Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Judith L. Connor
Marine Biologist

Antarctic Course Blog



January 6th

A storm over McMurdo on Ross Island prevented our group from getting down to the ice again today. But nothing can stop the intellectual activity of this group. While we wait out the weather, we are digging in to background reading. Paul Dayton's work inspires spirited group discussions around the table during meals. The topics range from "Anchor Ice Formation in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, and Its Biological Effects" to work on an Antarctic sponge and its predators. The enormous size and scale of the ice continent boggles the mind--and there is so much yet to learn about marine life there. We are excited to make our contributions to Antarctic science!

January 5th

The 25 enthusiastic, young biologists who set off from their home institutions in Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States prepared for a long flight south today. Unfortunately, weather conditions resulted in at least a 24-hour delay of our flight to McMurdo. And so we remain in New Zealand another day still prepared for travel further south to the “ice”--hopefully tomorrow!

January 4th training video at Antarctic clothing distribution center

I arrived in Christchurch New Zealand yesterday afternoon and met up with most of the people involved in the Antarctic Biology Course. All are enthusiastic and smart so it should provide for many good experiences. Today we gathered at the Antarctic Clothing Distribution Center for training and trying on extreme cold weather clothing (balaclava, boots, gloves, goggles, hats, jackets, mittens, neck gaiter, pants, parka, socks, and long underwear). We will wear about half of our new "wardrobe" in the plane tomorrow when we meet at 6 a.m. and head to McMurdo.

January 1st

It's noon Friday here in Central California as I pack up and head to the airport. In McMurdo, Antarctica, it's 9 a.m. Saturday and a warm 34°F. I will be traveling from San Jose to Los Angeles then across the Pacific to Sydney Australia, landing in Christchurch New Zealand on January 3rd.

December 31st diver in dry suit

The last day of the year and one final dive in Monterey Bay. After the big storm waves of the past week, it was a nice surprise to find the water was remarkably clear. Piles of drift kelp and red seaweeds litter the seafloor and even the attached seaweeds look worn out. My new dry suit kept me warm and dry in the 54°F water. After the dive, I took my dive gear home, dried it and packed up for the flight tomorrow night.

December 28th

I will soon be heading south to Antarctica to help with the National Science Foundation's Antarctic Biology course. Last summer when I was first invited and checked the temperature at McMurdo, the minimum temperature on June 10th was -39.1 degrees C. The past six months of preparation involved dental and medical examinations, xrays, stress EKG, blood tests, the purchase of a new dry suit and lots of practice dry suit diving in Monterey Bay. Now if the ice and my fortitude remain strong, I will be diving under the ice in January.