Sunday, December 20, 2009

Carpe vomit, seas the day

     Heading south, the ocean gods showed mercy. The notorious Drake Passage knew relative calm. Most all aboard our stubby, ice-breaking research ship fared well.
     Payback is a, well, it rhymes with itch.
     In the small hours of Sunday morning, as the ship moved deeper north into the Drake, the wind blew 50 knots and the swells pitched above 15 feet.
     My bed is tucked in the hold of the ship. It's a place of many noises. The throbbing diesel engines. The alarms that go off regularly in the engine room to alert the crew to tweak this or turn that. The ventilation in our makeshift cabin that drones on like the outside winds.
     But my crib is also protected from the most extreme sways of the ship. Even so, I have to prop up the side of my mattress with a lifejacket so I won't roll out from the top bunk. Even with that jury-rig, I have to hold on to the walls to keep from spilling to the floor.
     Others have it much worse. In their upper deck bunks they feel the sways of the ship in exaggeration and, like me, feel the boat's bass vibration when a wave strikes the bow just wrong.
     One woman has twisted her ankle on the swaying floors and now must navigate the ship's steep stairways on one good leg. Worse yet, the talented chef from Palmer Station has hitched a ride for emergency dental work. An exposed nerve must wait for five days of rocky passage before someone in Chile can drill into her mouth. Plus she's been seasick.
     And the boat is shrinking, figuratively. The rough seas mean the outside decks are closed. Plus most of the people riding along have been living in these close quarters for a month now. The best jokes have been told. The romance of the ice has faded far to our stern. Thoughts are now shifting to connecting flights and the sundry details of holiday travel.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A yeti at the helm

Some of you may want to reconsider your votes in our poll of Antarctic explorers.
With a one-day overpopulation, the people doing real work at this polar outpost were busy. But the day's visitors, stuck for the last month aboard a research ship were eager to see the sights. In particular, they wanted to visit the nearby islands where Penguins poop and elephant seals  lounge in the guano.
Who'd they come looking for to pilot this Antarctic maritime expedition? None other than one very corn-fed Midwesterner raised on the prairie who just three weeks ago wasn't terribly sure about the whole bow/stern thing.
I can be quite impressed with myself (reporter, duh), but maybe never so much as when the locals sought me out to take 10 folks in a Zodiac to Torgersen Island. OK, it wasn't Worsley taking the James Caird from Elephant Island to South Georgia, but there were small swells and a gusty wind and a little snow.
It was also my bittersweet final Zodiac outing, and I was rewarded by principally, not messing up the boat, and additionally by seeing the newest born of Penguin chicks.

Now honestly, which is cuter? The chick, or the Zodiac driver?

Your ride is here

Ever been at a party, having a great time, and your ride home starts honking the horn out front?
The ship that will haul us back to Chile arrived this morning, with plans for steaming north on Friday morning.
Crew and passengers have been cruising around the Antarctic peninsula for the last month, kept from their explorations too much of that time by ice. For them, today is a great respite, a chance to come ashore on Palmer Station, hike around, maybe soak in the hot tub and almost certainly have a drink or six in the bar. Everyone will feast together on pizza tonight and the longer-term residents of Palmer will get a welcome infusion of company.
For those of us who have settled into Anvers Island so comfortably, the boat is not a pretty sight. It means our stomachs are soon to be tested by the Drake Passage, and after that several airports and tiny airline seats.
Much more, it means leaving -- without much prospect of ever returning -- one of the most spectacular natural settings on the planet. We'll leave behind, too, a tight ad hoc family of warm and adventurous souls who have made the remote anything but lonely.
I'm already dreading that moment after an exotic, some days after the return, when it feels like a dream -- cut short by the alarm clock of ordinary life. Where's the damn snooze button.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Young chicks (gratuitous headline intended to inflate web traffic)

Our astute ornithologists alerted us to some of the first Adelie penguin chicks of the year, no more than three days old when we saw them on Tuesday.
This is not your antiseptic maternity ward. It feels, instead, like a great blending of primordial goop.
On a rocky little island aptly named Humble, amid the random snoring and bellowing of lethargic elephant seals, the chicks sit in rock nests springing veritable streams of guano and slush that dribble through mounds of  seal dung. Think of downtown Kansas City after the St. Patrick's Day parade.
In these early days, both parents stay near -- likely to protect the young from the greedy jaws of skua shorebirds. Soon they will take more turns venturing out into the water for meals.

