We have made it out of the Drake
The Palmer steamed out of its port at Punta Arenas at 8:00 pm local time on Friday November 26, 2010. Boats can only come in and out of port escorted by Chilean officials aboard the pilot boat. Once they get the boat out of port the Chilean official jumps out of our boat, which is steaming at full speed, and back into the pilot boat to head back to dock. We steamed for a day and a half, with fairly calm seas, until we entered the Drake, which we stayed in for about two days. The Drake is the passage of water between the southern tip of South America and the Antarctic Peninsula. Due to the narrowness of this area, it is customary to experience above average swells and winds. We were lucky enough to have moderate seas while in the Drake and the size of the boat made for a fairly pleasant ride comparatively to what other boats have had in the Drake. We were unfortunate, however, to be graced with a really nasty storm when we exited the Drake on Tuesday. This storm brought with it waves that were worse than the ones we saw in the Drake – it was pretty exciting to see the furry in the ocean around us.
The ship continued to steam south into Margaret Bay which is off of Adelaide Island. Today, December 1, 2010 marked the first day that the Schofield team (Tina Haskins, Rachel Sipler, and myself) started our underway sampling. The underway sampling utilizes a FIre machine and an AC9. The FIre machine measures the happiness of the phytoplankton cells while the AC9 measures the light attenuation and absorption in the water column. We will be completing underway sampling continuously 24/7 for the next two and a half weeks, or until the ship has reached the polynya, which will then mark our station sampling. A polynya is area of water surrounded by ice; it can either be formed by wave action or hydrothermal action. The polynya that this cruise is sampling in, which is located in the Amundsen Sea, is caused by warm deep water that rises and melts the ice. Now that the sampling is underway some of the other teams are also beginning to collect data. There is a team comprised of members from the University of South Hampton, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, University of Alabama, and Florida Institute of Technology that is collecting data on the migration of king crabs into the Antarctic Circle as the sea temperatures in that region rise. There is a relationship between magnesium and temperature, as the temperature increases the magnesium decreases allowing the king crab population to extend their range. In colder temperatures there is a higher level of magnesium, which acts as a paralysis in the crabs.