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Week 1

Passage

 

Through the Antarctic and Gustav Channels

(click on map to enlarge)

2/16/05
17:46 GMT
64 22' S
58 34' W
6 C
23 knot winds
High clouds, diffuse sunshine
smooth seas!!!!

During the night we passed out of the Bransfield Strait and into the Antarctic Channel and then the Prince Gustav Channel. Our first views of the continent arrived with sunrise. The seas are calm on this side of the Peninsula, with a mix of large to small ice bergs floating in the channel. The bergs are scattered and offer no difficulties for navigation. With the ice in the channel, we have slowed to just over 3.5 knots.

The smooth seas, warm temps, and sunshine have everyone in good spirits. Seafloor topographic data is being collected by our bottom profiling equipment, and we have already marked a couple of potential coring sites for the return trip.

We should reach Robertson Island late this afternoon and should get a good handle of the days ahead.

The Palmer Peninsula as we passed through
 the Prince Gustav Channel early this morning.

2/16/05
23:47 GMT
65 02' S
59 03' W
6.7 C
17 knot winds
clear skies calm seas

Just off Robertson Island, Weddell Sea, Antarctica

We spent most of the day passing through the Price Gustav channel and across the area formally occupied by the Larsen A ice shelf. Small bands of icebergs and some continuous first year ice slowed our progress occasionally, but never to the point where we had to change course dramatically. Last year's cruise to this area was stopped short of the southern end of the Prince Gustav channel due to thick ice, but they were here approximately a month and a half later in the year than we are.

A satellite photo that we received on the ship yesterday shows a new fjord that has formed at the head of the Larsen B embayment and that will be one area we examine closely as we pass through this area.

Our plan is to enter the Larsen B area and survey the coastline as we proceed south. As these are truly uncharted waters (there was an ice sheet covering this area until March 2002), we will keep our speed around 2 knots and a careful watch on the bottom profiler.

Breaking first year ice in the southern end of the Prince Gustav Channel. Six to 10 thick first year ice is parted by the Gould as we make our way south towards the Larsen B area. View is looking past the stern A frame to the north with James Ross Island on the horizon.

Clear Skies, Bright Stars and Smooth Sailing in the Weddell Sea

2/17/05
4:10 GMT
65 16' S
59 15' W
3.9 C
11 knot wind
perfectly calm seas
clear skies and bright stars

A beautiful warm night here in the Weddell Sea.

Came off shift at midnight and got a call from the bridge that the view was spectacular. They were right.

Traveling at 2 knots due to heavy ice floe concentrations and unknown waters, the bridge had the full set of spotlights on and two additional crewman watching the course ahead.

At 1 a.m. this was the scene. There was quite a crowd on the bridge and outside enjoying this spectacular view.
 

Exploring the Remains of the Larsen B Ice Sheet

 

 
2/17/05
23:34 GMT
65 02' S
61 25' W
3.1 C
15 Knot winds
high thin clouds
alternating ice covered and open water

We have just finished traveling to within .5 mile of the coastline and the remains of the Larsen B ice shelf at one of its western most embayments. Near the terminus of the Hektoria and Evans Glaciers, which formally fed the extensive Larsen B ice sheet.
 
This is an area that has not been visited before, as it was occupied by the Larsen B Ice Shelf until its total collapse in March 2002.

Large tabular segment of the former Larsen B seen near Cape Fairweather (background). Iceberg was photographed from the bridge level of the Gould 46 feet above the water line and it extended well above me as we passed by. Only about 10% of an iceberg is exposed above the water line, with the remaining 90% extending below. At well over 50 feet exposed above the water, there is over 500 feet of ice below the water for this iceberg. You can also see the seasonal layering in the iceberg that results from snow accumulation each year. Some of the layers are more compact, having formed into dense ice bands (deeper blue).

We have been "camped" in about the same place for the past couple of days as we work out some sticky problems with sea floor topography we are having trouble visualizing.

Luckily the scenery on shore is spectacular. We have been as close as 1/10 of a mile from shore and in places the rocks plunge directly into the water. Many of the glacial valleys have fjord like structure with massive vertical cliffs coming right out of the water. Less than a quarter mile from shore we were in 600 meters of water. The captain was pretty cautious. He likes to look at the topography on the land and visualize the same topography under his ship. What he saw on land was that we could go from 600 meter water depth to essentially zero in virtually no time. Because ships neither stop or turn on a dime we proceed very slowly in these areas (which have never been charted as we are the first to visit them) with one eye always fixed on the bottom depth recorder.

We have not had a clear day since we have been in this area. The clouds tend to sit just on or below the tops of the rocky headlands. I cannot imaging how spectacular this would be on a clear blue sky day. The low clouds give the area it's on sort of majestic look.

We are planning on heading south from here towards 65 42' before starting our track back to the north. Weather is holding well, not too cold and the wind is not too bad away from the mountains. Ice conditions have been good and not causing us too many problems.

-commentary provided by Dave Tewksbury, geology technician at Hamilton College

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Week 2
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Week 4

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