The past 24 hours have been slow in terms of collecting samples, as the weather has taken a turn for the worst. Having accomplished the majority of the sampling at this station, Station B, the drifting sediment traps were the last piece of equipment we were able to deploy . The drifters were supposed to stay in the water for 2 days, but the weather turned foul before we could recover them. The drifter traps are new equipment for this cruise, as Andrew McDonnell from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute has joined our team to study particles settling from the sea surface to the sea floor. They communicate to him remotely by sending latitudes and longitudes so we can find them and collect them from the water. Unfortunately, the winds have been too strong and the seas too big to recover them, so we are hanging tight in their vicinity until we can pull them from the water. We are currently experiencing 12 foot seas and 50 knot winds, which makes the back deck too dangerous to conduct any operations. Most of the scientists are antsy to get the wrap up the last science operation, and are hoping for a break from this weather system soon. On a positive note, we have finished analyzing all our samples in the lab and have begun packing away our lab equipment for the last time. We are all very happy for all of our accomplishments over these three cruises, but are also quite sad to see it come to an end.

February 15-18th

During our first three days down on the Antarctic Peninsula we helped set up two geology field camps, one on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands (west side of the Antarctic Peninsula) and the other on James Ross Island (east side of the Antarctic Peninsula in the Weddell Sea). The Livingston Island field team is mainly looking for the bones of early mammals in deposits that are as old as 120 million years. The James Ross Island group is a combination of scientists who examine the magnetism in the rocks to establish accurate ages for the geological deposits, whereas other researchers are looking for the environmental conditions that lead to the extinction of the dinosaurs, as well as evidence documenting Antarctic climate change (both past and present).

Dr. Ross McPhee of the Natural History Museum of New York is heading up the Livingston Island team.

Dr. Joe Kirschvink (California Inst. Of Technology), Dr. Peter Ward (Univ. of Washington) and Dr. Eric Steig (Univ. of Washington) are leading the efforts on James Ross Island.

We transported gear and personnel about 1.5 miles each way using rubber boats with outboard motors called zodiacs. It took about a dozen zodiac trips at each of the two bases.

The accommodations for the field scientists were tents with a central office/kitchen tent being the only heated area at the field site. The field teams have a logistics coordinator, who makes certain that they have sufficient tents, food, water, and clothing to survive for 4 weeks of field operations. The field teams do have satellite phone that keep them in touch with our ship and the local US Antarctic base (Palmer Station).

As for wildlife we have seen a number of elephant seals, Adelie and Chin-strap penguins and a pretty large assembly of cormorants, sitting on a large iceberg. The surrounding scenery is breath taking, with massive glaciers carving into the extensive rock outcrops as the ice sheets move toward the ocean.

We found out this morning (18th) that 40-50 knot winds have destroyed 2 of the field tents on Livingston Island, and that the kitchen/office tent has been nearly demolished by the strong winds as well. The field scientists were going to try and make their lunch in a nearby cave for protection from the unusually strong winds. We are heading back to Livingston Island at the moment to pick up the field camp whose field season is now over, but the winds and seas look terrible for the next day or so, which will certainly inhibit any zodiac transfer activities. Zodiacs can take on water pretty easily, especially when loaded with gear and personnel. It is certainly a huge disappointment for these geologists on Livingston Island to come half way around the world and have their field season end in a matter of a couple days. The other field camp is doing fine, but they had 3 inches of snow last night (preventing their rock hunting activities for at least the next couple of days).

Happy Valentine’s Day!

February 14, 2009

It’s been a lovely day here on the Gould. The skies have cleared, the seas are tame, and the ship has been adorned by the Valentine’s Day Elf! Top to bottom the the halls and galley were covered in streamers, hearts line the hallways, and the folks in the galley even cooked up a special Valentine’s Day cake! Candy and gifts have also been changing hands today as we try to make this day just as special as if we were on land.

But there is of course still work to be done. Dave has been collecting seawater samples as we cross the Drake and Kim has been diligently tending to the nutrient analyzer to make sure they are analyzed as quickly.

Tomorrow is a big day for us all. At approximately 0800 GMT, or 0500 Gould time, we will reach Livingston Island and will spend the day putting in the field camp for Dr. Ross MacPhee and his group. It will be hard work but we are grateful for every chance we get to be on land.

Fair winds…
Latitude: 62 38.407 South
Longitude: 62.00.183 West
Temp: 2.8°C
Winds NE 15-20 knots

Ciao Chile, Aloha Antarctica

February 12, 2009

Greetings to our readers and thanks for tuning in for one more round! After traveling from all corners of the globe to return from our various adventures, all of the NCSU gang is present and accounted for. Kim and Brian had successful presentations at ASLO and saw the countryside of Europe. Rebecca and Alyssa toured the Torres del Paine area of Patagonia from the view of their kayak on the Serrano River. Linda visited previous FOODBANCS participant Karin in Sao Paulo. Dave was diligently teaching and coordinating with Carrie back at NC State to make sure everything for this final FOODBANCS excursion goes as smoothly as possible.

