9 January, 2000
Well it is going on 1:00am and I am going to get this journal entry out if it kills me. I have had a glorious day! I spent half the day on the ship. I went with them to one of their sampling stations close by. The media crew from US News and World Report went as well. Also, a fellow from International Wildlife was aboard. As we left the dock 2 Palmer residents JUMPED IN THE OCEAN! They did this for amusement and the only way they can get away with it is they run and get in the hot tub and heat their body temperature back up! Anyway, I was interested in the science that goes on at each station. We couldn't have asked for better weather. Sunny, about 45 degrees F or so, and no wind! Everyone was on deck soaking it up! The first test was the PRR (Profiling Relectance Radiometer) This measures the upwelling and downwelling light in the visible and ultraviolet (UV) range of the solar spectrum. The phytoplankton folks then deployed a long cone shaped net with a bottle attached to the bottom This is a phytoplankton net. The mesh of this net is incredibly small...about 32 microns small! This net is drug and hauled in to analyze the microscopic plant and animals caught. Then they deployed the CTD....this device is an impressive apparatus about 7 feet high and 5 feet in diameter (my estimate). It specifically tests for conductivity, temperature, and depth. The data collected is combined to calculate water column density necessary to describe water mass (similar to air mass) and dynamics of ice formation as well as heat exchange at the ocean-atmosphere interface. Also attached is the PAR (Photosynthetically Available Radiation) sensor that measures visible radiation from 400 to 700 nm. There are 24-12 liter collection bottles, called Niskin bottles, that circle the framework (called a rosette). Each bottle is cabled to trigger shut at certain depths. Once the bottle snaps shut...Wha La! You have collected 12 liters of ocean water. There is huge door that opens on the side of the ship that allows the CTD to be wenched out over the water. The CTD is guided to the right spot by two guys harnessed to a safety belt to keep them from accidently slipping out of the ship! Everyone likes to watch this deployment. It is just cool! Then the biosonics team deployed a sonar off the starboard side of the ship. Their instrument was attached to a framework that looks like a shark! It "swims" along side of the ship sending out a signal that bounces back and is acoustically picked up. The target organism they are searching for is krill. Lots of them baby! When a patch of blue shows up on the computer screen it tells the scientists there is a dense population of krill. Then they deployed the zooplankton net. This is a 1 meter square net that is deployed to 300 meters. The first net tow for these folks yielded very little. A few krill, fish larvae, and interesting snails! Next they deploy a 2 meter square krill net. It is deployed 125 meters. Not much krill were pulled out at this station. These tests and more are repeated at each station the ship stops at. A GPS is used to hit the correct location. It requires a lot of organization and several commmitted people to pull off this amount of data gathering. Maria Vernet is the chief scientist on this cruise and she very successfully orchestrated impressive scientific research. I must say that I am very impressed with her ability to get folks to work unashamedly for 20 hours straight!
Well that was my morning! About 2:00pm a zodiac came to the ship to pick me and the media guys up. We went and visited neighboring islands and saw some of the most breathtaking glaciers, mountainscapes, and icebergs you can imagine. I told people that I don't have the language to adequately tell this story! It is simply beyond words. It seems every new turn we made there was something more spectacular than before! We saw a beautiful crabeater seal basking in the sun on a chunk of ice. He nodded to us and continued his nap. We saw penguins galore! Swimming penguins....(I guess they swim in a pod). They are very fast swimmers and can change direction on a dime. We boated up to a floe where about 6 Adelie penguins were gathered! We saw several bird nesting sites too. Beautiful cormorants were nesting on rocks edges of Cormorant Island. There are more bird species here than I imagined. We walked up Torgersen Island. This is a big hang out for Adelie penguins. Thousands actually! I will be working with Bill Fraser at these rookeries. He has been studying these penquins for 20 some odd years! I will be collecting some artifacts from Antarctica for a traveling "ice chest" that schools can use. I saw a penquin skeleton that I will ask Bill about. It would make a great addition to the chest. Anyway, I digressed, at the rookery we walked among the birds and their chicks making sure to not disturb them in any way. The chicks are very fuzzy and very cute! What struck me was they are absolutely not afraid of us or bothered by our presence. This is because they are protected by the Antarctic Treaty and therefore are not familiar with humans bothering them!. All wildlife is protected...seriously protected. We also saw several leopard seals. These fellow are very intelligent, sleak animals. Very aggressive too. They have been known to bite at a zodiac! Their only predator is an Orca. We visit one spot called Dead Elephant Seal Point. Photographers got out and took great pictures of the zodiac making a pass through the water. Their story will come out sometime in February. Who knows, I may be in it! Right place and the right time, eh! Well folks I need to wind this down because it is very late and I will be up early.
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I look forward to hearing from you. For those of you who have written, keep it up! I love sharing this wonderful experience with you. Until tomorrow!
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