Friday, January 28, 2011

In Maxwell Bay

17:00 GMT, 28 January, 62�12.4 S 058�56.5W

We've been anchored in Maxwell Bay, in sight of Chilean, Russion, and
Chinese bases, since yesterday morning. The engineers have been busily
working to repair the starboard rudder. Maxwell Bay is like a
miniature United Nations--there are Chilean, Russion, Chinese,
Argentinian, South Korean, and Uruguayan bases. Only the Chileans make
no pretense of being a research base. I've been told that most of the
others are also an attempt to stake a claim in Antarctica rather than
to study it.

Yesterday we went on field trip to look for a GPS/CTD seal tag (it has
a GPS as well as instruments that record the water temperature,
pressure--ie depth--and conductivity--ie sailinity--and a transmitter
that sends the data to a sattelite. The tag had been on a nearby beach
for a month or two without moving, indicating that the seal was dead
or the tag had fallen off. We didn't find the tag, but it was nice to
walk around on land for a bit. I tried, but didn't get any footage of
penguins pooping, but I'm hopeful that I will by the end of the
cruise. We also did some sightseeing in the zodiacs (inflatable motor
boats). We pulled up next to an iceberg and got as close as is prudent
to one of the many glaciers that end in the ocean.

The food on RV Moana Wave is good and plentiful. Since there are
people working and sleeping around the clock, four meals are served--
breakfast (7 to 8), lunch (11:30 to 12:30), dinner (17 to 18), and the
late-night meal (23:30 to 00:30). Freshly baked cookies or muffins
appear several times per day, and it's hard to resist the temptation
to grab one every time I walk by the galley. Breakfast is the least
varied meal. It always includes fried eggs with beans and rice,
scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, yoghurt, and honeydew melon and
cantaloupe. The other meals are equally hearty but with more variety.
Yesterday's dinner included sauteed shrimp, spaghetti and ravioli with
tomato sauce and pesto, and some sort of chowder. The remains of the
shrimp and spaghetti made an appearance at today's lunch in a shrimp
pasta salad. The cook is good at incoporating the usable remains of
yesterday's meals into the today's, although he certainly doesn't
hesitate to throw food out.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

On our way to Maxwell Bay

11:30 GMT 26 January 62�35.05 S 055�36.20 W

Hopefully I didn't sound too dramatic in the last post. We are doing
well, but the zooplankton net tows and most of the other science has
stopped for now. We are on our way to Maxwell Bay on King George
Island. At our current pace of 5.5 knots we will be there in 17 hours.
In Maxwell Bay there is a Chilean army base with an airstrip, and we
will await some engineers and parts that will arrive by airplane. The
plan is to get the rudder fixed there and continue with our research
cruise. It will probably be a few days before we are ready to do that,
though. Currently the seas and winds are calm and there are numerous
icebergs in the water. One we just passed had a group of penguins on
it. We will have a few days of leisure time and aside from taking
pictures of icebergs, we have a cribbage (a card game) tournament
going. I am currently tied 1 to 1 in a best of 3, first round match.

a bump in the road

01:03 GMT 25 January 62�41.82 S 054�14.15 W

Around 18:00 this evening I was strolling around the ship and just as I
stepped onto the bridge I heard the first mate announce, "I've lost
steerage," which I took as my cue to leave the bridge. The boat was
shuddering as they tried to use the bow thrusters to steer. They soon
discovered that all the bolts holding one of the two rudders in place
had broken. We are currently trying to position the boat in the lee of
one of the large icebergs nearby so the engineers can do a full
assesment of the situation (there is too much motion from the waves to
do anything where we are currently). If it turns out that we can repair
the rudder on our own, my understanding is that the plan is to find a
sheltered place to anchor and fix the rudder. Fortunately the seas and
weather are relatively calm. The chief scientist's guess is that we will
be heading back to Punta Arenas within the next several days, either
under our own power or on another ship. : (
Everyone in the science party is in good spirits (the ship's crew are
understandably busy), and the general feeling is that we're not in any

As a bonus, here is a recent article about our cruise from the San Diego
Union Tribune:

25 years in Antarctica for local scientists
Program tracks health of struggling ecosystem
By Mike Lee

Sunday, January 23, 2011 at noon

The research vessel Moana Wave waits to offload supplies for the
Copacabana field station, in Admiralty Bay on King George Island for
NOAA's Antarctic Marine Living Resources program. The research program
is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and is based out of the
Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla.

