Tuesday, July 29, 2008

On the way to N

Lat - 62' 15S
Long - 58' 43W
Air temp - 0.5C
Sea State - Bumpy, wind 20knots

So we had a little excursion today, which was lots of fun. We finished Station B, our last official station in the early hours of yesterday morning. After a few days of bad weather it was serious catch up time, so we all kicked in beyond our shifts and got it done. Phew. 
So today we were woken by a fire alarm (well, I got woken early by Stian luckily.....dating the MPC does have it's benefits....:0) to be told we were off on a zodiac ride, into Potter Cover on King George Island. Total boondoggle, but it was great to touch land and see somewhere new. We rode in the zodiacs into a shallow beach with a large colony of Gentoo penguins. Took some time taking photos, then I headed away from the crowd and to a small beach with some beautiful mossy rocks. Others took off on their own, or en-masse up a cliff. Stian had to stay with the zodiacs....:0( It was so nice to have some quiet time and hear nothing, absolutely nothing. Until people starting sliding down the hill on their arses, then all you could hear was 'weeeeee'.....which to me was a shame, but they had fun and let out some energy. 

So it's back to the boat and we're off towards our bonus station, Station N (for North....hmmmmm). We have two short days here then it's back across the Drake and back to PA. Things have gone quickly, but after nearly 4 months at sea this year, I am ready to head in. Plus I have a lovely trip to Echo lake with Stians family to look forward to, then a trip to Bologna with Stian. Yay! 


Happy Birthday to Grant

Old man....

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sat at Station B

A hectic few days so i'll make this short, want to catch up on some sleep tonight and go to bed early. We're stuck in bad weather, waiting it out at Station B, our final station of this cruise. Yesterday and last night we did all the things we could do in bad weather, and the weather just got worse (it's 40knots sustained winds and gusts to 50knots), so we're hanging out. We just have 7 mud cores to go and we're done here. There was hope of adding a station further north (by either King George Island or Elephant Island), but that may well be tossed out as we loose time here. 

Station A went really well, I got my larvae going and the experiment went well (I think, I guess we'll find out when it's back to the lab).  I've already got a list of ways to make the expt better on the next cruise, it was hectic trying to get so many larvae together, I basically spent all day just doing my things, which was nice not to have to do mud for a change. I did get a lot of corals, so it was again my Coral Nirvana. 

I still have some live larvae going, though they're getting thrown around now, so not sure how much longer they will linger. I was hoping to get them back to Hawaii, but that might well be out of the question now. Just see how they look when we get back into PA and decide from there whether to pack them up.  

I'm ready to get off the cruise now, partly because i now have what I needed from the cruise, but also people are starting to drive me crazy (and i'm really tired, so it's not hard to do!). Last night there were 3 trawls in a row, all after midnight so I had to get up for each one to collect my corals and anemones that came up. First two went well, third one I climbed back into bed expecting an hour sleep and then to be woken for the trawl. I'd asked to be got up once things were mainly sorted, that way I could just grab the bucket of cnidarians and process. I never got woken up, so when the alarm for 11am went off, I assumed the trawl had failed. Nope, they just forgot to wake me, didn't really bother to sort the trawl so it was left in a bucket in a warm room so no good for DNA (to be honest I think they did it just to fill time as we can't do much else, which is dumb), pulled out some anemones for me, put them in the incubator that is both at 11C (not really all that chilled) and well marked as DO NOT OPEN and duct taped shut, as my larvae expt is running in there and changes in temp will ruin it. Fun thing to wake up to with only 3hrs total sleep that night huh. 

Luckily the RNA part of the expt is finished, so I don't think they entirely ruined it, but it's still a piss off, especially as the particular person who put them in there tried the other day to put stuff in there and I had both said explicitly not to and that it wasn't chilled anyway.

So I'm ready to get out of here.............


