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Anne’s Arctic Trip Journal – Summer 2017 – Part 1

The plane lands above the Arctic Circle in Murmansk. Everyone piles out and onto a shuttle bus. Drive 40 yards. Everyone piles out of the shuttle bus and into Passport Control. The passport officers at a Russian airport are all you imagine. Several minutes of the green-uniformed officer scrutinizing my photo, a little sweat forms on the brow, and then the best sound ever: stamp, stamp, stamp, stamp and stamp. Papers accepted…

Anne’s Arctic Trip Journal – Summer 2017 – Part 2

At 9 AM the passengers bundle into parkas, wool, and muck boots. Down the gangway we go to step foot on the ice of the N Pole. Like all landings in the Arctic, armed rangers lead the way and set up a safety perimeter. For the day’s festivities, they will keep a sharp eye out for any polar bear intrigued by the smell of barbecue. The bears have a way of suddenly materializing out of the fog and ice. It has been fascinating to watch from the ship as the bears stroll across the ice, disappear behind ridges and into gullies, and then emerge in unexpected places. This is the only day we hope not to see a bear…

Anne’s Arctic Trip Journal – Summer 2017 – Part 3

We head south toward Franz Josef Land to make one more try for zodiac landings. Time to investigate this icebreaker. Russia owns more than half of all icebreakers ever built, so it’s nice to learn from experts. The 50 Years of Victory first launched in ‘93 and went into service in ‘07. It has 12 decks, 4 below water. It’s almost 160 m (525 ft) long with a draft of 11 m (36 ft). Like all icebreakers, the bridge and most of the ship’s weight is toward the bow to increase its ice-breaking force up front…

The Birding Life

The Bird Painter Three of my favorite things are birds, bacteria, and books. I may someday write a book about the bacteria found on birds. Or perhaps a better idea would be a book a human might actually want to read. So for now, I’ll offer little-known morsels that...

On Cloud Nine

The atmosphere is an inhospitable place for germs compared with soil and water. Dryness, cool temperatures, and excessive exposure to ultraviolet light are hard on a microbial cell. For decades,microbiologists assumed that the air is the last place a cell wants to...

Subterranean Rock-Eaters

Microbiologists from the University of Akron and McMaster University ( Canada) have recovered bacteria from the deepest recesses of Lechuguilla Cave in New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Five hundred strains of bacteria were extracted from rock formations...