Happy St. Patrick's Day!

We've just docked in Punta Arenas and are waiting for customs to clear us.
We've got a full day of offloading ahead of us and then the end of the
cruise dinner. Everybody is chomping at the bit to eat food of their own
choosing. We'll post again from the US.

The Ideas of March

We have around 30 hours left in our trip. When we wake up tomorrow we
should be in sight of land again. The seas have been good to us again.
It’s not quite as nice as the ride down; there have been a few moments
we’ve had to use the hand rails in the hallways or wait for the roll to be
able to open doors.

We’ve had a busy crossing. Most of us are finishing up packing all our
lab equipment today. Tomorrow we clean. Quite a bit of mud and seawater
gets tracked into the lab, so a lot of scrubbing will be in order. It’s
not been all work. We’ve also had enough time for a double feature in the
lounge and for folks to cram in a novel before we are back to reality.

Everybody is looking forward to an end of the cruise dinner our first
night in Punta Arenas. Many of us fly out the next day; a few will stay a
day or two longer.

Position: 57 degrees 08.907 minutes South; 64 degrees 17.969 minutes West
Heading: 351.9 degrees
Speed over ground: 11.3 knots
Air temp. 6.6 degrees C; Water temp. 5.835 degrees C

We’re coming home.

March 13, 2008

The visit to Palmer was fun. Dinner was Mexican food- enchiladas, nachos
and tacos- delicious! Then we enjoyed the science talk and a party. This
morning folks hiked out to Bonaparte Point in the fresh snow to see
elephant seals. They really stink. We left the station around 2:00 for
Punta Arenas.

Our posts will be less frequent now that the cruise is winding down.
We’ll check in and let you know how the transit across the Drake Passage
is going. Once we are back in our labs, we’ll also post occasionally as
we analyze our samples and get ready for the cruise in July.

Position: 64 degrees 23.908 minutes South; 62 degrees 09.080 minutes West
Heading: 042.2 degrees
Speed over ground: 12.4 knots
Air temp. 1.1 degrees C; Water temp. 0.875 degrees C

Peterman pick-up

March 12, 2008

Penguin in the snow.

Hey, where's my ride?

It started as a day only a penguin could love. We reached the Peterman
pick-up shortly before 6:00 a.m., and it was cold and pouring rain.
Fortunately for us, the rain turned to snow as we boarded the zodiacs. We
spent a couple of hours carrying gear from a small hut to the shoreline
and loading it onto the boats. The marine techs then ferried it back to
the ship. While we waited for the zodiacs to return for another load, we
were entertained by penguins, and then by a more gruesome glimpse of
nature. A leopard seal began hunting at the mouth of the small bay where
we had landed. It grabbed a penguin in the water and quickly skinned and
devoured it. Sea birds flocked to take bits of the leftovers for

Next stop is Palmer Station. We are looking forward to another chance to
stretch our legs. Dave, Carrie and Craig have been invited to give the
Science Wednesday talk this evening. After that, we expect to relax in
the lounge with a game of pool and perhaps some dancing.

The Peterman pick-up.

Position: 64 degrees 55.600 minutes South; 63 degrees 39.240 minutes West
Heading: 044.7 degrees
Speed over ground: 11.5 knots
Air temp. 0.9 degrees C; Water temp. 1.109 degrees C

We got them all.

March 11, 2008

We managed to get all of the outstanding sampling done at the third
station, despite the swell. Now folks are packing samples and gear.
Everything has to be inventoried and labeled with codes telling the Polar
Services Support staff whether it is to be shipped back to the US or
stored in a warehouse in Chile until our next cruise in July.

Some of us are still plugging away on experiments. Kim won’t be done with
the dreaded Lachat for about three more days. It’s difficult to express
her joy over this last bit of fun.

The flux and feeding experiments will run down to the wire. We hope to
have them finished shortly after we leave Palmer Station.

We are motoring north overnight to the “Peterman Pick-up.” Hopefully we
will all get some more personal time with the penguins after the work is
done. Then we’re off to Palmer.

Position: 66 degrees 02.409 minutes South; 66 degrees 05.199 minutes West
Heading: 049.0 degrees
Speed over ground: 10.6 knots
Air temp. 2.2 degrees C; Water temp. 1.543 degrees C

This is it.