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Station AA

Lat - 63' 03S
Long - 61' 35W
Depth - 601m
Air Temperature - -2C
Sea State - Bergy bits and flat calm

We just finished our nice long transit to Station AA (or Coral Nirvana as it was called in Feb). We stopped briefly at Station B to drop a CTD to collect water and got some mud for the mud maniacs too, and we'll stop by there as the last station before we head back to the Drake (we'll be leaving a camera on the seafloor there until Feb, but need it at Station AA before we can do that). I think i'm ready for my manic few days. We just got a CTD, so I have lots of bottom water to cultivate my little larvae in. All the tanks are full and 'curing' for the next few hours, i'll change out the water again just before the trawl comes up with the corals. I made up all my chemicals, labelled all my tubes and double checked all my fridges are at the right temperatures. We're set for a trawl at 9am (it's now 1am), so i'm going to head to bed and get ready to get up for the trawl. 

Here we go, wish me luck, I hope we get the same number of corals we did in Feb!! 

K-Way - Stian is drooling at the thought of a burrito place right in the hole, i moved too soon..........and definitely nail Phil down! 


Monday, July 21, 2008


Sending out some warm hugs from a chilly place to Stian's mom. Glad it
all went better than expected, swift recovery. xxoxxoxx

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Station E

Lat - 65' 66S
Long - 67' 18W
Water Depth - 520m
Air Temperature - -2.1C
Sea State - light pancakes and slick ice

Well we're here, got here around 3pm, so I actually got a few hours to catch up with things this afternoon. Though I admit that catching up with things happened to be watching a movie with Stian....:0) Not too much here for me at this station, though i'll get up for the trawl happening about 5am to check for any corals and such. I got a few last year, some good anemones too, so that would be nice. Next stop in 3 days will be Station AA (yes, we're missing a few in the middle), where I got the mother-load in Feb, so i'm ready. I'm doing a bunch of temperature experiments for Kristen (Hi KW!) on my coral larvae, as well as taking a round for more SEM, TEM and Histology, i'll also be keeping a bunch alive and trying to get them to Hawaii. That should be interesting......

Oh - and a positively balmy -2C today, and NO wind, so no wind chill. Woo hoo! We were all sweating underneath our layers taking mud samples today! 

Ps - Happy Birthday to Jon - sorry I missed it Friday, I thought it was this friday - dates just get scrambled out here!
Pps - LSULiv - That would be awesome.....as would the 80C right now too.....


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Playing mum......

We're still at Station F, should be headed to Station E in the early hours of the morning. I didn't get much at this station, not unexpected, it's been a busy one none-the-less. I'm sat at my computer with many mud splatters all over me, time to wash some clothes I think. 

There's always a time in the cruise when people really start to piss you off or get on your nerves, it can't be helped, your stuck on a 200ft vessel with basically no private space at all (though I have to say the Palmer is nice and large and has lots of hidy holes). I'm used to it and just brush it off, go to bed early, watch a movie and start the day again. We have a few new people on here and two of them came to a head today on my watch, which was a bummer. They're both interesting people. The guy is a teacher here to stand watch, do science, write a website and converse with kids while out here. He's also go a rather blunt and often brutal sense of humour and has been getting on most peoples tits by now, but it's just him and how he is, so you brush it off. The girl is an undergrad from Hawaii, who to be honest is just very young and not very outgoing. She's also been driving me a little crazy as she's not much of a doer. She'll stand doing nothing in front of a bunch of muddy buckets and tools that need cleaning and not move to clean them until asked. She also needs to be shown stuff many times before getting it, and is a big questioner rather than a 'figure it out' person, basically just very young and not confident. 

