Mary Cook, January 6, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
December 5, 2004 – January 7, 2005

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: January 6, 2005

Location: Latitude 53°10.14’S, Longitude 70°54.40’W

Sunrise 0525
Sunset 2212

Question of the Day

How do penguins feed their young?

Quote of the Day

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

Science and Personal Log

Today has been a wonderful day. Vickie, Jackie and I traveled about one hour northwest of Punta Arenas to the Otway Fjord where a colony of about 10,000 Magellanic penguins are busily tending their young. These little black and white flightless birds are amazing! I found out that penguins live 25-30 years and always come back to the place where they were born for the mating season. They usually have one or two offspring. Males and females take turns watching and feeding the little ones. They swim for food every eight hours and dive 30 to 35 meters deep. Couples are always the same and they come back to the colony only for the reproduction season. They arrive at this site in mid-September to court and prepare their nests. Before courting they go through a period of fasting. (These birds are serious about family life! Maybe we could learn something from them.) The first days of October, they mate and lay their eggs. In November, they incubate their eggs and nearing the first of December the eggs hatch. They dig holes called burrows for their babies in the soft grassy plains just off the beach. In January and February the young ones lose their fuzzy gray down and develop feathers. This is when they make their first trips to the sea and begin to swim. In mid-March and April, they leave and move to the coast of Brazil and the Atlantic Islands.

This morning it was cold and blustery as we followed the winding trails through the grassy plains right in amongst the penguin burrows. Believe it or not, it sleeted while we were out there. A parent was always nearby and usually standing guard at the entrance of the burrow as the fat little baby was lazily stretched out with its head peeking through the hole. At this time in their development the babies are almost as large as the adults. A few of the males were standing tall with their wings outstretched and braying like donkeys. The Magellanic penguins sound remarkably like donkeys! Near the beach we stood behind a “penguin blind” and watched them marching single file toward the ocean and diving into the waves. If it hadn’t been so bone-chilling cold, I could’ve stood there and just watched those penguins for hours on end. While on land the penguins are cumbersome but in water they are agile and great swimmers. It looked like some of them where trying to catch a wave! South American surfer dudes.

Other than the penguins, we saw wild rheas, sheep, gulls, geese, ducks, and a few UFBs (unidentified flying birds).

After our incredible visit to the penguins, we returned to Punta Arenas. Punta Arenas has a population of 110,000 and is the capital of the Magellanic and Antarctic Region XII. According to the guide book, Punta Arenas is Patagonia’s most important city and makes a living from coal mining, wool production, petroleum, fishing, and serves as a center for cargo ships. I’ve seen all of these industries in just the short time I’ve been here. My favorite place to visit in the city of Punta Arenas has been the very charming Plaza Muñoz Gamero with its huge, gnarled cedar trees surrounding the bronze statue of Magellan. Another intriguing gadget is the 1913 German clock near the waterfront that has a complete meteorological instrumentation and hands showing the moon’s phases and a zodiac calendar.

Well, I’ve put it off as long as possible but it’s time to go pack. Tomorrow morning I’ll bid farewell to the RONALD H. BROWN.

What a grand finale today has been for this “Teacher at Sea”!

Until tomorrow,

Mary

Mary Cook, January 5, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
December 5, 2004 – January 7, 2005

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: January 5, 2005

Location: Latitude 53°49.76’S, Longitude 71°39.22’W
Time:
0900

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature (Celsius) 7.66
Water Temperature (Celsius) 8.94
Relative Humidity (percent) 87.33
Air Pressure (millibars) 987.72
Wind Direction (degrees) 270.59
Wind Speed (knots) 6.27
Cloud Cover 8/8 Stratus
Sunrise 0526
Sunset 2218

Question of the Day

What is the ozone layer?

