Sunday, April 27, 2008

Starfish Seamount

Lat - 55' 40.50S
Long - 42'45.55W
Depth - 3118m
Area - Central South Scotia Sea
We're now in the Central South Scotia Sea, working mainly under the geology project. It's been a pretty boring few days, so we decided today we would put down a trawl on a seamount we've been calling Starfish Seamount (because it looks like a starfish!). Unfortunately the trawl came up with an awful lot of rocks and nicely glued together with mud. Eeww. Oh well, actually with so many people it really didn't take too long to sort through, and there weren't that many intact animals - some really nice huge purple sea cucumbers, some mushed up starfish, but that was about it. Oh, except Kate - I got you a zooarcid fishy, little baby looking one. 
Other than that we're all doing well, we've actually put together an excellent group out here, everyone is getting along, having fun and working hard, it's been great. Sometimes it's hard to tell if your group is going to be a good one or not, as people definitely react to being at sea differently, but we choose well, they're a great bunch. 

Cruise Website - 

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Busy busy!

Lat - 55' 28.86S
Long - 51' 30.95W
Water Depth - 4800m
Speed - 10 knots
It's been a busy few days, so sorry for no update! After leaving Punta Arenas within 30hrs we were sampling on Burdwood Bank for Laura and my project. We immediately put a trawl in at 300m and came back with a wealth of corals (fossil and live) as well as a handful of other interesting critters (starfish, urchins, shrimp), then went on to do a few more not so successful trawls and CTD casts. Weather has not been great, choppy, 50 knot winds and 20ft seas, but this boat rides amazingly well, you wouldn't realise the weather is quite so bad outside until you look out the window. 
Yesterday was our last day on our sample site and our final sample was a trawl at 800m depth. Nearing the end of the trawl, as we were bringing it up, the tension on the wire spiked to 8400lbs (normal for that depth is around 2500lbs). Immediately getting the winch operator to pay out wire the tension then 'pinged' to 1000lbs and luckily the wire did not break (when you have a trawl on the bottom you have to be careful not to anchor the ship by getting it caught on things - this is why we go to such lengths to choose good looking sites from maps and sensors). I was determined I had caught the net on something on the bottom (rock?), it had pulled the net and finally broke free, letting out all the animals we had just collected with it. 
Pessimistic I didn't even wake people up before the trawl came up to help sort. As the MTs started to bring the trawl on deck, they stopped, chatted and one of them came running back to fetch extra line. I went to the back and peered over the side. there was the net, bulging and straining with the amount of material in it. One of he largest hauls of corals I have ever collected then came on deck. 12 hours later, the 8 people who aided in it's sorted had finally finished with the initial work (sorting, preserving, drying). I now have over 100 individuals of 3 different species of coral (one very rarely seen here) as well as numerous other deep-sea critters. There are some pictures soon to go up on the cruise website below. 
What a wonderful way to end a sample site. Thanks King Neptune. 

Cruise Website - 

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Cruise Website

We're off.......

We've just got out of the Straights of Magellan, the ship has started
rolling and greener and greener faces have appeared..........and to my
mind we're barely moving yet.....yikes! We managed to head out last
night at 8pm, and although we had the basic 'safety' meeting last
night we have a ton of meetings today.

BUT (in capitals no less), one VERY exciting thing. My babies were
dead (no thats not exciting), but I loaded them onto the ship and
finally dealt with them last night. Some had completely disintigrated,
but some were still gooey (though obviously dead). So I let those ones
dry out. This morning they had totally dried out, and guess
what.........I have coral skeletons! The final piece of the
puzzle.....woo hoo! Most of all I have 3 (potentially 5) of them, so
plenty for both me and Laura to do interesting things to. Woo hoo!
Look out for a picture on the Censeam Website in a few days time.

Friday, April 18, 2008

We're off....

Hopefully, we're out of here today. Yesterday was just as hectic if not more. It's going to be an interesting cruise. My heel is doing well (and yes people, we can stop telling me I should have got stitches.....I know! Finally showed it to Stian, he says it looks good, so i'm going to keep quiet about it (unless something happens of course), haven't worn shoes yet and still have at least 24hrs before I have to, so thats good).

We're in the process of taking on fuel for the trip, loading the last few things and tying things down for the trip. I have to get the biology side more organised - though the students have been fabulous at getting things done - i've been really proud of our side of the science party, they have worked their butts off so far.

Stian is off to CA today to CA......everyone at portcall wants you to stay you've been so fabulous....will miss you baby!

The next post will hopefully be by ship email, we'll see. Our first post on the website should be up soon -

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Super Busy.......