March 10, 2008

Last night’s transit was filled with 50 knot winds, heavy snow and ice
bergs. We arrived at the third station around breakfast time. While the
midnight shift waited for the okay to start sampling, they busied
themselves making snow samples (pic). Then very quickly, the last of the
front blew through and the day turned sunny and warm. The swell hasn’t
been as quick to leave us. The first two attempts at coring have been a
bust. The boxcore is on its way up now, and the wire tension on the pull
out looked promising. We are hoping the swell will die down as the
afternoon wears on. We have until dinner time tomorrow to finish
sampling. After that we have to leave to pick up gear from a camp and
make it to Palmer Station on the 12th.

Position: 65 degrees 59.068 minutes South; 67 degrees 17.096 minutes West
Heading: 264.1 degrees
Speed over ground: 2.2 knots
Air temp. 3.0 degrees C; Water temp. 1.649 degrees C

‘Ello Mate.

March 9, 2008

The view at the last rock collection site.

The day started with the last of the rock collecting. After lunch we
enjoyed a visit with our friends from across the big pond. The Brits at
Rothera Base had agreed to collect some holothurians for us during their
diving ops, so we swung by to pick them up. They were especially kind to
invite everyone ashore for a tour of their labs and a couple hours of R&R.
A fun time was had by all. Brian showed off his drumming abilities in
the lounge where the Antarctic concert for Live Earth was recorded. Other
folks enjoyed a game of soccer and some Frisbee.

Touring Rothera.

Right now we are headed back to our third station to finish our coring.
During the transit we will process the tracer experiments from the fifth
station and start more feeding experiments with the animals from Rothera.

The R/V LM Gould soccer team.

Position: 67 degrees 34.459 minutes South; 68 degrees 08.051 minutes West
Heading: 038.0 degrees
Speed over ground: 0.0 knots
Air temp. 3.5 degrees C; Water temp. 0.410 degrees C

We’re still rock hunting.

March 8, 2008

More rocks today. Right now we are arriving at Horse Shoe Island. We’ve
been pretty successful so far. One more day of rocks and we’ll be back to
coring for mud at the third station.

A fur seal supervises rock collecting.

Hey Dave, what did that rock ever do to you?

Rebecca came back to the ship last night with a bucket full of
invertebrates. The ROV proved fully functional and effective. They had
incredibly good luck on the initial deployment. When they dropped it into
the water, there was soft bottom. They were able to use the arm and goody
bag to gather sea urchins, brittle stars and a nudibranch. Then like all
good luck, it had to end. The next two spots were rocky and too deep.
The ship them back, and we were off. The animals are happily munching
labeled algae as we write.

Andrew, Karin, and Sarah look pretty happy to be taking a ride on the zodiac.

Position: 67 degrees 46.753 minutes South; 67 degrees 06.636 minutes West
Heading: 160.7 degrees
Speed over ground: 8.5 knots
Air temp. 3.7 degrees C; Water temp. 0.612 degrees C

There’s gold in them hills!

March 7, 2008

Or at least granite and metamorphosed sedimentary rocks, we hope. There
are exactly two people on board who have any geologic experience: Dave and
Kim. We also have a rough map from the folks in SC indicating where they
would like us to sample. With map in hand, we cruise around a location
looking for landing sites with binoculars. Then the zodiac launches with
the collectors, a few rock hammers and a maul.

This sure looks like basalt to me?

At the first site, Dave and Kim were a bit concerned. All the rocks
appeared to be basalt. They finally located some granite, sampled it and
also brought back some basalt-looking rocks, just in case. At the second
site, we hit the jackpot finding the sedimentary material our colleagues
in SC are wanting.

Rock hounds on the hunt.

While some of the gang were honing their rock hounding skills, Rebecca set
out with the electronics techs and the remotely operated vehicle (ROV).
We are trying to determine if we can use the ROV to collect animals for
feeding experiments. We’ll update you on that venture tomorrow.

Fabio got this fun shot of the Gould from shore.

Position: 68 degrees 09.214 minutes South; 67 degrees 06.942 minutes West
Heading: 265.3 degrees
Speed over ground: 0.0 knots
Air temp. 4.1 degrees C; Water temp. 0.851 degrees C

Wrapping up

March 6, 2008

We’ve just finished at our 5th station. The last two things we deployed
were the Tucker trawl and the sediment trap. The cod end on the Tucker
trawl was packed with phytoplankton. Satellite images of
chlorophyll concentrations in the area show why. The areas with the
reds and yellows represent the highest concentrations of chlorophyll on
the map. We are sitting right atop a late summer bloom.

