Sunday, February 27, 2011

63 degrees south

16:30 GMT, 27 February, 62�00.0 S 055�09.7 W

Twice we have been thwarted in our attempts to go south of 63� S.
During the first leg we were heading towards some tentatively
scheduled sampling stations in the Wedell Sea (and hopefully the
opportunity to set foot on the mainland of the Antarctic Peninsula)
when the rudders were damaged and we had to head to Maxwell Bay for
Again on this leg we were on our way to the Wedell Sea when the wind
took out our main radar as we were hiding behind Clarence Island. As a
result the captain has decided not to venture further south than 63
degrees to avoid sailing around icebergs in the dark.

Friday, February 25, 2011


13:45 GMT, 25 February, 61�12.0 S 053�58.7 W (about a mile off the
eastern side of Clarence Island).

We had about three days of uninterrupted work before the wind and waves
picked up again. The RV Moana Wave has been hiding in the lee of
Clarence Island since yesterday afternoon. This morning, we recorded a
gust of 136 knots. Unfortunately the radar was only rated to 135 knots
and was blown off the top of the wheel house. The good news is that we
have a second radar that is still functional. I'm sure it's not blowing
100 knots in the open ocean; the mountains on the islands somehow
generate gusts much greater than one would see in open waters. The
reason we take "shelter" behind the islands is mostly for the swell.

It's really beautiful outside. The sun is out, and when wind gusts send
sheets of spray over the water it makes fleeting rainbows. 3 or 4 fin
whales have been swimming around the boat (fin whales are the second
largest animal after blue whales). Neither the seals, penguins, nor the
petrels seem bothered by the weather.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Re: Waiting in the lee of Elephant Island

16:30 GMT, 22 February, 60�11.9 S 054�43.5 W (about 55 nautial miles
north of Elephant and Clarence Islands).

The rough weather lasted about 1.5 days. We recorded wind gusts up to 94
knots which is the highest I have ever experienced. Well, I was inside
when it blew that much, so I guess I didn't really experience it. We
started working again Sunday evening, so we pretty much had the weekend
off. This morning the Tucker Trawl had some technical difficulties (so
I've had most of the day off), but it looks like it will be fixed by
this evening. Sunday evening as we were leaving the lee of Elephant
Island, the weather cleared, the sun came out, and we were treated to an
unobstructed view of the mountains on both Elephant and Clarence Island,
which I'm told is a rare occurence (low-hanging clouds have been the
norm during my time down here). It certainly was something to see. Snow
covers Elephant Island's Mount Elder and descends all the way to the
ocean via several glacers. It looks like it could be quite a ride on a

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Waiting in the lee of Elephant Island

15:30 GMT, 19 February, 61�16.2 S 055�10.3 W (off the southern tip of
Elephant Island)
We are anchored about a mile off Elephant Island (so-called for the
elephant seals that live there) waiting out some rough weather. It
looks like we'll have about 24 hours of down time.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Tucker Trawl

20:30 GMT, 17 February, 61�20.8 S 054�27.2 W (between Elephant and
Clarence Islands).
The Tucker Trawl has been trucking for about 24 hours and seems to be
working well. So far we've been using two of possible three nets--both
with 0.5 mm mesh for catching zooplankton. The IKMT (Isaac Kidds
Midwater Trawl) net is also being towed immediately before and in the
same area to compare the Tucker with IKMT. Eventually we will use only
the Tucker Trawl, and a third, larger-mesh net will be added to catch
Apparently one picture daily is uploaded from the ship and posted online
Please let me know if the link is incorrect.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Re: in port

16:30 GMT, 16 February, 60�14.2 S 054�39.4 W (ca 50 nautical miles
north of Elephand Island).

