31 January, 2004

The single channel streamer has been deployed and we are collecting seismic data in McMurdo Sound. Shot lines from one side of the sound to the other are have been established for the next couple of days. This will create a grid of parallel lines across the seafloor that should allow the scientists to identify large features in the structure of the Earth's crust in the Sound.

Even though the Sound receives regular traffic from research vessels like the Palmer, Coast Guard Icebreakers and cruise ships, the ships generally follow a common course through the sound to the port at McMurdo base. Large areas of the Sound have not been mapped because of the changing ice conditions. A number of research cruises have done seismic surveys in the Sound and their data reveals some interesting features in the crust. By using the single channel streamer to connect the existing seismic lines, and by taking data in areas of the Sound that had been missed in earlier seismic surveys, the scientists hope to create a more thorough record that will illuminate the size and direction of volcanic and tectonic features in the Sound.

When we are towing the streamer and guns, we have to be on constant watch for Marine Mammals. The Sound in parcticular is an area where marine life is abundant. While at McMurdo Base, Killer whales would come into the open water made by the Coast Guard Icebreaker. Along the ice edge in parcticular, it is very common to see whales and seals. During the course of our survey work today, it was not unusual to see whales in the distance, well outside of the safety radius, but close enough to count the number of whales in the pod and to identify species.

The scenery is spectacular. The views of Mount Erebus and Mount Discovery are breathtaking. The icebergs and flows change like a kaleidoscope of white and blue against the grays of the rocks and mountains. Nearly everything here has adopted the pallet of blue, white and gray, even the animals. The occasional brown of one of the birds, or the yellow on the neck of a penguin is the only variety that nature provides. Occasionally, a small flow will have flipped over and the reddish browns of algae clinging to the sea ice will break the elegant monotony of the blues of the water and ice.

There are cruise ships in McMurdo Sound, taking tourists on sight seeing junkets to the glaciers and valleys along the eastern coast of the Sound. As we continue our survey along the eastern coast, we get our own personal views of Terror Glacier and the many glaciers that are slowly changing the face of the mountains along this spectacular coast. We feel fortunate to have days with this amazing beauty. A helicopter flew by the ship making the Palmer one of its Kodak moments.


An old parking spot for a tanker or cruise ship waiting to enter McMurdo port.

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