Science Friday: TrekMovie In Antarctica

Your humble science editor is living it up at the end of the Earth — Antarctica. As a part of my PhD research, I have been dispatched into the field to study the southernmost active volcano in the world, Mount Erebus. This week’s Science Friday is dedicated to Antarctic research and my experiences here in the great white south.


TrekMovie Live From Antarctica
Antarctica is a unique place in that, due to the Antarctic Treaty, it is reserved for science. No mining is allowed on the continent, no country can establish a military presence, and no country can lay claim to any part of Antarctica. This all makes Antarctica a great, pristine place to study how the world works. I am part of team G-081, a yearly expedition to Mount Erebus. Erebus is unique in that it is one of only three volcanoes in the world to host a persistently active lava lake in its crater. The other two — Nyiragongo in the Congo and Erta Ale in Ethiopia — are both in politically charged areas, making Erebus the easiest for researchers to study, despite its remote location. I will be living here on the volcano for the next month, and I am more than happy to answer all of your questions about life and science here in Antarctica! E-mail kayla[at]trekmovie[dot]com with any questions you may have!

OMG seals!

Project IceCube: Neutrino Observatory
Project IceCube is an ambitious enterprise to put a neutrino-detecting telescope 2.4km into the ice at the South Pole. The goal is to detect high energy neutrinos – subatomic particles so tiny that they pass straight through solid matter without interacting with it — that come from supernova explosions, gamma-ray bursts, black holes, and more. The South Pole’s extremely pure and clear ice make it the prime spot for hunting for neutrinos. Air bubbles in normal ice would distort the scientists’ measurements. But, why study neutrino’s anyway? “In the end,” says John Wiley, project scientist, “our goal is to provide insights into the nature of neutrinos and the universe that might someday be used to make the science fiction of today the reality of tomorrow.”

Scientists are using hot water to drill down thousands of feet into the highly compressed ice beneath South Pole station

Tracking Seal Predation in the Antarctic Darkness
The behavior of Weddell seals during Antarctic winter, when they experience 24 hours of darkness, has been studied for almost 30 years. While observations of the seals’ movements are plentiful, there hasn’t been much hard data available. Modern scientists are using video tracking equipment attached to seals’ heads to track their movements 3-dimensionally in order to determine how they hunt for prey in the darkness. “What we’re finding is that the seals will take advantage of what light is available, but hopefully when we analyze all of the data in detail, we’ll find periods that they’re actually hunting during the dark period of the day-night cycle that exists during Winfly,” explained one of the scientists. Winfly is the time every August when the US Antarctic Program sends out extra support to augment the small crew at McMurdo station during the last part of the winter. So far, the cameras have been successful, and have given insight into seals and their prey.


Operation IceBridge: Largest Airborne Survey of Earth’s Polar Ice Ever Flown
Operation IceBridge is a six-year NASA mission to gather an unprecedented three-dimentional view of the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, ice shelves, and sea ice. Data collected during IceBridge helps scientists bridge the gap in polar observations between NASA’s Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) — in orbit since 2003 — and ICESat-2, planned for late 2015. IceBridge is a multi-instrument operation entirely contained within a DC-8 aircraft. Scientists are not only mapping the surface properties of the ice, but ice penetrating radar allows for observations of the ice sheet structure and volume. The first IceBridge flights were in 2009, and the 2010 season has just ended. Take a look at the video (below) of the start to the 2010 season this last October.


If you are on Twitter, you know there are plenty of amazing people out there tweeting away. And, many of them are scientists! Every Friday I’ll be bringing you a new list of great scientists, techies, and trekkies to follow on Twitter. This week…

  • @IceBridge: NASA Earth Science’s multi-year airborne campaign to track changes in Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets & sea ice.
  • @ArcticMandy: On the other side of the Earth, she’s got the North Pole covered! Canadian polar bear spending the next few months living & loving Russia. Travelaholic. Trekkie. Coffee addict. Language lover. Cold weather certified.
  • @kaylai: Me! I’ll be updating directly from Mount Erebus, Antarctica all season long!

Science Quickies
Here’s a quick look at some science happening in other parts of the world…


TrekMovie’s Science Friday is an homage the the great NPR radio show Science Friday. Science Friday® is a registered service mark of ScienceFriday Inc.

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thats pretty cool stuff thnx for sharing!!!

Pretty Cool Place. But im sure there is some Military there. Maybe a secret Base with an Ancient weapons platform and maybe a Stargate. lol. Ok. it is so beautifull there but can be dangerous as Temps can realy plumit to a balmy -100 Degrees

Pretty Cool!

Be Safe and have a blast!

Your jackets look like the field jackets from Star Trek II: TWOK

Safe travels

Have you found the entrance to the inside of the Earth, yet? I mean surely you must know that the Earth is actually hollow and that there are people living on the inside of the crust. And there are access holes on both the north and south poles.

