Monday, June 13, 2011

Back in Punta Arenas… so long and thanks for all the fish

June 11th

Well, that pretty much wraps things up. Today has been a day of packing, more packing, loading, more loading… all followed by the promise of a well-deserved party this evening!

We would like to finish with a few factoids from the cruise:

…we travelled approximately 2800 nautical miles…

…the biologists collected 1124 samples, representing 13 phyla, 11475 individuals, 1634 octocorals and 649 solitary scleractinians!!!

…the paleoceanographers collected 14398 solitary fossil corals (592 of which were subsampled on board), 106 kg of fossil stylasterids, 512 sponge samples, 418 live bivalves and 2159 fossil bivalves…

…we recovered 6 sediment cores comprising 333cm of mud…

…4210 km of multibeam bathymetric data were logged…

…according to Stian, 723 bowlines were tied (although I’m not quite sure if I should believe this one)…

…we ate 100kg bacon and 330kg beef… ate 3600 eggs and drank 500 pints of milk…

…we sent 6 GB of e-mails….

…we posted 35 blogs, and 180 photos (not including the daily photos)…

…thanks for reading them…and a huge thanks to Linda back in Maine for posting all of them!

It’s been a fantastic cruise – team work, hard work, wonderful people and quite a bit of luck has meant that we’ve had both a successful, and really fun, time. I’d like to thank Laura and Rhian, as well as all the Raytheon staff and ships crew, on behalf of the whole science party for making it all happen so smoothly!

By Kate

Weather: temperature 43 °F, windchill 23 °F, wind speed 10 knots, sunny intervals

Sunrise over Punta Arenas (M. Taylor).
Arriving at the dock (K. Hendry).
Kais, Tina, Andrew, Mariana and David packing up the dry lab… it looked so different a few days ago! (K. Hendry).
John and Ben loading the Tow Cam van (K. Hendry).

A tour of the engine room

June 10th

To begin this blog entry, I would like to thank everyone that made my participation on this cruise possible. With the harvesting of deep-sea biology, fossils, and, of course, the amazing day in the Bransfield Straights, this expedition has been an extraordinary opportunity, which I will never take for granted.

As this trip winds to an end, we have begun packing, cleaning, and preparing for landfall. We are all working together in one shift again, and everything seems to be going smoothly. With a few moments of spare time, we were able to put science aside for a minute and tour the world below what has been our life for the past month.

Our tour began by using a stairwell that I only knew existed, but had not yet explored. This stairwell brought us directly beneath our biology laboratory and ended in the main control room for all mechanical operations. The control room overlooks 4 diesel generators used to power the ship, and it is here where one or both of the engineers on duty monitor the mechanical operations of the entire vessel. Under normal conditions, 2 of the 4 generators remain in operation. One generator could handle the electrical demand, but running the second generator ensures a steadier, uninterrupted source of electricity. Next, we listened to facts about the engines responsible for the locomotion of the ship. With 2 separate drive trains, this ship has 2 massive engines on each propeller shaft. During this cruise, only 1 engine per propeller was utilized. Running at 900 rpms each, the 2 engines provide the vessel with a speed of approximately 10-13 knots. Operating all 4 engines does not translate to higher speeds, but provides the necessary momentum needed for the ship to break through sea ice. On an average day at sea, while operating 2 engines, the Palmer consumes 6-8 thousand gallons of fuel per day, roughly 14,000 gallons per day while breaking ice with all 4 engines in operation, and another 1200 gallons per day to supply the 2 electrical generators. Potentially consuming 20,000 gallons of fuel per day, the Palmer is equipped with a 500,000-gallon fuel tank!

After our explanation of the mechanics of the ship, we were given earplugs and entered the engine room. We walked through a machine shop complete with a sand-blaster, metal lathe, welder, and of course the espresso machine. Next we toured the generator room, and engine room. With so much noise, this part of the tour consisted of taking pictures and communicating with hand gestures.

The Nathaniel B. Palmer is truly a remarkable piece of engineering, but none of this trip would have been possible without the crew diligently keeping all operations in motions. I would like to close by extending my gratitude to the captain, shipmates, marine technicians, marine science technicians, the kitchen staff, the maintenance staff, and the engineers for their hard work, great attitudes, and tireless service.