At first approach, they seem invisible. Advised to stand quietly as winds grew stronger, their tiny chirps caught our ears and led our eyes.
Mostly, the adults keep the downy chicks warm by sitting on them as if they were still just eggs. Then the parents stand and out pop the hungry maws -- like editors, always begging for more, more, more.
So Mom, or just as often Dad, barfs. Tiny, slimy, half-digested bits of seafood wretch up and into the hatchling's beaks. Antarctic sushi.
Nearby, other nests still harbor eggs. But the job of the newborns is to eat and make guano. They do both as prodigiously as the Royals give up runs. Like our boys in blue, they've been doing worse each year. The Royals don't have a great excuse. For these feathery swimmers, the problem is that in the winter they forage from the ice during the daylight. Since there's increasingly less ice, they move farther and farther south, where the winter days only get shorter. And so on. But there's always next year.

Chillin' in style

Woke this morning to see this ship, the  Bahamian-flagged Minerva, a couple hundred yards from my bedroom window.
It's one of two cruise ships expected to stop at Palmer Station this week, and part of a trend of Antarctica tourism going through fits and starts.
Just as Antarctica has become the chic place for the well-heeled and environmentally conscience to see, the business of bringing tourists to high latitudes in the lower hemisphere is getting trickier.
First, the cruisin' companies have had to deal with their own heavier traffic. Operators go to great lengths to time their journeys in the all-too-brief Austral summer so that they remain largely out of view from one another. It's a bit of a buzz kill to pay a bucket-load of money to have your view of penguins and icebergs cluttered by a another cruise ship.
Then there's the nagging issue of sinking. The Explorer (not to be confused by National Geographic's cruise ship of the same name) shared paint with an iceberg in 2007 about 60 miles from the Antarctic peninsula. The passengers and crew, about 150 in all, were rescued from lifeboats. But the sinking of the Explorer brought about attention to the perils of taking so many people to areas so remote in waters that can be tricky.
Now the countries involved in the uneasy of the no-man's-land of Antarctica want strong new controls.
In 2007, the cruise ship Explorer ran into an iceberg less than 100 kilometres from the Antarctic Peninsula. Its passengers were rescued in lifeboats, but the ship sank. It carried 185,000 litres of marine diesel, a lighter fuel, which prevented it from becoming an even worse environmental disaster, according to experts.
Already, rules are set to take effect barring the use of heavy oil on the cruise ships south of 60 degrees latitude, meaning a few companies will bow out rather than retool their ships. Saga, Swan Hellenic and Voyages of Discovery have already steamed away from the continent..
Meantime, the disintegration of the Wilkins Ice Shelf has dumped more icebergs in the water, making navigation harder and meaning and accessibility to some areas less predictable.
The cruises can routinely run tens of thousands of dollars per head. So people talk about the orange parkas their issued for the trip as being $20,000 jackets. Passage on the Minerva, which featured lectures from a scientist who's done much research in the region, included a surcharge that helped pay for scientific gear donated to Palmer on Tuesday.
I climbed on to the Minerva this morning to see the ship and the grip-and-grin ceremony. It was populated by the sort of folks who could afford the money and time for a 10-day Antarctic cruise. Lots of gray hair. And when the folks from Palmer gave a presentation on board, passengers were told they could also watch it on TV in their berths. Later, some 200 rounded through the station for tours and T-shirts.

Monday, December 14, 2009

H2o -- chilled

This link should lead to a random collection of the Antarctic's defining feature: ice.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

That water's cold. And deep, too.

Ahab wannabes were grabbing their harpoons. The great white (really white) one bobbed in the Southern Ocean on Sunday.
There's cold, and then there's dangly parts take a vacation cold. The water here is actually slightly below 32 degrees farenheit (salinity at work). So why not go swimming?
Local tradition holds that residents of Palmer Station plunge in the polar waters when friendly vessels head north. The ritual aims to bring good luck for those about to head across the notoriously nasty Drake Passage. It's decidedly bad luck for those taking the plunge.
During my time here, no ship would be making the trip without me aboard, so I jumped in just to confirm my stupidity.
Off the pier in one blindingly pale flash of gumption, and I was in the water.