Nice! Congrats, good luck, and enjoy! :)
Also thanks for the offer of answering our science/Antarctic related question.

Thanks for the very interesting writeup! Please take care: if you unearth any Borg in the ice, run the other way!

Thanks for the great report.

“What we’re finding is that the seals will take advantage of what light is available…”

Wonder what light is available? Star light? Bio-luminescence? Stray light from research stations? Is there a southern Aurora? …

@5: That’s what she’s really doing there — she’s secretly on a commando mission to stop the Antarctic Nazi ninja army from invading.

The seals are her backup. They know kung fu.

How long do those poor seals go around with cameras stuck to their heads?

Finally a place that looks colder than Minnesota! At least in that pic it isn’t snowing like it is here.

Ha! It looks like that seal is winking. What a ham!

Very cool stuff! Thanks for sharing your research with us. Safe journey to you and your team!

It is going into Summer now in Antarctica. Great photos and interesting report.

Just one thing – Kayla…:) I live in Auckland, NZ (is NZ the closest country to McMurdo station?) – would you mind sending us one or two cool (not cold) Southerlies and some rain up our way if our Summer gets too hot and we go into drought status? That would be lovely. Thanks a heap, Kayla!…:)

And yes, watch out for any Borg, Stargate, or Megatron. I know some of these are supposed to be stuck at the North Pole, but they might have got it wrong…

Take care.

#12 Seal tastes nothing like Ham, Vults. More like, all together now, chicken!. Nothing like dolphin though, which you’d think it would.

That hot water hole looks suspiciously like the hole that Kirk climbed out of when Spock kicked him off the ship in ’09!

All interesting stuff but it looks too cold! The bit of snow we are currently having in the UK is enough for me.


Kentucky Fried Seal… hmmm… sounds pretty good, Buzz. But it’s no where near as tasty as grilled giant squid—Captain Nemo’s favorite dish. I always like a little onion and garlic cloves with mine. Top it off with a nice bottle of Tennessee sippin’ whiskey and you got yourself one heck of a Saturday night!

Anyway, are you going to have a White Christmas this year in the UK? It’s pretty dry here in Oklahoma, still above freezing at the moment. It could change, but we’ll probably have freezing rain… again. Nothing like Antarctica, I’m sure. But at least we won’t have the trouble Kurt Russell had down there:

I think i’ve seen that, Vults. Pretty forgettable. I think. I can’t really remember to be honest. Which kind of proves my point I guess, lol

I don’t think it would be a big surprise if we had a white Christmas, Vults. Its been pretty grotty for a week or so now with no end in sight.
Of course its fairly tame by what some countries experience, but it never fails to cause problems for us! haha I guess we are just used to a more temperate climate.

Wiltshire has been less hit than some parts of the UK but its everywhere apparently.

I just heard its above freezing today- the first time in 9 days!

Yoy stay warm matey- and have a great weekend. ;-)

oh, and I also wanted to say RIP Leslie Nielsen. We’ve had fun quoting his movies back and forth on here so I couldn’t let him go without mentioning him.
A true original. We’ll miss him.

When I look out of my window I get an antarctic impression, too.

#18. Surly Leslie Nielson will be missed. But quit calling him Shirly.
#14. The Borg I believe were found in the North Pole.
The Star Gate and the Ancient Platform are in Antaretica.

If you see Kurt Russell, be *really* careful!

[waves “HI!” to his doppleganger at post #7]

Yes, RIP Leslie Nielsen. One of the funniest guys to ever grace the silver screen.

Rumack (Nielsen): You’d better tell the Captain we’ve got to land as soon as we can. This woman has to be gotten to a hospital.

Elaine Dickinson: A hospital? What is it?

Rumack: It’s a big building with patients, but that’s not important right now.


I’m thinkin’ Seal–o-Vision doubles as a colonoscopy for a killer whale.

Hot water? Horta are faster.

awesome. THIS is why I come here. Great story!

I’m jealous! This sounds like a wonderful adventure. Fascinating! Thanks for sharing!

Also: If you can, I hope to see more updates and pictures; especially any southern lights (auroras).

How is the camera attached to the head?

Chase that dream, Kayla! Have a safe journey home.

Enjoyed the great report! What an adventure.


Maybe it’s best you did forget “The Thing,” Buzz—that is, if you have a weak stomach. It has some… um, shall we say “graphic” scenes in it. Interestingly though, the movie was based on a 1938 novella called “Who Goes There?” written by John W. Campbell. It’s a pretty good read (and easier on your stomach):

If I see it some time i’ll give it a look.

Vults, I’d link you up to it but I don’t think it will work outside of the UK, but I just watched an amusing take on a pair of traditional Vampires trying to live in the modern world alongside the now fashionable teenvampires.
YouTube search for Armstrong and Miller Vampires. I think you’d enjoy it.
Ket me know if you can find anything and what you thought of it.

