Hump day and hump site.

February 27, 2008

This morning we were greeted by a glorious sunrise over the mountains
and a smooth sediment trap deployment. Very soon after, we
left for station 3 of 5. We’ve just finished a survey of the area and are
about to deploy the CTD and camera. After that we’ll start coring.

The entire sediment trap mooring, with weights, floats, and acoustic
release, was laid out on deck for deployment.

Here is a shot of the actual trap. You can see the collection cups we
mentioned yesterday.

We all got an email about scheduling our travel home. With the end in
sight, many folks are starting to dream about what they most look forward
to when they get home. Some of the things folks miss most are:

1) Hugging my child (three of us left toddlers behind with family).
2) My dog.
3) Playing ultimate Frisbee in a big grassy field.
4) Taking a walk.
5) A hot bath and a glass of wine.
6) A salad that is not made of iceberg lettuce.
7) Sushi.
8) Trail running.
9) Green.

Position: 65 degrees 55.378 minutes South; 67 degrees 25.417 minutes West
Heading: 8.1 degrees
Speed over ground: 7.9 knots
Air temp. 2.8 degrees C; Water temp. 2.047 degrees C

February 26, 2008

The marine techs attach an acoustic pinger to the wire.

The sun is shining, the seas are calm and we can see the mountains again.
We’ve had a good day today. It finally feels like we are in the
groove. Coring is going well, and we’ve started two tracer experiments.
We’ve added the C-13 labeled phytoplankton to flux chambers. We’ll
monitor how the infaunal and microbial communities react to the additions.
It’s critical that we keep good records of all our experiments. We are
taking our record keeping high tech (for us old folks anyway). Andrew has
been busy transcribing notebooks and logs onto the computer so we can all
go home with electronic copies.

Rebecca checks on a flux chamber.

Craig is prepping a sediment trap and mooring. We’ll deploy one here at
Station B before we leave. It will be out an entire year before we
recover it. It has rotating cups, so one cup is in place under the funnel
collecting material for two and a half week and then another cup rotates
into place. Each cup is initially filled with a dense seawater-fixative
mix so that the trapped sediment does not degrade over the course of the

Position: 64 degrees 48.043 minutes South; 65 degrees 21.265 minutes West
Heading: 115.5 degrees
Speed over ground: 0.6 knots
Air temp. 2.3 degrees C; Water temp. 1.598 degrees C

Word of the day: Optimism.

February 25, 2008

Dave has a phrase that solicits much eye rolling from the gang, but has
been nominated as a great motto for station B: Be patient; be flexible; be
happy. The large swell continued through the night and most of the
morning. We’ve tried to shuffle the sampling schedule to prevent loss of
ship time. We’ve successfully finished two otter trawls, a Tucker trawl,
and a CTD. Since our last post, we’ve tried two kasten cores and two
boxcores. Much like the attempt with the megacorer yesterday, our coring
attempts today have been a bust, literally. The first box core came up
with the bridle broken and the door flaps open (pic).

The second came up with the carpet seal on the spade loose. We think it may have impeded the
spade just enough for the mud to wash out on the way up. We’re happy to
report that both the megacorer and boxcorer are now repaired and the swell
is diminishing. All in all, we are only about ten hours behind schedule.
It could be worse. Knock on wood. Some of us are proving to be a
superstitious crew.

The trawls have kept folks busy sorting and dissecting animals. Here’s a
picture of Linda dissecting. We sample the gonads, gut contents and body
wall for isotopic and biomarker analyses as well as genetics. We are
optimistic we will have a core up this evening.

Position: 64 degrees 47.664 minutes South; 65 degrees 25.387 minutes West
Heading: 105.7 degrees
Speed over ground: 10.5 knots
Air temp. 2.2 degrees C; Water temp. 1.526 degrees C

Response to Mary

Hi Mary:
Interested in the finer details? Each piece of equipment is attached to
wire cable which is controlled by a winch. The CTD travels to the
seafloor fastest, at 40 meters per minute. It comes up a bit more slowly
with stops at the depths where we want to trigger the Niskin bottles—that
means we send an electronic signal for the ends of the bottles to close.

