Participating Schools

St. Marks School, Pasadena, CA, USA

Monsignor Gadoury Elementary School, Woonsocket, RI, USA

Kilkeel Primary School, Northern Ireland

Send us a question!

Chances are you have not been to Antarctica before and you might have lots of questions about what it is like to live and work in such a far away and different place. Send us your questions and we will do our best to respond while out at sea!

Thank you for the first questions that have come in, we hope to respond in the next day or two. In the meantime, you can find lots more information about the ship here, including a webcam on board!

Your name and age:

Your school and/or city:

Your email address:

Your question?

What do you eat? Also where do you sleep? Tommy Almond (11), Lincoln

We have eaten very well on the ship--the cooks have been great! Since we have been very busy it is important to eat a good meals to keep your energy up. We start each morning with a traditional English breakfast (fried egg, bacon, sausage and baked beans), and there are three courses for both lunch and dinner (it is not unusual for people to come back from the JCR a bit heavier than when they arrived!). Breakfast lunch and dinner are held in the saloon and we all eat together at 7.30, noon and 6.30pm. There is a also a duty mess for those who are on watch during meal times. There is also a tradition of getting dressed for dinner in the evenings. The officers all wear their uniforms. Scientists used to wear ties, but this was relaxed this year to a nice shirt. On the ship we sleep in cabins. We were lucky to each have our own cabins as some can sleep as many as four people in bunk beds. When the JCR goes down to Halley Station on Antarctica to bring back the scientists and crew there who will not be wintering over, all the bunks on the JCR will be full!

What is the temperature of the water? What is the air temperature on the ship? Shane Perrico, Monsignor Gadoury Elementary School

We have seen water with very different temperatures including water cold enough to freeze, which leads to sea ice (see the response to Ryan's question below). We know the temperature of the water because our ship, the James Clark Ross, measures the temperature at the sea surface as it steams along. If you look at this picture here you can see our ship's track and the temperate at different places. Notice that sometimes the temperature changes very quickly--these are called ocean fronts where usually there is an ocean current that separates different types of water. These fronts are very important for many animals in the ocean as they often are sites with high nutrients or they represent boundaries where different species can survive. The air temperature on the ship is actually not much different from being inside your home or school on a cold day. The room where we work (the Underway Instrument and Control room or UIC for short) is heated, but can get a bit chilly if people are coming in and out from the deck.

How far from the ship do the gliders travel? How deep can the gliders go? Kyle Celesti, Monsignor Gadoury

When we first put the gliders in the water we like to stay nearby in case there are any problems. However, because our gliders communicate using satellites, they can go very far from the ship. In fact we have just started to head north back to port, but our gliders will stay in the Weddell Sea for another six weeks. The gliders can travel about 20km (or 15 miles) every day. The gilders can dive to a depth of 1000 meters. At depths greater than this, the weight of all that water on top of the glider would crush it!

How do you launch the glider? Jason (11), Kilkeel Primary School

Gliders are typically launched from small boat as they can be picked up by two people and placed on the water. However, it is usually not safe to work on small boats in the Weddell Sea, so we have been launching the gilders over the side of the ship using a crane. It is important to put the glider in the water to see if it will float at the surface before changing its density to dive. Once we are happy that this is the case, then we release the line to the crane and off they go.

What things do the gliders measure and does it measure numbers of krill or other animals? Richard (11), Kilkeel Primary School

Good question! Our gliders are measuring the temperature and salinity of the water over the upper 1000 m of the ocean. We also have a glider that is measuring how much oxygen is dissolved in the water. This tells us how old the water is, water with lots of oxygen has recently been at the surface while water with low oxygen levels has been below the surface for long periods of time. We are also testing a brand new sensor to measure krill! This is called an echo sounder. It sends out sound waves into the water--these waves bounce off krill and debris in the water and this reflected wave is recorded by the echo sounder. We are using the instrument to try and find krill swarms and we are also catching krill in nets to confirm what the echo sounder is telling us.

How much is a glider worth? How deep does it go? Where does the information go? Lee (11), Kilkeel Primary School

Gliders a pretty expensive, but so is taking a ship out to sea. Because gliders can be left in the water for long periods of time and controlled by computer from our offices at home, it is actually a more efficient way to collect measurements over long periods of time. The gliders dive to a depth of 1 km and when they come to the surface they send their data back via satellite to our computers in the UK and the US.

How long do they batteries last? Can you recover gliders or do they disappear? Luke (11), Kilkeel Primary School

A typical glider mission will last for three to four months, but this depends on what you hope to measure. Gliders have stayed out for as many as 10 months, but this was without too much data collection. We hope for our gliders to stay out for at least two months. YES!!! We very much hope to recover the glider. We will be returning home in about a week, but in a couple months this same ship will return to the area and pick up our gliders and bring them home.

What height and weight are the gliders? Reece (11), Kilkeel Primary School

The gliders are about 2 meters tall (a little over six feet) and weigh about 50 kg (110 pounds). Because they are very smooth to fly through the water, we carry them around in cradles that look like stretchers!

How cold is it out there? How cold is the water? Ryan Rea (5), St. Marks

Right now (10:00am) the air temperature is 32 degrees F (0 degrees C). The temperature has been hovering near freezing and last night we had snow! The water temperature is colder than the air, about -0.2 degrees C. We have seen water as cold as -1.5 degrees C (29 degrees F). The salt in the water keeps it from freezing at these temperatures.

How are icebergs created? Delilah Dudas (5), St. Marks

Icebergs are pieces of ice that have broken off of glaciers. Icebergs start off as snow. Because the snow does not melt in summer, more snow falling on top presses it down until it becomes ice. The older the snow the more compressed (squished!) it is. When parts of the glacier fall into the ocean they become icebergs. Younger ice looks white while older ice looks more blue.

Do you see penguins often? Halia Benn (6), St. Marks

We have not seen a lot of penguins because we have been far from the coast where they live . . . except for yesterday. For some pictures of chinstrap penguins, see Celine's journal post from yesterday here.

How did Antarctica get created? Ethan Blazek (6), St. Marks

Our toughest question yet! Antarctica is a continent just like North America or Africa. Continents do not stay in the same place, but move very very slowly around the globe. Many of the continents were once stuck together and it is thought that the piece of land that is now Antarctica broke off about 25 million years ago! Antarctica has many tall mountains and even volcanoes, but there is lots we do not know about the continent because almost all of it is covered with ice.

How long do the ships stay in the ocean and what happens if the motor breaks? Preston Keightly (5), St. Marks

The James Clark Ross spends about six months in the Southern Ocean every year, but then it sails all the way back home to England. It will spend some time in port before setting out for work in the Arctic Ocean. The crew of the James Clark Ross are on the ship for four months at a time. Luckily the JCR does not have one motor, but FOUR! That way if one breaks we have plenty of power to get home. Most ships have at least two motors for just this reason.

How many miles is it from California to Antarctica? John Burgess (5), St. Marks

It is about 7,500 miles from California to Antarctica!

Hey Daddy, How heavy is the ship? Hope you're having fun. I miss you. Sophia Thompson (5), St. Marks

Hi Phi! The ship weighs about 12 million pounds!!! That is about the same as a thousand elephants.