So it's all very junior school. The guy has been too brutal in humour with the girl, the girl takes it to heart and now doesn't want to work with the guy, and ended up in tears when I asked the guy to show her how to do something today. Well that just doesn't cut it out here, we're all out here together for quite a while yet, so wee things like this have to be buried, but they seem incapable of doing it by themselves. So guess who had to step in today. Yup, playing mum to the three year olds.....or at least that's what it felt like. Makes the day more interesting I suppose. If they don't get over it and work together it will become a problem, so we might have to talk changing the shifts around, which is a real pain in the butt, so i'm hoping they got the message. It's amazing what being at sea will bring out in people, how you think you can hold a grudge on a ship is beyond me, there are always people you don't like, but you find a way to deal with it. It's a great teller of personality when stuck on a boat with total strangers for a month. Some come out good, some come out bad. 


Friday, July 18, 2008

Station F

lat - 66'59S
long - 69'42W
Area - Station F
Water Depth - 604m

Air Temperature - -22.6C
Sea State - Large pancake ice, and still flat calm! 

We're at station F, just in time for my shift to come on watch again.....no rest for the wicked I guess. It's been another beautiful day, clear air, bright red and orange sunshine, and we can still see Adelaide Island, so that has been beautiful today with the full moon rising over the mountains. Stunning. So far we've collected one set of Megacore mud, a plankton trawl and a long mud core (Kaston Core). So it's been not so busy, which has actually been nice, I managed to watch an episode of Battlestar Gallactica (the new one) with Stian this afternoon, that was really nice, feel like it's the first time i've spent time with him in days! But it's now dinner time and after dinner brings up a trawl, which is my busy spot, so that'll keep me going till midnight i'm sure. 


Thursday, July 17, 2008


Lat - 68' -8S
Long - 71' 01W
Area - Station G (Marguerite Bay)
Water Depth - 602m

Air Temperature - -17.8C
Sea State - "Grey and white new ice"

So it's our last few hours at Station G and it's snowing like crazy out there! Really pretty. We're still in the ice and in general it's icier than when we got here, so think it's still building. Stian tells me it's "grey and white new ice", I think a step above pancake in the ice realm, but certainly pretty. Things are still icing over on deck a lot, we had a trawl haul of mud that froze as we were sieving it, so that made it really hard to deal with. I did get a couple of corals, all extracted and put away in the freezer for analysis at home. Nothing big enough to get larvae from, I'm still thinking that won't  be until Station A. It's fun, if cold. Yesterday was a bad one, outside literally all day, my feet were so cold, had to go and get some hand warmers and stuff them into my socks (to the call of "princess" yet again from Stian...."), and that was better, but it was still damn cold. The next site is not too much further north, so not expecting too much of a change, except it probably won't be as icy, and it's way more exposed, so wouldn't be surprised if this lovely flat calm weather we've been experiencing goes away for good. Poop. 


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Station G

Lat - 68'08S
Long - 71' 02W
Area - Station G
Water Depth - 598m

Air Temperature - -24.7C
Sea State - Icy and Flat! 

We're here, station G. The ice never got really heavy, just large pancakes starting to stick together (i'll have to ask Stian what kind of ice this is), so we didn't have to slow down too much. Adelaide Island in the distance, first set of sampling equipment has gone over and come back with varying success. I got up early for the CTD (collects water) but alas it broke on the way down, so had to come back up again. It pulled away from the wire, so the connection broke a little, nothing major, just a pain to re-terminate the wire and reconnect everything. About a 4hr job that lucky Stian gets to do as he's the only one on here who knows how.....:0) 

The megacore went in and came back out with some great mud samples, but the water on the equipment froze solid as soon as it came up, making the cores almost impossible to get off. They had to pout hot water over them to get them free, and now that they are free they are solid blocks of ice, making them really hard to extrude the mud from (it's a long (~2ft) plastic core about 3inches wide that fills with mud and a couple of inches or so of water on top, to get them out you push a plunger in the bottom and extrude the long core of mud from the top. It's pretty cool, but not with solid blocks of ice!). 

Well, I go on watch in about 45 minutes, so i'll have my turn with the fun frozen cores......


Monday, July 14, 2008

Nearly there....

Lat - 66' 58S
Long - 69' 48W
Area - West of Adelaide Island
Air Temperature - -16.6C
Sea State - Pancake ice! 