Most of the coring equipment travels down at a rate of 30 meters per
minute. Once it is near the bottom we slow down a bit to allow the bridge
to position the boat so that the wire angle is good and our speed over
ground is zero. Then the winch operator lets out wire until the tension
on the wire indicates that the corer has hit bottom. Additional wire is
fed out to make sure the corer has time to trigger (we don’t want a swell
to yank it out prematurely). Then the gear is pulled out at 10-20 meters
per minute and it gradually speeds up for the trip to the surface. We
generally plan on 2 full hours for coring.

The trawls go down fast, too, at 30 meters per minute. A lot of extra
wire is released on trawl deployments. Then the otter trawl is on the
bottom for about 20 minutes as the bridge keeps the boat moving forward as
slowly as possible. It comes up at about 20 meters per minute. If it
comes up too fast the animals would squeeze against the net. There is
often a protective ball of mud in the net to help protect the critters.

February 24, 2008

If you have a big ship, you’ll need a big wrench- or maybe seven or eight.
Karen played Vanna White so that you can grasp the size of the wrenches
(pun intended). How strong you have to be to wield them, we can only
imagine. During the transit to Station B, the engineers invited folks
down for a tour of the engine room. Keeping the main engine running is a
big job. The engineers also are responsible for the bow thrusters and
other mechanical issues on board.

Shortly after the tour we arrived at the station. The first thing we did
is CTD with the camera attached. Fabio is responsible for backing up the
photos and checking the settings. After the CTD, we tried to core.
There is a sizable swell today, so we have not been successful so far.
The megacorer bounced on the seafloor. When we recovered it several tubes
were empty and a couple of springs were broken. While we make repairs, we
will try to otter trawl and hope the swell settles down soon.

In the meantime, we are still busy processing samples, running chemical
analyses and sorting animals from the sediment. Here are two pictures of
macrofaunal polychaetes who live in the sediment (we call them infauna).
They were both a few millimeters long. The pictures were taken through
the microscope. The onuphid had to be coaxed out of his tube for the
picture. The cirratulid has a lot of curly branchea on its anterior

Position: 64 degrees 47.151 minutes South; 65 degrees 25.486 minutes West
Heading: 22.4 degrees
Speed over ground: 3.5 knots
Air temp. 5.1 degrees C; Water temp. 1.420 degrees C

One down, four to go.

February 23, 2008

Today we finished working our first station. The weather has deteriorated
some, but on the whole it is not too bad. We’ve had periods of fog and
light rain. The seas have picked up some and the decks are awash. It has
not stopped our work or the humbacks from coming by to visit.

Today we did a camera tow along the bottom. We’re working on trying to
get a picture or two of the seafloor to share. We megacored one last time
at this station. You can see us pulling the individual cores off in the
rain. Around lunch time it cleared up enough for us to process a kasten
core outside on the deck. We use cut-off syringes to punch out plugs of
sediment and then centrifuge it to remove the water from porespaces in the
mud (pic). Now it’s dreary again.

Most folks are excited that the steam between here and the next station
will take at least 15 hours. It allows us to catch up on analyses,
laundry and sleep.

We’ve heard about a cool website that allows you to see real-time GPS
positions for ships at sea. It’s . We can’t check it from
here to see how user friendly it is, but it maybe worth a look. We are
aboard the R/V L.M. Gould.

Position: 63 degrees 2.161 minutes South, 61 degrees 36.862 minutes West
Speed over ground: 1.5 knots (we’re pulling a trawl)
Heading: 279.1
Air temp. 4.5 degrees C ; Water temp. 1.640 degrees C

Response to terrikhnc

Hi terrikhnc,

I am not sure what the timezone is called, but we are two hours later than
Eastern Standard Time.

Here are two pictures of data generated by the CTD. One represents
optical data, showing PAR and transmissivity. PAR is photosynthetically
active radiation, or light that can be used by plants and phytoplankton
for photosynthesis. Transmissivity is a way to show how clear the water
is. You'll also see temperature on this graph. In this case you see a
warmer layer of water near the surface that is well mixed. The PAR
penetrates past this layer, so we deduce that the phytoplankton in this
layer are not light limited.

The other graph plots salinity, temperature and density with depth. We
can use this type of graph to look for indications of upwelling and for
characteristics of different water masses, such as melt run-off or
Antarctic Bottom Water.

here's a picture of the
seafloor that was taken from a camera strapped to the CTD. In it, you can
see an anemone and a soft coral (the round thing with no tentacles) called
Amthomastus. The two laser dots are about 15cm apart for scale.