We were also lucky to have a brief bit of clear skies at daybreak. Rhian
posed for the camera in front of the sunrise. Very shortly after we were
back to snow and rain showers.

Over night, we’ll be steaming to the first rock collection site. We need
to find areas that will accommodate a zodiac landing. We emailed the
British research station, Rothera, which is quite close by, for advice,
but they did not know of any good landings where we are hoping to sample.
Wish us luck.

Position: 68 degrees 07.509 minutes South; 71 degrees 12.229 minutes West
Heading: 057.8 degrees
Speed over ground: 0.0 knots
Air temp. 3.0 degrees C; Water temp. 0.670 degrees C

March 5, 2008

Today we continue to sample at our station near the mouth of Marguerite
Bay. We’re making good time and hope to be done here either late tomorrow
or early on Friday. We’ll deploy the other particle trap and we are doing
more C-13 label experiments here, so our time on station is longer. As we
do certain tasks for the last time this trip, we are getting a bit punchy.
The last CTD drew a crowd in a hurry to get their samples out of the
bottles (pic). Even though we still need to return to the third station
to finish up coring, we are rapidly finishing all our trawls and
dissecting, too. The last benthic trawl turned up a devil’s purse with a
beautiful ray inside. In the picture you can clearly see its yolk sac and
the remnants of the “purse” off to the side.

After we finish here, we’ll cruise into Marguerite Bay to collect rocks
for a geologist in SC. The scenery should be gorgeous, and we are hoping
to see more wildlife.

Craig gets in on the dissection action.

Position: 68 degrees 08.477 minutes South; 71 degrees 00.894 minutes West
Heading: 000.4 degrees
Speed over ground: 1.4 knots
Air temp. 2.7 degrees C; Water temp. 0.687 degrees C

Marguerite Bay

March 4, 2008

The winds have slowed to 20 knots, but as you can probably guess, the seas
are still to rough to core. We have been able to start trawling. Our
first trawl here in Marguerite Bay caught more rocks than animals.
Looking at the variety of rocks made us start to think about the geology
and origin of the region, so we investigated a reference book on board:

Encyclopedia of the Antarctica and the Southern Oceans. 2002. B.
Stonehouse, Editor. John Wiley ands sons Ltd. West Sussex, England. Pp.

In the entry called “Geology: stratigraphy and structure”, we found the
info for which we were looking.

“The rocks that form the Antarctic Peninsula were deposited as muds and
fine sediments in a seabed trough from the late Paleozoic to the early
Mesozoic. They were later metamorphosed by volcanic eruptions and
intrusions. Later, folding and block faulting shaped the peninsula into
the feature we see now.”

How funny that the rocks started in the sea and are being returned by the
ice. It picks them up over land, rafts over the sea, melts and drops the
rocks onto the seabed in the process. The rocks have rough edges and are
quite colorful. We’ve found feldspar granites, shale, and sandstone so

In the same entry of the book we learned a few other fun facts:

Between 590-505 million years ago (Ma), Gondwana straddled the equator,
and the Antarctic Peninsula actually jutted into the Northern hemisphere.
Between 480 and 97 million years ago, Gondwana migrated south over the
South Pole and then northward again. By 85 million years ago,
Gondwanaland was breaking apart into the continents. At the time
Antarctica was heavily forested. Up until about 60 Ma Antarctica retained
its land links with South America and Australia, so it was also home to
some of the earliest mammals. Antarctica became glaciated again during
the Pleistocene.

Position: 68 degrees 08.783 minutes South; 71 degrees 3.324 minutes West
Heading: 301.7 degrees
Speed over ground: 0.4 knots
Air temp. 3.1 degrees C; Water temp. 0.634 degrees C

A note from the blogger....

I know some of these posts have been later than usual, and the pictures may not be coming through. Don't fret, keep checking back here I'll have them up as soon as possible. I've just flown down to Orlando Florida for the 2008 American Society of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO) Conference. There are over 4000 participants this year with talks ranging from fish biology to physical and biological studies in, you guessed it, Antarctica. Unfortunately my hotel has a poor wireless connection so it's a struggle to get even the text up. I'll see if I can work something out and get the pictures uploaded tomorrow from the convention center here. Hopefully at the next ASLO meeting our NCSU Antarctica expeditioners will be presenting some of their findings!

