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Sound Recording Adventures in Antarctica (1): A Morning with the Emperors
by Douglas Quin

Editor's note: NSS member Doug Quin recently returned from Antarctica. The following article is the first in a series of sound recording adventures from the frozen continent down under.

November 19, 1996

I woke up early with the excitement of another trip to the ice edge. We had seen a darkening sky over Minna bluff between Black and Whites Islands, in an area known as Herbie Alley-- for the storms that pass this way. To my surprise, it was partly cloudy. The wind, however, had changed and was blowing off shore: down over McMurdo from the hills and the continent. This was not an encouraging situation, either for ice edge work or for recording. Weather here is localized, and often one may encounter fair or worsening conditions in traveling. I talked to Buck, and we decided it would be a "go."

We picked up our traveling companions, Bili Bishop, who works in the power plant, and Cindy Hale, who works in materials. I knew Bill from Christchurch, where we met at Bailie's Pub--a hang out for Americans coming from and going to the ice. Cindy was in her seventh season, and she had wintered over several times. So had Bill. Out in the transition, the wind was strong, and the chill factor well into negative numbers. We bundled up and covered our faces completely before heading out onto the ice. Cindy had just bought a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle before coming down to McMurdo, and I could tell she was anxious to ride; a ski-doo has some of the girth, but none of the speed. What the hell, it was a road trip, and Cindy was happy to drive!

We eased out of the transition, and onto the flagged route past Arrival Heights. It was nice being a passenger; I savored the views of Mt. Erebus, whose plume of steam streaked off the summit. The flags marking the track flapped in the wind, one by one marking off a cinematic gesture over the spectacle of McMurdo Sound. It was a beautiful day, whether or not any sound recording would take place. Buck suggested that we climb Tent Island, if nothing worked out. Not a bad idea...

Upon arriving at the Penguin Ranch, Jeff greeted us; he was delighted that I had brought coffee and oatmeal, as they were running short. Anaika was tending to the penguins in the corral, and happy to see that Bill and Cindy had come. They would sit in and monitor penguin activity, while she joined us on the venture out to the ice edge. Jeff agreed to stay back and work. It had been ten days since the Emperor Penguins had showed up, and not one had ventured into the water yet. Soon, perhaps...

Quite suddenly, the wind died down completely. We decided not to waste time, and rode out to yesterday's site-required; call leaders Dave Quady, - in hopes that the Emperor Penguins were still there. Our route had been obscured, to some extent, by the wind covering the tracks of the previous day with snow. Enough of the tracks remained, however, and we found the spot again, no problem.

Articles from Fall 1996

  Letter From The Chairman

Grand Canyon Air Raid Alert

Etymotic Research ER-4 Earphones

A Naturalist in the Rainforest

Sound Recording Adventures in Antarctica (1): A Morning With the Emperors

NSS Recording Club Firsts

National Watchable Wildlife Conference '96

Nature Sounds Newsletter

NSS Home Page

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