By Chris

Weather: temperature 37 °F, windchill 25 °F, windspeed 20-30 knots, dropping to 10 knots; sun, wind and rain!

Richard, an engineer on the ARV Nathaniel B Palmer starts the tour of the engine rooms in the control center (A. Margolin).

In the engine rooms the noise of the engines is so loud that everyone has to wear ear protectors (A. Margolin).

Chris explains to Suzy and John about the speed at which the fuel is injected into the engine (A. Margolin).

The full moon shining down through clear skies a couple of nights ago in the Drake Passage (S. Jennions).

Go Team Purple! All the gang on the helo deck this morning (A. Margolin).

Friday, June 10, 2011

Reunion of the shifts

9th June

Today was the last day of science on cruise NBP1103.  Although tinged with the sadness that accompanies the end of such an exciting trip, it turned out to be a fantastic day for the reunion of the day shift and the night shift.  Friends and colleagues that I hadn’t really seen for the past month, including my cabin mate, were suddenly working side-by-side with me.  The day started, for me, with a slightly earlier breakfast (in order for me to adjust to a normal working day) followed by processing with Andrea some water brought up by the Tow Cam.  Then, just before lunchtime (confusingly, what used to be my breakfast time… sigh…), the final trawl of the cruise was recovered and the whole science team headed out to the sunny back deck.  I was delighted to be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Eric, Sebastian and Michelle, night shift biologists, picking through the trawl material.  It was fun being able to chat to MTs Stian and Mark, who I normally only get to make fun of for a few minutes each day.

So, now the sample collection is over, the hard work starts: preparing and packing the samples and equipment.  Fortunately, we’ve all been really organized (cough cough) throughout the cruise and mostly have been documenting and packing away samples as and when we could.  Now, it’s just a matter of deconstructing the labs that were so carefully prepared a month ago – packing away water filters, washing sieves, counting spare sediment core tubes, and boxing up apparatus.  We also have to prepare an official report for the cruise, featuring contributions from the whole science team.  I’m certain the short transit back to Punta Arenas will fly by…

By Kate

PS: June 10th is a very special day…. It’s Rhian’s birthday… soooooo…. One, two, three…

Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday dear Rhiaaaaaaan!!!!!
Happy birthday to you!

Weather: temperature 37 ºF, windchill 10 ºF, wind speed 10-20 knots and increasing, sunny!

Stian and Mark recover the kasten core last night.  The kasten core is a heavily weighted metal tube designed to recover intact sediments from the seafloor (K. Mohamed Falcon).
Rhian and Laura having an executive meeting in the dredge box.
Everyone, day and night shifts, waiting for the final trawl to be recovered… spirits and hopes were high!  (R. Waller).
Recovery of the last trawl of the cruise this morning.  The trawl brought up corals, sponges, bivalves, echinoderms, as well as fossils.  Everyone was happy!  (A. Margolin).

Thursday, June 9, 2011

and now… some poetry…

June 8th

As we near the end of our cruise, I believe we’re all thinking back to our favorite moments, those times of inspiration, excitement and fulfillment. One of the team, Andrea, was inspired to express some of those feelings in poetry, which we would like to share with you today.

Reflections from a Penguin Spotter

The rumor had spread: two small penguins were seen
Diving and jumping ‘long the waves in between.
My hopes were sky high: I checked the sea every ‘noon
“I wish and I hope I’ll see penguins soon!”
But the days they did past, with no sightings to speak of
Only waves, clouds and sunshine or the stars far above.
‘Til one day our leaders gave us all a great gift:
A Bransfield Strait transit! My spirits did lift.

I ran up to the bridge ‘cause I heard exclamation
Scenery and icebergs beyond imagination!
I saw a black dot: “Could it be? Could it be?”
But it was only a fur seal; no penguin for me.
And then I heard words that brought me down low:
“We saw a few penguins twenty minutes ago!”
“You’re kidding!” I cried, “Not again! Why me?
I’ll never see a penguin. It’s my destiny.”

The anguish I felt, the utter despair!
I stomped my foot and I pulled on my hair.
My second trip back here and it was not looking good
For me to see a penguin (I tried hard as I could!).
I resigned myself to it and said, “Maybe next time?
Though to travel this far and not see one’s a crime.”
But then to the rescue, came the Third Mate
Who said “I’ll hook you up, if you could just wait.”