Wow, what a busy few days. Sorry no pixs today or yesterday, i'll try and remember to take some tomorrow to post. The last couple of days have been exhausting - setting up the equipment, supplies, organising things like berthing, watches....and utter mayhem. Due to an oversight (ha ha) at Raytheon, we have no MSTs (we should have 2), our MPC didn't arrive until last night and we had no MTs (we should have 4) until today (we only have 3). So poor Stian (who was MPC on the last cruise) has been being doing the job of MPC, MST and MT for the last few days - with only IT and ET people to help him onload and offload equipment (and since they don't really work outside, it was a lot more work, as none of them really knew how to deal with it). 

We've also had some mess ups - equipment and supplies missing, I had all my -80C samples from the last cruise brought over, but left on the truck for an hour before being loaded, so they had all pretty  much thawed (yes, ruining them), winches haven't been working and we haven't had the manpower to fix it as fast as it needs to be. Basically this all adds up to we're not leaving on time. The people we have had have been fantastic, but boy, did Ratheon screw us (and them) on this port call.......

And of course this means that Stian and I have had private time amounting to less than 24hrs (including sleep), and he flies off to California (and we hopefully pull out of port) friday morning....

Raytheon Glossary
MPC - Marine Projects Coordinator - does the main organising on the ship - goes between the science PIs and the ships Captain and crew. Basically makes everything work, or at least tries to. 

MST - Marine Science Technician - handles the inside science equipment and supplies (microscopes, water systems, chemicals, waste chemicals). 

MT - Marine Technician - handles the outside science gear - puts science equipment over the side, looks after all the major equipment. 

ET - Electronics Technician - deals with electronic stuff (wiring, cameras, etc)

IT - Information Technician - Deals with the ship email, intranet, data management etc. 

Monday, April 14, 2008

A day in pictures.....

....because i'm too tired to write much. The ship came in, saw Stian briefly which was nice, he's off at his end of cruise party and hopefully he'll come this way later. Today was mellow but tomorrow a full ship day for us.

First order of the day was getting our Extreme Cold Weather gear. Laura is trying on some of the many pairs of gloves we get issued.

A mound of clothes........

Marshall trying on the largest boots around......

After the morning at the ship the five of down here went out for a tour south of Punta Arenas. These are catagorically not penguins. Cormorants in fact. But they are black and white.

The five of us looking out over the furthest south point on the South American continent.

What kind of tree is this? Anyone know? It was very cool - succulent waxy leaves and big!

We went to visit a reconstruction of one of the first Chilean forts down here. Very cool.

Maureen, Laura and Dan looking out over the Darwin Mountain Range next to one of the forts cannons.

Me at the end of the earth - the furthest south you can get on the continent (there are islands further south...).

And I just liked this photo..........

Sunday, April 13, 2008

In Puntarenas

Arrived in PA a few hours ago, washed, ate, drank pisco, and am now tucked up in bed. We go to the warehouse tomorrow early to get our cold weather gear and check out how my babies are doing.........hold your breath!

Stian gets into port tomorrow too - yay!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Just three more hours in texas.....

In Dallas airport, been here since 11am, it's now 6.30pm and another 3hrs to go....ish! I ended up buying the sixth season of Scrubs to keep me entertained, i've already watched 4 episodes while lying on the floor in the corner next to a plug (why are they always in awkward places). 

I did get to catch up with two of my favourite people though - Kate B my shenanigan companion, and the mysterious disappearing reappearing Kusek! And this is a test oh Kusek to see if you really do read this blog. Next time we talk/email you have to throw into the conversation "my my, i'm toasted". So there. 

Luckily I have only gone slightly mad with the tedious wait (oh, and I thought I would go to an REI just 20 minutes away, but alas even the shared ride buses were $30 each way, and the bus schedule was so screwy I couldn't tell if it would really stop there - so just ended up sitting outside for an hour of fresh air before coming in to eat), and entertainment in the form of Laura, Kathy, Dan and Marshall will soon arrive. Then maybe we'll break into the margaritas! 

Friday, April 11, 2008

Up up and away

Headed outta here, Antarctica here I come.........!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Antarctica the Sequel...

So where to this time and why?

A slightly different area this time - more North, more ocean, less land (potentially none at all in fact), less penguins - but still as much fun I am sure. The map above shows the Drake Passage and Scotia Sea (basin to the right) which is where we will be sampling. The objectives of this cruise is to find, take underwater pictures of and to collect deep-water corals in this area. The Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) runs through the Drake Passage and is the strongest current in the world, and it is this current that feeds into the Atlantic ocean, mixing with northern water coming down from the Arctic somewhere around the middle. Some corals live for over 100 years (some much more than that),and they have been around for many tens of thousands of years, and as they grow signals from what the water is like (temperature in particular, but also other nutrients) are recorded into their skeletons - so we can take those skeletons and look back in time to see what water masses were doing - pretty cool huh. This is the main thrust of the proposal and is my friends Laura's work. 