We are a few hours away from starting sampling for the second leg.
We'll be using a different net setup, one called a Tucker Trawl. It
allows us to use multiple nets and to open and close them at specific
depths. We'll also use some larger mesh nets with which we'll
hopefully catch bigger organisms (ie fish). I have the 08:00 to 20:00
shift on this leg. Crossing the Drake Passage was very smooth this
time. The weather was mostly sunny and we had moderate winds (20 knots
or less) and seas (10 feet or less). This morning I saw ca 12 fin
whales. Well, mostly I just saw their blows, but one surfaced about 10
meters from the boat, so I got a good look at him/her.

PS 1 nautical mile = 1.15 miles = ca 1840 meters

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The cemetery in Punta Arenas
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Last night in PA

Tonight is our last night in Punta Arenas. We are scheduled to depart at 07:30 tomorrow morning. I think four days is sufficient to see and do PA.  Yesterday I went to a natural history museum and the cemetery which is quite impressive. Today a few of us went to the Austral brewery hoping to take a tour, but they were closed for renovation until March. Maybe I'l try again after the second leg. 

Here and here are the cruise reports that have been posted so far by the chief scientist. Check back at here if you would like to find the latest reports and the reports from the field camps. The links are on the left side of the page, near the top, under the heading  U.S. AMLR 2011 Weekly Reports.

Friday, February 11, 2011

in port

14:30 GMT, 11 February, 53�10.2 S 070�54.4 W (Punta Arenas, Chile)

We've been in port two days and many of us have been making up for lost
(beer drinking) time. Apparently we will be heading back to Antarctica
Sunday morning. I'm not sure I would enjoy living here long term, but I
really like Punta Arenas. I don't know if I like the town simply because
we've been at sea for a month and any town would do, or maybe I'm just
still enamoured with the concept of being at the end of the world, but I
think there's more to it. People are generally quite friendly, and so
are the thousands of stray dogs. The dogs seem really content and
healthy. It seems the townspeople feed them as one might feed a
neighborhood cat. Yesterday I saw several dogs enjoying bones that I
guess came from the butcher down the street. I also saw a woman giving
another dog an ice cream cone. So I think the stray dogs in PA are doing

We docked at the Mardones Pier (which is ca 4 km from the center of
town) Wednesday morning, but this morning we moved to Pratt Pier (which
is right in the heart of the town, so much more convenient for
sightseeing) to make room for a big cruise ship. A 45 foot Argentinian
ketch (sailboat) tied up right next to us at the pier to fill water and
fuel. I talked to the crew who had sailed down from Buenos Aires. They
had been in the Beagle Channel and only came to Punta Arenas to get some
repairs done. I've only seen one other sailboat in PA, a red steel-
hulled ketch that my coworkers saw in Antarctica last year. On the other
side of the pier from us is the icebreaker Lawrence M. Gould which has
also been sailing in antarctica. In fact, in November they dropped off
the scientists at Copacabana and Cape Shirreff field camps who we
resupplied in January. I met a couple of the crew and scientists last
night, and I'm hoping to get a tour. Well, I'm rambling, so I think I'll
head to town and do some more sightseeing.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Back in Punta Arenas

We arrived at Mardones Pier in Punta Arenas around 7:00 this morning local time. It's windy and relatively warm, and it was a nice walk into town.  I have posted some pictures from leg one of the cruise. Here is a link to the AMLR page. It includes a google earth window at the bottom of the page that shows the location of our boat.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Re: finally leopard seals

15:30 GMT, 08 February, 53�33.1 S 066�53.9 W, still en route to Punta
Arenas (PA)

