Polar Radar for Ice Sheet Measurements

Curved ice line
Jagged line
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Special Report: Still More Questions and Answers

These are questions e-mailed to author and illustrator, Coral Tulloch, during her voyage 6 1998-99 and answered by Coral with the help of the expeditioners, crew and scientists on board.

What other colours are there apart from white?
The colours are endless. Sea ice and land ice and snow are affected also by the various colours of the sky and the light reflects varying colours from the ice.

Where is the closest corner shop to buy the milk?
The closest corner shop to buy the milk, for Australian stations, is in Hobart.

Do you have TV?
We don't have any TV aboard, but there are plenty of videos.

Do they have any plants in Antarctica?
There are plants in Antarctica. Mainly small mosses.

How do you sleep when it is light all day?
When it is light all day, people have curtains or blinds that they can draw over their windows so that they can sleep.

How big is the biggest polar bear?
There are no polar bears in the Antarctic.

Has anybody been snowboarding?
I'm not sure about snowboarding but they seem to do everything else, so they must. They ski and skate and have all sorts of machines to ride around on. They walk across ice and they mountain climb.

Are you scared you'll get frostbite?
You can get very cold before you get frost bite and the best thing to do if someone is suffering is to take your clothes off and jump into a sleeping bag with them and cuddle them tightly. Your body temperature will slowly help to bring the other person's temperature back up.

How will you keep your paints unfrozen?
I haven't checked my paints for a few days. They are in a fairly cold place but I'll bring them back into the warmth in case they freeze.

Are you going to the Subantarctic?
We are going to the subantarctic; Macquarie Island - last stop before Hobart.

Is the ice more white or different colours?
Sometimes the ice is so white it is blinding, so we have been given special glasses that help to cut down the glare.

How can you draw and paint in those big Antarctic gloves?
I am not painting outside; it has been too difficult to set up or take an easel on the continent with me. I take a book with me and I write and draw in the book. Only it also becomes a problem outside, as you are often trying to take photos as well and you have gloves on and it becomes very awkward.

What damage would an iceberg do to the ship?
There are many icebergs as we travel the ocean around us. There is fantastic radar on this ship and so, even at night they can see most icebergs. Some of them can be under the water though and yesterday I was outside and one came shooting up from the side of the ship where I was standing. It was an old green piece of ice. Very thrilling, but a little scary too! Ships try not to hit any difficult ice.

Do you need sunscreen in Antarctica?
You need a lot of sunscreen; we have all been a little burnt by the wind, sun and the cold.

Will you go fishing in Antarctica?
Apart from one man on board who, as a joke fished from the back of the ship when we were in calmer waters, the only fishing we will be doing is for krill. Krill is the main food supply for the marine animals and we have a scientist on board who will try to catch some krill and bring them back to Australia in special tanks on board the ship to study them.

Is the food like plane food? What dishes will the cook make?
The cook makes the most fantastic dishes. We have 3 cooked meals a day and you can have just about anything that you want. Any time of the day you can come in and make yourself something to eat like toasted cheese treats, crumpets, hot soup there's always loads of fruit, left-over salads and meats and of course, huge containers of every type of biscuit and trays of cakes you would want. Sometimes we have had crayfish. There's always a soup and two main dishes and one vegetarian one to choose from, and hot vegetables and salads.

What will you do with all your rubbish?
All the rubbish has different areas it goes to. In the corridors where our rooms are there are bins for burnable and non-burnable rubbish. They burn all the food and paper scraps. All our cans are compacted and everything including container loads from the stations is returned to Australia. They keep all our sewerage in big tanks on board the ship. On the ship, they even make fresh water from sea water - so we have plenty to wash in.

Have you lived in such a cold place before?
I have never lived in such a cold place before. Antarctica is the coldest place on Earth and it is a little difficult to draw in gloves.

What will you miss the most?
I miss my daughter Tully the most. I have lots of pictures of her up in my cabin and I talk to those everyday.

Do the clothes keep you warm?
Even when you have all your freezer suit and everything else on it is still fantastic to come inside. It is very cold outside.

What do you have for breakfast?
We can have anything we like for breakfast from eggs and bacon and tomatoes and hot rolls and pancakes and muffins, fruit, yogurt, cereals, etc. etc.

What is your cabin like?
The cabins on the ship are great. Most of them have 3 to 4 beds in them, but as there are not many of us, at the moment, we have one to ourselves. The beds are very comfortable. They are little couches that fold down to beds. We have a desk and a wardrobe and a fold up table and a porthole to see the icebergs and a shower and toilet. So it’s very private and roomy. My cabin has a lot of paintings starting to dot the walls.

When is the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica the biggest?
The hole in the ozone layer is biggest over Antarctica during Spring.

How many months are in the Antarctic winter?
According to expeditioners on this ship: The winter season is from March till October, but true winter, where they receive little light, is from late June till late August.

