Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



sea ice

NSF Polar Program

U.S. Antarctic Program

The National Zoo's Antarctica Expedition is sponsored by the National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs.

All photographs depicting Weddell seals were taken under NMFS Permit No. 763-1485-00 issued under the authority of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.




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grapes with the apes


anchor ice: Submerged ice attached to the sea bottom

beaker: Slang for a scientist. “We're a bunch of beakers going to 'The Ice'” (see below).

blow: A blizzard

boffin: Australian slang for a scientist

boomerang: When flying, having to return to Christchurch, New Zealand, due to adverse weather conditions at the landing site at McMurdo station

C-17: Also known as the C-17 Globemaster III, this military transport plane measures 173 feet (53 meters) long, has a wingspan of 170 feet (52 meters), and carries a payload of up to 169,000 pounds (76,700 kilograms)

calve: The process by which an iceberg breaks off from a glacier or ice shelf

capital breeders: Mammals in which mothers forage very little, if at all, during lactation

Chch: Pronounced “cheech”—Christchurch, New Zealand—the real-world take-off point for those going to “The Ice”

crack: A crevasse

ECW: Extreme Cold Weather gear, distributed in Christchurch before the flight to The Ice.

fast ice: Sea ice attached to the shore or connecting icebergs

frazil ice: Needle-shaped ice crystals that form a slush in the water

Gondwanaland: The ancient super-continent consisting of Antarctica, South America, Africa, Australia, and India

GPS: Global Positioning System, a highly accurate electronic system that uses satellites to determine one's location and altitude on the Earth's surface

growler: Small, difficult-to-detect chunk of ice floating in the water; usually potentially hazardous

guano: Bird droppings

harem: A group of female seals aggressively protected by a male also known as a “harem master”

herbie: A storm with fierce blowing wind and snow

Herc: Hercules C-130 cargo plane used to transport almost anything to and from Antarctic stations

hoosh: A thick stew eaten by early explorers made of pemmican (pulverized dried meat), hard biscuits, and water

income breeders: Mammals in which mothers forage during lactation

lactation: The process by which energy and nutrients are transferred, in the form of milk, from a female mammal to offspring

land ice: Ice formed from snow falling on land; freshwater ice

lead: Water channels between chunks of pack ice

lolly ice: The thickened state of sea water when it begins to crystallize during freezing

Mac Town: McMurdo Station, as residents call it

nunatak: A mountain or large piece of rock sticking out through the surrounding ice

NSF: National Science Foundation, the government agency that is funding our research

otariid seal: The "eared seals," such as the California sea lion

pack ice: Large sheets of free-floating sea ice.

pancake ice: Small, circular pads of free-floating ice.

phocid seal: Seals of the family Phocidae, also known as “true seals” and “earless seals”

pinniped: A member of the group of mammals that includes seals, sea lions, and walruses. Pinniped means “feather-footed” in Latin, a reference to the flipper-like limbs of these animals.

Pisten Bully: A work/transport vehicle designed especially for traversing snowy and icy terrain

reckie: A reconnaissance mission

rotten ice: Old ice that has weakened just prior to melting—really dangerous if you step or drive on it

sea ice: Ice created by the freezing of sea water

skua: A really big seagull-like bird that will eat virtually anything

sludge: Thickened, slushy sea ice

The Ice: Antarctica, to those in the know

USAP: U.S. Antarctic Program, the folks who run McMurdo Station

Weddell seal: Leptonychotes weddelli, the animal we are studying in the Antarctic