(This post is by Travis, but since they have limited internet on the boat I’m posting it for him)
So it’s been a while since I’ve gotten the chance to write. I know Kaycee has updated everyone to a lot of what’s been going on at Palmer the last few weeks. Here’s an update from those of us on board the Laurence M. Gould headed down the Western Antarctic Peninsula. We left station on January 7th and steamed out 3 hours to our first station. This may seem like a decent amount of time before station, but I assure you we were all in a mild state of panic trying to organize our lab, get our sea legs and orient ourselves to the ship and labs. Processing a station consists of a number of different activities. First, our group B-019 deploys the AC-9 cage (the same one we’ve been using from the Zodiac at Palmer all season). Second we deploy the PRR and PUV, which are essentially two instruments that do the same job as our HyperSpectral Spear, which broke back at Palmer, measuring the properties of light in the upper layer of the ocean, or Euphotic Zone.
After deploying these instruments off the ships stern Oscar rushes upstairs and watches the read-outs as the ship drops its Rosette over the side. The Rosette consists of a host of instruments such as a CTD (like the one on our AC-9 Cage), a fluorometer that estimates the Chlorophyll-a in the
water-column, PAR sensor to measure the amount of light available for photosynthesis, and 24 Niskin bottles, which we can close at whatever depths we’re interested in. This allows for us to bring water from any depth onto the ship and into our labs for analysis. Our group generally focuses on the upper 100 meters where the majority of primary production occurs. We collect the water and begin to filter it for a host of
properties such as Chlorophyll-a, pigments and Particulate Organic Carbon, all useful measurements in understanding how phytoplankton and primary production occur in the oceans upper layers. While we’re filtering the zooplankton group, which Kim is a part of, drops and pulls numerous nets from the stern A-frame. They collect and sort through hundreds of krill, salps, pteropods and the occasional fish for the next few hours. One station like this usually takes us about 5-7 hours to complete. We then steam to the next station usually 2-5 hours away and do it all over again. Needless to say, it’s a TREMENDOUS amount of work and sleep can be in very very short supply.
After performing our first few stations, we circled back around to the Palmer Basin where we spent 3 days doing what we call a Process Station. A Process Station is essentially the same thing as a regular station, but we do it over and over for 3 days seeing how things change over short time periods at a given location. Kaycee probably covered all the goings on with Gliders and Remus vehicles while we were doing the process station. I’ll just say we successfully recovered RU05 after it sampled around the process station for its mission. This recovery was no mean feat, as winds had spiked to 35-40 knots and waves were easily 6 feet high if not more. Oscar, Garz, the Electronics Tech Tony, and Marine Projects Coordinator Stian braved the epic waves in a Zodiac and pulled RU05 safely on board. I’ll be sure to post pictures of this that I took from the bridge as soon as we get a regular internet connection. Since the recovery we’ve steamed much further south and processed somewhere around 20 stations. We’re now sitting off Adelaide Island near Rothera, the UK base. We’re doing a second Process Station and will be heading into Rothera for some rest this weekend. I’ll detail our drop off of the birders at Avian Island and our walk-around at an abandoned Chilean base in future posts. For now though, just know we’re doing great, our spirits are high and the “sunsets” down here are some of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed. More later! Cheers from the Southern Ocean!