Friday, February 27, 2009

On the way to E

Lat - 66 42.44S
Long - 69 01.92W
Temp - -11.5C

Station G (the 'cursed' station as we're all now calling it) is done, dusted and we're on our way north at 11knots to Station E. Phew is all any of us can say, we had our fair share of bad luck at G (lost box core, broken winch, bounced megacore and many hours wasted trying to get the bottom camera to work) so are ready for a fresh start at Station E. This is also one step closer for me, as after Station E, we're headed to Station AA, aka Coral Nirvana Station, time to start prepping again to get those experiments going.........

Relaxing waiting for the buoy (in the background) to be picked up by the ship....

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

12 hr shift from hell..... all started by being awoken 5hrs early for my shift because a trawl was coming up, luckily loaded with fun anemones so it wasn't a total bust being dragged out of bed from probably the best sleep i've had in days. The a box core (for collecting a big square of mud from the seafloor) went over the side and never returned. And no-one really knows what happened. The weather was not flat calm, but neither was it anything major (or anything we hadn't cored in before - much worse actually), and the tension came off the wire (so something came off the end of the wire) around 150m from the bottom, so it didn't hit the bottom and break, something very weird happened and we're not quite sure why. 

So after an hour cool down period we picked up Megacoring (also for getting mud, but this time in 12 tubes) and having done 4 back to back ones, the 5th one had a misshap when the winch broke, wouldn't slow down and ended up being put a little hard into the seafloor. We were all a little relieved when it actually came back on the end of the wire, just a few pieces missing and bent, but nothing non fixable and in fact as I type this (as my shift is just finishing) it is now headed back into the water, with a hopefully fixed winch.....

So thats been my last 12+ hrs.........

Death by Megacore.........not taken on this particular day, but I thought it fitted this story. I was actually just trying to get up from kneeling down in front of the megacore when a wave caught me in the wrong direction and sent me flat on my back.......pretty funny.....

Monday, February 23, 2009

Station G

Lat - 68 08.55S
Long - 71 01.25W
Temp - -15.5C (and snowing....)
Wind Speed - 40 knots

Yup, thats 40 knots of wind. We left Station F just before breakfast today, after finishing all the planned sampling (we still have to return and take photos with the camera we are picking up at G) and proceeded on to Station G. As I climbed into my bunk at 2pm the seas were good and we were making good time. When I was first woken up at 4pm by being tossed around in my bunk, the wind was up to 40 knot gusts. So we're being tossed around right now, but at least we can still work, not on many things, but we have been able to do two trawls here and a CTD to collect water. Now some plankton pumps are headed over the side for a few hours, and hopefully things will have calmed down further so we can continue. We really need to pick up that camera, but the weather has to be really calm for us to be able to do that, so hopefully it'll flatten out soon, the barometer is certainly starting to bottom out!

Otherwise all else is going well so far. The swelling on my wrist has gone right down, so thats good, still can't do too much with it which is a real pain, but it's getting figured out. I've got a few anemones here and there from the trawls, no corals as yet, but I don't expect many from down here. Really just waiting for the big move north.....

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Station F

Lat - 67 01.90S
Long - 69 52 06W
Temp - -2.1C

It's a beautiful day here at Station F, the sun is shining, it was a beautiful sunrise, we can see Adelaide Island in the background, and we're just coming up for 24hrs of sampling at this station. As usual we're a little behind, but things are going well, lots of mud going around. I don't get too much from this station generally, but I did manage to bag 5 anemones from the first trawl. I've just peeled myself out of bed again as there is another trawl going in, trawls are my favorite thing, I love seeing what comes up from the bottom and need to nab any corals and anemones fast before they start to degrade, so no matter what time of day, i'm around for the trawls. This one was supposed to be on it's way up, but I see it's just about to go in the water instead, so I have a few hours and I think i'm going to go and indulge in some Nutella toast.

My wrist is doing well, most of the swelling is way down, though it's still irritating. I'm pretty careful with it on deck, but things like trying to pick up my coffee mug with that hand are not going so well. Just the wrong direction to try and lift something.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Best laid plans......