“Do you see that iceberg straight off the bow?
Use these binoculars. Look there right now!”
I peered through and saw, much to my delight,
Several black creatures on a background of white.
The joy and excitement was full and complete.
This feeling and memory, I will never delete.
But it wasn’t quite over, the joy was not done!
We’d get even closer! We’d have some more fun!

We sailed right up close so it was easy to see
Them waddle and stumble as they tried to flee.
Their cute little figures sure made me smile
I could happily watch them for quite a long while.
But the science continues: we have corals to collect
And water and sediment- though I’ll never forget
The feeling I had on my first penguin spotting.
Will I see them again? I’d better start plotting…

By Andrea

Weather: temperature 37 ºF, windchill 14 ºF, windspeed 10-20 knots, cloudy, becoming clear at night (with a wonderful view of the Southern Cross!)

“Reflections of a Penguin Spotter”, by Andrea Burke aged 26-and-a-half (A. Burke).
Some of the penguins from the Bransfield Straight we were fortunate to meet a few days ago (A. Margolin).
Andrea, Kais, Kathy and John sorting and packing fossil corals during the night shift (R. Waller).
The day shift bringing in one of the last dredges! From left to right: Sandy, Tina, Suzy, Mariana, Mercer, Andrew, Laura, Chris, David, Kate and Skip (B. Pietro).
Andrew, David, Skip and Sandy preparing the kasten core for deployment (S. Jennions).
Lindsey, Suzy and David making ice cream today, from milk, sugar, strawberries, and the crucial ingredient: liquid nitrogen (A. Margolin).

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Blog about maps

June 7th

I like maps. Even as a child I enjoyed following the progress of a car trip on the road map. Now we have a world map on the wall in our house, to more easily visualize where family members are and to fantasize about where we might go someday. As a marine geologist, much of what I do involves learning about where things are relative to each other – is the muddy seafloor only on the continental shelf or does it extend down the slope? Are the mid-ocean ridge basalts exposed on all of the fracture zones? How did this piece of granite (typical of continental crust) get out here into the middle of the Drake Passage (hint… think about icebergs…)?

Everything we do during this cruise is recorded with the date, time, and position. I use those positions to create maps showing where we have been, what we did while we were there, and what we found. During the cruise, we use these maps to plan where we should take the next samples. After the cruise, I will work with Rhian and Laura to try to understand why corals live in some places and not in others. Maybe one species likes steep slopes with rocky outcrops while another is found only in places where we found mud.

Just from looking at the ship’s trackline, you can see a story unfolding. In the map below, the colored dots on the black trackline mark each passing hour. Each day has a different color dot. This map shows the 5 days that we worked at Interim Seamount. We arrived from the south in good weather – the hour marks are far apart because we were travelling at 10 knots. Near the center of the map you can see several places where the hour marks are almost on top of each other. These are places where we worked on station or only moved a little for a few hours while dredging or collecting bottom photographs. On the eastern side of the map, there are two almost parallel track line with hour marks pretty far apart – this is where we were collecting multibeam bathymetry data, moving right along at about 8 knots. When we left Interim Seamount, the weather was bad. We had big waves (taller than a 2-story house!) and the ship could only move ahead slowly, at about 3 knots. This is about as fast as you can walk!

By Kathy

Weather: temperature 35 °F, windchill 3 °F, wind speed, cloudy

Map of Interim Seamount showing the ARV NB Palmer’s trackline – faster when we arrived, and slower when we left! (K. Scanlon).

 Kathy demonstrating it’s very important to keep a close eye on the ship’s trackline (R. Waller).

Ben bringing in the niskin bottle, used to sample water at depth, which was attached to the Drop Cam for the first time today (R. Waller).
Andrea sampling water from the Drop Cam niskin bottle with the help of Laura (R. Waller)

The day shift drying, sorting and packing the multitude of fossils from the Cape Horn dredges (L. Robinson).

Mariana working on the biology that came up with one of the dredges today. Cape Horn is so far proving to be a treasure trove for both living and fossil corals (R. Waller).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Return to the Palmer

June 6th

We’ve been on Cape Horn for roughly a day now, and we’re still working on completing our multibeam survey of the area. We’ve hit a patch of rough weather, and so I finally have some time to write a blog! It’s just a few days away from the completion of our science program, and it’s incredible to think about what we’ve been able to accomplish in the past month aboard. A little over a month ago I was graduating from the University of Pittsburgh with my degree in geology, and now here I am in one of the most remote areas of the world. It’s living the geologist’s dream!

