Danita Dahl is majoring in Animal Sciences through the College of Agricultural Sciences. To experience research in the field, she traveled to one of the remote places on Earth, Antarctica! This OSU faculty-led program combined in-class instruction, online activities, field activities and assignments to learn more about this interesting place. To read Part 1 of her entry, click here!
Many of us stayed up to see the promised first ice of the journey, and it was worth the wait. The first glimpses of frozen land and ice was not only a great feeling of being found within the expanse of ocean, but also the realization that we were on the cusp of our achievement of a goal to get to the remotest place on Earth. The next morning we awoke to the grandiose Lemaire Channel and all stood on the bow and watched as the captain navigated the narrow waters. Between the ice patches I saw the profoundly deep blue water reflecting the snow-capped cliffs and I could feel the truly untouched beauty and danger of the Antarctic. Standing on the bow, there was a charged feeling running through my body – we were so close now that we would be at our first landing site within the next couple of hours.
The bird watching shift just after leaving the bow seemed like a blur. We had stopped seeing as many birds circling the vessel and more penguins in the water and on floating ice. Right after breakfast I ran to my room, gathered my gear, and was the first down to the gangway –20 minutes early. Entering the zodiac I was reminded of the younger brother from the movie ‘A Christmas Story’ since I and everyone around me were so bundled up it was slightly difficult to sit down. Once off the vessel I wasted no time readjusting my gear as I wanted to be one of the first up to the untouched areas around the penguin colony. I, however, was rapidly slowed since every step I took I sunk into the snow up to my knee. As soon as I got up to the penguins I forgot about watching them and started stripping layers. After I felt as if I had broken through a high fever I took a moment to remember where I was and enjoyed watching the penguins waddling purposefully on their “penguin highways” as other passengers passed my location in the search for a larger group of penguins further into the excursion site.
For the next few days we continued our journey in much of the same manner with two excursions a day which allowed enough time for us to watch the comedy of the penguin behaviors, sleepy seals, and some quiet solitary contemplation among the wilderness and ice. As we continued our observations we found that Gentoo penguins ruled the area and the circling pelagic birds were getting harder to find. We camped in the Neumayer Channel, built a snow penguin, acted like tourists with the penguins similar to locals watching our hilarious absurdities, and ended up waking up to strong winds making packing up an adventure in itself. On Christmas day I took the polar plunge with a few of my new friends I had made on this journey. The cold did not hit me right away, but rather seemed to wait and hit me all at once like a thousand needles jabbing into my extremities. Looking back, I regret nothing.
When we finally calculated all of our data for the research paper the seemingly noticeable trend was very unnoticeable on paper which led to a lot of “insignificant trends” in our final evaluation. The classroom experience prior to the trip related greatly to both the landscape, ice, and wildlife as well as the on board lectures. It gave a great base knowledge so that we could understand the magnitude of what we witnessed along our journey. In the end, Antarctica is truly a remote and untouched gem of the world and I am proud to state that I am an ambassador in keeping it that way and hope to inspire others to do the same.
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