November 9, 1995
Location: Drifting along a volcanic ridge near 62 40' south Lat x 59 05"
Today started on the Polar Duke, another research ship with science teams
sponsored by NSF grants. The Polar Duke is considerably smaller than the
Palmer, which is the ship that I am on. The Duke's internal hold has been
modified with small research labs. The primary duty of the Duke is to
transport supplies to the permanent research sites in Antarctica. The ship
is a maze of stairs and compartments which are used primarily for storing
cargo, but some areas have been designed as research labs for scientists.
The Palmer is designed primarily as a research ship. It is set up
completely with labs of all types to meet the needs of biologists, chemists,
or what ever specialty of science that commissions the ship for a cruise.
The Duke is also crewed by people from Norway, and the Palmer is crewed by
people from the US. This difference in nationality is translated into
subtle differences in little things around the ship. Some of these things
are signs on doors and in halls are in Norwegian, and English. Food is
Norwegian on the Duke. It is hard to convey, but the whole feel of the ship
is completely different than the Palmer.
We had met the Duke to transfer four members of our crew to the Duke so
that they could return to Punta Arenas for business reasons. This
rendezvous had been arranged at the beginning of the cruise, but it was an
exciting event to see the lights of the Duke coming toward us across the ice.
Members of their science team came across on a Zodiac to meet with the
researchers on the Palmer. Some of our technicians went over to the Duke to
help sort out some computer trouble, so I had the opportunity to go over
with them. I spent about three hours on the Duke, touring the ship, talking
to members of the crew and support staff. They had been near the ice shelf
doing ozone research for the last four weeks.
I also had the opportunity to meet another teacher in Antarctica. His name
is George Palo, and he teaches high school in Gig Harbor, Washington. It
was interesting to talk with him and get his perspective of science in
Antarctica. We had a good meeting and discussed a variety of things about
our work with the researchers and our experience aboard ship in Antarctica.
We returned to the Palmer at about 3:30 am with the sun rising and the
waves and wind picking up. It was a wet ride back, and I was glad to be
back on board the Palmer. It was very strange to experience the bright
morning sun at 3:30 am. By the time I went to bed, it was hard to sleep
because it felt like midday.
We travels in the morning to an area near a volcano that we had tested with
the ZAPS sled earlier in the cruise and had gotten encouraging results. The
plan was to drift at about 1 mile/hour along the top of the ridge that
extends away from the volcano and TOYO the ZAPS sled for about 9 miles along
the ridge to collect data. TOYO mean that the sled is raised and lowered
along the ridge as the ship drifts. Along the path of the drift, the sled
is pulled up and down with the height above the sea floor ranging from tens
of meters to hundreds of meters. As the sled moves through the water column
it detects changes in the level of manganese. Areas of high concentration
are called plumes and they indicate that a hydrothermal vent is in the area.
At 5:30 GMT the OSU team detected a plume along the ridge. I heard "Oh
Wow's" from the lab. To put this in context, documented plumes showing this
much manganese have only been detected along the Mid-Atlantic ridge. The
locationof the Mid-Atlantic hydrothermal vents have been verified by dredging and
using submarines to take photographs. The OSU team is very confident that
they have made a new and important discovery.
The OSU team is very excited, and plans are underway to pinpoint the
general location of the vent. There excitement has overwhelmed everyone on
the ship. Other geochemists around the world are being contacted concerning
the find. This is a major discovery and everyone is eager about sharing the
news. Despite the enthusiasm, there is still much more data to collect to
substantiate the first set of data. There are many long days and nights
ahead collecting more collecting and analyzing ahead.
It was a beautiful sunny day that matched the spirits of the researchers.
As evening approached, we left the ridge to do some more sonar mapping of
the area to help locate other potential hydrothermal vents.
The night was clear, and as the sun set in the northwest, the moon rose
full and orange in the west. The sky was awash in reds, oranges and
yellows. It was a warm contrast to the blue and white of the ice and sea.
I sat out on the deck at midnight and saw my first stars. As I waited for
my eyes to adjust to the darkness, the sun began to slowly make its presence
known. In less than 20 minutes, the starry map of the southern sky had been
overwhelmed by the early glow of the rising sun on the eastern horizon. I
was a bit disappointed because I didn't have enough time to get oriented to
distinguish constellations. Even so, it was a wonderful night to look at
VoltzInc: There are dozens of computers on this ship. The main network
server is a Silicon Graphics UNIX based machine. Connected to the main
server are about 6 other Silicon Graphics computers. Also connected to the
network are about 10 PC's mostly 486 machines. These are being upgraded to
Pentium computers. There are about 6 Sun workstations and about 4 Macintosh
computers all interconnected on the networks.
The network also connects to computers that are dedicated to collecting
data from the Sea Beam sonar, depth, and a variety of other data. There
are separate computers that collect data and determine are navigational
position, and the two science teams have brought about 8 Mac and Sun
computers for their specific work.
I also thought it would be interesting to give you an idea of how email is
sent on the ship. It is a challenge for the computer support people here on
the ship, the Nathaniel B Palmer, to establish satellite links to send and
receive email. Here in the Bransfield Strait and North Scotia Sea, the sea
and weather can change from hour to hour. In addition, the ice conditions
make navigation a problem. To connect with the outside world we must be on
nearly constant heading which allows us to connect with one of four Comsat
satellites. Typically the best headings are southerly or to the west..
Once a slip connection is established by modem to the Internet server in
Colorado, the ship's main Silicon Graphics network computer transfers all
the outgoing email. If things work well, the connection is maintained and
all email is sent. Sometimes a number of connections are made. Next, all
incoming email is downloaded. To speed up the transfer rate, all of the
files sent and received are compressed using file compression software. The computer tech
people refer to the whole process as slip & zip. The email is sorted by
address and placed in individual mailboxes on the network computer. All 45
people on the ship have their own email account. On any given day as many
as 400 email messages are sent and 400 more received. A typical connection
lasts about 20 to 30 minutes and the ship is charged at a rate of $10.00 per
minute for the connection time