This is my second time aboard the Palmer, the 1st being Laura and Rhians’ pilot program back in 2008. There are many similarities, but in most regards it feels like a brand new experience. While in 2008 we were paired with a geophysics team studying the Scotia arc, now the entire time has been devoted to our paleo and biology sampling. 8 of us aboard were present last time, but the new additions to Team Purple have brought an incredible energy to the ship and to the work that we’ve been doing. It has been really great to be with specialists in so many areas of marine science. As a recent graduate, there’s no better opportunity than to learn coring, water sampling, and dredging from people who have been doing it for quite awhile.

One of the biggest changes, and in my opinion one of the best, is how the science party on this cruise has been able to engage in a more physical way with the sampling. The back deck is the responsibility of the marine technicians, and it’s great to learn from them what goes in to working on the deck of a research vessel. The last cruise was a fast paced pilot program, whereas this time out every member of the science party has been able to help with launching and recovering equipment and learning how to do a lot of the day-to-day maintenance that marine science equipment requires, on top of doing our science. It makes for a great change of pace to be able to get out of the lab and to get dirty (and wet, and muddy, and cold) terminating cables and hauling dredges out of the water. On days where weather keeps us from sampling, everyone still has a ton of fun learning useful knots and skills like blade sharpening (my personal favorite!).

The cruise has been a great experience, especially for someone like me who still hasn’t really begun their career. There isn’t a substitute for being with people from all over the world who all do very interesting and different science, and learning what motivated them and what their own experiences getting started in the field has been. I was 19 on the previous cruise, and still wasn’t sure if I wanted to be involved with the earth and marine sciences. But 3 years later, on the same ship, I’ve been writing my first scientific paper and getting advice on graduate school from my friends aboard. There are moments during cruises like this that you realize how lucky you are to be involved in a field like this, and for me it was when we were sailing through the Bransfield Strait. Antarctica on the left, the South Shetlands to the right, and to the front an enormous seal barking at us as we get close to hitting his personal patch of ice. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

By John

Weather: temperature 31 °F, windchill 1 °F, windspeed 20 knots, cloudy, snow and some sun!

John water sampling from the CTD, which was deployed this morning in the good weather window we are currently enjoying (R. Waller).

 Sebastian and Eric storing and sorting some biological samples in a freezer kept at -80 °C (or -112 °F) for molecular analysis. So far this cruise we’ve filled an entire freezer and are half way through our second! (R. Waller).

David, Sandy and Chris recovering the dredge today, which brought up some wonderful live and fossil corals (K. Hendry).

Suzy giving David a bit of a clean, during dredge recovering this evening… (K. Hendry).

A Terrascan image of our current weather window. The red line shows our cruise track and the white cross where we are right now. We get these images everyday to help us know when to expect both bad and good weather windows.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Packing Dos and Don’ts, Wishes and Wants

June 5th

As we wrap up NBP1103, I thought it would be fun to apply our newfound Antarctic expertise to reflect on what each of packed for this trip. What did people pack that they subsequently didn’t need? Were there items left at home that are now desperately desired? What about items that were surprisingly useful or nice to have?

Approaching a month into the cruise, I can definitively say that I overpacked. Way overpacked. I-could-have-survived-being-abandoned-in-the-wild-for-a-year overpacked. Some things have been worthwhile; for example I brought 14 pairs of socks I am glad for all of them. But six short-sleeve t-shirts? Did I think I was going to the tropics? With some rare exceptions I’ve uniformly worn long-sleeve shirts. In fact, most of the clothing I wear was issued to me in Punta Arenas: our designated “Extreme Cold Weather” gear. It turns out the staff who live and work in Antarctica know exactly what you’ll need and, in my experience, the issue clothing has completely replaced my own over-stuffed luggage.

I decided to ask around on the ship the three questions I posed above. The range of Antarctic packing experience in the interviewees ranges from none (ie: me!) to quite a lot (our Raytheon staff, many of whom only bring down a single backpack and count on personal and issued gear left in Punta Arenas after their last trip). So, if you find yourself packing for an Antarctic trip anytime soon, best take a look at this list of packing regrets, surprises, and recommendations!

