Antarctic Blog 2013


photograph © 2013 Lorena Lagos Pailla and Leticia Barrientos

Day 6: Return to King George Island (Isla Rey Jorge) (24.2.2013)

After an evening shipboard reception at the end of the sampling period on Aquiles, we spent the fifth night and my sixth day in Antarctica traveling back north to King George Island (and the Chilean research base Professor Julio Escudero maintained by the Chilean Antarctic Institute; -62 12 02, -58 57 45). All our scientific equipment and baggage had to be transferred into metal shipping containers that were off loaded onto the island's shore by the Aquiles crew. As always, all the scientists that were either going onto Aquiles or leaving for the base also helped to transfer the gear.

We immediately met with the base scientific coordinator and arranged--over a large map of the island--sampling trips for subsequent days. This research station has a fully out-fitted wet lab including common reagents, autoclaves, sterile hoods, refrigerators, centrifuges, thermal blocks, UV spectrometers, 4-place balance, etc. This facility is designed specifically for Antarctic scientific research.

The enrichment experiments for our collected samples vary, of course, but as an example: a bacterial growth medium with relatively low concentrations was prepared with trace amounts of either cadmium or tellurium (as a soluble salt). The medium is made in a seaweed extract called agar that forms a thin solid phase in a Petri dish. When a diluted inoculum from our environmental samples is streaked on our plate and incubated at various temperatures, the bacteria that form colonies can be assumed to have a few characteristics: they are hearty because the growth medium is not rich; and they are biologically resistant to the metal or metalloidal salts we added to the plate--toxicants that normally prevent from growing at all.

One of the aims of this project is to isolate bacteria that can bioreduce tellurite (TeO32-) in the presence of cadmium cations to make CdTe nanoparticles. Despite their toxicity, these have applications in biomedicine, luminescence applications (since the nanoparticles are fluorescent), and solar cells, for instance.

While the shipboard sampling was over for me and JP--Aquiles shipped anchor that day and took scientists from King George Island and Escudero Base back to Punta Arenas via the Drake Passage--and we could now "process" the samples we'd collected, there will still many islands near Escudero that we could sample as well as sites on the King George Island with interesting environments too.

And so we'd continue to sample Antarctica while based at Escudero. Areas of interest: hydrocarbon-contaminated sites on King George Island, Collins Glacier, Nelson Island, and Ardley Island.

Escudero Base GPS coordinates



Antarctica locations sampled on this trip

Giant Map

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