Few landlubbers pay attention to humble shrimplike invertebrates
called krill.

But federal researchers at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in
La Jolla this month are celebrating 25 years of scouring Antarctic
seas for the tiny crustaceans and other species in hopes of preventing
a large-scale collapse of that once-vibrant ecosystem. Besides krill,
which are used in huge quantities as vitamins and fish meal, the
Southern Ocean supplies loads of Chilean sea bass and other foods.

Since 1986, the scientists have provided data for international krill
harvest restrictions, identified 30 biological hot spots on the
seafloor for protection from destructive fishing gear and charted
population trends for seals and seabirds. Several important species
have declined dramatically since the 1970s despite conservation

�That is one of the key things we want to unravel,� said George
Watters, director of the Antarctic Ecosystem Research Division at the
fisheries center. �Why haven�t these things recovered? We want to know
that so that in the future we can prevent that kind of thing from
happening again.�

Even in the farthest points south, America�s seafood cravings are

�People in the U.S. don�t necessarily realize that as consumers of
things, they actually have a huge market force in terms of what
happens in Antarctica,� Watters said. �When I first started doing
this, probably nobody in the U.S. knew what Chilean sea bass was. Now,
it�s one of the favorite fishes and we are the main market for that.�

Researchers� work is cold and sometimes dangerous as they roll through
icy seas for weeks at a time, occasionally buffeted by 80-knot winds.
Even hardy souls get seasick, and everyone who works on the back deck
of the ship must be harnessed in for safety.

But they keep going back for two main reasons: Their studies are
critical to improving management of the Southern Ocean, and some days
at sea bring spectacles you can�t see anywhere else.

�I basically live for this time every year. It�s the most exciting
thing that happens,� said Amy Van Cise, a National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration biologist who leaves for her third voyage
in February.

Veterans such as Watters still retain a sense of wonder about
Antarctica even as they harbor concerns about human influences on and
around the remote continent.

�Every once in a while, you get to see the most amazing things that a
human can ever see,� he said. �Just to see an albatross flying along
the water � it�s just awesome.�

The La Jolla-based science program runs on about $4.6 million a year,
more than half of which is spent on chartering a vessel for two
monthlong voyages in January and February. Each season, about 40
researchers and crew members on land and water participate.

�It takes commitment to stay with this program because you do have to
deploy to sea for months at a time,� said Christopher Jones, a federal
fish researcher. �It tells you how much I like the job.�

Scientists typically work 12-hour shifts, sampling the seas with nets,
underwater cameras, acoustic instruments and other devices to monitor
species and water conditions. They track species� distribution, the
duration of animals� foraging trips, their reproductive success and
other details.

�We try to sample as much of the ecosystem as we possibly can on each
cruise,� Jones said.

Interpreting the data is difficult because so many factors are in
play, including harvest, climate change and natural fluctuations.

�The real challenge with our work is to sort out the causes of the
different trends we see,� said Mike Goebel, a wildlife biologist with
the program. �Sometimes it can make sense and other times it doesn�t
make sense, so you are always searching for the best possible
explanation of what we observe.�

While their jobs are far from civilization, they are in the center of
a 25-nation campaign to buoy Antarctica�s biological resources. Most
of the Southern Ocean is not controlled by any one country, creating a
management void that was addressed in the early 1980s by the
Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources,
a treaty in which the U.S. participates.