We're about 88 nautical miles from the eastern entrance to the Straits
of Magellan where we'll pick up a Chilean pilot who will guide us to
Pratt Pier in PA. We're scheduled to arrive tomorrow morning at 10:30
GMT (07:30 local time). The crossing of the Drake Passage was not as
bumpy as it was on the way down, though I still wouldn't recommend it
for a Sunday afternoon sail. Everyone is looking forward to a coule of
days on land, and for about 8 folks this is the end of their cruise.
Their replacements will join us in PA. I'll be posting some pictures
from the first leg after we arrive PA tomorrow.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

finally leopard seals

23:30 GMT, 05 February, 62�00.1 S 061�00.4 W, en route to Punta Arenas

Earlier today we made a brief stop at Cape Shirref. After unloading
supplies, a few of us took a little hike. A leopard seal was
slithering onto the beach as we approached the next cove. They both
look and move (at least on land) like a reptile. There were also
Weddell, Elephant, and Fur Seals (which look at lot like the sea lions
in California). As we walked along, the occasional Fur Seal would
charge. However banging a stick on the ground was sufficient to stop
them. At the following cove, we saw another Leopard Seal stalking some
Fur Seal pups. The Leopard Seal was lying in a foot of water at the
water's edge, less than 5 feet away from 4 or 5 pups who played
unconcernedly. We continued over another ridge to a penguin rockery
where there were thousands of Chinstrap and Adeile Penguins and the
accompanying smell. On the way back, we saw that the Leopard Seal had
been successfull. He was in the water thrashing around with one of the
pups in his mouth. Numerous Giant Petrels joined the feeding frenzy
hoping for a share of the spoils.

Apparently we made The story was mostly about a cruise
ship, "MV Polar Star," which struck a rock near Detaille Island. At
the end of the story, they mentioned the rudder problems we had in

Saturday, February 5, 2011


09:20 GMT, 05 February, 62�21.4 S 060�28.9 W

As the days get longer in the norther hemisphere, they are becoming
noticably shorter here, shortening by several minutes each day.
Yesterday we finished our sampling for the first leg. We are now
approaching Cape Shirref field station to drop off some people and pick
up others, trash, and equipment.

The ships crew consists of one captain, one chief mate, one second mate,
a chief engineer, two other engineers, three deckhands, and two cooks.
There are 19 in the science party that are on the boat right now. We
will pick up 4 more from Cape Shirref today (they have been doing a
short trial of a radio-controlled helicopter fitted with a camera to
monitor seal and penguin populations). Only 5 of the science party are
full-time NOAA employees. The rest are contractors or volunteers (I and
2 others are volunteers). Several of the contractors have no permanent
full-time job but do field work (like this cruise) throughout the year.
One of the zooplankton researchers is heading to Sierra Leone for a
month after this cruise to train locals in observing fisheries (to
monitor how much and which species the fishing boats catch to keep the
fishing sustainable). My roommate will return to the arctic (where he
was working before this cruise) to continue observing birds on a tiny
island. If I'm able to find a secure place to leave the Twister
(wherever she may be, come January 2012), I may return to do this cruise
next year as a paid contractor.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

trucking along

16:00 GMT, 3 February, 61�16.3 S 057�29.9 W

The rudder repair only took about a day and a half, so we didn't lose
very much time. We have been back at work for the last 5 days and are
close to completing sampling for the first leg. After completing
sampling we will pick up some people and trash from one of the field
camps (Cape Shirref on Livingston Island) then head back to Punta
Arenas. If the weather is good, the crossing should take about 3 days.

Around 14:00 GMT, 30 January, near 62�30.3 S 059�29.9 W, we passed a 50
foot sailboat from Poland. I have several times thought that I am glad
to be on a bigger boat in these waters. We have also seen several cruise
ships which sort of ruins the feeling of being in the wilderness.

Today I got some good photos of a wandering albatross which is among the
largest-winged of the world's flying birds. Two days ago we I had a good
view of two humpback whales. There are always between 5 and 50 cape
Petrels following our boat. Typically we also see several Great Petrels,
White-chinned Petrels, Southern Fulmars, and a few other tube-noses.

The chief scientist writes weekly reports which are published on the
NOAA website. I don't have the URL, but if you go to
(no www) then click on "antarctic research division" on the bottom left
you should find a link for the weekly reports.