After a great Drake Passage crossing (flat calm all the time!) we're nearly there, we should be on station (G - we're starting backwards!) by tomorrow morning/midday. Last night was a noisy one, we hit our first ice on the journey and it really reverberates through the ship when we plough through. And it's only pancake ice, so nothing stuck together to 'break' through as yet, so it may get noisier tonight. From the satellite pictures we actually might be lucky and not hit any solid ice at all, so shouldn't slow us down any. Today was really pretty, pancake ice, slick ice, Adelaide Island in the distance and a beautiful sunrise casting an orange and pink glow everywhere, with the moon on the opposite side. The days are so short here now that the sun will never rise more than a blip above the horizon only for around 4 hrs, and the moon is pretty much out all the time. I hope the rest of our days are like this - the air is so clear and with the white ice to bounce off, the vistas can be spectacular, the sun really casts a beautiful glow. Makes only having a few hours of sunlight total worth it.  Been keeping busy labeling endless numbers of tubes and marking up my notebook ready for samples. I'm ready, I hate sitting around not doing much on cruises, drives me crazy. Of course I should probably be writing that proposal........

Haven't figured out anything else i'm missing from my gear, so thats good. Missing my alarm clock badly, it was one of these really nice alarm clocks that plays all these soothing sounds, and was a splurge as i'm such an insomniac. Works great on the boat as it dulls a lot of the engine and other noises that are around and really did help me get to sleep quicker. People don't realise being at sea is really noisy, there is always noise from the ship running, let alone any winches and thrusters used for sampling. It's nice to get off the ship and be in total quiet.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Some random answers....

So before I left I set it up so I can get the comments left on here
emailed to my ship account, so now I can see what you all are leaving
on my blog while i'm away. So some random-ness -

NEA - size 8, we miss you too! Loved the Bella and Finn pix!
BSA - Still finding things missing, but yup there's not much I can do
about it from sea. So f**k it and move on.......
BookyG - Fine, pink fluffy bunnies would have been soooooooooo much
better though.........:0) I'll check it out when i get back to

So other things I've figured out i'm missing - my nice mouse that has
the ball on top so doesn't roll off the table when the ship rolls, and
some various stationary items. I did go and get myself another pair of
crocs in PA (boring, khaki, cheapy ones, not much choice in that
town), much to Stian's amusement, but they are so much easier when
your going in and out all the time - you have to wear steel toe boots
outside, and inside you can't track mud everywhere so need to take
them off. Slip on shoes work great, and it's heated in here, so crocs
work fantastically, and if they get muddy, you just rinse them off.

Stian is still chuckling........that explanation just caused me to be
called 'princess' for about the 50th time this cruise..........

Past the Horn

Lat - 57' 27S
Long - 65' 55W
Area - South of the Horn
Air Temperature - -12.8C
Sea State - Flat calm....woo hoo! 

We just went past Cabos de Hornos, (or the Horn), so are now past the end of South America and are in the Drake Passage proper. The weather is great, looks like the luck from the last cruise is holding up here. Kind of bored actually, everything is set up, ready to get sampling, everyone knows what they are doing (as it's basically the same people as the Feb cruise) and we don't start working for at least another 3 days. We're starting at our most southerly site first, down at the mouth of Marguerite Bay. We looked at the ice map this morning and there is lots of ice down there that will probably slow down our progress getting there. I've never broken ice before, so thats going to be fun. I also found out i'm on the day shift this cruise, woo hoo, and double woo hoo as Stian is on a similar shift too! Stian is MPC this trip, so head honcho, but there are some not so experienced people as MTs, so so far he seems to be doing a fair bit of MT work too, i'm hoping that drops off a little so he can just enjoy being the MPC. It's more inside work and paper work, but he finds it easier and prefers it to MTing all the time. Should be a pretty chilled out cruise for him, this is such a nice group out here. Once we start work it'll get busy for me, though I have my own project on the corals going, I am on shift and help with whatever is going on as well, which is a lot of mud collecting 24/7. Last Feb it was pretty hectic, and we have less time this cruise, so i'm suspecting it'll be just as, if not more, busy. 