Lat - 64 51.71S
Long - 65 23.28W
Temp - -10.6C

We started sampling today - woo hoo for getting some work done! All was going well, the camera was recovered from the seafloor quickly (it's been there for 8 months taking a photo everyday), we collected lots of water so I started washing and prepping my tubes, we then
started on the three box cores we need at this station. It was then the ETs came out and said the camera was broken, though some great photos were taken, it short circuited and stopped taking photos in November. While this is sad it messes up the whole cruise plan, as we needed that camera to do towed camera surveys at each of the study sites. The only option we have now is to go to the most southern site where there is another camera sitting on the seafloor and hope that one is working. This however means station AA, where I was to collect my corals to do my temperature experiments until the end of the cruise. This means that when we do sample, provided we are on time, I will have exactly 10 days to run the experiment before we'll get into the Drake Passage, where the weather will be too rough to do anything. Arse. But as always at sea, you have to be flexible......

Leaving Palmer, starting work!

We're out of here, about to pull in the gangway....8hrs to station and first work. 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

At Palmer Station.....

Lat - 64 46.48S
Long - 64 03.31W
Temp - -4.2C

We got here finally! We've had a busy day too, just topped off with some yummy pizza provided by the station, was delicious. Now to get a few online things done and head over to the science talks and 80's party. Before you ask, no I don't have a costume, but as many I know are bringing oodles of makeup, I see a "Make up Rhian" session after a few cold ones.

Tomorrow we head out at 10am and will be on station by around 6pm to start sampling. This cruise I am on the nightwatch, thats midnight to midday. But, although in theory I don't start until midnight, one of the first things to be done will be water collecting, which I need to start my larvae culturing when we collect them, so i'll be up and around for long before my official watch. It's a short sampling station though - this is an area we're just doing a few quick things at, then moving to our northern station to start the full sampling - so there's a good chance it's not going to run all the way to midday, so I should at least manage to get to bed at an earlier time.

One real bummer for the day - I went to see the Palmer doctor today for her to take a look at my wrist - I pulled something the first day of unloading and it's been bugging me since, but today has been killing me and even swelled up. Luckily no bones broken, bad news is that i've torn a tendon that connects into my thumb, the funky swelling/buldge in my forearm being the end of the tendon where it's torn. This means a brace for 6 weeks and no lifting over 5lbs with that hand. Two things that don't go well for me on cruises. Ug. But at least I got it looked out, or I would just be hurting all cruise and be frustrated at not knowing why it was not getting any better. I'm a little bummed. 

Heading to Palmer Station......

Lat - 64 02.15S
Long - 61 46.22W
Temp - -3.7C

The weather died down enough for us to pull out the Livingston Island field camp early this morning - woo hoo! They were in good spirits too, so that was a good thing. Within 3hrs of us arriving, what was left of their camp was packed up and headed on zodiacs back to the RV Gould. A super fast turn around. So finally we're heading into Palmer Station and should be there in the early hours of tomorrow morning. Tomorrow sees a full day of cargo, moving containers around, offloading supplies to the station and making space on our crowded back deck for us to finally start our work the day after tomorrow. Tomorrow for me sees a day of weighing out and preparing chemicals and setting up the cold van (which has to be turned around for us to use, so we've been unable to get in there during this long transit) for my coral larvae experiments and setting up the aquarium room ready for us to bring up some deep sea mud! Tomorrow should also see me posting some pictures to the blog as we get internet for the 24hrs that we're on station.

Tomorrow evening sees an 80's party at the station.......stay tuned!

Making sure the dry suits really float and really keep you dry.....

...dry on the outside that is. Yup, that is a well deserved beer in my hand. While on the ship we are dry, no alcohol allowed onboard, but the field parties can take alcohol with them. So while we were onshore (or floating offshore) we helped them finish a few supplies they wouldn't be needing anymore.....

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Going back to Livingston.....

