National Geographic : 1990 Apr
whale in an area where some 900 whales were killed in December 1926. In four weeks of trawling around South Georgia, we amassed convincing evidence that similar destruction was being visited upon Antarctica's fish. This is how ocean science is done: At 11:30 p.m., it's bitterly cold in the windblown fog. The trawl is dragged for 30 minutes, then hauled in to dump its catch on the slippery, heaving deck. Here is an entire underwater neighborhood: jellyfish, silica spiked sponges, starfish, octopuses, bright red spiny crabs, strange invertebrate organ isms that look like yards of intestines. Among them squirm an exotic assortment Sounding an alarm for environmentalists, the Argentine supply ship Bahia Paraiso ran aground in early 1989 after hitting underwater rocks near Palmer Station, apparently because of inaccurate navigation charts. Thousands of gallons of diesel fuelfouled beaches and killed wildlife. Antarctica's first environmental disaster may stand as the benchmark for stud ies of any future spills and their cleanup. of fish: Pseudochaenichthysgeorgianus, exuding slime and baring nightmare teeth; Chaenocephalusaceratus, wearing a croco dile nose. Most numerous is C. gunnari, the slender creature that has become the main quarry of fishing fleets. Scientists shovel the catch to the lab below, sort the fish by species, then weigh and mea sure them. Scott Folsom of the University of Hawaii wields a surgeon's scalpel to take ovaries and tiny ear bones called otoliths to determine sexual maturity and age. Jim McKenna of the University of Rhode Island takes stomachs, which suggest feeding pat terns. Work goes on around the clock. Like generations of Antarctic mariners before us, we celebrate holidays at sea. I'm deeply moved by the Polish Christmas cus tom of offering small bits of unleavened wafer in a sort of personal communion. The New Year is ushered in with a volley of rock ets-red, green, and white balls of flame whose brilliant reflections vanish abruptly from the frigid waters and leave them some how lonelier than they were before.