�There is a huge emphasis globally on maintaining the uniqueness and
special character of Antarctica,� Watters said. �Decision-making is
supposed to be made on the basis of the best available scientific
evidence. That is where we come in.�

Concern about the Southern Ocean blossomed about 30 years ago as
stocks of the Antarctic toothfish � marketed in restaurants as Chilean
sea bass � and marbled rock cod and other species plummeted under
unregulated fishing pressure.

A closer look at krill
Krill are small (5-6 cm) shrimplike crustaceans that are found
throughout the world�s oceans.

� Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) can form large swarms in open
ocean regions, or more scattered layers under the ice edge.

� Krill move up toward the ocean surface at night, and down into
deeper water during the daytime hours.

� Antarctic krill are filter feeders that consume algae
(phytoplankton). At the bottom of the food chain, they serve as the
plant grazers of their ecosystem.

Source: Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Some of those problems have shrunk as international conservation
measures have taken hold. But there�s still widespread concern about
overharvesting, particularly by pirate fishermen who operate in the
vast open spaces where violations are hard to spot and enforce.

Antarctica has what Goebel described as a history of �classic
exploitation� as crews from different nations have worked their way
down the food chain from large creatures such as seals to the smallest.

These days, krill is a top concern because it is a principal food
source for many species of fish, seabirds and marine mammals. Some
scientists think the creatures have declined by 80 percent in
Antarctica in recent decades as they have been snatched up by fishing
fleets for Omega-3 supplements and other uses.; 619-293-2034

Monday, January 24, 2011

Re: wow

05:03 GMT 24 January 60�45.51 S 054�01.03 W

We only lost about 12 hours hiding from the weather. Recently we have
been sampling in the vicinity of Elephant Island where Shackleton and
his crew were stranded for a while. The island is something to behold--
beautiful but forbidding. Yesterday we passed about a hundred meters
from a majestic iceberg which I estimate to be about 0.5 x 0.3 miles
from the radar. The iceberg towered over the ship and almost everyone
who was awake was on deck taking photos. Hopefully some of them will do
it justice.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Re: wow

12:03 GMT 61�26.93 S 055�35.25 W
We have diverted from our original plan. We are currently hiding out
by the north side of Gibbs Island. There is a grid of 112 stations
(waypoints) where we plan to tow the net and collect samples and data
with the CTD. The plan was to follow a zig-zag pattern across the
northwestern and northern portion of the grid (north of the South
Shetland Islands and in the Elephant Island area) then do the same for
the southern grid (in the Bransfield Strait, south of the South
Shetland Islands). But a storm was forecast to move eastward into the
northern grid in a few days, so we set a course for 62�02 S, 057�24 W
which was to be our first station in the southern grid. However, the
wind and swell coming out of the southeast put a stop to the sampling
and we are now in a holding pattern. Things are very comfortable here
in the lee of Gibbs Island.

By yesterday afternoon we had completed 22 of 112 stations, were on a
record pace, and one day was blending into the next. I'm becoming more
familiar with the organisms in the "large fractions" (those we pick
out, count, and identify without microscopes)--salps, krill and other
euphasids, amphipods, a few species of snails and worms, and the
occasional lanternfish. The "small fraction" consists mostly of
copepods, larval euphasids, and larval fish. I'm learning to identify
the most common copepods and larvae. I'm pretty slow, and trying to
look through a microscope while the ship is rocking does not help, so
I mostly work with the large fractions.

On our way here from the northern grid, we passed by many icebergs,
and five of six pods of penguins (probably not the correct term for a
group of penguins, but the alliteration sounds nice) swimming along.
They look somewhat like dolphins when they swim except that they jump
clear of the water much more frequently. We are still in the company
of 20 to 100 cape petrels and a few albatrosses and other petrel

I'm going to step outside and take some more pictures. Happy Birthday,

Monday, January 17, 2011


12:00 Mon Jan 17. 62 deg 15 min S, 62 deg 60 min W

This morning at midnight I began to earn my keep. We have done two
tows with the zooplankton net. The net consists of a ca 4 square
meeter steel frame connected to a ca 5 meter long fine mesh (0.5 mm)
net. In the first two tows, a large majority (by volume) of the catch
was salps (they look like mini jellyfish). There were also a handful
krill. These and a few other larger critters we pick out and count by
hand. The remainder we subsample and count and identify by looking
through a microscope.

