Inside a Citizen Science Experience Aboard the Magellan Explorer
After exploring the wilderness of Alaska and being impressed with the area’s snow-capped mountains and glaciers, the couple Tim and Nadine Bird decided to plan an even grander adventure to top the last: an expedition to Antarctica with Antarctica21. The couple elected to travel with Antarctica21 due to the itinerary’s ideal combination of activities, guide-to-passenger ratio, and curated amenities available aboard the Magellan Explorer. They also desired to set foot on the Antarctic continent as much as possible on their adventure instead of only sailing by it, as they found was true for many other companies with larger passenger ships they found during their research.
Seeking to immerse themselves in both the contemplative nature of the Antarctic landscape and to have up-close encounters with some of the continent’s most sought-after wildlife—from penguins and seals to whales and birds—the couple set sail aboard the Magellan Explorer in March.
During their trip, the couple experienced several highlights. They relished the feeling of stepping foot on the continent for the first time ever and felt deeply grateful to walk near seals and penguins, as well as cruise on Zodiac rides in bays filled with massive icebergs. For Tim, the feeling of walking across a fresh snowfield, surrounded by jagged peaks while seeing the Magellan Explorer in the distance, all alone in a bay, was a prime moment to contemplate the vastness of Antarctica and to truly feel in awe of such a massive, endless landscape.
But most of all, Tim and Nadine enjoyed participating in the FjordPhyto Citizen Science program, a part of the trip they didn’t know was offered before they set sail. With Antarctica21 guide, Wendy Hare as their leader, the couple and a small group of fellow passengers went out on a Zodiac ride near Devil Island on March 17th to take ocean measurements and phytoplankton samples to monitor how melting glaciers influence phytoplankton populations.
During the experience, they both fell in love with learning more about the science of the region. They discovered how microscopic phytoplankton plays a critical role in the carbon cycle, drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and into the deep ocean. They both felt Wendy’s passion for educating participants on why the health of phytoplankton really matters: the plant-like creatures contribute to over half of the Earth’s oxygen, which is more than the trees and plants on land combined.
During the experience, Tim and Nadine learned how to measure the health of phytoplankton in the water. Using the Castaway device, Tim measured the temperature and salinity of the water by lowering the tool over the side of the Zodiac, recording measurements on the way down and the way up. While he managed the Castaway device, Nadine recorded the data they found throughout the various experiments during the excursion.
For Tim, his favorite part of the Citizen Science experience was how scientific research was seamlessly woven into his vacation in a fun and enjoyable way. Armed with the knowledge of phytoplankton’s vital role in the food chain in Antarctica, both Tim and Nadine are happy to have left their trip knowing they made a valuable contribution to the planet and played an active part in contributing to humanity’s understanding of the world.
The story and photos are provided by Tim Bird, who traveled with his wife Nadine on Magellan Explorer in March 2022.
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