Challenging Habitat Blog

Cold weather rewards:

I love those little towers of ice extruded from the soil during a mild frost.

I say ‘extruded’ because they are all topped with a little crown of soil (or an acorn), indicating that they have been pushed up.

Perhaps when the ground freezes and the water expands into ice, it can only go up, slowly building overnight?

Near running water, these little sculptures grows to an inch or two before curling over under their own weight (or perhaps in the wind?).

The delicate structure suggest that strands of ice rise from individual soil pores and grow together…

…but if there is anybody reading this who actually knows how they come into being, please get in touch.

Language is important.

This evening, the PM’s announcement of the third COVID-19 lockdown for England went quite well, by BJ’s standards, free of laments about his feelings having to announce bad news, for example…and free of promises that it’s all going to be over by ChristmasSpringsummer

…auto queue helped, of course, to keep on course…

…until he uttered the phrase “miracle of science” in relation to the vaccines.

In science, we don’t do miracles, neither do we believe in miracles. We work systematically and methodically and design experiments to test hypotheses that are based on what was done before and where creativity and innovation takes us.

On the other hand, ‘miracle’ is defined as “an extraordinary event attributed to some supernatural agency” (The concise OED, 8th ed 1990).

Two very different things.

P.S. This post is not about whether another lockdown in England is a good or bad thing. I leave that judgement to people with the appropriate expertise and experience.

Featured image: “Flu Vaccination Grippe” by Daniel Paquet is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Australian government is planning to build a massive concrete airport on Antarctica, The Guardian reports today.

Nobody actually owns Antarctica – it is governed internationally by the Antarctic Treaty.

The Australian government justifies their airport plans by arguing that it is necessary to ensure continuity of access to their research base.

Somehow I don’t fully buy into that argument, nor do many of the scientists and environmentally minded, The Guardian interviewed for their article.

Building that airport will be a slippery slope, a precedent for other big infrastructure projects on the continent.

It has the potential to broaden the pursuit of profit from the exploitation of resources and tourism in the Southern Ocean to the landmass of this great wilderness, with all the usual disrespect for nature and wildlife seen on all other continents.

Can this project, and others not motivated scientific research and unperturbed by consideration of sustainability, be stopped?

I think it is imperative to do so.

Featured image: “Globe centred on Antarctica – Satellite image – PlanetObserver” by PlanetObserver is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Tomorrow morning is the moment when the young people who studied different parts of the science during our voyage will present their findings to all of us.

The Darwin 200 team has provided very desirable prizes for the top three presentations, so the ship is buzzing with data analysis and creating stories from the evidence…

Maps are drawn, statistics calculated and videos edited…

…and there is also some light relief once the work is done!

A fun night aboard Pelican in Montrose. No shore leave, but who needs it when we have a teak welldeck for a dance floor and playlists from the Rolling Stones to the latest top of the chart tunes, grime, shanties and ceilidhs? (an ABBA being banished to the Happy Hour forever!)

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