Is there an item you brought but haven’t yet used?

Laura: My own chocolate. There are so many cakes in the galley!
Kathleen: Knitting supplies
Kate: Sunglasses
Tina: Hairdryer
Chris: Personal cold-weather clothing
Mercer: Razor
Andrew: Sea sickness medications
Mariana: T-shirts
Lindsey: First aid kit
Sandy: High-heeled sandals (from a wedding prior to NBP1103)
Skip: Laptop
Melissa: Extra shampoo
George: Everything I brought
Kais: Binoculars. The ship has them!
Stian: Camera
Eric: Sick sickness wristbands
Michelle: Nail polish
David: My own cold-weather clothing (except for my REI vest, Hi Elizabeth!)
Rhian: Running sneakers
Ben: Snow boots
Suzy: Tweed shorts

Is there an item you didn’t bring but wish you had?

Laura: Hot water bottle
Kate: Third book of the Stieg Larssen trilogy
Tina: A hairband
Mercer: More photos of family
Andrew: Speakers and a 1-foot ruler
Mariana: Mate, an Argentinian infused tea
Joe: More coffee
Sheldon: Spare wireless card
Lindsey: Pajama pants
Sandy: A really good book
Melissa: Mustache/beard hat
George: A computer
Andrea: Winter boots and more black sharpies
Kais: A videocamera
Michelle: Deely boppers and HP Sauce (British thing)
David: More podcasts
Rhian: Chocolate-covered raisins
Shannon: Some DVD’s from my personal collection
Ben: A football
Suzy: Slippers

Is there something you did bring and are now really glad to have?

Laura: Purple hard-hat
Kathleen: Down comforter
Kate: Intensive hand moisturizer
Tina: A hat
Andrew: Thin gloves (For better taking photos outdoors)
Chris: An iPod
Mercer: Gum
Joe: A laptop
Lindsey: Quilting stuff
Sandy: Christmas lights!
Skip: Books
Melissa: A laptop
George: Grapefruit seed extract (for getting over colds)
John: Lots of socks
Andrea: A hot water bottle
Kais: Camera
David: Slippers, Bohnanza
Marshall: Extra video monitors for the TowCam, speakers for music
Rhian: Deely boppers (everyone has had so much enjoyment from them!)
Shannon: Chapstick
Ben: Low-cut socks
Suzy: Swimming costume for the sauna

By David

Weather: temperature 30 ºF, windchill -4 ºF, wind speed 30 knots (gusting to 40-50 knots), some sun peeking through the clouds

Figure 1: Before and after!  All the things David packed for the cruise… (D. Case)

Figure 2:  

Figure 3: Kate modeling deely boppers, in case you didn’t know what they were… (R. Waller).

Figure 4:  Laura and Rhian doing some serious contemplation at the mapping desk!

Figure 5: Meanwhile, we have been busy sorting and packing samples.  Here is a tray of fossil solitary corals from one of our dredges, ready to be weighed and packed for transport (A. Margolin).

Before and after!  All the things David packed for the cruise… (D. Case)
David and Andrew sporting their issued United States Antarctic Program (USAP) coats on board the ARV Nathaniel B Palmer.
Kate modeling deely boppers, in case you didn’t know what they were… (R. Waller).
Laura and Rhian doing some serious contemplation at the mapping desk!
Meanwhile, we have been busy sorting and packing samples.  Here is a tray of fossil solitary corals from one of our dredges, ready to be weighed and packed for transport (A. Margolin).

Sars Seamount

 4th June 2011

We have just left our penultimate sampling site, Sars Seamount. Sars Seamount rises up dramatically from the abyssal seafloor, from 4000m up to just 500m below the sea surface. The flanks of the mountain are rugged: covered in pinnacles, ridges and steep cliffs. If it was on land it would be a popular site for extreme mountaineers and climbers. Strangely the top of Sars is completely flat, so flat in fact that we were able to trawl across the top collecting all sorts of interesting live animals and fossil remains.

One of the reasons I was so interested to come to Sars is that it has all these features that rise to different depths, so we can find a place to sample from shallow to deep whatever the wind direction. We spent nearly a week at Sars, and during that time we have taken photos, collected water, collected bathymetric data and sampled the seafloor fauna. The photographs have blown me away – they are crystal clear glimpses into another world – we are getting a four dimensional view of Sars. Not only can we see the bathymetry – we can see the animals that are living there today – and the fossil remains of animals that inhabited the seamount tens to hundreds of thousands of years ago. Even here, so far from any city we saw signs of human activity: a rope lying on the seafloor encrusted with seafloor animals – a reminder of our ability to impact all parts of the Earth – even deep below the sea surface.

