Tuesday, February 17, 2009

ANTARCTICA, WE ARE HERE AGAIN



Our first sight of land was Smith Island, an amazingly high island with steep mountain ridges plunging to the coast. Blue skies and calm sea conditions welcomed our arrival in Antarctica, allowing us to stroll on deck, stretch our legs, and snap a few pictures.


Our first stop and step on land was the next morning on Livingstone Island where we set up the first research field camp. It took us the whole day to transport the three weeks of supplies on inflatable zodiac boats, and carry up the beach to the filed camp site. The field camp of seven tents and a hut will be home for three weeks for seven geologists hunting for mammal fossils. The island was full of wildlife. There were lots of noisy elephant seals hanging around close to where the tents were setup. I wonder how the paleontologists will sleep at night with all those weird, loud digestive noises. The smell wasn’t so great either! Only a few penguins were hanging around along the shore and in a small pond. The pond was formed from melted ice and the surrounding soil was covered with a bright green moss.





Finally, it was back to the ship for some deserved rest, warm soup for dinner and a good night's of sleep. We needed to recover from this long day of carrying heavy equipment and supplies. The supplies included water, food, gas tanks, Scott tents, plywood for lab and dinning spaces, etc.



Today, our second stop on Antarctic soil was on James Ross Island on the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula in the Weddell Sea. We navigated last night through the Antarctic sound, a relatively narrow passage that connects the West to the East side of the Antarctic Peninsula. “The passage was full of drifting icebergs and the navigation through it was a little tricky,” said Rick the second mate when I visited him this morning on the bridge. Around 4:40 am I jumped from my bunk after suddenly hearing a loud, grinding noise of ice on metal. I thought, “either something hit us or we hit something”. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that it was just an iceberg that scraped along the side of the ship. I stood by my cabin’s porthole for a few minutes in search of our culprit. However, I could only see small icebergs drifting by the ship as we moved along and no sign of anything massive enough to make the surprising sound and
vibrations. I thought: “…well, since the alarms didn’t go off that must mean we are fine and we aren’t going to sink….”



Another full day of onshore operations followed for us all. Setting up the Ross Island research camp base was a little harder than the day before. For some reason it seemed to me that they had twice the amount of supplies as the people staying at Livingston (and we even had the help of an ATV for hauling really heavy gear). The spot chosen to setup the camp was a wide, flat area covered by powdered rocks and pebbles with great views of enormous glaciers and a beautiful bay. It was another great day spent on Antarctic soil surrounded by an ever more amazing landscape. The temperatures were typical of a summer day, oscillating from 23 F (-5 C) to 32 F (0 C) and cooling a little with the blowing winds.
We even had some time off at the end of the workday for playing soccer and frisbee. Now, only 32 hours of steaming separate us from the US Antarctic station, Palmer Station. From there, after resupplying Palmer, we head to our first oceanographic station, B, where our real work will finally begin. See you soon!





2 comments:

UH Manoa Ocean researchers said...

Hey Christian, it looks like you are the chap running after the soccer ball! Nice picture!!
Aloha from the Smith lab and Co.

darkmatter said...

I wish that I have the opportunity to travel to Antarctica, there are so many thing that I wish to do when I am in place so cold, the problem is that you need to warm up to do something because of the cold, you even need Generic Viagra