10 November, 1995


November 10, 1995

Location: 62 16" South Latitude x 57 48' West Longitude

Update: We spent most of the day Sea Beaming to produce sea floor maps of the entire ridge area near King George Island. We want to have maps that are as detailed and complete as possible to help identify probable sites of hydrothermal activity based upon the sea floor topography.

We have been under a major high pressure weather system for the last three days. The weather has been clear with light winds that pushed most of the ice in the Strait in this area up against the shore of King George Island forming pack ice. I spent a couple of hours as we were beaming just scanning the ice. We saw our first whale near the ship. Because of the ice it was difficult to get a good view, but the consensus aboard the ship was that it was a type of whale called a Minke. Minke whales are about 25 feet long and light gray in color. The have a snout similar to a dolphin, but it is wider and not quite as long. The whale was spotted from the bridge, and the word spread through the ship quickly. People made their way out onto the deck to catch a look for themselves.

I saw the most penguins that I have seen on the entire cruise today. The penguins had made their way across the pack ice from King George Island to the open water. I saw more than a dozen small groups of 10 or so penguins in the time that I was looking. They are interesting animals. They seemed to be unimpressed by our ship and continued on doing their own business.

The pack ice is a spectacular mix of spires, caves and cathedrals of ice. As you look across the pack ice it is possible to imagine that you are in an old European city. The shapes of the bergs trapped in the pack ice look like churches and bridges, tunnels and turrets. The collection of ice is constantly shifting, and the whole scene reminds me of watching children playing with blocks. Each time you look, there is a new grouping of the same blocks, but each arrangement is new and different in its complexity and detail.

Some of the bergs on the edge of the pack had tunnels that looked like caves worn through their entire length by the pounding waves. The light and shadow in these caves cause the water in them to appear a brilliant glowing turquoise blue. It was beautiful contrast to the dark blue sea pounding against the ice around theses cave pools.

By the time that my watch started, we had completed our Sea Beam surveys, and the geophysicists were confident that they had mapped the sea floor as completely as possible. The decision had been made to try a second drift using the ZAPS sled along the ridge near King George Island to look for other hydrothermal vent areas. We started this new drift at 5:00 PM. The captain on the bridge kept the ship on a heading traveling along the seven mile length of the ridge. We stayed on this course by positioning the ship so that it caught the wind like a sail. The wind was pushing us on a track that that was west of the ridge, so the captain used the engines to back up a little at a time to get us back on course.

At about 9:00 PM The OSU team found another peak in the manganese concentration in the water along the surface indicating that for the second time this week that they had located a probable location of a hydrothermal vent. This is really extraordinary. Consider that a vent is typically a feature on the sea floor about the size of a small car. The ridge that we were surveying is about 2 miles wide and 8 miles long. Think about how difficult it would be to find your parked car in a parking lot this size in the dark. It is really like finding a needle in a haystack, and as of today the OSU team has found two needles. Because of the detective work done with the Sea Beam surveys, the OSU team was able to follow the ridge along topographical features that would indicate that vents were present. It was primarily due to the cooperative effort of the OSU and Texas groups that the search for vents has been so successful.

At about 2:00 AM we had finished our survey of the ridge using the ZAPS sled. Our next objective will be to return to the Scotia Sea in the Drake Passage to do some seismic work. Everyone hopes that the good weather remains with us.


Mercer: I apologize for any typo or grammatical errors in these updates. I usually do them after watch when most the crew and science teams are asleep. I am both writer and editor, and I know that some obvious mistakes are making it to the final update. I am trying to proof them more thoroughly. I am glad to have the Mercer students on-line. I look forward to their questions.

Itchy@utexas: I am glad to have you on-line. I hope to add some information over the next week about each of the science teams members from UTIG and OSU so that readers can get to know them. It has been very calm so everyone is doing well. We are expecting to sea rough seas again in the Drake. We all hope that our sea legs are ready and we all avoid being sea sick.

Sparta High: I look forward to your questions. Given the extreme conditions here safety is a major concern. We have fire and safely drills every week. I plan on devoting an update to safety plans on the ship.

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