I've read where studies test people's tolerance to pain by having them stick their hands in ice water. It hurts.
Indeed, you do know when you hit the water.

But it must have been numbing as well, because I figured a somersault in the water was in order. Not a great idea.
I got a head rush combined with a brain freeze. It was like gulping down a giant grape Slurpee while buried naked in the snow. I felt as if my eyeballs were collapsing on themselves. Even my prodigious insulation was no match for the ice water.
Time to head for the ladder. People on land seemed alien. They were laughing. Smiling. Where's Bill Clinton when you need him? I wanted somebody to feel my pain.

I waddled 30 yards to the hot tub, where it took me a good two minutes to inch my frozen flesh into the steamy water.

Soon, though, I warmed with my fellow ice jumpers, all of us well impressed with our own daring. Friendly crowd. Not terribly bright.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Man in the mountain

Can you see him?
Anybody can find the face of Jesus in a pancake or a crying Madonna in a coffee stain.
But you've got to travel to the Antarctic peninsula to see this music great in a mountainside.
His face is above the center, diagonal snowfield. He's looking to your left.
A bird researcher based out of Palmer Station a while back noticed that the face in this mountainside and the mug has become a fixture in the psyche here ever since.
See him yet?
His identity can be found, if not with your own eyes, in the comments section.

This leopard is a bad cat (but no feline)

OK, this is my nominee for the weirdest creature south of an editorial board meeting. The Hydrurga leptonyx, or leopard seal is the Antarctic regional bad boy. She (honestly, it's hard to tell the sex) feasts on penguins and the young of other seals and just about any other warm-blooded prey he can get those menacing chompers around. Leopard seals also gorge on squid and krill.
We saw this one lounging on an ice floe floating about 100 yards from a penguin colony and rolling around in a pool of her own urine. Reminds me of that week I spent at Sturgis.
Although it's an ear-less seal, it looks more like what might happen if you mated a snake with a whale, a Doberman with an otter, or Michael Phelps with a tax collector. They are absolutely otherworldly, like something out of the "Alien" movie series banished to the coldest water in the world. 
They lumber on land, but they dart like torpedoes of muscle once in water. The  sterns of our Zodiac boats have been reinforced because leopard seals have been known to bite through the thick, hard rubber.
The one we encountered today was at least 10 feet long. They can grow to more than 12 feet and weigh well over 800 pounds and don't have particularly cuddly personalities. Can you say mother-in-law?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Seal sleeps, science stop

OK, so it's not this crabeater seal's fault that a trailer home-sized ice berg has blocked in all the boats today. But the way it's lounging about on the same ice that is keeping researchers and the rest of us from heading out in the water seems to rub things in a bit.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Playing to our audience

Mrs. Powell's kindergarten class has asked for pictures of penguins swimming and sliding on their bellies. We know our audience, and we aim to please.
Yet these are two areas where we're pretty weak. I've not seen many penguins sliding with real speed on their bellies. Rather, they tend to flop on to their tummies and scoot a little bit when they seem to feel it's easier than walking.

As for swimming, those pictures are a challenge, too. It's a blast to watch them swim through the water, breaking the surface like dolphins. But since you never know just where they'll come up, it's hard to capture.

But sometimes they lounge around the surface of the water and look a little like ducks.

Polar pole

Everybody says they never get asked their opinion. Here at "Polarized" we care deeply. Look at the column on the right side of this page.
Rock the vote, and all that stuff the kids talk about.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

In a hash of brash.

Left Palmer Station mid-afternoon for two quick stops in the ocean today and learned that, like in Kansas City, a quick onset of ice can make driving tricky.
The bay outside the station looked pretty much like this when we left.

So we cruised along for a while. The ocean swells were a little higher than usual, but not enough to do more than make the bow of our Zodiac bounce a little bit.
Saw a few penguins perched on a berg.

