The areas with the greatest densities and diversity of protists were pockets of slush and water in the ice with a seep hole to the ocean water below. The scientists scanned the ice for cracks and areas with raised terrain, indicating where floes had crashed together and slush pockets might be.
While most of his time was spent working, Sanders was able to leave the ship, walk around on the ice, and enjoy the "desolate but beautiful" view. Curious penguins would "walk right up to see what you were doing," he says. "You really felt like you were in a unique place in the world that not many people had been to.
"After all that it was lab work on the ship," he continues. "Because we'd be fast in the ice when the other scientists were taking the ice cores, we'd be steady--we could use molecular techniques that are not usually easy to use on a ship, such as pouring gels that need to harden."
Given its isolation and hostile conditions, Antarctica garners a surprising amount of attention from researchers. On the same trip with Sanders, a separate group was examining the ice itself to measure its strength and to determine how much light penetrates it and how much is reflected; others were taking samples to investigate the roles of different microorganisms and viruses in the area's ecology.
Sanders will travel to Woods Hole this summer to work with his fellow researchers on the samples they brought back, and he believes the work will lead to several papers. In addition, he hopes to return to Antarctica someday.
"It's an experience where all you're concerned with is your research, because
you can devote all your time to it," Sanders says. "You don't have phone calls
or meetings. It's the focus of your day from the time you get up to the time
you go to bed. You can accomplish quite a bit o
Contact: Tom Durso