Explorers Cove

Greetings from the lovely Bowser camp at Explorers Cove, New Harbor!


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It is sunny, just after midnight, with a stiff breeze that brings close the chill of the nearby ice. I am sitting in the lab, writing this, and realize that my feet are still cold from a walk I took, over an hour ago. The Commonwealth Glacier and Canada Glacier are in the valley close behind us, and sea ice fills the harbor. The ice is firm from here to McMurdo (about 35 or 40 miles away). The sea ice in the harbor is 9-15 feet deep but very shattered. En route to camp, the helicopter pilot took us up close to a “tiny” iceberg. It really is quite small – one of the icebergs I photographed from the air when I first arrived in Antarctica, from the flight deck of the C-17. From the air, it is just a small triangle of ice, frozen into a vast white plane of ice. From the helicopter, we could see the iceberg (and others, further off) stretching up like salt-water taffy in the Fata Morgana (optical illusions). One moment they were very tall! – – the next minute they’d collapse, then start inverting (upside down, projected into the air as if in a mirror). I think a few of my photographs actually captured this, somewhat – but they were far away. Of course it is impossible to grasp the scale of things, too. Small things turn out to be large and large things – immense. The iceberg turned out to be 200 feet high, massive towering cliffs of ice with bluish crevasses!

Here in Explorer’s Cove, the field camp (twin Jamesway huts conjoined on one end – very roomy, with a detached outhouse, a laboratory and a generator shed) rests on a dry delta of glacial sand/gravel, from which most of the snow has melted.

The camp is wonderful – very liveable. There is a dive hut (another Jamesway) set up on the ice further down the curve of the harbor. Sam Bowser’s dive team (Neil, Steve and Henry, tended by Claire and Jack) is bringing up amazing specimens of Foraminifera. Sam explained to me that foraminifera (or forams) are found around the world, but this is ground zero for their study. In the Hudson River, for example, a sediment sample might contain “one or two” he said. Here in New Harbor, the same sediment sample yields OVER ONE THOUSAND foraminifera. The sea floor is literally covered with them. Forams are single-cell creatures, but visible to the naked eye (even a poet’s eyeball can be trained to distinguish their shapes). Spent the bulk of the day working in the lab, peering into a specimen dish of living creatures (each the size of sand granules), learning to sort and identify foraminifera. Under a microscope, their shapes become more obvious — I have taken some images of them, by putting my camera lens up to the microscope.

In the lee of the camp buildings, out of the wind, it is quite comfortable. An injured little Adelie Penguin has been hanging around the camp, resting in the sand. From the tracks and movement, we believe one leg is swollen; it may be dying. Two hopeful Skuas (Antarctic buzzards) are close by, sleeping in the gravel and soaring along the hills. I get the sad feeling they are waiting…. I sat outside for about 45 minutes this afternoon, writing, sitting on the dirt with my back against the wall of Dr. Bowser’s laboratory. Sea ice is heaving and cracking in new formations.

NOTE: this evening Henry Kaiser prepared an incredible dinner – gasp – Red and Green Thai CURRY! The red curry sauce included fish and potatoes, while the green curry included mixed frozen vegies with frozen shrimp and frozen scallops. Henry loves Thai cooking so he brought down the exotic ingredients himself. Yawning and shivering now, but I get to sleep in a warm sleeping back on a comfortable cot – the rest of the camp is sleeping now. Must keep reminding myself that I am still in Antarctica!

See new images:

New Harbor Flight
New Harbor Life
New Harbor Sea Ice

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