Posted by: Catie | November 25, 2008

Local science teacher heads to Antarctica

Over the last several days, I’ve been talking to Jeff Peneston, an earth science teacher at Liverpool High School’s ninth grade annex in Liverpool, N.Y., about his upcoming trip to Antarctica.

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I went to his classroom Friday and videotaped him teaching his last class – at least for the next two months while he’s assisting a team of Swedish and American scientists study the sea ice and seals in Antarctica.

He leaves Hancock International Airport in Syracuse, N.Y. today and heads to Montevideo, Uruguay.

He will then take a giant ship, the Oden, from the southern part of South America, through the Drake Passage and right into the sea ice in Antarctica. The ship will travel about 3 mph for about a month so it can cut through 400 miles of sea ice from the Amundsen Sea to the Ross Sea.

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Peneston seemed very excited as he talked about how he’ll be able to share his adventure with youths around the world through live Web broadcasts and an online daily journal.

“The reality is that if I’m on a boat with 20 Ph.D. scientists from Sweden and the United States for two months and we do all these really exciting science things, but if only the scientists know, that’s not good enough,” he told me.

antarctica21There’s a link on PolarTREC’s Oden Antarctic Expedition ’08 Web site where anyone can log on and ask questions about the scientists’ research, about Antarctica or anything related to the trip. Peneston said he will respond within a day.

Before he left, Peneston answered a couple questions that I thought were pretty interesting…

Q. What will penguins do if they see humans in Antarctica?

A. There aren’t any predators on the sea ice so they’re not afraid of people. Penguins tend to be pretty curious. They will often walk right toward the scientists, within 10 or 20 feet.penguins1

Q. How cold is it going to be?

A. December and January is the beginning of the winter for us in Central New York. It’s the beginning of summer in Antarctica. The beginning of summer for them is the same as the beginning of winter for us because it’s on the other side of the planet.

antarctica3

The daily temperature probably will be the same, but there aren’t any trees so the wind will be more fierce. I also have to be careful of sun exposure because I’ll be out working on the ice several hours a day. the ice is very reflective and there’s less ozone in Antarctica so there’s more ultraviolet light.

For more information, you can read the story I wrote in The Post-Standard or go online to Syracuse.com.

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