8 February, 2004
Everyone seems to have gotten into survival mode. They are hunkered down, just trying to make it through the day, hoping for better weather to come. The winds are just as strong as yesterday, gusting to more than 30 knots. The only salvation is that we have convinced ourselves that this is about as rough as it will get. It has become second nature to grab for the rail when you are walking from place to place. Without a firm hold, the ship could move out from under you, leaving you lying on the floor.
The sky has cleared slightly. Visibility has improved, but the waves are so large that it is very difficult to detect the presence of whales in the vicinity of the ship. We do our best, keeping a look on the horizon for any sign that would suggest they are in the area.
The heavy seas are still affecting the multibeam and the seismic streamer. The streamer and gun array tangled throughout the day and the multibeam data is riddled with errant beams that have to be edited out before the data is usable. Everything possible is being done to keep things in the water and working. We hope that things don't get worse.
By 4:00 AM ship time, we had finished collecting seismic data on a shot line in the east to west direction. We started a turn north to head to the next shot line. The combination of the wind and waves pushed hard on the ship causing it to list to the starboard side. On the bridge it was like being on a teeter-totter. The bridge is about fifty feet above the water, and any tilting that the ship experiences are accentuated there. From the port side, all that you could see out of the starboard windows was water. It looked as if we were hanging out over the ocean preparing for a dive. The ship was listing at about 5 degrees, which is not unusual in high seas. The engineers are able to correct the tilt of the ship by pumping water from one side of the ship to the other in the ballast tanks. The counter weight of the water against the wind and wave levels the ship.
Before the ship could be leveled, the air compressors that power the air guns began to loose pressure because the oil that lubricates the machine had sloshed to one side and no air was being pumped. The pressure to the air guns dropped and then we had to stop shooting until the pressure was back to normal. In less than a half an hour we were back up and running, but this was just one more unexpected problem that arose due to the rough seas.
The afternoon was calmer than the morning but there was still plenty of rolling to go around. There were many people watching movies and reading. They were looking for quiet time after their shift.
In the early afternoon, Larry Lawver had been in the engine room and had been talking to the engineers. He had brought up a paper cup with Krill that had been caught in the engine filters. Krill are small crustaceans and look like small shrimp. The Krill that Larry had brought were all less than a centimeter long. Along the Antarctic Peninsula the Krill can get to be the size of your thumb or larger. You can eat them. They taste a bit like shrimp, but have a waxy after taste.
Krill are the primary food source for Antarctic fish and for baleen whales like Humpbacks. Humpback whales often use the southern oceans as migratory routes. Along the way they feed on the Krill during the summer blooms in October through February. Penguins dine primarily on fish, and during the Krill blooms, the excrement of the penguins is red with the undigested chitin from the Krill.
The Krill caught in the filter were at various stages in their life cycle. We placed some of the collected Krill in a sampling dish with seawater. Some of the smaller ones were just barely detectable. The larger Krill could easily be seen moving from one side of the plate to the other. There are hundreds of Krill in just a milliliter of sample. Working with the Krill was a nice break from the tedium of the work and the heavy seas of the past two days.
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