Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mud, mud, and more mud!

May 22nd

After having had a fabulous passage through the Bransfield Straits yesterday, we reached our next station on the Antarctic Shelf in the early morning hours. It is a station where Rhian has done a lot of work in the past, and hence we had some pre-warning of what to expect: lots of living organisms and even more mud!

Having spent the last week with bringing up dredges with rocks, fossil corals, and some small organisms, this was quite a change. It was a day where everybody got properly dirty, wet, and cold. But it also was a lot of fun. We switched our sampling gear from the metal dredge we typically use to a trawl with a net. This way we could bring it up on deck and open a knot at the bottom to empty some tens of kilograms of mud into a big bucket. Then the real fun began: two people shuffled the mud in portions of a few kilograms on a large sieve, two people sprayed the mud mount with water hoses, and two more people picked out any live organisms, and put them in buckets of water.

Sounds organised? In theory ... in practise everybody was very muddy and wet at the end of the exercise – but with a big smile on their face. Once you are soaked and muddy, it simply does not matter anymore how much water and mud hits you. On the science side we found lots of good material, such as really big live cold-water corals, giant sea cucumbers, and more. We collected a muddy 1.5 meters of Kasten core, and took successful camera pictures of the muddy ocean floor. It was a fun day!

By Tina

Weather: Weather: temperature 31 °F, windchill 4 °F, windspeed 20-25 knots, snow, sun & rain!

The back deck is a busy place when sampling gear is going down or coming up and everyone has a job to do – hooking the gear, holding a line, getting sampling buckets and tools ready, or shuffling samples from the back deck to sorting tables. Here the night team bring a box core onboard in the rolling waves. (R. Waller).

Rhian and Chris getting the mud and animals out of the Blake trawl net (T. van der Flierdt).

Kate works to sample the Kaston core (T. van der Flierdt).

The southern ocean solitary coral Flabellum impensum – the target organism of today’s trawls. Rhian is keeping these corals alive for the cruise to extract larvae from them to look at changes in larval development with differing environmental conditions (A. Margolin).

Tina and Suzy in need of a wash after some trawl sorting! (M. Escolar).

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