Yesterday we spent the day unloading people and supplies to a field
station on Livingston Island. The beach we landed on (using zodiac
inflatable boats) was full of fur seals with the occasional elephant
and wedell, seal. I didn't see any leopard seals, though I was told
they hang out nearby.

Saturday we stopped at a field station in Admiralty Bay on King George
Island. That beach was populated with penguins--mostly gentoo, but a
few adelli and chinstrap. I saw a few pooping but wasn't able to
capture it on video. The 3 researchers who have been there since
October were happy to have some company and hosted a barbecue for us.
After we left the field station (called Copacabana) we went further
into Admiralty Bay and anchored in a cozy little cove to calibrate
some acoustics equiptment. I may be using this adjective a lot, but
the scenery was spectacular. Everyone on the ship enjoyed a nights
sleep with minimal rocking.

The next three weeks will probably be very much like today. I have the
midnight to noon shift. Four hours of the shift I'm on deck helping to
deploy and retrieve the zooplankton net and CTD (a multi-instrument
pacakge that measures temperature, conductivity, depth, oxygen,
transmittance, fluorescence, and probably a few others things, and
that collects water samples from specific depths). When we're not
doing zooplankton tows, I help out wherever I can, for example loading
and unloading supplies to the field stations.

Please keep the emails coming.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Land Ho!

08:30, 61 deg 54 min S, 57 deg 26 min W
This morning I awoke to sunny skies, relatively calm seas, and King
George Island 25 miles off our starboard bow. The first iceberg was
spotted at 07:15, so I did not win the iceberg pool. We had a rough-
ish crossing of the Drake Passage with 30-45 knot winds and 15-25 foot
swells from at least two different directions; several folks were more
or less incapacitated. About 15 cape petrels have been our constant
companions for the last two days. This afternoon we'll enter Admiralty
Bay on King George Island and drop off some people and supplies to a
field camp where they'll be studying seals, penguins, and other
creatures. Tomorrow we head to another field camp on Livingston Island
to drop off people and supplies. My job collecting and identifying
zooplankton will probably start Monday the 16th.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

In the Drake Passage

Th 13 January 08:31. 56 deg 42 min S, 63 deg 10 min W. We are now in
the Drake Passage about halfway from Punta Arenas to our first stop in
Admiralty Bay on King George Island. The weather continues to be very
nice. It's now overcast, but winds are only blowing 10 to 18 knots and
the swells are around 8 feet. I'm learning a little bit of zooplankton
taxonomy and am enjoying getting to know my shipmates, three of which
have sailboats of their own. The food is delicious and plentiful.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

on the move!

We departed Punta Arenas yesterday around noon. We saw several Magellan
Penguins in the water immediately. By 21:00 we were into the South
Atlantic. We are heading southeast and are ca 50 miles off Tirra del
Fuego. The weather has been beautiful--sunny and 5 to 10 knots of wind
yesterday and today with about 7 foot swells. Monday in Punta Arenas
the wind blew at 45 to 65 knots and as a result they closed the pier.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Windy Punta Arenas

Yesterday the Strait of Magellan looked like a lake.  Today it's more like what I expected.  The winds have been steadily increasing.  Last time I checked it was blowing 45 knots, gusting to 65, sending spray flying over the water.

Punta Arenas

I arrived Punta Arenas this afternoon.  Here are some pictures of the town, the ship, RV Moana Wave, as well as some of the other ships in port, including the Scripps ship, RV Melville.