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
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.