~Travis Miles
North Carolina State University
Marine Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

It's been monday all day

March 3, 2008

We’re on a way to Marguerite Bay and our 5th station. We finished coring
on schedule and were ready to start steaming south when a bolt sheared on
one of the engines. The engineers wasted no time making repairs. As they
worked, another weather system moved in. The winds have been blowing
steadily between 37 and 40 knots, with gusts up around 50. The snow fell
quickly enough for a time that it accumulated on the ship. Then the air
warmed up above freezing again, and ice and slush began falling from the
upper decks onto the fantail. It’s a good thing we wear hard hats!
Truthfully, there were precious few reasons to go out. A few folks
ventured out to the chemical locker and to the cold van to sample flux

The sea is full of white caps. It’s difficult to gauge if the swell is
bad, because we are traveling with the seas. We tried to catch a picture
of the waves and snow, but it just doesn’t translate well. It is quite

Okay, we know it's not quite like the chunks of ice that were falling on
Chicagoans a fews weeks back, but it's still cold if it slides down your

We should be on station by 11:00 tonight. We’re all hoping for a nap
before we arrive (and for the weather to change again).

Sarah’s worm of the day contribution is a hesionid polychaete.

Alyssa, let the poor man sleep!

Position: 67 degrees 40.046 minutes South; 70 degrees 1.678 minutes West
Heading: 202.2 degrees
Speed over ground: 12.3 knots
Air temp. 1.9 degrees C; Water temp. 0.885 degrees C

Mud, glorious mud.

March 2, 2008

Finally! About 3:00 a.m. we were able to resume coring. Spirits are
noticeably higher. We have recovered 1 kasten core, 1 box core and 3
megacores since, with a CTD thrown in to mix things up. Sarah also found
more cool animals under the microscope. Here’s a Prionospio (another
polychaete worm). Hopefully the detail in the photo won’t be lost during
our email transfer.

Because we know you may be growing weary of all the core talk, we’ve
included two pictures of the bridge. Rick, the third mate, is at the
helm. One of his many jobs includes holding the ship on station as the
core goes in and then to position the ship safely while the core is
recovered. You can see the megacorer on the monitor in the second photo.
Sometimes, when we hit a large swell in the middle of a sensitive task, we
razz them, shouting out “Hey, who’s driving this thing?”, but you can tell
from the bridge panel, it takes a lot of talent and multitasking to keep
us on target and safe.

Apparently we owe some bryozoans an apology. It’s been brought to our
attention that we misspelled it recently. We imagine there has been no
shortage of typos and grammatical errors over the past few weeks.
Conditions are less than perfect out here so don’t doubt our collective
educations… if we were on a non-rocking platform and rested we would
surely do better.

With any luck, we’ll finish up our fourth station within 24 hours.

Position: 66 degrees 59.141 minutes South; 69 degrees 43.128 minutes West
Heading: 24.3 degrees
Speed over ground: 2.6 knots
Air temp. 1.4 degrees C; Water temp. 1.036 degrees

Response To Lundie

Hi Lundie:

When we see humpbacks, we see groups of several. Sometimes it is
difficult to count them. The last group looked to be about 5 animals?

As for your Secchi disk question, let’s first make sure all our readers
know what a Secchi disk is. It is a device used to measure water
transparency. The disk, usually made of wood or plastic, is divided into
quarters which are painted alternating black and white for contrast. It is
lowered into the water at mid-day until it can no longer be seen. The
depth where it appears to disappear is recorded.

Now, we’ll admit you stumped us. It is not a measurement we normally make
and none of us could remember the conversion from oceanography 101. After
surveying most everyone on board and not finding an answer to your
question, we did what any self respecting undergraduate would do. We
searched the copy of Wikipedia that is maintained on the ship’s server.
It says that multiplying the Secchi depth by 3 will approximately give the
depth of the euphotic zone. During most of our CTD casts, measurable PAR
is reaching 50-60 meters depth. Dividing by three gives us a Secchi depth
on the order of 17-20 meters. Whew, we almost had to get out the
calculator for that one!