Then as we headed back, less than an hour after we left, we motored toward Palmer expecting an easy route. But when we got within about three-fourths of a mile from the station we saw that brash, or junk, ice had moved in.
Soon ice was lifting us higher off the water, clogging our propeller, killing our engine. We slowed from a few knots to to desperate lurches back and forth. We were fast falling to the mercy of the ice, and it was coaxing us close to a rocky shore. It wasn't looking dangerous, but if we fouled up the boat or the propeller, there'd be hell to pay with the boating boss back at Palmer.
At a minimum, itIt was looking like an hour or more to finish a trip that might usually take five minutes. Six minutes, tops.
It helps to have friends in the right places. Like the Southern Ocean.
A pair of world-class scientists happened to be a few hundred yards from us in the same jigsaw of fast-closing brash ice. Alex Kahl and Brian Gaas were driving a Zodiac affectionately known in these parts as "Bruiser" for being weighted down with gear and powered by an outboard packing 75 horsepower. Alex, in particular, has been very proud of that engine (size matters, and all that). Our little craft (code named for the purposes of this afternoon's outing "Newspapers are Dinosaurs" by the effete National Public Radio guy traveling with me) sported just 40 horsepower and, even with my lard butt in the bow, couldn't plow very well.
So we went hillbilly on these Antarctic seas. We tossed our bow line to Bruiser, and with me pulling on the line like a deer hunter trying to haul a buck from the brush, did our best to follow in the wake they bulled through the ice.

With feet too many times stomping too near idled propellers, some rather pointless work by your correspondent with an oar to shove aside some of the bigger chunks of ice (often the size an heft of an ATM), we made it back to bay that had transformed to this.
Just goes to show that the boating conditions around here can change almost as fast as an editor's opinion.

Penguins, more and less

Let's talk penguins.
Even among our flightless, tuxedoed adorables, the Antarctic breeds are a rarity. The world knows 17 varieties wandering the Southern Hemisphere.
But in Antarctica we have, principally, three kinds.
You can spot the gentoo by its orange beak and the white stripe atop its head.

Then there's the chinstrap, so named because, well, it has a chinstrap.

And finally the dominant species of the Antarctica peninsula, the Adelie, sports classically black feathers on its head. The Adelies, named for the wife of French explorer Dumon d'Durville, tend to waddle around in massive colonies like so many Whos down in Whoville.
In recent years, the number of gentoos and chinstraps that are more native to warmer climes in the north has skyrocketed. In 1975, there might have been fewer than 100 nesting pairs of chinstrap penguins around the western Antarctic peninsula. Today, there may be 300. Gentoos were practically nonexistent here as recently as 1990. Today estimates put the number of nesting pairs above 1,000 and climbing.
Adelies, meanwhile, are in steep decline. There may have been more than 15,000 nesting pairs along the peninsula and its scores of small islands in 1975. Now there may be fewer than 4,000 pairs.
The Adelies feed in spots where the churning of warmer and cooler water stirs up nutrients and promotes the growth of fish and shrimp-like krill. But to get to those feeding grounds, the Adelies need winter sea ice to launch their hunts.
As that ice has receded, so have the penguin numbers.

So how do we know how many penguins there are here? In part because very tough people like Jennifer Blum, left, and Kristen Gorman coat themselves in Gore-Tex, fleece and sunblock on a daily basis, hop in a tiny rubber boat and scoot from one island to to the next. They count birds. They monitor the number of eggs laid, how many of those eggs end up in the bellies of predators, how many chicks hatch. And so on. For month after Antarctic month.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New meaning to glacial pace

I keep packing on the pounds, and the world's glaciers keep shedding weight. Not good.
(Maybe if I ate less, there'd be less need to cut down rain forests or raise beef and ship all those goodies to the local Hen House, reducing my carbon footprint. Consequently, that might preserve a little bit of ice. Let me think about that while I feast on another cheeseburger.)
More evidence is spilling out like tumblers off an ice shelf that the world's glaciers are losing their heft.
Greenland is losing 250 billion tons of ice a year. Nearly as much is shedding from glaciers and ice shelves in Antarctica. (Our picture here is really just a routine summer calving of ice off a glacier deployed for dramatic effect.)
We've known for some time that 90 percent of the world's glaciers are in retreat. Now comes word that they're melting even faster than we thought.
There's fear that Greenland's ice could reach the point of no return -- that as the top of the ice continues to drop in elevation, the remainder will melt even if global temperatures don't increase.
Along the Antarctic peninsula, islands have been revealed with regularity in recent years as shrinking glaciers shrivel away to reveal that ice had covered over connections between separate pieces of land previously thought to be single stretches of terra firma.
And around Antarctica the increased loss of ice could foul the current balance of water south of the Polar Front. That, then, could have profound influences on the the way water of different temperatures and different saline levels moves about in the ocean and stirs up the bottom of the food chain. Which, extrapolated out way down the road, could make it harder for me to chow down on that burger.

