Sunday, June 28, 2009

finally, pictures.

A little late, but for those still interested, I've posted some pictures of this cruise on my web site:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

30 miles and counting

Well we have made it into protected seas about a day and a half
earlier than originally planned and should be in P.A. in 5 hours or
so. Hurray! I don't think anyone on the cruise is complaining. In
fact, there's a lot of smiles and more laughing at the lunch table
than there has been in a while. It has been a long transit. 12 days
since our last view of an ice shelf, probably 10 days since our last
view of sea ice. It reinforces how far away we actually were from

I'm downloading pictures that other people have posted on the public
drive, trying to make sure that I have a record of all of the events
and people who were on the cruise. We did take a cruise photo on the
bow yesterday, but I'm trying to capture the day-to-day activities.
I find that it's not hard to remember the people and activities from
the 07 cruise, but who knows what happens after more time. Here's a
list (still no photos) for you and for me of some of the things that
I will remember from this cruise (in no particular order):

The Autosub's harrowing experiences but ultimate triumph
The PIG's southern notch -- caves, currents, and chaotic ice
Interacting with DT's class
Models and CTD observations that are not too different
Penguin and people party on the ice
Fishing boats against the Getz ice shelf
Receiving pictures of Liz's growing belly
When I decided I'd sample the water in insulated gloves instead of
Naps on the partially full beanbag
Intense Scrabble matches
(I'm sure there are more...)

I had a "closing" interview with the videographer documenting the
cruise (Sarah) a few days ago. I spent a fair amount of time with her
and the other photographer on board talking about the ocean -- water
masses, heat transport, mixing, sub-ice circulation, etc. They
always said that I was generous with my time and explained these
concepts well. But I don't necessarily think that I explained them
better than others -- I'm sure there were a lot of unnecessary
detours -- I just have a compulsion for them to understand! Despite
the fact that it's shrouded in the guise of answering their
questions, I wonder if it's even for their benefit. I learn from
trying to explain; it helps me form connections between disparate
ideas. It also makes me feel like I've learned something over the
past 4.5 years in graduate school.

Anyway, in the interview Sarah asked a typical question -- open, more
philosophical than scientific, probably unanswerable -- about why I
want to be a scientist and why I choose to study Antarctica. And,
cognizant that it was a little cheesy, I said it was about learning
something new. The explaining (teaching, formally or informally) that
I get to do, along the way and afterward, is inseparable from the
learning. The blog is an attempt to do this in a different format.
So for those who've said thanks on the blog, it's really about me --
thank you for listening and your comments. If you enjoyed it let me
know why, where it was interesting, where it lagged. If and when
there is a next time, I hope there are even more questions from
shadow crew members, peanut galleries, friends, family, and anonymous

Stay tuned for links to pictures and feel free to continue to comment
on the blog -- they'll all be forwarded to me.


Monday, February 23, 2009

weather=better, but not good

Meteorological Situation at 230900Z: A 942 mb dynamic low pressure
system is located near 63S 089W with an occluded frontal system
spiraling inwards to its center. Your track lies about 120 nm north
of the occlusion. This Low is moving southeast and is forecast to be
located near 65S 084W at 231800Z with a central pressure of 945 mb;
forecast to continue moving southeast and located near 66S 072WS at
241800Z with a central pressure of 954 mb. A trough upstream will
move east and over your track at 241200Z.

2. 24 Hour Forecast commencing 231800Z along estimated track from
58.5S 089.0W on a course of 325T/07.0kts as indicated reference A:
A. Sky/Weather: Mostly cloudy with few moderate rain showers,
becoming cloudy with scattered moderate rain showers at 241200Z.
B. Visibility (NM): Unrestricted, except 1-3 in periods of
C. Surface Wind (KT): WNW 45-55; decreasing to WNW 30-35 at 240000Z;
decreasing to WNW 25-30 at 240600Z.
D. Max/Min Temperature (C): 7/6.
E. Sea Surface Temperature (C): 4.7, increasing to 5.4 at 241800Z.
F. Combined Sea (FT): WNW 33-39; abating to WNW 18-24 at 240000Z;
further abating to WNW 13-17 at 240600Z; decreasing to WNW 12-15 at
G. Ice accretion (cm/hr): None.

3. Outlook to 48 hours: The trough over your track will pass to the
east by 250000Z; however, another trough, associated with a 981 mb
Low near 58S 087W at 251200Z, will begin affecting weather over your
track. Winds WNW 25-30 knots at 241800Z; veering to NW 25-30 knots at
250600Z; then backing to WNW 30-35 knots at 251200Z. Combined seas
WNW 12-15 feet at 241800Z; building to NW 15-18 feet at 251200Z.//

the southern ocean win(d)s

Well you can't get too confident predicting an ETA back in port when
you have to cross 2000 miles of ocean. We're now heading northwest
(wrong direction) trying to hit the 40-50 foot oncoming waves in the
least destructive manner. Even so, most stuff that wasn't tied down
is on the floor. Over the course of the night, I was entertained by
the migration of my chair and everything else that was on the desk
across the room. At least it gave me something to do since I was
awake anyway. Everything eventually ended up in a pile near the door
which I needed to dig out of before stumbling to the mess this morning.

