Posts Tagged ‘Antarctica’

Who is on First. What is on Second. I don’t know is on Third.

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Ice Ice Baby

Similarities and differences involving the history of the Ross and Amundsen Seas

Both are named after famous explorers, the Ross Sea after Sir James Clark Ross who was born in 1800 and was the nephew of the famous Scottish explorer Sir John Ross, and Amundsen Sea after Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian polar explorer. Both men were experienced explorers and had been in several expeditions before reaching the waters which they named after themselves. Both areas are different in that the Ross Sea has incredible biological diversity and a long history of human exploration and scientific research. Marine life is as abundant now as it was thousands of years ago; whereas the Amundsen Sea’s extreme temperatures and living environment allow for its only inhabitants to include bacteria and microscopic plankton. Only in recent years new organisms sea urchins, sea cucumbers, brittle stars and star fish, crustaceans, and various kinds of worm-like creatures have been discovered. Maybe a colossal squid as well.

Explorations Routes:

On his voyage Sir James Clark Ross was asked by England because of all of the experience that he had sailing in the Arctic, to sail to Tasmania and make a permanent settlement there so that he could make magnetic observations. During his trip in the Arctic he found the north magnetic pole. On his expedition to the south he made a stop in Hobart. On his quest for the south magnetic pole he made numerous stops including ones in: The Auckland Islands and the Campbell Island. Then he traveled south some more until he crossed over the Antarctic Circle where he encountered an Antarctic pack of ice not explored by men. After long days he broke into a clearing of just water, which he named the Ross Sea!!! That Journey Lasted from October 5th 1839 to January 9th 1840.

By his own choice to discover the South Pole on June 3rd 1910, Amundsen left Norway on a small ship called the Fram and headed south. At Maderia, a Portuguese island is where Amundsen informed his crew about the journey they were about to make and everyone was aboard with the plan. From there he continued south to the Cape Town and on January 14th, 1911, Amundsen, along with his fellow crew members, arrived at Bay of Whales at the eastern edge of  Ross Ice Shelf; also known as the Great Ice Barrier. They then proceeded to finish the journey via skis and dog sled. On December 14th, 1912, Amundsen reached the South Pole. After proudly marking the spot with the Norwegian flag, they wrote letters of accomplishment and returned back to their base camp on January 25th, 1912. After finishing their time at the South Pole, they arrived at Hobart, Australia and it is on March 7th, 1912 that they were recognized and celebrated for their accomplishments.


Sir James Clark Ross has no clear documented sources for the Ross expedition specifically, but overall ocean voyages were riskier as we go farther into the past.

Roald Amundsen has written several works and kept journals of his explorations. The South Pole: An Account of the Norwegian Antarctic Expedition in the “Fram,” 1910-1912, he recalls his journey to the South Pole from the start to finish. In his book he writes about the history of the Antarctic, he names previous expeditions, and explorers like Sir James Clark Ross and their contributions to the land. The book also tells about his plans and preparations, possible routes and the reason for why he kept the expedition a secret from Captain Scott. The book was first published in 1912 in Norwegian and it was published in the United States in 2001.

Damages to the Seas:

Both the Ross and Amundsen Seas are suffering from the fast melting ice. In the Amundsen Sea a possible reason for the melting of the ice sheet is that because warm water is constantly eating away at it, the pressure is weakening on all ends of the ice shelf. As a result, it is losing pressure, and losing strength. Similar in the Ross Sea the warm water is melting away the Ross Ice Shelf and Overwhelming evidence suggests that over-fishing has profoundly damaged most of the surrounding ecosystems.

Now to kind of jump from talking about James Ross and Roald Amundsen, we should figure this question out.

Who saw Antarctica first? There are three men who are credited with first seeing Antarctica in 1820. It’s rather weird to think that there were actually three explorers in the same area within months of each other. If Twitter was around in the 1820’s, this could have been avoided.

Palmer: Yo, I just discovered a continent, what up! #Legendary

Nathaniel B. Palmer of the USA, Edward Bransfield of Great Britain, and Fabian von Bellingshausen of Russia. Nathaniel, as you all know very well now, was noted as the first American explorer to discover and set foot on Antarctica. To reiterate Palmer’s path, and looking at this amazing map, Palmer leaves the Punta Arenas [Volcano] and arrives at Anvers Island and manages to avoid giant colossal squid. However, this is very ambiguous as soon as one crosses over from American history books to other cultures.