My part is to use underwater towed cameras and trawl collections to look and see what corals are where - no one has gone into the middle of the Drake to look for corals, so we're not really sure what we're going to find. We know certain species live on the Argentinian and Chilean shelves, and we know certain species live on the Antarctic shelf - but what lives in the middle and how does it get there. Also pretty cool. 

We then also have a group of geologists from the University of Texas that are sharing the ship with us and will be collecting rocks in the scotia sea - unfortunately no zodiacs and penguin tours this time, it's all work! 

I'll of course also be rooting for more coral babies...:0) Still hoping the ones left in PA in the warehouse have survived, but guess we'll see! 

We also have a cruise website this time - so although I will try and write updates to my blog, I'll also be working on the website (with pictures!), so may not be able to put things up here as often. The website is here - Censeam Cruise - and also if you click the title of the post.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Geckos running up the window again......this time on the outside......:0)

Antarctic Quotes

"Great God, this is an awful place"
Robert Falcon Scott - Led the Discovery (1901-1904) and Terra Nova Expeditions (1910-1930)

"If Antarctica were music it would be Mozart. Art and it would be Michelangelo. Literature, and it would be Shakespeare. And yet it is something even greater; the only place on earth that is still as it should be. May we never tame it."
Andrew Denton - Australian TV Host

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Oh c**p, i'm leaving in 3 days.....

Well, the 3 day panic and restlessness has set in. This usually happens, but this time is way more pronounced. In fact I just realised I was pacing Grodnick (which admittedly only takes ~4 paces between my front door and my back door), but i'm not sure how long I was doing it for. This cruise I have to be a responsible adult, and it's a little scary. This is the second time i've been on a cruise as a proposal writing/funded PI (principle investigator), but the first time there was a wealth of PIs on board (around 5 if I remember). This time it is Laura and I in our group, two others in the co-cruise-sharing Texas geology group, (but we really have little overlap in responsibilities between our groups), so i'm starting to feel weight on the shoulders and a little nervousness to make sure it goes well. There is one uncontrollable part to this cruise that is a feature of where we are going to sample and I think it is that that is making me the most nervous.......the weather. The weather in the Drake Passage basically sucks this time of year (winter down there - and is often heralded as the worst high seas weather you can get in winter).........and as much as I can control equipment and supplies and be super organised, I can't control the weather.......

I'm also feeling super foolish and pissed off about my heel too - what a time for that to happen. I still couldn't put on shoes this morning and really began to panic they are not going to let me on the ship (and still am). It was also still bleeding a little this morning and my super friend Jenny convinced me to go to the university health center today to get it looked at. The conclusion - yes, I probably should have gone and got it stitched right away (so out there, you can now say "I told you so" for sure), but the doctor wasn't too worried said though it would have healed a little faster it would be for scar control mostly as i'd looked after it well. But it does have a little infection, and though it may clear up on it's own i'm now on antiobiotics to make sure it gets out of there by friday. He was also impressed that that was done by a screen door, and is pretty sure it's going to be a nasty scar with a stupid story behind it, so I should make something cool up now to explain it away. Shark bite or something. So if anyone has any cool-story ideas, just throw them this way.

Sorry to go on about my heel which I know is just a thoroughly gross and boring thing to keep talking about, but it's really the bane of my life right now and totally on my mind, and since that is what i generally blog about, thats what your getting. After I have thoroughly warned you all about the dangers of screen doors, it'll go back to travel, fluffy penguins and coral next week, don't you worry.

Monday, April 7, 2008

My fridge.....

Today I received a lovely letter from Bella and it is now pride of place on my fridge (Bella - I love all the stickers - particularly the USPS ones!). As i've posted before, my fridge is a "kid fridge", pictures and drawings from my younger friends and family. At the moment I have pictures of Jackaroo (though hoping for more recent ones.....hint hint Adam, Mum, Dad....), Bella, Finn (and family - thankyou Barabara, i'm not sure I got around to telling you how much those Easter pictures brightened my day, but they did!), Emma and Callie (and a lovely letter from Callie too!) and even little Ruby up there.

I love having a decorated fridge, makes me smile every time I go in there, and the perfect place for displaying the best artwork there is around!


Shish! US postage is going up again! Why does it feel like it just
went up, and why do I only find out about it just after I go and buy
two big sheets of stamps.............shish again I say!

Saturday, April 5, 2008


The weekend finally came around, and did not start well this morning - overflowing toilet - luckily the bathroom floor is so wonky and holed it all flowed to a corner and out......still gross to clean up after though.......

But in contrast the rest of my saturday was fabulous! Picked up my friend Liz and we headed to do a Costco scout out for her (she had never been and wanted to see if she wanted a card), we then headed to Makapuu, stopping at the Sandy Beach overlook and then did a mile (paved) walk up the Makapuu ridge to see the lighthouse on the cliffs. We were also treated to humpback whales from the top which was wonderful. Each winter over 2000 humpbacks come to the Hawaiian islands to breed, before heading back to their feeding grounds in Alaska and northern California. Even from a distance I still love to watch them.

