2013 AU/CMU Icy Inverts Research Cruise to Antarctica PART DEUX

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I’m headed back to Antarctica. This time I will be spending a month aboard the R/V Gould, leaving from Punta Arenas Chile on Nov 22nd. We will be spending the time collecting marine invertebrates from the continental shelf in the Bellingshausen Sea on the western coast.

We have limited internet access but I will attempt to keep everyone up to date using this blog page. I hope you find it interesting and informative:

Here are some links to other sites that will help you track our progress as well:

Track the ship in real time HERE

Official Auburn University blog is HERE

Official Central Michigan University blog is HERE

I’m in Hobart!

So I start my first cruise as a network admin on the RVIB Palmer on Tuesday. Palmer is returned yesterday to Hobart Tasmania from the continent and I’m replacing another tech for the next cruise. We will be sailing to Victorialand and along the coast to Pryzk (sp?) Bay. This is a G cruise which means it has geological science being done rather than the biological work I’m familiar with. I met the Principal Investigator on the flight over and it looks like we will be doing some interesting data accumulation. I’ve heard rumors of a drone being used. I have one of my own I’d like to eventually bring down but NSF has pretty strict guidelines regarding their use. Has to do with protecting the environment should it be lost. Makes sense. I’ll have to figure out how to navigate the rules properly. Anyway, that’s all for now. 

Sampling complete and back at Palmer Station

We did our last trawl late last night in Flandres Bay. Sadly it was a bit of a bust. The net tangled and the trawl came up empty. We needed to start making the transit to Palmer Station and were unable to redo it. This morning we woke up just before arriving at Palmer Station and began packing the lab and finishing the packing of or samples. We needed to have it finished before we depart Palmer Station because it would be too difficult to do in the Drake Passage. We will be transiting the passage for about 4 days and arriving in Punta Arenas on the 20th. Some quick off loading and we all catch flights home on the 21st in the morning. Home in time for Christmas. Although I’ve spent the last month surrounded by ice and snow, I haven’t gotten the holiday spirit yet. Hard to without Christmas music blaring at me from every store and radio station. Anyway, Flandres Bay was one of the prettiest places we’ve been. Hope the pics help illustrate that a little.

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Fjord hopping and some perspective

We’ve been sampling in some of the fjords on the Antarctic Peninsula. The scenery is simply stunning. I was in Tracy Arm Alaska this summer with my family and we sailed through some amazing fjords but it’s hard to compare them to where I am now.

When everything is covered in ice, it’s hard to get a perspective on how big things are and their distance. Today a cruise ship let us blaze a trail for them through some ice before heading off in a different direction. The attached photo helps illustrate the scale of the mountains around us. The cruise ship is about 500ft long which is about twice our length. Pretty incredible.

I’ve attached a couple more photos of interesting formations. I could sit and stare all day at the walls. As the light changes, all kinda of neat features pop out.

We are attempting to head south now to where we originally wanted to sample. Hopefully we will get a few trawls in that area. Our time here is quickly drawing to a close. We’ve got less than 5 full science days left.

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Too slow equals change in plans

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We were supposed to head to Elephant Island and the Orkneys but the ice got the better of us. We changed course and headed west, stopping to sample off the tip of the Antarctica and now we are sampling our way back through the Bransfield Strait. Overnight we sampled a site 2km deep. It takes hours just to deploy and recover that deep. The yoyo cam pictures were interesting but we didn’t recover many animals.

We are hoping the ice will let us down into the Bellingshausen Sea. We really are at the mercy of the ice here. Attached are some pics showing variation in the trawls. Some are incredibly muddy while others are clean. The indoor pic shows our preservation assembly line and a couple of other pics are me doing various deck tasks wearing my sweet Stormr gear. I’ve been really happy with it. Much more comfortable than the issue gear.

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Slow Going

We’ve finished sampling in the Weddell Sea and are heading north to sample near Elephant Island and the Orkney Islands. Progress is slow however because we’ve run into some heavy ice. Only making 2-4 knots. I’m not complaining though as the last week of sampling do been very intense and a rest day is sorely needed. Feeling my old knees and shoulder.

I’ve been getting plenty of the urchin I need (Sterechinus) for my research as well as many other species. The cidaroid (pencil) urchins are some of the more unique. An interesting feature is the variety of organisms that encrust their long spines. Some are completely clear, some have sponges, others have bivalves, and some have both. The variety of encrusting seems species dependent. I wonder if there is some sort of chemical defense/attraction.

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Finally! An update

So a little I’ve a week in board and I finally have a few minutes and the Internet, so a blog post.

We’ve had excellent weather the entire trip. Many days we’ve had some sun and no storms yet, knock on wood.

We were originally stopping at Palmer Station at the base of the Antarctic Peninsula and then sampling south of there to the Bellingshausen Sea but there was too much ice. We decided to head north around the tip o the peninsula and are currently sampling in the Weddell Sea. This is great for me as I have no samples from this area. We’ve gone as far south as we can though due to ice and will start heading back to the area we were originally hoping to sample. The ice is constantly moving here and we hope it will have moved enough to allow us in.

We are sampling constantly so sleep is at a premium. Hard to get though because this boat is loud and when we do are sampling the bow thrusters are in use a lot. Ear plugs help, but only a little.

I’m attaching a few random pics. I hope you are all doing well.

David

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I have a sponsor!

Stormr has been kind enough to sponsor my trip by providing me with their unique neoprene foul weather gear. Their gear is much more comfortable than the government issue gear and should make my time on deck sorting trawls much more enjoyable. They were also kind enough to offer the whole crew substantial discounts to support our work. Their support is greatly appreciated and when you see pictures of me working, I’ll be wearing their gear. check out their gear HERE

Special thanks to Ryan at Stormr for making it possible.

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One muddy trawl

We’ve had 3 really muddy trawls. This was the last on being released from the net. Most times we still find a lot of organisms to collect but this one turned out to be a bit of a dud. Muddy trawls are an incredible amount of work.

Picture taken by my work partner Dr. David Weese.

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More pretty

A couple of more pics of the pretty stuff. Ice being pushed away from the boat as we move and a panorama of calm water and ice.

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Evidence of my trawl work

Seems there aren’t enough pics of me working outside on the AU blog, so here are some. One of the pics is me holding a large dumbo octopus. Look them up on YouTube or Google. Incredible animal. The others are me picking through the remains of our trawls for small organisms that might have been missed in the early triage sorting.

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When I’m not taking pictures, I’m staring at this

My workstation. This is the Multibeam Sonar system. It my job to make sure that it’s recording data properly. Ice and the ships maneuvering give it fits. My colleague, David Weese, and I use the data to create maps that the Captain and Chief Scientist use to maneuver and determine sampling sites.

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Wait for me!

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We’ve seen a fair number of penguins and seals but I’m told we’ll see more when we get closer to McMurdo Station.

Ice, ice, and more ice!

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Icebergs everywhere. They’re simply beautiful and they are immense. It’s hard to tell how big they are because everything here is so large. Incredibly hard to judge scale. Many are easily as big as football stadiums and there are tabletop icebergs that must be as big as several city blocks and several stories high. These pics are some of the more stunning. I could stand at the bow and take iceberg pics for the whole trip.

Sleep is for the weak!

I’m hoping to get up some really nice pics later today. We’ve been sampling around the clock and I’m getting about 4 hours of sleep every 24 so very little time to write anything interesting. There might be an 18-24 hour stretch coming up for me to do laundry, sleep and write a real post. So stay tuned.