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
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
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
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