Lat - 62 52.48S
Long - 58 14.87WTemp - -18.9C
Wind Speed - 35 knots

Too good to be true. This morning when we all awoke for breakfast (well some of us, it got bumpy in the night so we were a little thin on the ground for faces at breakfast) we thought we were headed intoPalmer Station and the last of our stops before starting our science. But alas a phone call to the MPC early in the morning from the first field camp on Livingston Island was a call for a pull out, just two days into their field season. High winds have blown away three of
their tents (exact details unknown) and a forth tent, the large weatherport used as the kitchen tent, is apparently on it's way out aswell. So it sounds like they are in a panic and want to be picked up now, ending their project probably for good, as last year they were also weathered out (that time by snow) and didn't get any science done either.

This is of course awful for them, but it also sucks for us, as we loose days on our project having to get them off the island - and atthe moment the weather is too bad to put in zodiacs to get them, so we don't know how long it's going to take to get them off of there. It could be calm enough when we get there in 6 hours, or it could be days before it lays down enough. There is also the question of where to put them - on the way down they were in berthing vans, but we're not supposed to use those during the actual cruise operations, so they are trying to find space for them at Palmer Station or just hope ECO (the ship) and NSF (the funders) say they can stay in the vans. Food for 7 extra people for 5 weeks, now thats another story.......

The other field team on Ross Island is doing well, they had 3 inches of snow last night, but no wind, so all is well. At some point here, we may actually start our project.......

A 4.30am sunrise in the Weddell Sea. Beautiful. 

What you can't see in this photo as unfortunately i didn't catch it, is that there are two seals in the water trying to get up to munch on the penguins.....poor penguins....

Monday, February 16, 2009

At James Ross Island

Lat - 63 55.22S
Long - 57 45.61W
Temp - -8.3C

Today we spent the day setting up a field camp at James Ross Island in the Weddell Sea. My first time around this side of the Peninsula, soit was an exciting one for me. I was woken up around 4am to the soundof ice on the hull, as we turned the corner around the peninsula we went through some icebergs and bergy bits, and even some brash icehere and there. Was a really pretty sunrise, so I hoped out of bed and into a few layers, took some photos then headed back to bed....:0) The set up of the field camp went well, and we're just waiting for thefield crew to finish dinner and be driven back to the shore for theirfinal farewell. It was a fun day all around, really pretty and not too cold, the wind stayed down until the end so that was good. Next stop in 30hrs and Palmer Station, finally we're getting closer to us starting work. We're all getting aantzy to start at this point.......

Heading out on zodiacs to the field camp area...

A little bleaker than the Livingston Field Camp, there were no seals or penguins at this site, just lots of rocks and cliffs......

My job today was as a "Surfer" along with Thomas and Brian. We were to stand in the water and grab the boats as they came to shore, then help off load cargo and hand it to people on shore not wearing the special dry suit. 

Arial ATV.........this field party had some much larger equipment than Livingston.....

Taking a little break on the ice.....


Sunday, February 15, 2009

At Livingston Island

Lat - 62 41.45S
Long - 61 04 27W
Air Temp - -9.8C

We crossed the Drake in one piece, actually pretty good weather, butthere were a few green faces around none the less. We are now at Livingston Island to drop off the first of the field parties. Over thelast few days we've had a number of science talks from the two fieldparties we're going to drop off at various islands. The group we're dropping off today is a group of Paleontologists from the AmericanMuseum that are looking for mammal bones on Livingston Island. They're looking at connections between South America and Australasia, and the obvious geologic connection is via Antarctica. There have been mammal bones found in Antarctica before, just not on this particular island.We pick them back up at the end of the cruise, so it's kind of cool we get to know what they found. We also get to hear lots of gossip and wouldn't be surprised if someone tries to bury the chief scientist of that particular group, he's a bit of a pompous pain in thebutt.........:0)Setting up the field camp at Livingston Island

Male Elephant seal on the cool and so gross at the same time....this is their molting season, so there were bits of skin all over the beach, kind of nasty....

I like the female Elephant Seals better, this one even gave us a smile.....

There were two types of penguin on the island, these are Chinstraps and possibly my favorite kind, they remind me of little army men with their chinstraps all tight....

