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Questions and Responses #1
Posted October 21, 1999
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Question:

How many knots will your boat travel?

Sarra
Sakai
Bainbridge Island, WA



Response from Kelly Tyler:

Dear Sarra,
At top speeds, our ship, the Akademik Shuleykin, travels 13-14 knots. Believe it or not, this is not much faster than Shackleton's ship Endurance, which in open seas could reach 10-11 knots a day with its coal-fired engines and no sail, and could cover 200 miles a day.



Question:

Are you scared?

Kris




Response from Kelly Tyler:

Dear Kris,
No, I'm not afraid. I've been interested in Antarctic exploration for about 15 years, and I'm very excited to experience the places I know so well from Shackleton's story. But the Antarctic is one of the most hostile environments on Earth for people, and I take health and safety very seriously. Our Antarctic coordinators on the film, David Rootes and Nick Lewis, have spent years living and working there, as scientists and filming consultants, and we all take their guidance very seriously.



Question:

Will you see any other people?

(name withheld by request)



Response from Kelly Tyler:

Not many. We'll see some people on South Georgia Island, where a British Army Garrison houses about 50 Royal Engineers and Royal Marine Command. We also plan on visiting the only two permanent residents of Antarctica: Tim and Pauline Carr. They're the curators of the South Georgia Whaling Museum and live in a ship that's over 100 years old (more on that later). There is also a chance we'll run into other expeditions, but that's unlikely as we are the first expedition out this season. Think of the seasons down here as six months apart from ours: The Antarctic is just on the brink of spring now, called austral spring.



Question:

Dear Explorer,
Hi, my name is Thomas and I am ten years old. I am in fifth grade. My teacher's name is Ms. Beals. How is your journey so far? Do you have any dogs with you?

Thomas
Loudenslager School
Paulsboro, NJ



Response from Kelly Tyler:

Rob Meyer with assistant The journey has just begun—we're just about to leave port. So far we've been loading up the ship and savoring our last days of summer weather in Montevideo.

Sadly, we don't have any dogs with us. In order to conserve Antarctica's natural ecosystem, no foreign animals (save humans) are allowed. In 1994, all non-indigenous species were taken out of Antarctica. The dogs were originally brought to Antarctica by the first explorers at the turn of the century, who used them primarily as working dog teams, but depended on them for companionship in this isolated place. The last of the dogs, many Greenland huskies, departed in April of 1994 for Minnesota where, sadly, most of them died, falling victim to diseases that generations of the nearly-sterile Antarctic environment had not prepared them for.

This resident of the Montevideo docks was adorable, but caused technical difficulties when he stepped on the satellite phone. NOVA Online production assistant Rob Meyer tried to keep the dog's enthusiasm in check.



Question:

Hi,my name is Shannon. It is pretty cold up here. How cold is it down there? Do you have to wear a coat or is it warm?

Shannon
Loudenslager School
Paulsboro, NJ



Response from Kelly Tyler:

Well, right now we're still experiencing summer-like weather in Montevideo, Uruguay (see our first dispatch, Survival Training). We just left port an hour ago, so expect to see the mercury dropping on us if you watch the temperature and wind speed updates in future dispatches. Everyone is equipped with a full complement of insulated and waterproof polar gear. We'll feature Antarctic clothing later on in a dispatch so stay tuned.



Question:

Hi my name is John. I am in fifth grade and I am 11years old I go to Loudslager School. My teacher is Ms. Beals.....What kind of food did you bring?

John
Loudenslager School
Paulsboro, NJ



Response from Steven Allen, Head Cook, Akademik Shuleykin:

Hi, John.
Well, if you really want to know, I've stocked about 900 pounds of great Argentinian beef and 400 pounds of chicken. Then there's 1,500 pounds of fish. We have a mixture of tuna and sea bass, and lots of local South American fish. The meals are going to be an eclectic mix of cuisines from around the world, everything from curries to potato latkes, to French toast, bacon, sausage and fried eggs. It's going to be very cold so we're going to be sending lots of stews, gumbos, and chowders ashore with the film crews. For dinner back on the ship, they'll have a choice of a vegetarian option, a meat option, a fish option, and lots of soups. Everybody's going to be working very hard, needing to eat all day long, so we're going to try to keep everyone energized as much as possible.



Question:

Dear Explorer,
My name is Robert. I am ten years old and I will be eleven in to weeks , on Oct.30. I am in fifth grade in Loudenslager school. I live near Philadelphia. Let me ask you some questions. How long will your journey take?

Robert
Loudenslager School
Paulsboro, NJ



Response from Kelly Tyler:

Dear Robert,
The total duration of our voyage is about 40 days. This includes a 5—6 day trip from Montevideo to South Georgia Island and the dreaded two-day journey through the Drake Passage, the body of water between the tip of South America, called Tierra del Fuego, and the Antarctic Peninsula. Weather systems over the southern ocean race around the globe unobstructed by large land masses, and intensify when squeezed through this narrow channel. South Georgia is the chief recipient of the Drake's fury, and we're headed straight for it.



Question:

Dear Explorer,
Hi my name is Lynne. I am 10 years old. I am in fifth grade. I go to Loundenslager School, which is near Philadephia. I hope one day I will become an explorer. Can you pet the penguins?
Truly yours,

Lynne
Loudenslager School
Paulsboro, NJ



Response from Kelly Tyler:

Dear Lynne,
We plan to visit penguin colonies on South Georgia Island, where they nest in the thousands. They're curious animals, and not afraid of people—they'll walk right up to you! We have to be very careful about disturbing their environment or lifestyle, though, so they'll stay healthy. In fact, the nations of the world that have a presence in Antarctica—it's not owned by any country—have agreed to measures to protect the native animals in a special section of the Antarctic Treaty. You can't feed, touch, or film them in any way that will alter their behavior.

I hope you get to do some exploring some day too! An explorer named Harry Darlington once said, "It's just that there are some things women don't do. They don't become Pope or President or go down to the Antarctic." Take it from me—and director of photography Sandy Cissel and costume designer Cathren Warner—he was wrong!



Question:

Greetings. Thank you for the online service. My question: Shackleton and his crew were undoubtedly weakened by their trials. Why did they not succumb to disease and illness as one might expect? Did their isolation from "normal" but disease-carrying populations play a role in their health?
Thanks,

Dave Sours




Response from Kelly Tyler:

Dear Dave,
You're right about the isolation—it's a common phenomenon that new arrivals at polar research stations bring viruses and bacteria with them that make illness spread like wildfire through longtime residents.

Shackleton's crew actually was debilitated by their ordeal. This year, I travelled with director George Butler and his team to interview the relatives of survivors of the Endurance for the upcoming NOVA program about Shackleton. All mentioned lifelong health problems that were the legacy of Endurance for their fathers and grandfathers on the expedition. Young Perce Blackboro, who stowed away in Buenos Aires, got severe frostbite which developed into gangrene in one foot. Part of his foot was surgically removed by Dr. McIlroy on Elephant Island. Shackleton's death in 1922 was likely due to heart problems caused by the privation of Endurance and his previous Antarctic expedition aboard the Nimrod. One problem the crew didn't face was scurvy. Scurvy, caused by vitamin C deficiency, was the bane of explorers for centuries, because they tended not to have enough fresh vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables on long voyages. Although vitamins hadn't yet been discovered in 1914, Shackleton and his medical team studied past expeditions and noted that fresh seal meat seemed to have something to do with it, so he encouraged its consumption even before the ship sank. He was right.


Next set: #2



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