Admit it. It's fun just to say Copenhagen

It's probably going to cost you money in the long run, but the European Commission likes the decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to start looking at putting controls on carbon dioxide emissions.
That will mean just about anything you consume -- from eating a hamburger, to driving a car, to time on your computer reading blogs like this -- could become more problematic and more expensive.
This comes as folks from 105 countries meet in Copenhagen this week to, most likely, not come to terms on a  strong agreement to cap CO2 emissions.

Monday, December 7, 2009

10 cool things about a Zodiac

1. It's like your inflatable dingy -- but with horsepower.
2. Easy to drive: twist throttle for speed, push to turn left or right.
3. You get to channel your inner Cousteau.
4. Whales.
5.  If you do high-speed Miami Vice-style turns you can pretend you're a Navy SEAL without getting shot at.
6. No one ever paints flames on the side.
7. If you're not Greenpeace, you don't have to drive it between a ginormous ship and a big-ass whale.
8.When you sit on the side you feel like you're riding in the back of a pickup truck, but the cops won't stop you.
9. Makes tough guy "vroom, vroom" motorboat sound.
10. It's French, without being snooty.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Southern rock

As roadhouses go, this one's a little out of the way. And, it doesn't have a road.
Yet you'll be hard-pressed on this continent, or any other, to find a place that combines raucous with cozy quite so well.
No slight intended to the Kansas City music scene, but I'll take open mic night at Palmer Station any time. Friday's first-of-the-summer jam went from folk to rock to poetry to rap.
I considered going Henny Youngman on the crowd (you know, "I saw this elephant seal the other day. Boy when he lies around the island, he lies around the island.") Thought better of it.
Instead, I just enjoyed the show.
Pictured here is the ad hoc and unnamed band of musicians who pulled off more than a few impressive licks and, for me, revived the power of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean."
The fact is that it's hard to be among the 35 souls isolated here at one of the most remote communities in the world and not have a good time.
It's easy to think living in Antarctic would be a hardship. Sure enough, the people who man this station are tough folks who kind find themselves in dangerous spots.
But Palmer Station is no gulag.
This time of year it's almost always light outside. The temperature seems to hover just above and below freezing. (My face has gotten cold a few times while tooling around in Zodiac boats -- so much for the insulating properties of lame excuse for a beard.) Seals and penguins and the occasional whale come by the shore of the compound.
We eat like kings. The daily fare is a sort of whole grain buffet. Hearty food cooked with imagination and sophistication -- breakfast, lunch and dinner. You scrub your own dishes and pitch in to clean up the kitchen once a week. That only adds to the camaraderie. Between meals you have access to a pantry that would make Aunt Bea drool. Fresh baked cookies seem to materialize on the hour.
The place has a bar. With a deck. And a disco ball. Serve yourself on an honor system out of stocks purchased at the station store twice a week. Irish car bombs were the drink of choice after open mic Friday  in celebration of the entertainment and a recent sci-tech success with remote-controlled submarines.
There's s a gym (couple of treadmills, exercise bikes, elliptical machine, a full range of weights). A sauna. A hot tub.

Depending on how many people are here, half to all with bunk with another person in rooms on a par with a college dorm.

With a view like this.
But the defining quality is how a group of people living in close quarters for months at a time seem to enjoy each other so much. There's a sense of shared glee at being the special few who get to enjoy a spectacular place.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Blubber is the new black

Research by an Australian biologist suggests that when elephant seals like this one (a juvenile on Humble Island, Antarctica) forage at sea they sometimes remain motionless deep under water for as long as 20 minutes. What's unclear is whether that chillaxing break is simply a way for them to rest in the ocean or an aid in digestion.
Either way, the blubber that insulates them from cold also delivers buoyancy. Sufficiently fattened elephant seals will float gently back to the surface. If they're too skinny (it's a relative thing), they sink to the bottom.
New tags developed and deployed off eastern Antarctica and put on the elephant seals' heads not only will track the chubby mammals habits, but record water temperature and salinity -- valuable information for piecing together the world's shifting climate puzzle.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cute -- it's what's for dinner, Part II

When Disney does it, that whole circle of life thing just feels so warm and fuzzy.
In the wild, not so much.
Consider the penguin and the skua (playing the role of an Antarctic Simba).
(Full disclosure: the pictures here were drawn from two different days, but the scenario they represent is a common one.)
Our penguin couple goes to great lengths to build a nest out of rocks and protect, fighting off other penguins for the territory and the stones. Mama lays her egg. Dad stays with the egg to warm and protect it.

