Through the magic of Skype and BGAN technology, some 40 high school students in Montana were able to connect today with young explorers half a world away! This marked ASC’s first major Expedition to the Classroom event, and despite some minor challenges with time zone differences and a few transmission glitches, it was a great test run with the students in Paul Andersen’s science classroom at Bozeman High School.
The class had been able to track progress of the expedition as it departed from Ushuaia, Argentina, and traveled across the Drake Passage by following the map and blog entries on trip leader Doug Stoup’s Ice Axe Foundation website. It was really exciting for them to catch up by streaming live into their classroom to interact directly with the explorers. Rebecca and Michael, two Australian teenagers on the trip, were great tour guides describing their observations of wildlife, the incredible scenery, typical activities aboard the ship and their adventures on the peninsula. Montana students were most eager to find out about the ski conditions in such a wildly remote landscape. They were also curious about the different kinds of whales and penguin species spotted so far and weather and sea conditions. Rebecca and Michael answered all their questions, describing their amazement at witnessing an orca catch a seal for dinner and elaborating on how penguins use pebbles in nest building during this early part of the breeding season. Observing penguin colonies to record behavior and movement patterns was one of their science goals on this trip. Julie Hagelin, a scientist with the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, provided them with data sheets from her research project about brain lateralization, a homologous trait that determines how birds and other animals process information. Thanks goes out to her for sharing her scientific expertise, to Doug Stoup for his leadership and exceptional commitment to education, to Chelsea Prince for facilitating the communication exchange between students, and to Paul Andersen for allowing his students to take part in this first ASC Expedition to the Classroom. And a big thank you to peer-teachers Rebecca and Michael…..bon voyage as you navigate the Drake Shake and make your way back home!
In July 2011, I collected diatom samples as a "Citizen Scientist" while rafting the Grand Canyon of the Colorado river. As a marine biologist myself, I understand the importance of data collection in remote locations and how it can help with making new discoveries. I collected samples for USGS ecologist Sarah Spaulding, who studies the tiny microorganisms that live in the river, which collect in a slimy film on the rocks. In various locations, while we were camped by the riverside, I scraped films off the rocks and put them on folded business cards in ziplock bags marked with the river mile, rock type, date and time.
The trip was amazing, with wild rapids, beautiful hikes up side canyons with aqua colored water, rappelling down waterfalls, and fun nights under the stars while camping on beaches. We even filmed a 3D movie of the adventure for Sony, which will be edited soon. I loved collecting data on an adventure to a remote location, which is difficult to get rafting permits for. Combining science and adventure is the way to go!
I'm in Toamasina now and have spent the last week getting here from Antananarivo, also known as Tana. I had some good fortune and met a French cyclist my first day on the road and we will ride together for much of the trip. So far, the trip has been a bit like Jeckel and Hyde. The main highways are very good but the secondary roads are terrible.
The climb out of the highlands around Tana was pretty brutal but the descent was magnificent. We stopped in the highlands to visit a few NGOs that are trying to promote eco-tourism as a way to save the remaining forest. The forest is fast disappearing as the population of Madagascar continues to expand.
After a few days in the highlands, we took the main road to Brickaville and took a detour off the main highway towards the Pangalanes. This area is very swampy and accessible by boat and the occasional train. There is a path that runs alongside the railroad that is navigable by bike. Unfortunately, it became a path of loose sand and we ended up pushing the bikes for ten km to the next village. There, we learned that the sand path would continue for the next 60 km. The only other ways out were by boat or the occasional train. Fortunately for us, the occasional train passed by and we are now in Toamasina, planning to head north soon.
Posted by Shelley on Sunday, November 20, 2011
Clear View of Cerro Torre and Mt. Fitzroy
El Chaltén is a mecca for climbers and outdoor enthusiasts. This quaint town is cradled below massive granite walls. Its dramatic skyline is featured in the Patagonia logo. We knew Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre were a must see on our itinerary, and they did not disappoint us. Although El Chaltén was only established in 1985, you cannot help but be enchanted by the natural history - notably the spires and numerous glaciers (it is after all called "Glacier National Park"). We were able to get views from every angle on several short backpacks, returning to town in between to get our fill on cheesy explosion empanadas, homemade yogurt with pumpkin jam and many of the 40 varieties of tea at Mathilda's House of Tea. To our luck, we met Dave and Molly (an American couple living in El Chaltén who fed us a delicious home cooked meal) and many guides at Hostel del Lago who provided great advice, hopsitality and wine :) With the season just getting started, we were very tempted to stay through summer.
Posted by Sarah on Sunday, October 23, 2011 Strong winds are problematic for a few reasons: we can't talk to each other at all, we become incredibly exhausted far too easily, our tent has a good possibility of air-lifting, and it is generally an unpleasant, harsh environment to be in for hours on end. After the last leg and what were no doubt the strongest headwinds we had faced, none of us thought it could get any worse. Oh, how wrong we were. Now, we can deal with extremely unpleasant weather condidtions; however, this was beyond insane and there was absolutely nowhere to get even a brief moment of reprieve. Luckily, we were able to get a good 30km under our belts the first day on our hike to San Sebastian before it really set in. An unfinished beach house provided us with some shelter from the wind during the night before we were hammered with the most forceful winds I have experienced. Our rate of hiking at almost 5km/hr fell to 2.6km/hr and there was a strong probability of just falling over (Washoe Valley, NV has nothing on this stuff). After a VERY slow-moving two hours, we consulted our guiding principles - is this fun? no. Is this uniting us? nope. Is this tranquil? absolutely not. Since we only have one year for this trip, would we rather get to the mountains? hell yea. etc., etc.- and decided to hitchhike to San Sebastian (the Argentina-Chile border station).
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