks to join in the fun and to take photos. Words of advice were spilling from the experienced ones. Neal telling me to "find my happy place as soon as I hit the water to get my breathing under control" and Marin to remember "that if I can get my breathing under control I will have a good ten minutes to deal with it." Jody and Kristin advising me to "make sure my feet were covered for the impact and the ladder back out," "Hmm," I thought to myself, "They have done this before and are not doing it again. There must be something to that." I had to experience it myself regardless. Even the words of Lisa describing the "pain" that would result and the fact that I needed a robe and towel to cover with to make it on the dash from the water to the hot tub did not defer me! I was relieved that Marin, the Station Physician, was present and knew where the nearest AED (automated external defibrillator) was located just in case my heart stopped when I jumped in! It was a good thing also to have the support of the audience, because I may not have been so willing if the crowd didn't expect the jump to happen! Irina went first, as she had the most experience. This was her "bipolar swim" because she swam at the closest point in the northern hemisphere to the North Pole, Svalbard. She jumped without hesitation with the gibbie fish in hand and came back quickly to the ladder, threw on a towel and rushed up to the hot tub. Next, Jeff took the moment for a photo opportunity from atop the dock bumper to kiss the gibbie and then took the plunge into the water. Now it was my turn. To the chants and cheers of, "Go Alabama!" I stepped up to the edge, looked into the beautiful bright blue water and jumped! YAHOO! I knew it would take my breath away, which it did, but I could not recapture it until about halfway up the ladder! At least, my heart had not stopped, yet! Maybe I was going to survive after all! Austin had my robe open that I wrapped in quickly and at that moment noticed Jeff jumping in AGAIN! I was not going to be influenced, I enjoyed my one jump, did it and was b-lining for the hot tub! Irina was already enjoying the warmth and then Jeff came rushing up, "Owwww, my toes hurt, my feet hurt, I think I am going to loose my toes!" Jeff did not heed the advice of the experienced and did not have his feet covered sufficiently for the experience and was now experiencing the pain of mild frostbite. Despite Jeff's pain, we all succeeded in our Penguin Plunge and reveled in the moment. I was ecstatic and after a few minutes warming in the hot tub, thought, "I could do that again!" but the thought was fleeting and I headed to GWR to take a warm shower!

After dinner, Lisa's science talk, "The Fats of Life" took place as a fireside chat in the Galley. I love having the glow of the small pot bellied stove fireplace in the galley. It provides such a homey feeling. Lisa went through the differences of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and used materials from the kitchen to demonstrate. She and Jeff made some wonderful models with marshmallows, brownies and toothpicks linked in chains to show the differences and how they make up a phospholipid bilayer of membranes. Lisa described the differences between organisms found in warmer temperatures versus those in colder temperatures and how those fats can rearrange to allow the organism to adjust to changing temperatures. She explained that they are looking for the changes from the membrane layers of the fish that Jody and Bruce put through the temperature tolerance experiments. Lisa did such a great job with the explanation and model - one that I will have to take back to the classroom!

The full day ended with our morning yoga group's first ever night yoga! A full-hour of "Jackie." Ryan downloads our yoga sessions from and Jackie is one of the guys' favorite instructors because they love her voice. It was so relaxing with deep stretches. The class favorite move is definitely "shavasana" where you lay on your back and just relax into the pose. We got a full five minutes of this one and were ready for bed immediately after the session! Another great end to another great day in Antarctica!

Penguin Plunge!
Dr. Crockett's Science Fireside Chat

Yoga group