Take what you get…

March 1, 2008

The weather forecasters were right with their predictions. Yesterday
afternoon and last night were pretty sloppy. For a while the decks were
closed and no one was allowed outside. There was a movie marathon for
about 8 hours after folks ran out of busy work to do.

Early this morning the winds finally abated. Unfortunately, the swell has
not. It’s been another day of trawling, CTDs and camera tows. The CTD
today and flux experiments we started at previous stations have at least
given us water samples for oxygen titrations and nutrient analyses. While
water, plankton and animals are good, mud would be better.
We are all getting antsy waiting for coring to begin again. We’ve also
begun eyeing the calendar and realizing we do not have that much time left
to complete our sampling. It’s time for Mother Nature to cooperate again.

We determine oxygen concentrations in small volume water samples by
winkler titration.

Position: 66 degrees 59.297 minutes South; 69 degrees 43.439 minutes West
Heading: 20.6 degrees
Speed over ground: 2.1 knots
Air temp. 1.8 degrees C; Water temp. 1.268 degrees C

Happy Leap Year Day!

February 29, 2008

Water is regularly splashing against the porthole in the lab.

We’ve moved once again. We are now just south of the Antarctic Circle at
our fourth station. Apparently March comes in like a lion in the southern
hemisphere, too. Last night the weather forecast came out, and it was
worse—at least 48 more hours of low pressure, high wind and seas, and more
snow. The winds were already blowing over 30 knots and the box corer
began to pre-trigger (the swell affected the wire tension so much that the
spade would close before the corer reached the seabed). It was clear
there was not going to be any more coring for a while. We decided to make
the most of the ship time by finishing up all the trawling at our third
station and transiting south. There continues to be some work we can get
done despite the large swell and high winds. Right now we are surveying
the new station to identify good, muddy spots to core. The down side of
this is that the ship must run along defined transect lines, regardless of
how she takes the swells. Right now it feels like we are in the trough,
rolling from side to side. Hopefully soon, we’ll turn, have following
seas, and enjoy a smoother ride for a while.

Liz and Karin are still dissecting smaple from last night's trawl.

Most of us are taking the opportunity to catch up on sample analyses,
dishwashing and dissecting chores. We’ve also had a label party, making
labels for containers that will hold the tracer experiment samples. We’ll
end those experiments tonight.

Prepping sample jars to hold the first C-13 labeled samples.

Position: 67 degrees 00.081 minutes South; 69 degrees 39.998 minutes West
Heading: 305.3 degrees
Speed over ground: 10.1 knots
Air temp. 2.4 degrees C; Water temp. 0.971 degrees C

February 28, 2008

No it wasn’t Santa Claus confused about which pole to call home. It was a
giant rock on deck. Definitely, not something we see everyday. Just when
we think we’re in the groove and things are feeling a bit predictable, the
ocean reminds us that nothing is mundane at sea. The first hints that
this site is a little different from previous sites came during the survey
and from previous sidescan images of the area. We are positioned over a
basin with a smooth muddy bottom, but there is substantial bottom relief
nearby. Then, the CTD/camera tow ended a bit prematurely when we
discovered a rock wall in its path. No significant damage was incurred,
but the CTD frame will need a little work. Then during the otter trawl
the wire tension jumped to 10,000 pounds (it had been on the order of
3,000 lbs.). The marine project coordinator and shift leader made the call
to get it off the bottom quickly, because, we can’t afford to lose or rip
the net. The tension quickly returned to a normal level, but folks were a
little anxious waiting for it to surface. Yes, we caught a boulder
instead of animals. And yes, we sampled the animals attached to the rock
(limpets, serpulid polychaetes, and bryazoans).

Liz sampling the animals growing attached to the rock.

Here's a sight more typical after an otter trawl. It's a starfish that
was brooding its young. Awe, aren't all baby starfish cute?

Our other bit of excitement is the weather forecast. There is another low
headed our way with snow. Seas are supposed to build overnight and the
snow maybe quite heavy. We rearranged our sampling schedule a bit to try
to finish much of the coring earlier than planned and save things like the
Tucker trawl for later. The clouds and wind are already moving in.

Position: 65 degrees 59.002 minutes South; 67 degrees 17.104 minutes West
Heading: 42.5 degrees
Speed over ground: 0.9 knots
Air temp. 4.5 degrees C; Water temp. 1.845 degrees C


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