Looking Back, Looking Forward

The Palmer spent all day cruising back toward McMurdo Station to refuel. The ship travels at a steady 10 or 11 knots (about 12 mph), and we had about 300 miles to go. The scientists took this opportunity to review their data and decide where to visit during the second leg of our expedition.

Yesterday we had paid a second visit to an area called Station 16 that contained the strongest signal of Modified Circumpolar Deep Water the team had found so far. To understand this water in more detail, Bruce Huber put the mooring he had just recovered back into the water, and Dr. Josh Kohut’s team launched glider RU06.

The plan was for the glider to circle the mooring and provide supplementary information about the water conditions. Read on through the slideshow to see how the day turned out:

Today’s science meeting took two hours for the scientists to consider all the data and discuss the best way to spend their time for the rest of the cruise. So far, it seems that Modified Circumpolar Deep Water is carrying only a small boost of iron with it, but it may have been what caused a bloom that we found at station 7 (see map below). After we refuel, we’ll come back to station 16 to study MCDW more, and then do more sampling in the eastern Ross Sea.

We thought you might like a chance to review, too. So here’s a map of everywhere we’ve been since the expedition started. The points on the map show where we’ve taken water samples. The red point (16) is where Bruce and Julius just installed their mooring with its instruments. The track ends at about latitude 76° South, 170° East because that’s where we were when I wrote this.

Maybe this map can give you a sense of how difficult it is to understand the oceans. Even a small sea like the Ross Sea is big—it’s 450 miles from Cape Adare to McMurdo Station. Working as hard and fast as they could for 10 days straight, our science team has only been able to sample these 17 points. It’s as if you were trying to watch a game being played on the other side of a fence, and you could only see what was happening from between the fenceposts. After we refuel, we’ll work on adding a few more holes to that fence.

Many thanks to Eli Hunter for plotting the map of our ship track.

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About Hugh Powell

Hugh is a staff writer at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and is on special assignment with the Rutgers University Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences. He has previously written for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

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