And for all of you out there worried that the Lachat nutrient analyzer has
eaten Kim alive, we are all proud to say it is she who has conquered it.

Feb 22

February 22, 2008

What day is this?

TGIF does not mean much to us out here. Now that we are on station the
24/7 work will continue. In fact of the five folks I polled at lunch,
none realized it was Friday. Most knew that UNC beat NCSU. I guess you
can tell where our hearts are.

Today is another beautiful day—calm seas, warm weather and brief windows
of sunshine. It cleared off enough for us to believe the map and see that
we were surrounded by very large mountain peaks in the distance. The
tranquility may end in the morning though. The captain poked his head in
the lab to tell us that the latest forecast out of Chile is predicting
high winds in the morning. Apparently Palmer got blasted by a storm last
night. The weather can change really quickly here.

Animals recovered in the otter trawl.

Last night we used the otter trawl to collect animals from the seafloor.
It took several hours to sort them by taxonomic group. Some will
be dissected for genetic, tracer and biomarker work. Some will be pickled
in formalin to preserve them for more specific identification. We are
trying to keep others alive in aquaria for feeding experiments. It is a
challenge to collect them without hurting them. First they have to
survive the bumpy ride in the trawl net, then they have to survive the
pressure changes on the way to the surface of the ocean, and finally they
have to be happy in the aquaria as the ship rolls and water quality
changes. We are all crossing our fingers that they fare well. We’ve also
got a bit of a challenge predicting which are predators—we surely don’t
want to mix the wrong species.

Today we have been coring with the kasten corer. It collects a
relatively long and narrow core that spans the last 9,000 years or so.
The cores it collects are valuable for measuring sediment accumulation
rates, deeper porewater processes, and geological shifts during the

Recovery of the kasten corer.

Right now we are focusing on plankton collections. Alyssa deployed a
small, fine mesh over the side earlier. Both this and the kasten
core deployments require that the gates on the deck be open. Anytime the
gates are open, the people working in the area must lash themselves to the
boat. Safety remains a top concern and the last thing we want is someone
to fall into the frigid water.

Position: 63 degrees 3.360 minutes S, 61 degrees 35.322 minutes W
On station

Air temp. 4.7 degrees C; water temp, 1.595 degrees C

Response to Mat

Hi Mat!,
There are pretty strict rules regarding waste as a result of the Antarctic
Treaty. We are not allowed to dump anything over the side. Sewage is
caught in a tank and treated. Once it's treated, it is discharged into
the ocean. The run of the mill garbage that we create on board is burned
in an incinerator on the 02 deck. We have to separate out things such as
batteries, aerosol cans and lab waste. Lab and other hazardous waste is
taken to Palmer Station, sorted, and transported back to the states for
disposal. The ship is not allowed to take these materials into Chile.


Feb. 21

We arrived on Station at 5:00 and surveyed the area. Then the fun began.
Finally some samples to sink our teeth into. It seems like it took a long
time to get to this point. It’s not been a perfect da; no 1st day in the
field ever is. The first megacore (collects tubes of mud from the
seafloor) bounced, but the second was a keeper. The box core did not
trigger on its first trip, but it is on its way down again. We’ve
had two successful CTD deployments.

Craig trouble shoots a problem with the box corer.

Everyone is busy processing samples. Alyssa is filtering seawater to
collect phytoplankton. Kim is gearing up the nutrient analyzer. Brian
and Rebecca are slicing a core for Thorium analyses, and Sarah and
Liz are preparing the Tucker trawl (for collecting plankton-esp. larvae).

Brian and Rebecca section a sediment core.

Sarah process samples in the aquarium room.

Position: 63 degrees 3.264 minutes South, 61 degrees 35.533 minutes West
Speed over ground: 0.7 knots
Heading: 323.0 degrees
Air temp. 4.0 degrees C; Water temp. 1.625 degrees C

February 20, 2008

Most folks slept late today after the late night party. Then we finished
the work we needed to do at the Palmer lab in time for folks to climb the
glacier behind the station and enjoy the view.

Mid-afternoon we set sail for our first station. We left the way we came,
through the Neumeyer Straight. This time the snow was light and we
gathered on the bow to watch the mountains and glaciers pass by. It was quite a show. We saw penguins, seals and humback whales.

The captain told us we should be on station at about 5:00 am. Folks on
the midnight to noon shift are already in bed. Those of us on the noon to
midnight shift are making labels and giving the gear one last look over.

