Friday, January 29, 2010
In Rothera we met Ted, Erin, Ron and Terry who had flown from the ice core site via Twin Otter. We unloaded cargo and some fuel to get ready to access some of our glacier sites via Twin Otter. The ship left again at midnight, after people had taken advantage of the station's bar.
We organized gear on Wednesday and have been waiting for a flight since then. The weather is continuously bad over the glacier, so we're standing by and are enjoying the hospitality of Rothera.
Monday, January 25, 2010
The weather today was strange, as usual. First, we received a phone call from the drill camp. They had blue skies, but we had very low clouds. Then the weather cleared and I took off with somebody to start installing a GPS station on the ice. But by that time, the clouds had moved over the glaciers and, again, we had to return to the ship. Today's picture shows the ship from the helicopter in a spectacular setting.
As I write we are at 66 1' S and 66 1' W, headed for Rothera, which is at the southern tip of Adelaide Island. We'll be following a very narrow channel to get there, which is faster and protects us from the open ocean swell. It is beautiful now, and the scenery just doesn't stop to be impressive.
After tomorrow I probably will not have email access, so this blog is likely to go quiet for a while. I'll report once we rejoin the ship or the civilized world.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
The variability of the weather is amazing. I took the attached picture last night before going to bed, when several whales showed up right by the ship. We had a beautiful sunset with severe clear skies. Only 20 km away, the ice core camp was in a total whiteout.
While we were waiting for the other glaciologists to return, the marine science continues. We surveyed the entire Barilari Bay, which was previously unmapped. This is done via a so-called multibeam survey, where sound waves are used to map the bottom. The results are amazing. One can see where glaciers used to carve the bottom of the ocean, and where they have been digging deep marine basins. Marine geologists take cores and try to date them, because the retreat of the glaciers leaves clear signs in the ocean sediments.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
We woke up to find two ships in the neighborhood, one from the Chilean navy and a cruise ship. Later another cruise ship showed up. Then there was an airplane (see picture): a Chilean P3. Quite a busy place. I suppose we are not the only ones who think that this is a nice place. The weather is essentially unchanged. It's not bad, but we have solid low cloud cover that prevents any flying into the mountains. Some of the geologists were dropped off on small islands to look for evidence of land rebound: As the glaciers retreat the reduced weight of the ice causes the land to rise. They are also collecting erratic rocks that are then dated to find the time of
In the meantime a program of marine measurements and coring continues. Last night a ROV (remotely operated vehicle) was in the water for five hours taking video of all the critters that live on the ocean floor. It is full of little fish, krill, octopus, squid and other things. No wonder the whales and penguins like it here.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
The weather has not been too bad, but the cloud ceiling is quite low, which keeps preventing us from doing the glacier work. But we still have a month and a half to go; eventually it will have to clear up, I hope.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Last night we got back into Flandres Bay, much to my relief: No more ocean swells that roll the ship. For a while it looked like we would be able to fly, but then the ceiling kept coming down and that was it. So we started on marine work again. The ship goes along transects, and in regular intervals we measure physical properties of the ocean and look at life on the sea floor with a camera.
The bad weather actually makes for really nice scenery with low clouds hanging on the mountains, as in today's photo. We will move to the next fjord north tomorrow and keep hoping for opportunities to fly.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Being out at sea gives us fewer opportunities for interesting pictures, so today I chose one from the ship. It shows my bunk, that I'm sharing with Ronald Ross, a Scottish engineer who lives in Australia and builds the glacier meteorological and geophysical stations that we will deploy. The room is not very big, but the ship offers plenty of space for lab work, computer work, watching movies, or holding meetings. So overall, we have a fair amount of space.
Friday, January 15, 2010
When the seas are high, I tend to function badly at a computer screen, so I spent my day reading and watching movies, and hoping for calmer water. Now it is better again. Today's picture is actually a few days old, when two humpback whales joined us for a while and circled around the ship.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
We were ready to put in a timelapse camera and a seismic station today, but the clouds kept coming lower and we eventually had to give up on the plan. High winds are forecast, but hopefully it will clear up tomorrow.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Today's picture was actually taken yesterday, as we were returning from the glacier. It shows the ship in heavy ice cover with the trail where it had been breaking ice. We turned around from that position yesterday evening.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Erin Pettit and I had the opportunity to fly to the Roehss Glacier on James Ross Island to do some velocity and radar measurements. It was a fantastic opportunity in very beautiful surroundings. You can see from the picture that I was happy! By the way: the exposed bedrock in the background was almost entirely ice covered in 2006. Where I stand, the glacier has lost 100 m+ in elevation in just a few years.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
In the evening we were treated to a beautiful sunset, and today's picture shows some of the marine techs at the bow of the ship enjoying the camera opportunity.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
The ice here comes in a variety of size and shape. From the 1 m + thick snow covered sea ice to a variety of icebergs that can be hundreds of meters thick. Some are jagged and have turned over, others are very tabular in shape. They have come here from many different places, breaking off some of the big Antarctic ice shelves. It is quite likely that some of the bergs come from the recently broken up Wilkins Ice Shelf. Other, smaller, ice bergs are probably of more local origin.
Going through sea ice brings us frequently close to penguins and seals. So far we've seen the Crabeater seal and Adelie penguins (see picture). I also thought I saw a whale blowing in the distance.
We spent most of the day on deck going through some glacier travel issues and taught self-rescue and Z-pulley techniques to people who might accompany us to the glaciers.
Friday, January 8, 2010
levels of the ship and that will be with us for the next few weeks.
We (the glaciologists) are getting things ready. It will still be several days until we're within reach of the glaciers.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
One of the great things about being in the southern ocean is the opportunity to see albatross. Today's picture shows a young Wandering Albatross. You can tell it's young, because the wings are still mostly black. These amazing birds stay at sea for most of their lives. They are amazing gliders and can reach wing spans exceeding 3.5 m. It is a beautiful sight when they glide along the ship, easily keeping up and only make small changes to the shape of the wing, going for long periods without having to flap their wings. Unfortunately, these great birds are increasingly threatened by long line fishing (they eat the bait, get hooked, and drown), and by plastic garbage that floats in the ocean and accumulates in their stomachs.
One of the nice things on a ship is the bird watching. It is a unique opportunity to see Albatross. Quite a few of those have been following the ship, and I even got to see the beautiful Wandering Albatross, which can reach a wing span of 3.5 m and is a master glider. In the evening we also saw several pods of porpoises who followed the ship for a while and were frolicking in the water.
Friday, January 1, 2010
Three days ago I arrived in Punta Arenas on my way to the Antarctic Peninsula. Punta Arenas is at the southern end of Chile and the South American continent. The picture shows a view of the famous Magellan Strait.
For the next two months we will be on board the Nathaniel B Palmer, a US research vessel. The ship is quite big, bigger than any I have been on, with generous lab space, meeting rooms, etc. While it looks big in port, it will feel like a nutshell once we're out in the Drake passage (between South America and the Antarctic Peninsula)
Below is a picture of the main deck on the back side of the ship. Yesterday was very busy, stowing all the cargo away. The cruise has marine biologists, physical oceanography, marine geology, and us land-based creatures. We will be using the ship as a platform to get to the glaciers in the Larsen B/C area of the Antarctic Peninsula. We have two helicopters available.
A view of the Nathaniel B Palmer (the closer one) and the British James Cook on New Year's Eve.
We won't have internet access on the ship (except for email), so I won't be able to update this blog. But watch for updates on http://iceshelf.wordpress.com/