Apologies to Kayla for going off on a tangent here- I have read your piece and watched the vids- honest!

You had to go and dig up the Borg seal, eh?

So long, and thanks for all the fish!


I do not recommend she sends a southerly our way!
I live in Dunedin, NZ (where a lot of the Antarctic Exploration vessels set off from) and the weather here has been great lately.
Southerlies get damn cold and are bloody rough down here.
If we get one, I’ll blame you Keachick! ; P

Bugger, here comes one now!

Great article and very interesting.


hopefully the camera is not attached to the seals head like General Chang’s eyepatch!


Buzz, I found it on youtube. Hilarious stuff! Thanks for that. And “Pat from Barnsley” says thanks, too. ;)

Merry Christmas from the States!

Way cool!

By the way, can you see Delta Vega from your location, just asking? ;-)

How is Mcmurdo these days i haven’t been there since 1994, love to go back.


Look forward to following your journey!

The US Coast Guard is the only military legally allowed there. Although we do have some representatives of the various branches that are stationed there for research.

Hey Vults! So pleased you could find that. I thought of you when I saw it, knowing that you share my dislike of the new breed of vampires! :-D

Take a look and see if you can find Armstrong and Miller How we won the war. I was bad laughing at that!

Compliments of the coming season back at you, my friend. ;-)

#34 I guess I should be careful about what I wish for – sort of. Just heard that after Christmas, January and February will be wet. Oh goody – a wet summer…:( I suppose it will make up for the green drought we had here last year. God knows, parts of NZ are pretty parched so I guess we should not begrudge a little rain. I’m sure Kayla realises it is a balancing act and she won’t forget how cold it can get for you guys in Dunedin.

#20 OMG – you mean the Borg are here… Megatron (Transformers) was stuck at the North Pole and the Stargate was found in Antarctica. That could explain the winning design for the proposed new US Embassy in London.


Oh yes, I’m definitely not a fan of the “new horror” genre. I mean, what’s Frankenstein without his blazer? Monsters should really get dressed up when they go out.

Anyway, I’ve yet to find the Armstrong and Miller sketch you mentioned, but I did stumble across some hilarious RAF sketches of theirs on youtube—you can really sense the Monty Python influence in a lot of their material. I’m ashamed that I hadn’t heard of these two comedians until you brought them up, but thanks again! :)

Ah, the RAF guys have become quite legendary over here! They are great, aren’t they.

See if this works for you….

I hope so!


Ha! That was great, Buzz. That video needs to be shown in schools all over the world so the “truth” can finally be known. ;)

Yeah, I must’ve seen “The Bridge on the River Kwai” a dozen times before finding out there were lyrics to the Brit’s “whistling song.” What a shock that was! Especially disappointed in David Lean for covering up the “truth” like he did with a bunch of silly whistling.


Isn’t it!

I was worried you’d miss the joke in there, so I’m delighted you already knew the lyrics!
If I see any more good ‘uns i’ll flag them up to you. ;-)

Nah, I’m a big WW2 buff, so I’ll probably get most jokes concerning the RAF, Hitler’s one ball, and Himmler having none at all. ;)

You constantly impress me with just how learned you are, Vults.
Your movie knowledge in particular seems wide and diverse.
Have you studied it in depth or are you ‘just’ a keen movie fan?

Do you have a particular favourite war movie?

Well, I took a film appreciation class as an elective in college (my degree is in graphic arts), but that’s about the extent of my “official” film education. The rest of it comes from being your typical movie fan. I just love movies. Some people collect stamps, go bird-watching, etc. Movies are for me.

Anyway, I have a hard time picking a fav war movie. It used to be Saving Private Ryan, but that one has worn out its welcome a bit for me (probably watched it too many times as a teenager). All I can do is list my top favs in no particular order:

-Paths of Glory—equally good in the courtroom as on the battlefield.
-Breaker Morant—another good courtroom/war drama.
-Glory—the best American Civil War movie. Period.
-The Great Escape—Steve McQueen running from Nazis on a motorcycle. Need I say more?
-The Hunt for Red October—Okay, so it’s the Cold War, but that still counts.
-Master and Commander—as close to a Star Trek movie on the high seas you’ll ever see.

This list changes from time to time, but these are pretty much the cream of the crop for me—the ones I’d want with me on a desert island… or in a trench in France. ;)

oh man, pray you never end up in a trench in France buddy. Too many Americans have experienced that and we don’t want any more going that way.

I’m with you on the last three. Great stuff.
I hear McQueen had quite the hissy fit on the set of Great Escape because he felt James Garner was stealing the show! Lets face it, Garner could actually act and McQueen, well, not so much, but who would have figured McQ for a drama queen!
I’d add The Dirty Dozen to your list as well I think. I’m sure there are others but its 6:00am and my cogs aren’t really spinning yet. :-D