When we arrive, we will first do a benthic survey with sonar imaging
equipment. We need a relatively flat, muddy area 600m deep for our work.
Then we will send down a CTD (an instrument that measures
conductivity-depth-temperature) with Niskin bottles (water collection at
discrete depths)and a camera. Soon after, we will begin sampling for mud,
animals and phytoplankton. Wish us luck!

Position: 64 degrees 14.350 minutes South, 61 degrees 53.746 minutes West
Speed over ground: 11.2 knots
Heading: 15.0 degrees
Water temp. 1.058 degrees C; Air temp. 1.4 degrees C

Responses to Tor and Mary

Thanks Tor- We're glad someone out there is paying attention.

We're not sure how many tourist ships come around Copa, we'll try to find out. There are several scientists who spend the entire summer at the station observing the colonies. Each watches over a different colony, recording information on behavior and reproduction, but they do not interfere with their day to day activities. Some of the scientist are permitted to mark nests and weigh and tag penuins. So yes, the penguins are used to a human presence. Because of the Antatctic treaty and because it's the right thing to do, we as visitors are not supposed to interfer with the penguins or alter their behaviors. Penguins are curious and social, so it is not entirely unusual for them to approach and check us out.

Today we awoke to a snow squall. The winds were blowing 40+ knots. It was snowing vertically and so hard it was difficult to see much beyond the ship. The wind chill was -18 degrees C and for the first time it felt like Antarctica should. Those of us who got up early to see the Neumeyer Straits were disappointed we could not see the scenery, but we enjoyed bragging about the snow and wind to our colleagues who slept late and missed it all.

At 12:30 we arrived at Palmer and relished another chance to walk on terra firma and enjoy the quiet. The weather quickly cleared and it became obvious that the glacier behind the station was significantly smaller than it had been during our last visit.

The folks at Palmer opened the gift shop for us. Some of the staff said we were more enthusiastic shoppers than the tourist boats. Most of us eagerly bought gifts for friends and family at home, as well as a few treats for ourselves (chocolate and drinks). The scientists and support staff invited us for a pizza dinner and party. There was music, dancing and a relaxing dip in the hot tub. We’ll post the pictures of the party tomorrow—now we’re ready for bed.

Position: 64 degrees 46.482 minutes South, 64 degrees 3.305 minutes West
Heading: Docked at Palmer Station
Air temp. 0.2 degrees C, Water temp. 1.954 degrees C

In respons to Mary's comment on living quarters:

Our living quarters are a bit close but pretty comfortable. Berthing is
in staterooms that generally have two bunks, a small desk and cabinet
space for our personal gear.

Each stateroom is attached to a
head. Some rooms share a head; others have their own.

We eat in the galley. There are crew members who cook three
meals for us. Most meals have rice and beans plus a hot, main dish and
veggies. So far there has also been no shortage of cookies fresh from the
oven. Once we get on station and begin working 24/7 there will be a
midnight meal. That's really important when you are working 12 hour
shifts out in the cold.

There are also places to relax and socialize or to meet and talk science.
We have a lounge with TV + movies, computers, board games and a satellite
phone. A favorite place to escape is the bow. The engines are not very
loud up there and you can get fresh air while you enjoy the scenery. We
also have a bit of luxury- a sauna and a hot tub.

Land Ho!

Land Ho!
February 18

Today when we awoke, we were offshore of the Bellinghausen station. They
sent a boat out to gather their supplies and then we were off to Copa.
At Copa, the weather was still good so we were all able to go ashore to
the station in zodiacs. It took several trips to ferry all of
the supplies and people, but it was well worth it.

The NCSU Research Team at Copa

The Hawaii Research Team at Copa

The station looked quite different from our last visit seven years ago.
Last time there was a blanket of snow and ice everywhere. This time, the
ground was covered with grass and moss! Invasive species have become a
real issue in the South Shetland Islands as the maritime climate warms.
When we returned to the ship, we had to scrub our boots thoroughly so we
would not transport seeds or insects further south along the peninsula.

The highlight of the day was spending time with the penguins. There were
gentoo and chinstrap penguins as far as we could see. Many penguins
had young chicks on their nests and older fledgelings nearby. Skuas
were circling and doing their best to pick off the weaker chicks. We saw
several skeletons leftover from previous meals. One of the scientists at
the station remarked that it was very late in the season for the penguins
to be nesting.

