8 November, 1995

November 8, 1995

Location: 62 38' South Latitude x 59 03 West Longitude Along the ridge of an oceanic volcano in Bransfield Strait.

Update:The science teams focused their attention on looking for hydrothermal vents today. A cooperative effort between the geophysicists and geochemists resulted in what appears to be some exciting evidence that there are actually hydrothermal vents present in the Bransfield Strait. These vents would be the southern most hydrothermal vents ever documented.

The whole mood of the ship changes dramatically when exciting events like these happen. The teams had focused their search in a region of Bransfield Strait where a deep ocean volcano was discovered doing multibeam sonar mapping in the early 90's. A research cruise from the University of Texas had dredged rock samples from this volcano in 1993. The samples dredged were fresh glassy basalt which is indicators of relatively recent volcanic activity.

It is impossible to pinpoint the time of the last eruption of a deep ocean volcano unless you are actually there for the event. Unfortunately, you would not want to be in a ship anywhere near an eruption. The extreme temperatures of the molten rock would boil the ocean water in the area of the volcano and produce huge waves. Ash and volcanic debris that did make it through the water to the surface would fall from the sky creating a blizzard of ash and rock.

We made four tests with the ZAPS sled during the course of the day. Each test provided the OSU scientists with valuable data to help them find the general location of a hydrothermal vent. It will take a couple of days for them to review their data and evaluate what will be the next step in their search plan. In the mean time, we will continue our Sea Beam surveys of the area to create maps of the ocean sea floor in this area.

To give you a bit of perspective about how challenging it is to pinpoint one of these hydrothermal vents, imagine that you are in a hot air balloon 4000 feet in the air. You are trying to locate your garage and only your garage by dangling a rope to snag the roof so that you can pull your balloon down and into your yard. Consider also, that a garage is about 25 feet x 25 feet, and you are looking down from 4000 feet. This is an incredibly difficult task.

It was a beautiful day again with calm seas and bright skies. I spent some of the afternoon helping the marine technicians on deck connect the electrical leads on the air guns, and making them water tight in preparation for our next test of the seismic equipment.

It was another spectacular day filled with moving mosaics of the ice. The weather remained calm as a high pressure area moved into the Strait. This was a relief to four of our colleagues who were transferring to another research ship the Polar Duke at about midnight. The Duke had just completed its science cruise and was heading to Punta Arenas to off load the science team and prepare for the next cruise.

One of the individuals that left the Palmer was Dr. Scott Borg, the Director of Polar Projects for the National Science Foundation. He had been on board the Palmer to work with the science teams and to get some first had information about the problems and concerns of the science and support staff. He aslo wanted to get some first hand information on how they conducted their science research in Antarctica. I had an opportunity to spend quite a bit of time with Dr. Borg discussing the types of researc h that are currently going on in Antarctica and to learn about the role of NSF in science research in general. His presence on the ship will be missed. He is an interesting person with an outgoing and positive personality that makes people feel comfortable. He demonstrated a sincere concern for all members of the science and support staff.

I had an opportunity to visit the Polar Duke as well. I will update you on that experience in the November 9 update.


b duchac: In general the major components of the scenery here are the sea, the sky and the ice. It is unusual for us to see land. Occasionally we will see a small island, but it is very difficult to distinguish land from some of the very large tabular bergs. Often we will see a mirage created by light reflected from the Antarctic Peninsula, but the peninsula is hundreds of miles from where we are.

The sun never really sets here. At midnight there is a thin orange and red glow on the western horizon, but you can easily distinguish objects on the horizon. By about 1:00 am the sun is beginning to rise, and by 2:00 you can easily work outside without having extra artificial light. On a cloudy day, it does not get light enough to work outside until about 3:30 am.

B huuten: We have not had the opportunity to view any of the constellations. Because there is really very little dark time here, the time for viewing is very small. Two nights ago we were able to see the full moon, but that quickly passed with the sun rising. If we were able to see the stars, the constellations for the most part would be completely different from the ones seen in Wisconsin.

At this point in the cruise there are no plans for the Palmer to dock at any of the permanent land stations in Antarctica. Because the Palmer is an ice breaker there is always the possibility that we will be called into service at one of the stations. To date we have not had to do so.

sluther: Thanks for helping me stay connected with the WASDI people. I have been having a great experience so far. I miss my students and family, but after having talked with the staff and science teams, I have found out being away from people you care about and work with is one of the major difficulties and concerns for people doing ocean research.

Return to Steve Stevenoski's Page

Contact the TEA in the field at .
If you cannot connect through your browser, copy the TEA's e-mail address in the "To:" line of your favorite e-mail package.