And the second kind.....this is an angry penguin......:0)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

In the Drake

We're in the Drake passage, finally left late in the afternoon yesterday after some initial delays (though admittedly these worked in my favour, as some chemicals and my CO2 cylinder didn't arrive until midday yesterday!). Now we've rounded the "Horn" and have just gone through the Straits of Le Maire, so we're in the Drake proper. So far so good, just a light swell. With the winds we've been seeing in Punta Arenas we wouldn't be surprised if we get a roll or two in the next few days, but will take the calm weather while we can.

Tonight we have a science meeting and are talking over all the projects that are going on onboard. First few things we're doing this week is dropping off two groups of geologists on some islands to set up their field camps. Should be fun!

Our packed back deck with all the containers for the field parties - this has to be cleared of containers before we can even start work.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Congrats to Elen and Neil!

Welcome to the world second cousin Emmy Seren Saddler - born 7th Feb, 6lbs 13oz! 

Cruise Websites

The website from the North Carolina Crowd - here

The website from the Hawaii Crowd  - here

Monday, February 9, 2009

Out to Sea Again....

The time has flown by pretty fast and it's that time again to say goodbye to land. I'm off to the Antarctic (hopefully) day after tomorrow, though things on the dockside are going slowly and there is still a lot to do, and the wind picked up badly yesterday, so I wouldn't be surprised by a delay in leaving. Tomorrow though we all move onto the ship, so I'll loose the somewhat intermittent internet access of my hotel room and move onto emails twice a day beamed over by satellite.  

So i'm off to the Antarctic again, what am I doing this time? Well, it's much of the same, this cruise is the last in a series of 3 run by my colleague at the University of Hawaii and his collaborator in North Carolina. I yet again have a tag-along place on the cruise to collect my corals as long as I help out with all the other sampling going on. This cruise is going to be a busy one for me, it's the last one i'll have for a while down here, so i'm trying to do a lot of experiments all at once, just in case it's a really long time before I come back. So here are my cruise goals - 

1 - Collect Antarctic deep-water corals for seasonal reproduction studies. This gives me an idea of what these corals are doing around the year - think of a tree that only flowers in the spring, marine animals can be similar and only reproduce once a year, but if you only collect at one time of year, you could miss it entirely, so lots of times of year to get the seasons is really helpful and pretty hard to come by in the deep-sea which is expensive and hard to collect in. 

2 - Collect Antarctic deep-water corals for population genetics. I've been lucky enough to come across a couple of sites that we collect well over 100 individuals of the same species each time we sample, which is a great (and unusual) number to do some good population genetics on to see what the population structure is and connectivity across the Antarctic. This isn't something I am funded to do, just a pipe dream that I now happen to have the samples for and will keep until I can either a) get the money to do them myself, b) give them to someone who is interested in doing them or (preferably) c) get a postdoc or student funded to do them. They're great samples that are well worth collecting right for this future purpose. 

3 - Temperature experiments on Antarctic deep-water coral larvae. This is the big one. Last cruise I did some preliminary experiments looking at how different temperatures affected development of larvae (to simulate ocean warming that is happening at a fast rate in this part of the world) that gave kick ass results. So this cruise it's being ramped up and i'm extending the experiment for longer and with more larvae. I'll also be doing some initial experiments to simulate ocean acidification too, not sure how those will turn out, but the idea is to get some preliminary data on that for future proposal writing, so not as critical as the temperature experiments, but just as interesting. This is really the big one, as for this i'll be on my own, and i'll be doing as a side to the other things that are going on on the ship that I need to do as well (as my 'rent' so to speak for getting a place on the ship). Last time it took me over 20hrs to get enough larvae for the experiment working solid, and this time I need more and will be babysitting the experiment longer, so it's going to be more of a slog. I'm hoping i'll be faster as I have it more streamlined now, but i'll see how it goes. 

4 - Collecting and preserving other deep-water corals and anemones for future reproductive and genetic work. Every trawl brings up some interesting critters and it's important to catalogue and preserve things that could be of use to me, or to my colleagues, at a later date. 

So these are my goals for the next 6 weeks. It's a long one that to be honest i'm dreading, but i'm really excited about the larvae experiments, so i'm hoping it'll be worth it. I'll try and update on here as much as I can, no photo's i'm afraid (though maybe i'll get to upload some at Palmer Station), but i'll let you know how it's all going. 