Before we returned to the ship we snapped two group photos of the
scientists. Now we are en route to Palmer Station.

Location: 62 degrees 30.365 minutes South, 58 degrees 47.216 minutes West
Speed over ground: 9.7 knots
Heading: 26.7 degrees
Air temp 3.1 degrees C; Water temp 1.638 degrees C

Meet the research team from Hawaii:

Dr. Craig Smith, Principal Investigator. I am a professor of oceanography
at the University of Hawaii and one of the leaders of the Antarctic
project (called FOODBANCS 2). I am studying how the communities of marine
animals and bacteria in the Antarctic are responding to climate warming.
Our study area along the Antarctic
Peninsula is warming faster than anywhere in the world, and the amazing
ecosystems there are changing very quickly. I also work in tropical
intertidal habitats (for example, mangroves in Hawaii) and on seafloor
communities in the very deep ocean (deeper than 4000 m or 2.5 miles) in
other parts of the world. The differences between Hawaiian and Antarctic
ecosystems are especially interesting because Hawaiian waters have
"summer" conditions year round, whereas the Antarctic has the harshest
winters on the earth. Those of us living in Hawaii love to suit in the
heavy Antarctic gear and venture out into the Antarctic cold -- it our
only chance to see some snow and ice!

Dr. Sarah Mincks. I'm a University of Alaska International Polar Year
Post-doctoral Fellow. I'm interested in seafloor ecology, including
reproduction and biodiversity patterns in invertebrates. I'm also working
in the Arctic for the next couple years, and hope to be able to make some
comparisons between how sediment organisms at both poles make their
"living" in a highly seasonal, low-temperature environment. On this trip,
one of the things I hope to do is get some animals to spawn, and raise the
larvae in the lab to describe the development. I will also be collecting
tissue samples from various organisms so I can use DNA to look at their
population structure and evolutionary history. More info about me can be
found on my website at

Dr. Liz Galley. I have just joined Craig Smiths lab at the University of
Hawaii as a Post-doctoral researcher working on the Foodbancs project. I
am interested in researching how seafloor animals respond to a variable
food supply in terms of their reproduction, feeding and composition of
their body tissues. I have previously looked at how these ecological
processes vary with a highly seasonal food supply, as we find in the
Antarctic. On this cruise we are looking at how these processes may be
affected by climate change. I will be dissecting alot of the animals from
the seabed trawl and describing the gut and feeding tentacle structure,
and storing the gonads for weight measurements. We also plan to analyse
some of the body tissues to measure energy content and determine main food
sources. As well as the internal biology of these animals I am also
interested in the dynamics of larval development and how this may be
affected by climate change, such as changes in temperature and ocean

Dr. Andrew Sweetman. Hi, my name is Andrew Sweetman and I'm a
post-doctoral scientist at the University of Hawaii. Back at UH, I look
at how marine invertebrates living in shallow and deep-sea sediments alter
the chemistry of these sediments and vice versa. On this cruise, I'll be
helping collect corals for DNA analysis to look at their population
structure, as well as setting up and using the two deep-sea camera systems
we have on board to see how certain animals (e.g. sea cucumbers) living at
the deep-sea floor behave and feed.

Dr. Rhian Waller. I'm a new faculty member at the School of Ocean and
Earth Science and Technology at the University of Hawaii and arrived there
just five weeks ago coming from my postdoc at the Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institution. My research focuses on looking at the ecology of cold-water
corals in extreme environments - like the Antarctic - and how they are
affected by stress such as climate changes and anthropogenic impacts. My
projects on this cruise involve collecting coral samples from trawls and
looking at their DNA to examine the population structure down the
peninsula (and comparing them to corals living on seamounts in the Drake
Passage and on the Chilean and Argentinian shelf from another project),
looking at how these corals reproduce using histology and TEM analysis,
and also collecting brooded larvae to look at larval behavior and skeleton
formation. I'll also be taking water samples to look at the aragonite
saturation of the water they live in to try and find out how these corals
are making their skeletons in such cold water, and how that would be
affected by ocean warming.

