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.


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