After a flurry of loading, packing, and securing equipment we left Chile yesterday. It was a busy day in port, and not only were there military and fishing vessels docked, but we woke up this morning to find a cruise ship outside our windows. These ships also visit Antarctica, carrying with them a few more people and providing a few more amenities than the L.M. Gould.

Caption: The Gould to the left with port officials close by to inspect the newly arrived cruise liner on the right.

Right now we have come around the horn of Argentina and are enjoying a fairly comfortable ride in the Drake Passage. We have completed our vessel security, lab safety, and back deck orientations, and have even had time to squeeze in an abandon ship drill and a field camp meeting. As we mentioned earlier, we will be dropping off two field camps on this voyage. We will be dropping Ross MacPhee at Livingston Island and Joe Kirshvinck at James Ross Island in the Weddell Sea. Setting up camps for a month long stay for these teams requires all hands on deck. Last February and March the FOODBANCS crew helped take out the Copa and Petermann camps so we have a lot of seasoned veterans who are willing and able to help.

More updates to come as we transit to the islands, m'on.

Greetings to our faithful readers. Things are finally winding down here at NCSU after a busy semester. Carrie and Dave have been immersed in a flurry of emails coordinating with Raytheon and Craig at the University of Hawaii to make sure the science goes smoothly, and everything is coming together. Here is an update of what is going on with our group and what we'll be up to on the next cruise!

Everyone is making big plans. Brian and Kim will be presenting their research at the ASLO meeting (American Society of Limnology and Oceanography) in Nice France in January. Rebecca and I will be heading to Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine to do some kayaking and hiking, and will hopefully run in to the Hawaii group which will be hiking the infamous Patagonia "W" at the same time.

There will also be some exciting new science on this next trip. We will be leaving one of our own, Rebecca, at Palmer Station to do feeding experiments at the end of our cruise in March. She will be there for three weeks trying to fatten up Holothurians with some yummy diatoms and ooey-gooey Phaeocystis. Ken Buessler from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute will be leaving one of his students with us to investigate particulate transport along our stations. This will be a welcomed supplement to our Thorium and phytoplankton analyses. And on the way to our stations we will be dropping off two other science parties:

1) We will be leaving Dr. Ross MacPhee, a research scientist at the Natural Museum of Natural History and once Duke University associate professor, and his team on Livingston Island to look for fossil evidence of mammalian inhabitance as far back as 100 million years. A link to an article about his research is posted below:

The Antarctic Sun - Ross MacPhee fossil investigation

2) We will also be going to the eastern side of the peninsula in the Weddell Sea to drop off geobiologist Joseph Kirschvink at James Ross Island. His group is trying to solve the 65 million year old murder mystery, 'what killed the dinosaurs?' You might think this would be classified as a "Cold Case" but geologically speaking, this question is still hot!

The Antarcitc Sun - Joseph Kirschvink and the Dinosaurs

T-minus 56 days and counting until we shove off on the Gould for the final leg of our research! So kick back.. and stayed tuned for updates!

Today was quite a day for visits.  Santa Claus took a few days from his vacationing in Patagonia to some visit the good boys and girls on the N.B. Palmer.  With all the wintery weather we have been having, a little Christmas in July celebration was certainly in order (belated though... we had work to do, so it got put off till August.  Whoops!) 

It was really great.  We decorated the tree with ornaments maritime, gifts were swapped, and we even busted out the liquid nitrogen for a little homemade ice cream.   The evening was full of cheer and yuletide glee as we transited north towards home.  All is well aboard the Palmer tonight...

Alyssa sports the most X-mas like sweater
Ice Cream!!  Liquid Nitrogen boils off at -196*C, so it freezes the mixture and harmlessly escapes into the atmosphere.  Science is sweet!

King Neptune

Again, the weather broke for close to 12 hours and allowed us to get a small amount of sampling done at Station N.  The sediment was a slightly sandy mud underlain by a rather dense clay layer that prevented much our cores from getting great penetration.  Still, we were able to get a few megacores, and a blake trawl to study the benthos in this northern locale. 

With such a successful cruise, it is no surprise that King Neptune, the legendary ruler of the seas, graced us with a brief visit.  Very little is known of the rituals and customs of his royal court, but some tales are whispered among sailors and scientists alike in hushed tones.  I can share only this tattered and blurred photo...


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