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.


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