More Lucy...

Some more pictures from my brother......isn't she cute! Can't wait to meet you at Easter Lucy! 

ps - NEA - recognise the hat......:0)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Doing the W - Torres del Paine, Chile

Just got back into Punta Arenas after a 5 night 6 day hike in Torres del Paine - the W circuit - with 8 compadres also going on this Antarctic cruise. An interesting one for me, as my usual hiking buddies tend to be either just myself or one or two others, so hiking with 8 other people naturally brought out some nervousness in me. Easier to make decisions and pace if you're going solo, and easier to hear and see the nature around you with fewer people around. 

All super nice people I went with, but the  group hiking thing is definitely not for me, but you've got to try these things to really know, and for certain (short) hikes I would absolutely go with this group again, they were a lot of fun in camp at times. Many of my preconceived notions were realised en-route, but when expected were easier to deal with. Much went better than I thought and to be honest the overwhelming beauty of the park took over and made the experience a wonderful one and one i'm glad I did. 

Here are the photos.......

Guanacos and Nandus at the park entrance...

Fabio and Angelo, the boys from Brazil, do some yoga stretches before heading out on the second day of hiking to Campamento Torres, under the Torres del Paine for which the park is named. 

With just one minute to go to the camp, people started to fade.....

But after setting up camp and hiking without packs up to the "Torres del Paine" (Towers of Paine), it was all worth the slog up there, they even came out of the mist for us for a few minutes. Beautiful. 

The third night, we hiked out to Refugio Los Cuernos, situated under the Cuernos (the Horns) and on the shore of Lago Nordenskjold. That night we were treated to an amazing sunset (at 10pm!) over the lake. 

The next day (day 4) was a hike to Camp Italiano and a day hike into Valle del Frances (French Valley) and this is a view from a viewpoint midway through the valley. After this point the group continued up and I decided I needed some space and headed out to hike some of the smaller trails in the valley myself, exploring a moraine field and taking photos, and had a lovely, refreshing and well needed me-time hike. 

Going from Camp Italiano to Refugio Paine Grande, this was the shores of Lago Skottsberg with the Los Cuernos (the Horns) in the background. They were really spectacular, the different colours on the mountains are different types of rock, it's not shadows. Pretty stunning tricoloured mountains. 

Happy feet! My latest camping companion, my crocs (thanks Lala!). My heel (scar from the screen door incident - don't look if squimish) blistered up pretty badly, and my other heel decided to join in after a few days too. Pretty disappointed and not sure why - good boots, broken in, double socks, powdered feet, not sure what else I could have done (have any good anti-blister advice please share!). Could have just been the weight I guess, I was going pretty heavy with 3 peoples dinner, tent and stove as well as personal stuff (sleeping bag, mat, clothes). Either way, it didn't affect my pace too much, just a pest, and was so glad of my crocs in the evenings!

At the Refugio Grande Paine, sitting on the shore of Lago Pehoe watching Los Cuernos. 

The view from my tent, the moon rising through Los Cuernos. You can really see the two colours of rock here. 

The last leg of the W - the  hike to Glacier Grey. We did this as a day hike up and back (which was a good choice!) and this is from a viewpoint middway on the hike. 

Myself and tent-companion Laura contemplating Glacier Grey and the very end of the W circuit. 

The advance party back at Paine Grande, enjoying a celebratory Pisco (or two). 

The view of the park as we left today, the Paine Massif. Beautiful. Here is a post with the same picture from when I went here in the snow last year. 

Sunday, February 1, 2009


Arrived in PA a few hours ago and having just attempted a siesta (with moderate success), it's now time to head out and get the last few camping items (some bits of food and gas canisters) before heading out tomorrow. Also to find out bus schedules for tomorrow, it's about a 6 hour bus ride to Torres del Paine and my knees are not looking forward to being cooped up in a seat for that long again. Ah well. I'm trying to decide if my chronic sore throat is due to the dry air on the plane or if I picked up the lurgi, I so hope it's the former.....