Fabio De Leo. I am a PhD student at University of Hawaii working with
Deep-Sea invertebrate communities. These animals (from very tiny
polychaete worms up to bigger shrimps, seastars, corals, etc) live in the
seafloor and represent important food resources for many fish species that
are exploited commercially around the world. Also, they represent one of
the largest reservoirs of the marine biodiversity (~70% of all marine
species lives in the bottom of the oceans). Thus, it is really important
to study them and preserve the ecosystem where they live.
In this current cruise here in Antarctica I am helping prof. Craig Smith
and other scientists to study how this ‘climate change’ that we hear all
the time in the news will affect marine ecosystems. We know that global
warming is already affecting how the oceans function and also that many
marine species are severely endangered. However, we still need to
investigate how the ocean warming and the melting of ice in the Antarctic
for example will affect the bottom of the ocean and the animals that live
there. You will find more about my research and interests at Come aboard with us…

Pavica Srsen. I am a graduate student at the Department of Oceanography at
the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Within this project, I am primarily
interested in how the biodiversity changes with changes of the latitude. I
will be looking at the macrofaunal and megafaunal community composition at
the seafloor at different latitudes along the Antarctic Peninsula. I hope
to see some biodiversity patterns coupled with sea ice duration which
could help us to predict the changes in the seafloor communities as a
result of global warming.

Angelo Bernardino. Hello everyone, I am a graduate student from Brazil but
currently I am working at University of Hawaii with Dr. Craig Smith. My
research focuses on ecology of communities that live at whale carcasses
that sink to the bottom of the ocean after they die. To study them, we
sink the carcasses to the bottom and them visit the study site at several
times to see what animals are living there. I am also comparing the
animals colonizing these whale falls with other deep-sea (below 1500
meters depth) communities, to see if any organisms utilize these whales as
"islands" to disperse across large ocean basins such as the Pacific Ocean.
In this cruise, I will be mainly involved in the analysis of microbial
communities in the sediment, to see how microbial organisms respond to the
latitudinal gradient on food input and ice duration. If you would like to
ask anything about my work or this cruise, I will be happy to answer you!
Aloha, Angelo.

Karin Lutke Elbers. I'm a Masters student from University of São Paulo -
Brazil. I'm interested in seafloor ecology and in this cruise I will help
on the sampling process. I'm working with the macrofauna from the first
Foodbancs project and now I hope to sort some animals to make some
comparisions between the periods and stations. More info about my
laboratory can be found at:

Today is our last day of steaming across the passage. It's been a mix of
last minute preparations and relaxing. The NCSU group is still struggling
to get the nutrient analyzer running. The Hawaii group has been prepping
the underwater camera to make sure the housing does not leak, that the
strobe is timed correctly, and that the lasers we use for size/scale are
set properly.

We continue to have outstanding weather. The seas are about as calm as we
have ever seen in the Drake Passage and the sun has shone all day. We are
seeing alot of albatross and a few smaller birds but not much other
wildlife yet. It is defintiely getting colder though! The air
temperature is around 5.3 degrees C and the water temperature is 2.5
degrees C. When we left Punta Arenas, the temperature was in the upper

Tomorrow morning at 6:00 am we will be stopping at King George Island very
briefly (at Bellinghausen first, then COPA). After we exchange supplies
at COPA we will leave the South Shetlands and head for Palmer Station on
Anvers Island.

Position: 60 degrees 25.387 minutes South, 60 degrees 51.950 minutes West
Speed over ground: 10.6 knots
Heading: 160.4 degrees

Shake, Rattle and Roll

February, 16
Well, the seas have picked up some but we are still having a pretty
pleasant crossing so far. The winds are only blowing about 8 knots, but
there is a slow steady swell that is rocking us side to side. Nobody is
sick but several folks are taking sea sickness medicine just in case.
Small items, such as cups and notepads, are starting to slide across
tables. The newest students aboard are starting to appreciate why things
needed to be tied down so carefully.

Craig holds Knot Tying 101. Can you tie a half hitch?

Today we worked more on lab set-up and started to finalize our plans for
sampling at each site. Of course, everything might change if the weather
does not cooperate. Fortunately we have a few hours built into the
schedule in case we get weathered out. Tonight a group of scientists who
are headed to Palmer Station are giving a slide show about their research.
They SCUBA dive to collect algae and invertebrate animals. They are
chemical ecologists studying similarities and differences in how protists
and animals compete for space and food.

We expect to make it to our first stop on Monday morning. We will be
picking up gear from Bellinghausen Station; it will be closing soon for
the winter. We are excited about seeing land again in a day and a half.