Quote of the Day

“A smooth sea never made a skilled mariner.” English proverb

Science and Personal Log

Today, I interviewed Victoria Carpenter. Vickie is an Able Bodied (AB) Seaman and she has a variety of duties aboard this ship. These duties include watch-stander, deckhand, winch operator, securing the ship for departure and darkening the ship. Darkening the ship means that she makes sure all portholes on the ship are closed at night so that the light from inside the ship’s rooms doesn’t shine out and reflect off the water which blinds the bridge crew. We all want the bridge crew to be able to see because they’re driving the ship! Vickie grew up in southern California with three brothers. She now resides in Vancouver, Washington. Vickie has traveled around the world. Really. She’s been to Asia, Africa, Europe, North and South America, and Australia. And she’s ridden a bicycle from coast to coast in the United States. It seems to me that she has done just about everything from being a Girl Scout Leader, to a berry picker, to a camp director, to an Outward Bound leader, and even a tour guide!

She will be attending the AB to Mate School for 19 weeks later this year. Besides getting a raise, becoming a Mate will enable her to plot charts and steer the ship.

Vickie says she loves the sea and the seagoing life. She considers Ernest Shackleton, the great explorer of Antarctica, to be her inspiration. Vickie is a true adventurer and I’ve loved listening to her stories.

For some reason, I awoke at 0430 this morning. I’m not sure why I stirred at such an early hour but it could have something to do with the fact that we have been in the famed Straits of Magellan since 0200. I most certainly did not want to sleep through it. So I was out at first light. Reggie, the watch-stander called me and said that the seals were putting on a show, so up I headed to the bridge. There were seals frolicking all about! These remind me of dolphins in the way they come up out of the water. We were passing through the Tortuoso Passage. According to the Chilean pilot Luis Holley, Tortuoso means “very difficult” in Spanish. To me it sounds like torturous. A torturous passage. This is the place where the Atlantic Ocean currents meet the Pacific Ocean currents. All this water converging in a narrow canal makes for a difficult place to transit. At this junction back in early navigation days the current actually pushed ships aground. That would definitely be torturous in my book. I was intrigued that we could really see the current. It was a place of choppy waters called the “the cross tide” and when the ship encountered the current, it slid sideways a little bit! Whoa!

One of the bays on this route is called Seno Ballena which means whale fjord. The pilot explained this to be a place where whales come to have their babies. A whale nursery! We saw two whales that flipped their flukes (tails) up in the air. It’s a nice feeling to watch whales just living their lives.

Shortly thereafter, the RONALD H. BROWN with all its inhabitants rounded the southern-most tip of the continent! It’s called Cape Froward and has a huge steel cross perched on the point which is covered with gnarly looking trees.

We’ve just arrived in Punta Arenas and Captain Wright called an “all hands” meeting. At the meeting the Chilean pilots awarded us certificates documenting our passage through the Straits of Magellan! It has a map tracing our route and says that I am a “certified explorer of the Straits of Magellan”. ? Signed and sealed by the Chilean pilots!

Les Cruise, the medic reminded everyone to wear sunscreen, long sleeves, and hats because we are under the “hole” in the ozone layer. Punta Arenas has one of the highest occurrences of skin cancer per capita than any city in the world.

This is a very attractive small city. It is situated on the coast with only a few tall buildings and has low, rounded mountains as a backdrop. The main square is a tree-lined park with a central statue of Ferdinand Magellan. The statue also has a native South American on it whose foot is projecting from the base. It is said that if you rub his big toe then you’ll return to Punta Arenas someday. That big toe is shiny smooth! Well, here’s a question for you. Do you think I rubbed the colossal toe? You know the answer to that question. The Punta Arenas downtown is European quaint and bustling with people shopping, relaxing, and going somewhere. Ice cream must be a popular treat. It seems that everyone has a cone. I even saw a sign in a store window that said “Do not enter with ice cream.” I love ice cream, but when I’m wearing three layers and a muffler scarf, I prefer hot chocolate. There are tour offices that offer excursions to penguin colonies, trekking in Patagonia or boat rides to glaciers. Tomorrow morning will be my last full day here, and I’ve decided to check out the penguins. I’ll let you know how they’re doing in my next log installment!

Until tomorrow,

Mary