Mary Tobin

Reports from the Field

The Antarctic CORC/ARCHES Expedition, April 5 through May 8, 2003

April 9, 2003

Palmer Station is located on a small rocky peninsula with a large glacier as background.

CORC/ARCHES Expedition
Afternoon, Wednesday, April 9, 2003, from Dr. Gerd Krahmann
Aboard the R/V LAURENCE M. GOULD...

Latitude: 64S 46.5
Longitude: 64W 3.3
Sky: Overcast now, clear earlier
Wave height: 0.5m
Air temperature -0.3C
Wind speed: 3kn

Five hours ago we arrived at the dock of Palmer Station. Palmer Station is one of the three permanently manned US-American stations in Antarctica. As you can see from the small map with our red dot at the top of this page, it is located on Anvers Island on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula. With a winter/summer population of maximal 30/50 persons, it is the smallest of the stations, McMurdo and the South Pole being the other two.

We have unloaded the stationís supplies and set some of the fish-biologists on land so that they can prepare their laboratories at Palmer Station to analyze the catch we will deliver in a few days. Tonight the shipís crew and the scientists and support personal who remain on board have been invited by the station for a Lasagne-dinner. As Palmer Station allows alcoholic drinks, which are strictly forbidden on board the research vessel, this opportunity will be used to celebrate the safe crossing of the Drake Passage.

Mountains 400m high cast their early morning reflection in the Neumayer Channel waters.

The crossing was more or less average. On the first day we had relatively low wind speeds (20kn) and made good progress. But on the second day a small low pressure gave us a good shake. Wind speeds increased to more than 40kn and average wave heights reached more than 5m. For those of you not used to the units I am using here: A knot (kn) is a speed unit used on ships and airplanes equal to 1.15mph or 1.85km/h. As physical oceanographers, we use a mixture of nautical units (mostly when we interact with the shipís crew) and metric units (when we do our studies).

Prone to seasickness, I remained most of the time in my bunk and came down to the mess hall only during meal times. During many other cruises I have found that this recipe of lying down and regular eating helps best to overcome the seasickness. Others are using medical patches or, as unfair as the world is, donít get seasick at all.

After the partially rough crossing we were rewarded with a sunny morning when we passed through Neumayer Channel. This narrow channel is a sheltered passage way on the east side of Anvers Island. It is also one of the many scenic places down here.

April 5, 2003

CORC/ARCHES Expedition
Afternoon, Saturday, April 5, 2003, from Dr. Gerd Krahmann
Aboard the R/V LAURENCE M. GOULD...

Latitude: 52S 39.6
Longitude: 69W 58.9
Sky: Cloudy
Wave height: 0.5m
Air temperature 13.7C
Wind speed: 10kn

We have just left Punta Arenas in the south of Chile. For the next few hours, the waters will be calm as we head east towards the Atlantic Ocean. Punta Arenas is located on the Strait of Magellan, a natural connection between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans a few hundred miles north of Cape Horn. Once we reach the Atlantic Ocean, we will head south. After one day we will reach Drake Passage between the southern tip of South America and Antarctica. It is infamous for its rough seas and some of us, including me, will be seasick. Crossing the Passage will take about 1 1/2 days, and then we have to steam for another 1 1/2 days to arrive at Palmer Station.

We share this cruise with two other groups of scientists who are studying why fish do not freeze at water temperatures below 32F. To understand why this is interesting, imagine holding a bucket full of fresh water in the ocean near Antarctica. After a while, the water in the bucket will freeze, even though the ocean’s waters remain liquid. This is because of the salt content in the ocean, which lowers its freezing temperature to about -1.8C (28.8F). But fish are not as salty as the ocean, so something else must prevent their blood from freezing.

Once we have reached Palmer Station on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula, we will unload the other groups equipment, supplies for the station, and we will leave some of the scientists behind. Our next task is then to catch live fish, after which we will return to Palmer Station. From there, the work will shift to our part of the cruise.

next (week 2) -->

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