November 1, 1995
Location: Latitude 62 13' south Longitude 57 31' west
North east part of the Bransfield Straight.
We finished the crossing of the Drake Passage at about 3 am this morning. We
completed our Sea Beam survey (sonar mapping) of the Shackleton Ridge at 11:00 pm
and headed due south toward the Bransfield Straight. With the change in heading came
a change in the motion of the ship causing the boat to pitch just enough to toss us above
our bunks like at the top of a roller coaster ride. This lasted for about 3 hours until we
entered the ice of Bransfield. The ice in the water dampens the wind and the waves and
makes the ride much smoother.
The science team from Texas has been very excited about the results of the Sea Beam
Survey of the Shackleton Ridge. They produced some very detailed maps of the area. In
addition, they found an area of the ridge less than 1500 m in depth. No other research
vessel had identified depths in this area less than 1500 meters. We recorded an area of
10 min x 10 min where the depths were 800 meters or less. This will be a point of
discussion about this area for some time.
The OSU team will be testing out the vent locating system this morning. Everyone is a bit
anxious. They have selected a point between two identified sea mounts that look
promising. One problem is that a team of Spanish Scientists placed an array of
temperature probes very near to this area. If the coordinates that they gave to us are
off, there is a chance that the sled may hang up on the array. The OSU team is taking
great care to make sure that this does not happen.
The detector sled will be suspended from the ship by a cable. As the sled is lowered it
will sample the water for Manganese, Iron, Radon, and Helium. In normal sea water
these elements are at very low concentrations. Near a hydrothermal vent, the
concentrations are very high. The scientists use this concentration peak to determine
the locations of the vents.
In order to keep track of the location of the sled, a devise called a pinger is attached.
This produces a sound signal which is detectable by instruments on the ship.
Unfortunately, the ship doesn't always listen well to these pingers, so it took about 2
hours for the technicians to get wires and knobs positioned so that we could keep in
contact with the sled.
We have been seeing large ice bergs all day. Some of them are 3 to 5 x bigger than the
ship. Most are very small and of little concern. We have seen a few penguins and seals,
and the population of small birds has increased dramatically. Everyone has been out on
deck taking pictures and video of the first ice. It is really an amazing spectacle. The
bridge is able to keep track of ice in our path using radar. The screen on the bridge is a
puzzle of ice that they must safely navigate the ship through.
Everyone is excited to finally be at Bransfield. The temperament and air of the science
teams and crew has changed. Their smiles are underscored by excitement and caution,
hoping that their equipment will work, and that a new discovery is just around the next
We had a meeting of the science teams and support crew last evening. There are
basically five project being conducted. OSU is looking for geothermal vents. University
of Texas is doing mapping using Sea Beam and Seismic surveys. There is an
undergraduate researcher from New York how will be taking sediment samples using a
special corer. A researcher from Britain is looking at Radon concentrations near the
vents. And a researcher from Texas is looking at the micro plankton that are in the
sediments of the Bransfield Strait.
I will try to answer you questions as promptly as possible.
East Junior High - Most of our work will be at sea. I have checked and indeed there is
quite a bit of research going on about meteorites on the ice, but we are not specifically
looking at them. Our emphasis is volcanic and plate formations in the deep ocean. We
will be making one stop to connect with another ship, but presently we have no
scheduled landings. There is a possibility that we may stop in the ice, but that has not
Jmanthey - Copa Negra is a refueling station about 50 miles north of Punta Arenus along
the Straights of Magellan. It is actually a refinery and does have military airport. Chile is
very territorial and has done some heavy posturing in this area. Copa Negra is very near
to the Argentine boarder. I do not have more specific coordinates.
It has been overcast at night, so viewing of the night sky has been limited. I also sit
watch from 4 until midnight, and do not have much chance to get outside during prime
donndeli - I hope to have the links problem corrected. I am surviving the swells. Look
forward to your messages and questions.
Hound Dog - Give my best to 7th hour. I hope that all is going well. I welcome any
questions that you might have for me. This is really wild. Every day has something new
to see and do. Sitting watch does get boring, but it is a necessary evil of doing science.
Sitting watch is monitoring the instruments and recording measurements into a
permanent data log every five minutes. Good luck with the physics.