How far does the iceshelf grow over winter?
The sea ice grows to double the size of Antarctica during winter and believe me, we are steaming through thousands of miles of it at present!

How does the population of the Emperor Penguin colonies change from summer to winter?
From our resident Penguin Biologist: In April they lay their eggs and, by about May, the chicks hatch. The chicks grow through winter and are able to be out and feeding by themselves by February.

How many species of penguins live in the Antarctic?
Other penguins have colonies in Antarctica, but only the Adelie and the Emperor are specific to Antarctica.

Which explorer circled the Antarctic in 1772?
Unfortunately, on our ship we don't have a library, but I do know that James Cook was the first to record a complete sail around the mass of ice and land, realising there was an entire continent and it was around that date.

How many knots does the Aurora Australis travel at?
The Aurora Australis travels at different speeds. If we are in heavy seas it will slow, or they change course sometimes to make it more comfortable for us especially when we are eating! In ice, sometimes we have to reverse and take a run up at the ice to break it and get through. At present, in fairly open sea, with just a few floating bits of ice, that now and then crash, bash against the ship we are doing 18.4 knots. That's quite fast compared to when you are in the ice.

How do weather balloons work?
Weather balloons are pumped up by a bicycle pump and have sensors on them to tell the air pressure and temperature.

What are the possible dangers of living in the Antarctic?
Antarctica is the most inhospitable place on Earth for humans to live and so there are many dangers. People who come to stay here are given a great deal of training before they arrive and the cold and the conditions of the ice and snow are of major importance.

How do animals survive in the cold?
Many animals survive in the very cold environment by layers of blubber, such as whales and seals. Penguins have feathers that have a covering of oil to make them water-proof. Some fish have adapted to having no red blood cells and have a liquid blood that contains a type of anti-freeze.

What is the view when you get there?
The view in Antarctica, no matter if you are travelling the ocean or on the shores of the continent is continuously changing from huge blue glaciers to rocky islands, icebergs and constantly changing sea-ice to the huge skin of Antarctica, which is the sheet of ice that covers and moves across its surface.

How do you travel in the Antarctic?
People travel around in the snow and the ice in different ways. There are various types of vehicles that you can use and also skiing, walking.

What does it sound like when you hit an iceberg?
It sounds like an enormous THUD, CRUNCH and the ship shakes when you hit an iceberg. But we try only to hit ice bits, not huge bergs. Ice is like steel and there is a type of berg called a growler, which I saw for the first time yesterday. They have struck many ships; they roll around in the ocean and hide - like little ice bombs. This one yesterday was like the size of a house.

Do people play golf?
Apparently the longest putt ever recorded was one at Mawson. There is someone on board here who is going to Macquarie Island who has bought along golf clubs but there are no greens.

What kind of animals did you see on the trip?
We have seen whales, Adelie penguins and emperor penguins, elephant seals, crabeater seals, weddell seals, lots of various Antarctic birds.

How close do you get to the penguins?
There are special international laws that state how far you or your machinery, including helicopters can get to all wildlife in Antarctica so we find out our distance for each specific animal we may be approaching.

What do you do with all your rubbish?
Australian bases take all their rubbish away from Antarctica but there are high temperature incinerators that also are used to burn food scraps etc.

Do you sleep in all your clothes?
Most people do not sleep in all their clothes today in Antarctica. The stations are really well heated and everyone wears just casual clothing, but there are special rooms you enter or leave from where your 'freezer suits' are hanging up and your boots. If you go outside you must put those on.

How tall are the icebergs?
Some icebergs are enormous, as great lumps of the plateau or ice sheet break off the continent; they can be as large as a small Island. Others are quite small, like apartment blocks. As they move north, they melt and become smaller.

How do you go to the toilet in all your clothes?
Men urinate in the normal way. Women are given a small plastic device that is put through the fly of the thermal pants and it has a tube attached to make it very similar to men. In order to poo, expeditioners always take black garbage bags and a plastic drum with them. The bag is placed in the drum, you sit on the edge and when you are finished it is tied up. Nothing lasts long in Antarctica without freezing. So it freezes up and is then taken back to the station. This is only done when people are away from the stations.

What does Antarctica mean?
Antarctica comes from the Greek word arktos - the stars that formed the symbol of the bear in the Northern Hemisphere. This became known as the Arctic. Anti, or opposite, was the south.

Are the crew bossy?
The crew said that they were never bossy. We are going to hold them to that; in fact it is really nice and it's like being part of a big family.

What do you do on the boat all day?
It would be very hard to become bored as the ocean and the sky change so dramatically all the time. But you shouldn’t call it a boat – this is a ship.

How low has the temperature been since you arrived?
The coldest temperature we have received so far is -21 degrees, but then if the wind is blowing it makes it much colder they call this the "wind chill factor" and that can double the temperature.

Don't forget to save us lots and lots of chocolate? And don't forget the Tim Tams!
Forget me bringing home chocolates and tim tams. They have all been eaten by hungry expeditioners!



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