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...

Ice Ice Baby

Sea spray from the bow as ship pitches in heavy seas.

We have found a suitable site for station N, but the weather and seas are proving to be far too rough for sediment sampling.  Add to that the falling temperatures (-11*C and wind chill down to -32*C) and we have an icy situation on deck.  Seawater doesn't freeze until it reaches -1.85*C or so.  The back deck of the N.B. Palmer is heated, so no ice tends to form there.  Our sampling gear sitting on the deck - not heated.  So after taking a lot of water and sea spray, all of our equipment has approx. 2-3 inches of ice covering every crevice and cranny. 

  Boxcorer encased in ice.

  Unless weather improves, we may not be able to sample much here at our new station.  At least it's making for some pretty photos. 

Weather has been fairly poor, and the hunt for Station N, our new-fangled northern station has been unsuccessful.  A nice flat area near Elephant Island looked promising, but a survey with the Mud SCUD benthic video camera showed the site to be quite rocky and unsuitable for sampling. 

With weather flaky and the crew in need of a bit of rest, today we made a morale stop at Maxwell Cove on King George Island.  Any chance to get off the boat for a little time on land is likely to be the most memorable and exciting part of a cruise.  This was no exception, with a flock(?) of penguins near our landing site to entertain with their curious cuteness.   (Actually, what is a group of penguins called?  Not having Google on the boat is painful!)

  Chief Scientist, Dr. Craig Smith and Dr. Dave DeMaster posing nearby a small colony of gentoo penguins on King George Is.  

Testing the waters.

We had a rather close encounter with a leopard seal.   These guys are one of the major predators of these waters.  The zodiac offers relative safety, but leopard seals are known to attack humans.  This particular seal was very curious and swam under the zodiac a few times before deeming us a little to hard to eat.

And of course, what trip on land would be complete without a little winter sport.  Our landing location had a great hill that might have been great for skiing if we had skis.

However, we make due with what we have, and we all have butts.  Most of us tired ourselves out sliding down the hill on our fannies as many times as we could.
  We really had a great time out there, and smiles were contagious.
Great Day!


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