Along comes the skua, a scavenger and egg hunter of the first order. It, too, needs to hatch its young, and to store the energy to lay the egg and tend to its coming chicks. You know where this is going.

The skua, with cunning and aggressiveness, snags the penguin egg from its nest and flies off.
Then comes dinner.

Also, leopard seals like this one ...

... transform adult penguins into this.


I've not had the time to web surf to explore so-called Climategate.Climate change skeptics have siezed on the hacking of the e-mails of British climate scientists as a smoking gun they feel reveals the idea of man-made global  warming as a fraud. That's the opinion found here. Alternatively, says here that there's another way to look at the Climategate.
Certainly the news could alter the dynamics of the upcoming Copenhagen climate summit, although the tough sacrifices needed to cut carbon emissions would seem to be a greater factor. Climategate notwithstanding, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said definitively that the world is warming and that man's role is significant. And the IPCC view remains, albeit controversial, the scientific consensus.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

This land is your land, this land is my land, this land is Chile's and Argentina's and Russia's and ...

The Soviets thought it would be a nifty spot for rocket launches. Hitler had claimed the land for the Fatherland by flying over the White Continent and dropping little metal swastikas. The whaling and seal hunting had folks from all over the world rubbing their palms in anxious anticipation of the booty that could be scored in Antarctica. Ditto the discovery of coal and gems under the ice. In 1952 the Argentinians chased off a British meteorological expedition (in some ways foreshadowing the Falklands War that would come three decades later).

But in the end, the world mostly agreed to place nice. And 50 years ago this week, the Antarctica Treaty established that the bottom of the world belonged to nobody and everybody.
Sort of.
Rather than divvy up Antarctica and its surrounding waters, the treaty put those claims aside. Instead, the pact protected the continent for wilderness and scientific study.
That's not stopped the British, French, Norwegians, Australians, New Zealanders, Argentinians and Chileans each from making pie wedge shaped claims -- sometimes problematically overlapping -- on ground that extends from the South Pole out to and beyond the Antarctic Circle. Chile has a monument at the very southern edge of South America that is supposed to mark its geographic center -- the implication that Santiago's territory stretches to the pole. In 1978, Argentina air-lifted a pregnant woman to an Antarctic science station to give birth. Her son, Emilio Marcos de Palma was the first known Antarctic-born citizen. Since he was also Argentinian, the boast was that the Antarctic place of his birth must also be Argentinian.

Still, ever since 12 countries including the United States signed the Antarctic Treaty in Washington in late 1959, the last-found continent has been left mostly to scientists. The standing claims of seven nations to various parts of Antarctica were not recognized in the treaty and  have been dismissed everywhere but in the capitals from which they were issued. No military bases have taken hold (although countries often hold suspicions about how robust the science of its rivals appears, and whether those competitors are principally interested in a geographic toehold). (The American flag is hoisted here at Palmer Station only on those rare days when a ship comes in. It waves above the U.S. Antarctic Program flag and that of the country or the state from which the arriving ship hails.)
 Some people are critical of the treaty, saying it's created a legal no-man's-land that makes it more difficult to put environmental protections in place, to secure plant and animal sanctuaries and assign responsibility for maritime rescue. That's partly because a unanimous vote is required by the signatories of the treaty to put any restrictions into action. Even then, enforcement invites an an international legal limbo.
Still, the treaty is generally lauded as a conditional success and environmentalists, for instance, typically fret over its demise.
The stakes could change. There remains belief that the continent could have great stores of natural resources. Even oil. And if the climate does become more temperate -- and more practical for mining and drilling -- the stakes could change. And with that, the dynamics of international cooperation might be tested as well.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A day at the beach

I spent half an hour this afternoon on the edge of a cove listening to five young elephant seals napping, snorting and soaring. (Sounds something like this.) Anyone who wandered into my living room on a day the Chiefs are playing would be familiar with the scene.
Posted by Picasa

Caption contest

Posted by Picasa