Location: 56 degrees 38.512 minutes South, 63 degrees 47.429 minutes West
Speed over ground: 10.1 knots
Heading: 153.9 degrees

And we're off

February 15, 2008
This morning we awoke underway. As I type, we are leaving the Straights
of Magellan and turning south. Since we are near land, the seas are quite
calm. Once we leave the shelter of Cape Horn and enter the Drake Passage,
the swell will grow, even if the weather is good.

Before lunch we had orientation. We heard about shipboard etiquette
(don't sit in the captains seat in the galley), donning survival suits and
how to e-mail home. We also sat in the lifeboats--definitely not a place
we want to end up! After lunch we had safety training for lab and deck
work. Now we are enjoying some free time. Some folks are setting up
instruments; some are napping; and some are outside watching the sea.

It takes a village to start a nutrient analyzer. Kim gets a little help
setting up the Lachat (maybe too much?).

Location: 53 degrees 1.645 minutes South, 67 degrees 33.382 minutes West
Speed over ground: 10 knots
Heading: 133.6 degrees

Well, we were standing at the tourist shop, 15 minutes from the penguin
tour, when the word came that the sediment traps had arrived at the boat!
We all rushed back to the ship, disappointed to miss the pinguinos, yet
happy to finally be on our way. All the gear had to be stowed and tied
down before the boat could leave the dock, so we worked frantically.

Brian and Andrew loading gear

It took until 11:30, but we got it done. Now we're tired, dirty and ready for
bed. The weather outlook is good for the next couple of days. Smooth

The wind and waves in the Drake Passage can be substantial. We use large
straps to ensure equipment such as the box corer does not shift during the

Meet the NCSU gang!

Dr. Dave DeMaster, Chief Scientist. Hi, I'm a Professor at NC State University, and I am interested in using radioisotopes to understand feeding dynamics on the Antarctic seafloor. There are several naturally occurring radioactive elements that we use. One is C-14. We can use it to date materials that contain carbon. Another is Thorium 234. It has a short half-life so we can use it to understand short term movement of particles, such as phytoplankton and sediment, through the water column and seabed. The most exciting part of this to me is using the isotope concentrations in worm tissues and stomach contents to see how much fresh phytoplankton the worms are ingesting 500m below the water's surface.

Dr. Carrie Thomas, Principal Investigator. Hi, I'm an Assistant Research Professor at NC State University. I use a couple different research tools to understand feeding dynamics and carbon cycling in the mud at the ocean's bottom. One tool we use is called a flux chamber. In it, we incubate a small part of the seafloor and measure concentrations of important oxidants and by-products of respiration to gauge how much organic matter is consumed by microbes and small animals living in the mud. Another tool we use is C-13 labeled phytoplankton grown in Raleigh. C-13 is a stable isotope of carbon that is relatively rare in nature. By growing phytoplankton in special media, we create organic matter that contains only C-13 (little or no C-12). When we add the labeled phytoplankton to sediment or feed it to invertebrates, we can actually follow the phytoplankton derived carbon into the food web.

From left: Stian, our Chief MST, Dr. Dave DeMaster, Dr. Craig Smith (in red hiding behind the box-corer) and Dr. Carrie Thomas.

Hi, I'm Rebecca Pirtle-Levy and very new to Antarctic research. I have just started a PhD program at NCSU and am looking forward to playing with mud! I will be working with flux chambers assisting Dr. Carrie Thomas.

Hi, I'm Kimberly Null. I am a PhD student at NC State. I normally work in the Neuse River Estuary but now will be traveling to Antarctica to run the nutrient analyzer.

From left: Brian Pointer, Rebecca Pirtle-Levy, Kim Null, Linda Waters. It is considered good luck for sailors to rub the toe of Magellan before leaving for sea.

Hey all, my name is Alyssa Hopkins and I am a Master's student working under Dr. Carrie Thomas. I have a vested interest in polar topics and am very excited to be participating in this series of Antarctic cruises. My task on ship will be to assist Dr. Thomas and assess phytoplankton species diversity.

Alyssa Hopkins admiring University of Hawaii scientist, Dr. Andrew Sweetman.
Hey, I'm Linda. I'll be doing all the jobs no one else wants to do as well as squeezing in a bit of sampling for the tiny larval organisms that live near the bottom of the ocean.

Greetings, I am Brian Pointer, a graduate student at NCSU working with Dr. Dave using radioisotopes to investigate sediment and ecosystem dynamics. This trip is going to rock!


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