Perhaps not surprising we saw and collected the most abundant and diverse samples at the shallower depths on the seamount. When we deploy equipment over the side we let it out at 30m per minute, so it can take a many hours to collect samples from deep sites. Despite the long times, and the lower recovery rates in deep water we worked hard to sample at 2000m water depth. In the end we were able to collect fossil coral remains from the peak of the seamount all the way down to 2000m. Together these samples will let us piece together information on the vertical structure of the water column here at Sars in the past, and compare it to the ocean currents that we have observed here today.

I am sad to be leaving Sars, it was a wonderful place to collect samples. But today we are moving to new adventures on the shelf of Cape Horn.

Wish us luck on our last week of sampling.


PS Happy Wedding Anniversary Mum and Dad!

Weather: temperature 32 ºF, winchill -4 ºF, windspeed about 30 knots, sunny intervals

A 3D rendering of Sars Seamount prepared by Kathleen Gavahan and Shannon Hoy.

A fossil stylasterid coral from Sars Seamount (A. Margolin).

Early morning on the back deck, with Sebastian watching the dredge on its way up (R. Waller).
Stian, Mark and John retrieving one of the many dredges recovered from Sars (R. Waller).

A new and unbelievable experience! / Una nueva e increíble experiencia!

June 3rd/3 de Junio

Hi, my name is Mariana. I’m a biologist; I work in the benthos lab of the National Institute of Fisheries Research and Development (INIDEP). I have a postdoctoral fellowship (CONICET) since 2010. I am interested in echinoderms such as starfish, sea urchins, and brittlestars, and know about their distribution patterns and taxonomy along the shelf-break front in the Argentine Sea. I was selected to participate in this cruise as an Argentinean observer. Although this is not my first research cruise I was very nervous at first. I have never been a long time at sea, and in addition it would be in the Drake Passage, well-known for its rough seas and strong winds! Besides I have to be a month with new people who speak a different language!

My nervousness disappeared when we left Punta Arenas, when I saw that all were very excited for this new experience. During the first days I met all the people on board, all of them with a strong feeling of camaraderie ready to do their best so all the cruise would be successful; What can I do? How can I help you? And all eager for knowledge – What is it? How does it work? And what is that for? I am in the day watch with other two biologists, Chris and Mercer; we sort and preserve biological material that we collect with dredges. I learned a little more about deep sea corals, live and fossils, and I helped to indentify several echinoderm species, some of them were similar to the species I work with! Some of the species I observed during this cruise, I thought that I would only see in pictures!

Antarctica! We get to the southernmost point in the whole cruise! I don´t believe that the thousands of pictures and videos that we got, can show the emotion, happiness and beauty of that day! I got up very early that day when I saw pancake ice by the window of my cabin, there was no time to lose! The emotion of the first iceberg! Whales! Seals! Penguins! No words or pictures can explain all these sensations.

We are now heading north and counting down the days for the end of the cruise. Drake Passage showed us a little more of its nature. Although some stations were delayed, soon, as scheduled, we will be in port with all goals reached. After all these days, I think that my initial nervousness were only normal feelings facing a new life experience! Luckily - science and laughs, stories and jokes that make you feel good, are the same in any language!

By Mariana

Hola, mi nombre es Mariana, soy bióloga; trabajo en el laboratorio de bentos del Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones y Desarrollo Pesquero (INIDEP); tengo una beca postdoctoral (CONICET) desde el año 2010. Actualmente estoy trabajando en taxonomía y patrones de distribución de equinodermos a lo largo del frente de talud del Mar Argentino. Fui invitada a participar en esta campaña como observadora argentina. Al principio estaba nerviosa dado que, si bien no es mi primera campaña de investigación, nunca estuve embarcada tanto tiempo ni en el Pasaje de Drake! Conocido por sus grandes olas y fuertes vientos! Además de tener que estar un mes con gente que uno no conoce y con un idioma diferente!