After that we headed to Kailua for sushi and then back to Honolulu the long-way around, taking Beach Belle for a good spin before she lays "fallow" again next friday for six weeks. Poor Belle, one day i'll be here long enough to get her over 1000 miles........

Sandy Beach from the overlook. The day was windy but beautifully sunny - it was nice to catch some rays instead of being holed up in an office all day!

The Makapuu lighthouse. I love the walk up here, not too steep and not too long, but still feels like a little workout, and you get a fabulous view from the top!

Me and Liz at the top of the ridge. Definitely windy up there! This photo makes me look like I still have long hair.....funny!

Friday, April 4, 2008


Woo Hoo! Feel like the day was wasted (LONG day), which is why it's so good that it's over and i'm laying on the couch at home watching the dog whisperer eating a fishstick and cheese sandwich (don't say it - a left-over from college days). Next i'm going to attempt to run a bath and sit in my extremely minature tub with my leg hanging out the side. I'm tired of bathing with a washcloth and jug and now my visitor is gone i feel less self concious about making a mess in there..........and probably a fool of myself in the bathing process.........:0)

One of my favourite cruise photos from 2005. This is Mr T bobblehead attached to the top floats of the ROV Hercules, surrounding him is a deep-sea coral that was over 10ft tall (so wrapped up around him on the top of the ROV). This photo was taken at ~2000m depth. Cool huh. The best bit was that when we moved around to look and collect things, his head would actually bobble. Tee hee. No matter what, this photo always makes me laugh, so thought I would share it with you.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Friday yet?

Actually not a bad day, just what seemed like a long one. I'm happy to be tucked up in bed already. My friend Liz is still here, she heads back to her place tomorrow and Grodnick and me will be all alone again. It's been nice having her here, and she's totally chilled out, but as usual I am looking forward to having my own space again. I've actually been pretty impressed that sharing Grodnick has not been too bad, it's amazing how just a little thought into creating "barriers" between a "bedroom" and "living room" in a shoe box studio can make it feel like you do have some privacy.

Today was hectic, lots of people to see, another student who wants to do histology (which is great), the histology room is still not even close to being ready (which is bad) and we have no money for new equipment (which is even worse). It all gets more than a little depressing after a while. Even that said, it feels like today was more productive than the last few days, I feel like i'm starting to make (or grind) my place here......

Foot is healing, not as fast as I want (pix below if your not squimish), but as long as I can wear shoes by next friday I guess it doesn't really matter. Trying all the tricks to get it ready to go.........friday the 11th it's back to the Antarctic - round 2 of 3 rounds this year and one next. And I just found out I'll be on another cruise later this year - luckily this time to the northern Hawaiian Islands.....woo hoo, a ten day cruise......don't think i've ever been on one so short!

Oh.....and I have my mac back, all repaired for free by the nice people at Apple. Yay!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

And..... poor laptop is at the doctors getting a new logic board so I
feel like I'm missing a limb at the moment.......

Still alive

And my foot has yet to fall off, so taking that as a good sign. Its
much better today (less aching, less bleeding) so hoping it'll heal
fast before this cruise - lucky I'm in Hawaii and can wear flip flops
and clogs the whole time! Today has been mellow, came home at 3 to
deal with house stuff and random chores, the real wind up to the
cruise is in full what vital items have I forgotten
I wonder?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Busy day yesterday - I have my friend Liz (who is a postdoc here) staying with me for a few days as her house-mate has a million house guests at the moment - so went to pick her up at the airport yesterday evening (she'd been visiting the UK). At 10pm as we went into Grodnick I leaned out the door to grab some parcels that had been left on my swingseat just on the deck. As I turned around to go back in the screen door shut on me and gouged an inch square out of my left heel a good ~5mm deep leaving a little flap on the back (yes, i have no idea how, but it does appear you can indeed be attacked and mortally wounded by a screen door).

Ouch is all I can say, after lying on the kitchen floor for five minutes with my foot in the air both trying to stop the bleeding and stop feeling faint, we washed it out, compressed the flap back on there, covered it in antiseptic, bandaged it up good and had a gin and tonic. It's still pretty nasty looking, but looks better than yesterday evening (then again I think anything would look better when your not lying on the kitchen floor trying to tell your friend who just travelled 30hrs that you really are okay as half your heel is hanging off....).

Pretty spectacular entrance to Grodnick if I do say so myself......:0) Trying to resist posting a pic up here as that is just gross.....

*****Update.....okay, so I couldn't resist. It's now thursday and this is what it looks like - way better than monday night is all I can say! Sorry to those who are squimish....but how the hell does a screen door do this! ********