Oh, and i don't know what the cruise website it like...........i'm a little dubious actually just from those that are writing it........but it's below if anyone wants to check it out....... 


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Why am I here when it's so damn cold!

Lat - 52' 41S
Long - 70' 11W
Area - Straits of Magellan
Air Temperature - -11.6C

Well, we're really off, and it's cold! Really cold. I'm a little disturbed actually. All the times down here i've never been in the "dead of winter", it's always been on the edge of the season, and although i've got cold and have had cold spells, i can never really say that i've been REALLY cold. I think it may happen this time. The Gould came in yesterday and I spoke to some folks on that ship, they said there was lots of snow around the Peninsula and it was cold. Brrrrr. 

So it's really cold, what am I doing here and where are we going? Well, i'm on the US Antarctic Program ship the Nathaniel B Palmer, we just left Punta Arenas, Chile and are on our way to the Western Antarctic Peninsula (the pointy peninsula that sticks out towards Chile). We'll be at sea for the next 28 days sampling animals (and in my case cold-water corals) from 5 sites from the top of the peninsula (on the Western side), down as far as Marguerite Bay. We picked these five sites when I was here in February (check out those blog pages for more info), and the idea is to revisit them now, when the water is colder (instead of a balmy 2C, it's now going to be -0.5C) and some of the sites will be covered in ice. 

We're going to be looking and collecting deep-water animals, not really deep like my last cruise here, but in around 300-500m of water, so still pretty down there. We're looking at how the benthic animals (those that live on the seafloor, so not fish or things that swim a lot) deal with the winter months, when there can be no food raining down from above (the main food source down there is phytoplankton that bloomed in the surface waters, then died and fell to the seafloor in large masses, literally covering the surface with a layer of yummy goop) and it's a lot colder. We'll be collecting animals and mud round the clock from these five sites. Looking at how these animals deal with changing environments will give us ideas on how many of these animals will deal with global climate change, something that is really happening fast to change the environment for good here in the Antarctic. 

From my end i'm interested in the corals that live down here. This is a pretty exciting cruise for me, as i've never seen or collected these animals from the winter, and it'll be good to see what is happening with their reproduction and the larvae they produce. My theory from the animals i've had has been that they reproduce year round, producing brooded babies that climb out of the coral mouths and settle pretty close by - but i've never had winter samples to ground-truth that with, so this is an important set of samples i'll be getting. I'll also be again trying to grow up some babies to make skeletons and see those final stages again, thats always fun and there is always more to learn about their behaviour. I'll also be subjecting these poor babies to a variety of environmental changes like temperature, to see what happens and what conditions they like and what conditions they don't. 

It's important to sample seasonally in these places, i often have people say "well you've already been there twice this year, why do you need to go again??". There was an analogy I heard a few years ago that I love to explain this point. Imagine if we were space aliens looking down at the earth, and to try and understand what was happening in North America, we sent down a camera or a bucket to sample with and we saw and we pulled up some trees. These trees had no leaves (it's winter when we went), there were just branches. So if we never visited the earth again, and never saw the spring, summer or fall, we would think that trees didn't have leaves ever. Well it's the same down below the ocean, there are seasons and things change, and in many locations around the globe, we are really just touching the surface of what happens at different times of year at depths greater than a few tens of meters. So thats why i'm here again, and thats why i'm excited about this cruise. 


We're off.....again....

We leave around midday today. It's been a mix of super mellow and super busy, though pretty much organised now, which is nice. It's been marred for me a little, as i've had some things taken from my boxes while they were stored here in between the cruises. Not anything major, not even anything you would think anyone would want (my orange crocs, cliff bars, alarm clock, dremel tool), it's just nasty knowing someone went through your things. They could have fallen out of the bag they were in, but it's a pretty good zippered bag, and even if they did, don't you think someone would have picked them up and thrown them either back in or somewhere? Pain in the butt, the alarm clock and crocs are the ones that are really pissing me off. 

