Other Teachers Experiencing Antarctica

February 14, 2001 6 min read
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Following are sketches of the other six U.S. teachers taking part in the Antarctica program this research season. Included are brief descriptions of the projects they worked on and excerpts from their journals, posted on the program’s Web site,

Name: Richard M. Jones

School: Billings Senior High School, Billings, Mont.

Research Project: Jones worked with a team that measured atmospheric radiation at the South Pole.

Quote: “The fact that we can get another scientist to help us is a testament to the nature of the research here at the Pole. Many of the projects are competing for the same research $$, but everyone helps each other here. Another real benefit for me as a teacher is to see the need for cooperation. No one can do it alone down here! One of the best places to see the cooperation and even camaraderie is in the galley. There are 43 different conversations going on, most about projects and ways to improve the research. I wish that schools were designed to stimulate this type of environment.” (Dec. 7, 2000)

Kolene Krysl works with scientists to release a seal at Turk’s Head, near McMurdo Station.
—Josh Landis/ The Antarctic Sun

Name: Kolene Krysl

School: Central Middle School, Omaha, Neb.

Research Project: Krysl helped a research team attach monitoring devices to the backs of Weddell seals to track whether access to cracks in the sea ice limits the seals’ ability to reproduce.

“I went to Antarctica as a teacher to experience science in the extreme of the harsh continent. I shivered in the cold, was awed by the grand glaciers, was educated by the stories and experiences, and was humbled by the seals. I am coming home as a student with new knowledge. I will use it to fascinate many, but hope to encourage more, to dream, and to reach, for there is a world of questions to be answered, and any one of you could seek to find those answers. It is all a matter of taking the risk. I couldn’t have enjoyed this more without all of you who have joined me for the adventure of my lifetime. Science is everywhere ... especially Antarctica.” (Dec. 18, 2000)

Karina Leppick works with machinery associated with a South Pole telescope.
—Courtesy of Karina Leppik

Name: Karina Leppik

School: Choate-Rosemary Hall, Wallingford, Conn.

Research Project: Leppik helped upgrade and collect new data from the Antarctic Submillimeter Telescope/Remote Observatory, known as AST/RO. The South Pole telescope attempts to understand how stars form by analyzing the makeup of molecular clouds in the atmosphere.

Quote: “The South Pole has a reputation for being cold. Really cold. Frigid, even. The average annual temperature is minus 56.9 F (minus 49.4 C) and the record low temperature at the South Pole is minus 117.0 F (minus 82.8 C) recorded in June of 1982. Since I got here a week and a half ago, the sun has been shining, the sky has been blue, and the temperature has remained a fairly constant minus 15 F (minus 26 C). Toss in some wind, and it feels more like minus 40 F (minus 40 C).” (Dec. 13, 2000.)

William Swanson drives a Zodiac near Palmer Station.
—Courtesy of William Swanson

Name: William Swanson

School: Montwood High School, El Paso, Texas

Research Project: Swanson used a photometer to determine the amount of phytoplankton on the floor of the Southern Ocean near the Palmer Research Station. The data will help explain the unique food web of the ocean.

Quote: “I stood on top of the docking buoy thinking that I had to be crazy to be doing this. There are many people on station that never make the jump, so why should I? I thought, but again, those faithful journal readers voted me in the water. So what could I do? I jumped. I was about 8 feet above the water when I leapt. I entered the water feet first, being a little unsure how deep the water was. I sank about 3 feet below the surface and made my way up. I tried to relax in the cold water, but I felt that I couldn’t catch my breath. It was kind of strange because I knew the water was cold, yet I was cold only for the first few seconds. Someone told me that this is because the body is shutting down the blood flow to the less critical parts of the body. I swam slowly over to the ladder, past the hunks of ice. My body was not responding the way it normally would. It was very hard to move the joints and muscles. I struggled to some degree to make it to the ladder and climb the several steps back to the top. Once out of the water, I didn’t feel cold, but I felt a prickly sensation on my skin. I was told that this was the blood being released back to the muscles and joints. I made my way ... over to the hydrotherapy tub, a hot tub, and brought my body temperature back to normal. It felt great!” (Dec. 17, 2000)

Name: Wendy Slijk

School: La Costa Canyon High School, San Diego

Research Project: Slijk is on a cruise to collect sediment from the floor of seas around Antarctica. The samples—along with acoustical images of the sea floor—will help researchers understand the climate history of the area dating back more than 1 million years.

Quote: “To be a scientist in education is a constant endeavor, and one I have yet to grow tired of. This passion has led me to explore all seven continents, seeing for myself some of the last wild places on Earth. Some of these experiences have included visiting with the mountain gorillas in Rwanda, banding Fairy penguins in Australia, swimming with sharks and other creatures in the Galapagos, and attending a conservation workshop in the rain forest of the Amazon. None of these compared with my visit to Antarctica. As a tourist, I only had a glance of this incredible world. The experience left me in awe of the wildness and fragility of this vast continent. I vowed then to go back and help contribute to its understanding.” (From her Web introduction.) Note: Slijk is not posting journal entries while she is on her cruise.

Rolf Tremblay holds an ice core drilled from 1,000 feet below the surface of the ice.
—Courtesy of Rolf Tremblay

Name: Rolf Tremblay

School: Goodman Middle School, Gig Harbor, Wash.

Research Project: Tremblay helped a research team take the temperature of Antarctic ice in a 1,640-foot-deep hole the team drilled. The temperatures will give clues about the continent’s climate history over the past 500 years.

Quote: “Yesterday at breakfast, everyone was complaining about how HOT the tents were the night before. I spent most of the night sleeping on top of my sleeping bag with the door partially open. Even though the temperature falls below minus 10 C (14 F) every night, these small nylon tents stay amazingly warm inside. Yesterday, after breakfast, I did some laundry. I hung my wet clothes in my tent, and they were dry by lunchtime.

“What keeps the tents so warm? The sun is the main factor. It is up all the time. It is highest in the sky in the late morning. The tents are warmest during that part of the day, especially when there are no clouds. Wind is another important factor. The warmest nights in the tent have been those few times when there has been no wind. A third factor is the small size of the tent that allows it to be warmed by body heat. The larger Scott tents are not as popular because their greater volume means they are colder inside.” (Dec. 7, 2000)

A version of this article appeared in the February 14, 2001 edition of Education Week as Other Teachers Experiencing Antarctica


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