Word is it will calm down later today. Hope so!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

the domain of the albatross

We've crossed 60 south and have picked up a bunch of albatrosses
(albatri?) along the way. Truly magnificent -- they swoop down right
above the waves and seem to have no problem with 30 knot winds. In
fact some of the bigger ones apparently won't even fly until the
winds are strong. They'll just bob in the water. I guess it takes
way too much energy to flap their winds to make it worthwhile.

Most of the ones we're seeing ONLY have about a 6 or 8 foot wingspan.

We hit a period of 50 knot winds and rain earlier today and lost the
birds. But we are now suffering the aftereffects -- big waves, the
first to really move the ship up and down. Good timing for the
pingpong finale. But these guys are so good it didn't even seem to
affect their game.

It does affect my ability to stare at a computer screen though, so
excuse the brevity on this report. Finishing my sections of the
cruise report took away my energy for writing.

670 miles to the straits of magellan, then 20 hours to P.A. from
there. Yee-haw!

Saturday, February 21, 2009


to the shadow friends for their analysis and comparison of the
Antarctic data to that of the California Current...

You're right! The CTD profiles is confusing and a little weird.
Sea ice really does change the salinity of the top of the ocean. And
it can vary dramatically depending on what season and where you are.
Because we visit Antarctica in the summer, when sea ice is melting,
usually we see a really fresh layer of water near the surface.
Because that water is fresh, it is lighter, and it stays on top. I
think the experiments you have planned sound like a great idea! One
thing that's pretty cool to do is just to watch what happens to the
temperature of a glass of ice water if you pour some salt in it. Any

You're also right that the temperature change is gradual compared
with California. But what's really interesting is that it gets
warmer the farther you go down towards the bottom. That's strange for
most people because usually warm water floats on top of cold. But in
Antarctica, especially the Amundsen Sea, the salt is more important
to the density than temperature. So warm water will sink below cold
water if it is salty enough.

For everyone else (?) reading, we've broken the 1000 mile to port
mark and continue forging on. Winds are picking up again after a
short period of blue sky yesterday afternoon. Drafts of the cruise
report sections are being reviewed, and I'm getting ready to settle
in to watch a movie. Unfortunately, I've been having trouble keeping
my eyes open whenever I sit down to watch a movie or read a book. I
guess a gentle rocking helps inspire sleep no matter how old you are...

Friday, February 20, 2009

1300 miles and counting

Hi all,

We're slowly getting closer to P.A., but slowly is the operative
word. Our top speed is usually about 11 knots, but yesterday we
probably averaged more like 9 as the wind was blowing at 30-40 knots
all day. The ship was pretty stable in all of that but the views
were limited. Lots of spray and low clouds, mixed snow and rain.
It's calmer today -- we may have even seen a quick glimpse of sun.
We are still seeing icebergs fairly frequently, although they are way
smaller and more eroded. It doesn't take long once you get past the
continental shelf break for icebergs to take a beating by the seas
and (relatively) warm water.

Even though the waves are smaller today, there may be more movement
on the ship. The waves are hitting us on our port side as opposed to
head-on, illustrating the difference between pitch and roll. Where
it really makes a difference is the pingpong table, which is aligned
with the ship. Any type of lob moves a lot before you get a chance
to hit it.

I'm busy writing a section of the cruise report and editing some
others. Although we've still got 5-6 days before port, several
gentle reminders have been made prodding us to produce something
sooner rather than later. Yesterday I cleaned all of the oxygen
titration equipment and got the titrator to be broken down. Have to
admit, I'm not sorry to see that responsibility go away. It's
necessary, but a little anticlimactic. You spend a lot of time very
carefully making sure that you get values that have already been
determined by the sensors. Of course, if the sensors are wrong, it's
invaluable to have a double check, but still it's a lot more work
than reading a screen at the CTD console.

I'm also getting prepared to send some O-18 samples home (did I ever
talk about O-18? should I?) and have scored an ideal box on board the
ship. So I'm amassing all of the packing materials and making sure
they don't break on the long journey back to the states.

So between the cruise report, emails, thesis writing, and the blog,
I'll be doing some writing over the next week or so. Yet another
reason to hope for calm weather. Gets a little old to be rocking
back and forth while staring at a screen...