Mis nervios desaparecieron cuando dejamos Punta Arenas y vi que todos estaban igual de ansiosos por esta nueva experiencia. Con el correr de los días pude ir conociendo cada una de las personas en el barco, todos con un gran sentido de camaradería para lograr que todo salga bien, no todos los días se tiene la oportunidad de estar en una campaña de investigación en estas latitudes!! Qué hago? En que puedo ayudarte? Además todos con ganas de aprender Qué es? Como funciona? Para qué sirve? Participo en la guardia de día junto con otros dos biólogos, Chris y Mercer, separamos, clasificamos y guardamos el material biológico que colectamos con los distintos equipos. Aprendí un poco más sobre corales de profundidad, vivos y fósiles, y ayudé también a identificar algunas especies de equinodermos que resultaron similares a muchas con las que trabajo! Pude ver especies que pensé que solo las conocería por fotos!

Antártida! Llegamos al punto más austral de toda la campaña! No creo que las miles de fotos y videos que tomamos puedan mostrar la emoción, alegría y belleza de ese día! Por supuesto fue el día que más temprano me levante, cuando vi por la ventana de mi camarote que había hielo en el agua, no había tiempo para perder! La emoción del primer iceberg! Ballenas! Focas! Pingüinos! No hay palabras ni imágenes que puedan explicar todas esas sensaciones.

Ahora ya con rumbo norte y en cuenta regresiva. El Pasaje de Drake nos mostró un poco más de su naturaleza y aunque algunos lances fueron retrasados por su causa, en breve y en el día pautado estaremos en puerto con todos los objetivos cumplidos. Después de todos estos días creo que mis nervios iniciales fueron solo los normales frente a una nueva experiencia de vida! - por suerte tanto la ciencia como las risas, historias y bromas que hacen que uno se sienta bien, son las mismas cualquiera que sea el idioma!

Por Mariana

Weather: temperature 37 °F, windchill 10 °F, windspeed 10-20 knots, cloudy
Tiempo: temperature 3°C, factor viento -10°C, velocidad del viento 10-20 nudos, nublado  

Mariana, our Argentinian observer, gets stuck into some sponge sorting from a trawl on Sars Seamount / Mariana, nuestra observadora de Argentina, separando esponjas del arte de arrastre en el monte submarino SARS (S. Jennions).
Some echinoderm species collected in the cruise / Algunas especies de equinodermos colectadas en esta campaña.
Iceberg in front of the West Antarctic Peninsula with a group of seals swimming between the ice sea / Iceberg frente al lado Oeste de la Península Antarctica con un grupo de focas nadando entre el hielo (M.Escolar).
Sunshine peeking through the clouds this morning/ Rayos de sol asomando entre las nubes al amanecer (A.Margolin).
“Men wanted: For hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success” – advert by Ernest Shackleton for men to join the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition to the South Pole. (photo by A. Margolin).

Friday, June 3, 2011

Tow Cam Blog

June 2nd

The WHOI Tow Cam is a multiple instrumental package mounted onto an aluminum frame. Along with the two separate camera systems there are: Niskin Bottles for water collection, altimeters for altitude, standard CTD (see Tina’s post), batteries, data link, lasers for a measurement scale, and a whole lot of wires! The primary use of this sled is for underwater photography. Attached to the frame are two cameras that have the ability to record over 4000 images on one tow alone.

One camera is called the DSPL, the other OIS. The DSPL produces an image with a large footprint. The OIS produces an image that has 4 times the resolution than the DSPL but the footprint of the image is much smaller. Another ingredient to this camera system is the data link, which gives us the ability to see the pictures in real time on a monitor. The data link provides ethernet up the sea cable. Which makes the camera operation exciting and fun for everybody!

Each camera is set up to take pictures at 10-second intervals. Tow Cam operations can only happen when conditions (weather) are ideal. If the ship’s heave is too great we run the risk of “crashing” the frame and cameras on the bottom. If the winds are too high it’s difficult for the ship to hold position for deployment and recovery. And this is a risk we are NOT willing to take!

An average deployment and recovery time is about 6-10 hours. During this process another member of the science party is plotting the ships position, speed, depth of frame, and altitude every 5 minutes. Once the frame is on board, the pictures are downloaded from the cameras and backed up, which could range from an hour to five, depending on how many pictures are on the camera and how well the coffee has been flowing that day.