So i'll post about this cruise when we leave today and I have a bit more time (just headed to the postoffice before we have to be on the boat at 10am), but i'm afraid there will be no photos on this one, as we don't get near a connection at all. So just words, but i'll update more than the last cruise and keep you posted on where we are and what we're up to. 

Hope you all have a great July! 

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Back in PA.....

So we ended up going to Puerto Montt for 2.5 days, get away somewhere warmer than PA. It's about 2hr flight north of Punta Arenas, up in the "lake district" of Chile, we managed to get cheap tickets flying out on the same day (3rd) until today (6th). It was fun, if a little too short, not long enough to relax properly which was a shame. We ended up spending a lot of the time trying to decide what to do rather than doing, but we did get a lie in one day (till the late time of 9am - woo hoo!) and stayed in some fun places, and even got to soak in some thermal hot springs for an evening, which was fabulous and much needed. 

The first day we stayed in a cute hostel in Puerto Montt, rented a car and drove north to Puyehue and stayed in a wonderful wooden cabana that I stupidly forgot to take a photo of. It was right next to Aqus Caliente hot springs, so we spent and evening in there. The next day we drove around lake Llanquihue and stayed in a cute hotel in Puerto Varas last night, having mexican for dinner (Stian's favourite). Today we flew back early and Stian had to go straight to work from there, I bummed around and caught up with work email. Like I said, way too short, neither of us really got a good break, not that i'm knocking it, but a few days longer would have been good. Would have also been good for me not to be totally congested and snotty for the entire time........hoping I haven't passed that cold onto Stian........

Tomorrow, it's to the ship and loading, unpacking and getting set up. Ug. 

Stian the photographer, sheep and a volcano, what more do you need......

Red faced (well me anyway) at the end of a mile walk up to an overlook. My excuse, other than too many empanadas.......I have a head cold okay......

Rapids on the river Petrohue, on the drive around the lake. 

Volcano Osorno, the mount fuji of Chile

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Change from Salmon to Mackerel!

As mackerel is actually one of my favourite fish, this isn't a problem for me, but here is a full news story on salmon I just got sent. 

I didn't realise salmon was a traditional 4th July dish. Having been to the Northern Chilean fjords and seen the hoards of fish farms squeezed into a small fjord (let alone the damage that must be happening to the bottom fauna), salmon has not been on my plate for a while. There really are fish out there that are both better for you and better for the environment. If you don't have one, MBARI has a "Seafood Watch Guide" - which you can order from them for free. This is a good website too from the Marine Conservation Society. 


Arrived in Punta Arenas last night, flights all uneventful and even had a spare seat next to me to stretch out on the 9.5hr flight from Dallas to PA. That was nice. Also met up with Stian for dinner, that was nice too....:0) He's working today and tomorrow, then has three days off - woo hoo! 

Went and got my cold weather gear this morning, then wandered around a little trying to see what there is to do around here, picked up some brochures for us to look over tonight. Definitely winter here, though not as cold as expected. Very muddy and icy out though, thats not so nice. 

Every Thing is Bigger in Texas

A day in Dallas. I got into the airport at 6am, so after a shower at the lounge and some breakfast, I rented a car and hit the town(s). Everything really is bigger in Texas. The cars were huge, the roads enormous and the stores were, well huge. That was good though, as I got to have my REI fix.....:0)

First off was the Los Calinos mustangs. Life size bronze sculptures running through pond in a concrete park inbetween giant skyscrapers. They were actually really impressive and beautiful. Unfortunately the museum was closed, I was looking forward to that. 

Then on to Pioneer Plaza and more bronze sculptures, this time of a cattle drive. They're pretty life like huh. 

Going through a stream......there were quite a few of them.......

Me and one of the three cowboys

Going down the hill.