2006 Expedition to Antarctica

Week 4

Monday, May 1

Over the last night we continued our transit across the northern edge of the Weddell Sea through the region called Iceberg Alley. Last night we had no swells, and the Palmer cut through calm seas covered in newly formed ice. The flows were large pancakes each the size of child's pool, they were soft and slushy so the ship made a quiet slice through them, with only the sound of a soft shhhhhhhh to let us know we were in ice. Early this AM we are feeling a gentle swell as we continue east at about 10 kt. Later today we will conduct the mooring work.

Figure 1: The ice tower provides a good view of the open water leads through the pack ice and Niki West (Colgate Univ.) and Nikola Banishki (Hamilton College, '07) scope out the view some 70' above the bridge deck. Photo by Dr. Tom Wagner (NSF).
Figure 2: The new ice pack of the northern Weddell Sea as it forms before our eyes. This is much easier going than the tough ice we saw further south and for now the galley is again a quiet place to eat our meals.
Figure 3: A bathymetric map of a newly exposed seafloor was produced as we swath mapped in the region uncovered by the recent calving of mega berg A-54. the edge of the Larsen B Ice Shelf is shown in two places, just two months apart. Our core stations are also indicated by the red dots. This was one of the few areas of open water in the region two weeks ago, hence the excellent quality of the resulting map. Image produced by Kathleen Gavahan (Raytheon Polar Services).

Wednesday, May 3

Today is May 3rd and we are two days into our transit back across the Drake Passage. We are facing some rough seas after a night of relative calm. The image depicts a NOAA satellite image using an infrared sensor that shows cloud circulation and the development of a monster storm right in our path back home. The ship location is shown by the white cross and the winds are coming right at us from the NW at about 40 kts, it will be some days for the storm to pass and that will mean we will be in it for the entire crossing. There is a reason we have no pictures to send from the decks, as they are closed and many folks are sleeping late past breakfast this AM. Otherwise all is well.


Thursday, May 4

We are taking some large rolls and one thing it does if you don't get sea sick is that it makes you really sleepy. The image below shows Kim Roe while on watch responding to the steady back and forth motion of the ship. We let her go on like this for a good 1/2 hour before we woke her up. On the crossing there is not much to do, now that all our gear is packed up. But we can reflect upon what we did back down on the ice and what we left behind.

Figure 1: Kim Roe (Hamilton, '08) taking a few zzzzs while we we rock and roll back and forth.
Figure 2: The spectacular view of the Crane Glacier seen on April 19th. The labels show the regional geologic contacts of  Mesozoic rocks that have been deeply eroded. These are quite similar to the "dissected arc" rocks we flew over in Chile, with dark volcanics intruded by pink to white granites. The Crane Glacier has receded 12.5 km since the Larsen B ice shelf broke out, and the former elevation of the Crane is indicated by the dashed line, which still has some ice left hanging on it. The lighter colored granite below this "trim line" was under the ice until just 2 years ago, while the darker granite above had been exposed for millennia.
Figure 3: Our unlucky benthos camera, the source of so many great images of the seafloor (see the map) came to a quick demise on the night of April 23, as we took a station in front of the Crane Glacier. The Crane calved a large iceberg and during the subsequent roll of the ship the Camera line was snapped. So now our benthos camera sits at the bottom of the Crane Fjord in a water depth of 1200 m, holding the last frame exposure of the bottom upon which it now rests. This is only the second item of equipment we have lost in over 20 years of Antarctic work, so that's still a good track record.

Saturday, May 6

We have arrived back to the well lit world of civilization, the port city of Punta Arenas bids us welcome back after nearly a month at sea. It is Saturday night, nearly 9:00 PM local time, the city is just coming alive in the cold autumn air. There are not many words that can describe what all of us have gone through these past weeks, I have tried to convey some of our every day events, our periods of active investigation, the long days of transit. Thanks for following us on the web site. I leave you all with these words of that ring so true to me every time I go to sea, and return to home.

We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we stared and to know the place for the first time.
  --T. S. Elliot (from Little Gidding)

Figure 1: Punta Arenas and moonlight, darkness and light, nature and civilization.
Figure 2: Team work is what makes this all work, thanks to Amy Leventer (Colgate University) for keeping the team work alive and helping all of us move forward. Here we share a moment out on deck in the cold.

-- Commentary provided by Chief Scientist Eugene Domack