Friday, March 13, 2009

A SUNNY DAY IN ANTARCTICA


Good morning everyone!
All right! All the science work is over and only packing and shiping plans are ahead of us now. After another scary experience at Station B, where we almost lost the Blake trawl when it fouled on a rock outcrop on the seafloor, we headed to Palmer station for night of rest in sheltered waters. We also, of course, had to get ready for our traditional cruise celebration party with the folks at the base. Another night of fun and joy. We deserved it after three weeks of intense work aboard the Lawrence Gould.

The next morning, we headed off to James Ross Island to retrieve the field camp of our paleontologist colleagues. The mission was somewhat delayed by the extreme low tide that made it difficult for the Zodiac inflatable boats to approach close to shore. However, 4.5 hour later we had packed up the camp, still within the programmed schedule. But we could not leave before our now traditional soccer match took place. Guillermo, our Chilean able seamen, showed us why South Americans love this sport, showing us some tricks and scoring most of the goals. An odd event occurred during the match when our beloved PI’s competed for the ball. Result: Craig
wearing his modest running shoes got himself a 2.5-inch bloody gash after Dave, our PI from NCSU, caught him in the shin with a steel boot. Not on purpose of course. Yuuhhf! That must hurt! Yes, soccer is a tough sport indeed! Craig played on and is doing fine.


As we steamed north and passed through a narrow passage south of Vega Channel, we had an amazingly beautiful night with icebergs and “bergy bits” crowding the ship. It was a real challenge for the ship pilot to drive through the bergs without hitting them. It was actually impossible and many bergs were bumped and shoved aside, with many chunks of ice tumbling onto the back deck. There was a full moon ¾ above the horizon that sometimes could be confused with the giant and potent front lights of the ship, illuminating the best leads through the ice. Half way down the channel, we forced to turn back because the channel was clogged more and more and we had slowed down to only 1.5 knots! But there all roads lead to Rome, a poet once said. So I guess the same for us here. We were a bit delayed but made it by going around the other side of Jame Ross Island.


The next morning (as presaged by the gorgeous starry sky the night before) was the most beautiful of the whole cruise. When we arrived at Cockburn, a tiny island near the larger James Ross, we almost could not believe how clear the skies were, and the waters as calm as an empty swimming pool.

The light was perfect for photography. And here they are, just for your delight! The paleontologist group and a few lucky guests were allowed onshore for the last opportunity to find those rare mammal fossils. We also show here some of their best shots of the day.

Today is Friday the thirteenth and, coincidence or not, we have to deal once again with a MedEvac (Medical Evacuation) operation. As you might remember, if you have been following us from the beginning of our adventures, we almost had to quit our science work half way through
because of a medical emergency at Palmer Station. However, that person was safely evacuated by airplane from Palmer to Frei Station (Chilean Antarctic base), and then back to Punta Arenas in Chile. Therefore, we did not have to head north on a rescue mission. But this time, a person aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer (the other US Antarctic Research Vessel and Ice Breaker) needing urgent medical assistance. The Palmer has just started its science expedition steaming south, so now it is our duty to bring this person safely back to Chile. He is doing fine but will definitely be better off when specific and proper medical treatment will be available back in Chile.

That is just an example of how things can go bad when working in such an isolated place as Antarctica, far from advanced medical facilities. Communication and collaboration is essential among all the research groups of all nationalities. This makes Antarctica a unique place to work.

I guess this is all for now. We will catch up with you guys later with news from our crossing of the Drake Passage. Rough seas of 16-18 feet are predicting, although we no wind, heavy fog and a long swell rolling in from the west. We had hope our washing machine days were over with a
smooth crossing ahead, but that looks unlikely! ALOHA for now!

5 comments:

Ravil said...

Pictures are unbelievable.
Is reality the same beatiful?

UH Manoa Ocean researchers said...

Yes Ravil! The reality is the beauty!
We were lucky to be there!
Thanks,
Fabio

Ravil said...

Yeahh... You are right.
Next time on going to there let me know:)

somnel said...

ANTARCTICA is a great place because there are a lot of animals which depends on that environment, actually I think if I living there I'd have to take Viagra samples in order to feel warmer.

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