Challenging Habitat

Recently, I attended a cetacean identification course with Orca (highly recommended!) and it featured stunning videos of dolphins and whales.

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When the Royal Meteorological Society invited me to write a guest blog about the Antarctic Quest 21 expedition for their MetMatters page, I analysed the daily SitReps provided daily from the Antarctic Peninsula by expedition leader Paul Hart to provide an insight how the weather and ice conditions determined the experience and progress of the expedition team.

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The team safely back in Argentina and preparing to go their separate ways to rejoin families and pick up their lives back home, Paul find time for a concluding message.

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My work with Seas Your Future gives me the privilege to sail the tall ship Pelican of London with some fabulous people.

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It was such fun to do this webinar for school kids from different ages and I was truly astonished what well-considered and pertinent questions I was asked. Well done, all of you!

There was one question I couldn’t answer at the time, but I looked it up after the webinar:

The amount of snow falling on Antarctica has been estimated to be around 2000 Gigatons per year. This is enough to cover the whole of Antarctica in 14 cm of water if it melted (or, as the estimate comes from Belgium, it would cover that country in 66 m of water).

The centre of Antarctica is relatively dry and most of the snow falls on the margins of the continent, in particular in on the Antarctic Peninsula and the West Antarctic Ice Shelf. To put it into a Southwest UK context, in terms of water, the western Antarctic Peninsula receives about as much as Dartmoor (around 2000 – 2500 mm).

So, what is a Gigaton? ‘Giga’ is the prefix for one billion (1 000 000 000 or 109). So, we are talking about 2 x 1012 tons or 2 x 1015 kg (1 000 000 000 000 000 kg).

Our six Seas Your Future Scientists in Residence in Costa Rica have sailed the Pacific Coast off Puerto Rico for a few days now.

You might imagine their work to be a breeze, more of a holiday really, sailing tropical seas in great weather… and surely, the sun shines and watching dolphins riding the bow waves amidst bioluminescent plankton at midnight is magical and an experience nobody will ever forget.

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The Antarctic Quest 21 expedition I’m supporting as scientific advisor has been beset by most arduous weather conditions – storms alternating with snow blizzards and zero visibility…

Nevertheless, the team are in good spirit and ingenious in repairing the damage to their tents and kit – rising to each challenge with the resilience and team spirit any team anywhere aspires to.

If you have an hour to spare, watch the zoom record of their Shackleton commemoration, tales from the ice and thanks to sponsors and patrons…

As eight explorers turn their backs to the departing ship, they know that for the next six weeks, the team are totally self-reliant.

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Today LikeToBe launched the Antartic Quest 21 School Outreach Programme. Members of the expedition team introduced the expedition and answered questions of school kids from as far away as South Africa. We covered everything from expedition food rations and equipment to how the team’s training ahead of and the scientific projects carried out during the expedition.

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As the tall ship Pelican of London makes her way down the English Channel to the edge of the continent and across the Atlantic, the young Ocean College students are introduced to a game that involves transferring a cupful of water from plate to plate balanced on the heads of a line of participants.

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Introducing resilience education into the curriculum of an undergraduate degree course at a higher education institution in the UK is a challenge for a scientist with expertise in geochemistry, and it can be a lonely obstacle course.

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