16 November, 1995

November 16, 1995

Location: Bransfield Strait

Update: The OSU Science team conducted the second dredge of the cruise this morning. Jim Lundy gave me a call from the watch station at 4:00 AM to tell me the dredge would be on board in about a half hour. That would give me plenty of time to get things ready in the event that we were lucky enough to get some ìbiologicalsî again.

At 4:30 Larry Lawver from Texas and Carol Chin from OSU came into the bio lab with a single rock that had been collected in the dredge. It was a large piece of volcanic basalt, and I was able to find two small worms and a colonial spongelike organism on it. Carol properly logged and labeled the rock to be sent to OSU for further study.

We spent the greater part of the day doing Sea Beam mapping of the sea floor, trying to cover the entire area to produce a complete map of the topographic features of the sea floor in the Bransfield Strait. It can be very exciting to see contour lines representing a mountain, volcano or ridge suddenly appear from a long flat plain on the maps. The maps will be used later to develop theories of how the volcanic features in this area were formed, and how they will evolve and change in the future.

We spent the evening and until early morning doing ZAP Sled work. It was especially windy last night with gusts of 40 miles per hour. It was a cold night for the OSU science team, as the wind turned the Baltic room and the lab where their computers a rea into a freezer. Everyone had on hats gloves and jackets by about midnight. Alex Faraluke, one of the research assistants from OSU was soaked by a wave that splashed into the Baltic Room. It caught everyone by surprise. Alex had set a milestone on the cruise as the first OSU researcher doused in the Baltic Room while working.

Today was Mexican Day at lunch. It was a veritable feeding frenzy in the mess. We all enjoyed a Mexican feast. Most of the people not on watch spent the evening watching a movie. A variety of snacks were available, but most people came for the popc orn. The cinematic event of the evening was West Side Story.

Little things like Mexican Day and Movie Night help break the cycle of sameness that infects each day on the ship. Work is done at all hours of the day and night. Sleep cycles are constantly changing. We now have less than 3 hours of what is hard to call darkness. The glow on the horizon made by the setting sun is kindling that ignites the sunrise. Each day, our hours of light get longer and nights shorter. People sleep when they can, but eight hours of continuous sleep time is a luxury that few enjoy these days.

Life on a research ship in Antarctica is a challenge to overcome the elements to extract new knowledge and understanding about the Antarctic Environment. It is a test of equipment and people. But the challenges that we face doing scientific research pale in comparison to the trials and hardships endured by the early exploreres to Antarctica.

Early explorers to the area like Palmer, Shackleton and Scott braved the seas in wooden ships for knowledge, but more so for adventure. They had no way to communicate with anyone while they were at sea. They were away for months and years with only th e other members of the crew to count on for help. They were completely at the whim of the weather and the waves. Many men perished in the seas in this area. Few who became lost survived.

Dr. Dick Von Herzen and I sit watch together. As the cruise started, he was reading a book called ìEnduranceî, about Ernest Shackleton and his groupís attempt to become the first people to cross Antarctica in 1914. He suggested that I read it as well. I just finished the book and was overwhelmed by the descriptions of Antarctica from these early explorers. The book is the story of Shackleton and his crewís struggle to survive ship wreck in the Antarctic. What was most fascinating was that as I read the book, the land marks that they attempted to reach were the islands that I was seeing from the aft deck as we conducted our surveys. During many of the chapters I became so emotionally involved, that I had to force myself to put the book down or beco me overwhelmed by the empathy that I had for these men.

I would recommend the book highly as an excellent description of the Antarctic environment at its extremes.

A short overview of the book: Early in Shackletonís attempt, their ship the Endurance became caught in pack ice. The ship was frozen in the ice through the entire Antarctic winter. The men survived the winter with their trapped ship as shelter, but in the spring the pressure of the moving ice crushed the ship, leaving them stranded on the ice hundreds of miles from the nearest land. The book documents their 17 month struggle to survive.

The Palmer is an excellent ship and her crew is the same. It provides us all a perfect platform for doing science. Yes it is cold, and the seas are rough, and we are far from home, but we are lucky to be living and working at a time when help and loved ones are just an email message away.

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