Luckily, both ships crew and officers have been unbelievable at handling the ship during operations, and controlling the over the side operations safely so we can optimize our time with the science (And there is a lot).

When I said “TOW CAM!”, NPB 11-03 participants said:

“Yea, Lets Do it!”… “Don’t stare at the lasers”… “GO CAM”… “live feed from Tow Cam is awesome”… “far out images”… “what I have seen is pretty cool, watch for hours, plotting lots of locations”… “brings up a lot of water”… “makes me think of my friends in the hydro lab”… “cool to watch deployment and recovery”… “mind blowing images”… “exciting to see what undisturbed habitats and life looks like 3000 meters down”… “it’s heavy”…“useful”… “crisp”… “weather”… “Bonanza”… “awesome”… “cool”… “lots of water”…“take it back out we need to rinse it off”…“amazing advancements in supportive science”… “fun seeing the real time imagery”… “backing up lots and lots of pictures”… “Daffy Duck”…“lots of logging and pictures”.

NBP-11-03 thanks for a great cruise!

By Ben

Weather: temperature 35 °F, windchill 15 °F, wind speed reducing to 10 knots, sunny intervals

Skip, Sandy and Ben deploy the Drop Cam, another type of underwater camera system (R. Waller).
The Tow Cam being deployed a few days ago (R. Waller).
Ben and Marshall in the hydrolab, looking at some Drop Cam photos today (A. Margolin).
Bonanza! David and Ben playing a card game to relax after a long day of work! (A. Margolin).
Andrea celebrates after bringing up her first dredge (M. Swartz).

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Reminders of Home

1 June 2011

As a researcher investigating deep-sea and cold-water organisms, a large part of my life is spent at sea collecting samples and data to be analyzed once we head back to shore. In fact, by the end of this cruise I will have spent 685 days at sea since 2000, the year I started my Ph.D. at the Southampton Oceanography Center in the UK. That’s just shy of two whole years I’ve spent on the rolling ocean, and a long time to be away from home, friends and family. Because most of my cruises go to remote places, they also tend to be long, just a small handful of the 31 cruises I’ve been on have been less than 3 weeks, and 5 weeks is more the norm. This is nothing compared to the Raytheon Polar Services Technicians we have out here though, or the crew of the ARV NB Palmer, many of whom spend many months at a time down here.

So how do people stay connected at sea and what reminders of home do they bring?

For me it’s pictures. On the wall in front of me right now are pictures of my little niece and my dog, and a drawing my 6yr old neighbor drew and emailed out to me (Hi Karter!). On my computer I frequently wander through photos of my last trip to the UK (where i’m from), my nephew and niece, trips with friends and photos of my new home in Maine.

Marshall (who often spends more time at sea than on land!) brings along his coffee maker and mug for down in the lab and a personal throw rug and folding chair for up in his bunk-room. “Just something to make the space more personal and cover the cold floor” he says.

For George it’s not so much things, but phone calls that keep him in the loop (and who could expect less from our Electronics Technician). Reliable satellite phones are often still rare at sea, but we’re lucky on the ARV NB Palmer to have a “moral phone”, for those times you just need to check in. George calls his daughters and mother to keep in touch with what’s happening in the ‘real world’.

As we start to reach the homestretch of this cruise, it certainly makes me think more of home and wondering what’s been happening back there the last 3 weeks. Is it warm in Maine now? Are the black flies gone? What is under all those snow piles I left behind? How much paperwork is piled on my desk awaiting my return? I guess some things I’m more excited about than others…..

By: Rhian

Weather: temperature 33 °F, windchill -4 °F, wind speed 30-40 knots, cloudy with some sun

Rhian’s ‘desk’ in the dry lab. Nestled amongst the shift and berthing lists, paperwork, daily plans and notes-to-self are photos and drawings from home. (R. Waller).
Sometimes creating a little levity in an ordinary day helps everyone when away from home for such long periods of time. Over the map table, Rhian calls the Bridge with the coordinates for the next dredge. (K. Scanlon).
Coffee break in the cold room! From left to right: Sebastian, Kais, Melissa, Shannon, Eric, Michelle and John (R. Waller).
Andrea doing some arts and crafts (R. Waller).
Mercer looking for biology in a photograph taken by the Towcam (A. Margolin)
Laura and Skip running the dredge again, after a few hours downtime due to bad weather (A. Margolin).