Pictured above is the first bit of South America we saw from the ship. After a remarkably smooth crossing of the Drake Passage, we made it back to Punta Arenas, Chile.
It’s not always so smooth, though! This Quicktime video file (Crossing the Drake Passage, 2017) shows you what my crossing looked like the last time I went to Antarctica in 2017. Some of the waves were over 30 feet high! It can be so rough, you need to wedge a life jacket under your mattress to keep from being thrown out in the night (especially if you’re in the top bunk).
After being in a polar environmental for nearly two months, it’s remarkable how sensitive you are to the odors of plants and dirt. For example, I loved getting my first smell of grass again. It can also be very weird seeing cars. Luckily, Punta Arenas is an amazing city with a lot of cool sights, people, and restaurants.
Back at VIMS
I hope you have all had a fun time identifying Antarctic organisms with me. After a short vacation, I am now back at my graduate school, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
I hypothesize that several species of fish, like the icefish you all identified (Pagetopsis macropterus), are being negatively impacted by global warming in Antarctica.
It is a common misconception that marine scientists spend all their time doing field research. We generally spend more time doing statistics or work in the laboratory than we do in the field. Statistics is incredibly important for verifying what we hypothesize.
Finally, it’s important to remember you don’t have to travel to the bottom of the world to discover unique animals. Insects in your backyard can be as interesting to look at as zooplankton, you just have to find them!
Editors Note: Please tell us about your experience with ID Antarctica – and if you have any other questions or feedback for Andrew – by commenting on this post. (If you don’t mind, please include your school name/state, the grade level, and number of students. The content of your post can be kept private if you request.) Thank you for going on this adventure with us!