Looking at Edward Bransfield’s expedition representing Great Britain, you can see how I drew it on Google Earth his start from the Stanley, Falkland Islands. His crew will then venture towards the South Shetland Islands, where Bransfield would name the strait between Antarctica and the islands after himself. On January 30th, traveling down his strait, Edward will spot Trinity Peninsula, which is the most northern point of the continent which was the official discovery of Antarctica – in Britain. After naming mountains and islands for himself and his [late] King, like all explorers, Bransfield and crew set sail back out with Gamage Point to their backs in a sense to the Western edge of Antarctica, and as if you look at the map, their voyage will end  almost in the middle of nowhere, where they will be teleported by unseen forces back home in an instant. However, unknown to Bransfield, just two days prior to Edward reaching the Shetlands, Bellingshausen already “discovered” Antarctica.

If we zoom over to Fabian von Bellingshausen’s expedition, which some would argue that it occurred from 1819-1821, you can see in this lovely image of expeditions all around Antarctica, Fabian’s circumnavigation around Antarctica. You can describe Bellingshausen journey around the circle of frigid frozen fantasies as an opportunity to set a much larger world record. On the map here, you can see how Fabian persistently tries to get to mainland Antarctica, but is repelled by thick ice. On his way of completing his circumnavigation, Faddey [Fadian in Russian] sails around the Amundsen Sea, nears the point of the untouched and presently known Palmer Land, heads back out past Gamage Point to end his voyage. With this discovery taking place on the 28th January, the facts would definitely put Bellingshausen at the first to discover Antarctica.

However, aside from these 3 expeditions, there is one man [and a crew of people I suppose] who can be credited with the thought of a southern continent.

James Cook. His second voyage (1772-75). Many Europeans believed that there was still an undiscovered continent suitable for European Settlement (so much for the Revolutionary War) in the Southern Hemisphere. The fascinating thing was that Cook was able to figure out that Antarctica was not a suitable place for living despite the fact that Cook failed to actually sight any part of the Antarctica continent. He was able to establish however that a continent must exist.

Quote: “…there may be a Continent or large tract of land near the Pole, I will not deny,” “… we have seen a part of it. The excessive cold, the many islands and vast floats of ice all tend to prove that there must be land to the South” ( Exhibit 9).

Das, Dan, Tiffany, Mario, Nina, and THE DRAGON SLAYER.

Real-time Sea Ice Variations in the Antarctic

Monday, September 27th, 2010

This week we grabbed data involving current sea-ice concentration. The link elow is an animation showing the variation in sea ice surrounding the Antarctic up to date. Notice the circulatory pattern in the sea ice variation. We made a hypothesis that this pattern was due to the ACC because the concentration in sea ice starts dense in one part of the animation and noticeably circles around the Antarctic. However, notice the sea ice concentration in the Weddell Sea. The amount of sea ice remains relatively constant up until the last day of the animation. We figured this may be due to the actual peninsula blocking most of the ACC and so it never really picks up that concentration in that cut-out.

We also pulled this image (below) to compare what we saw in the animation to what the NSIDC has. Between the two images, they look pretty similar.  The animation not only matches NSIDC's image, but it also gives you the amount of concentration and this is pretty useful when the gliders are deployed in October.

We also were able to find another source to compare the real-time data we got from other sites.  Below is the latest image from NOAA.  As you can see, it looks very similar to what we found from NSIDC and also from the animation.

Our group will continue to examine satellite images, providing real-time data for everyone to see in the WAP and to keep the Palmer team aware of the conditions when they make the trip in October.

-Colin, Rachel, Eric

Decline in Antarctic Ice Could Shift Marine Ecosystem Balance

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Although frustrating, it is hard to find clear enough evidence that will actually sway the general public to believe that average global temperatures are rising.  The evidence presented in this article however, explaining the shortening of the sea ice season and subsequent loss of perenneal sea ice in the WAP region is a clear image of just how sensitive Earth's systems and cycles can be.  It may seem like just a slight change in temperature - no big deal- but the reality is that these slight changes can lead to bigger changes such as unpredicted species migrations, different species distributions, and changes in trophic relationships.

I think it's important to research and understand how ecosystems are changing in the Antarctic as a result of climate changes, but I'm not a strong supporter for interfering with these processes.    The reality is that until we finally decide to move away from fossil fuels, and adjust our lifestyles, we will have to deal with the consequences.  On the lighter side of the issue; although it's upsetting to watch some species on the decline, it's also interesting to see how ecosystems are able to adjust to these changes and find a new balance.

-Rachel Plunkett

Combining Efforts to Document and Understand Changes in Antarctic Conditions

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

It is no secret that the world's oceans are changing at a dramatic rate.  The WAP (West Antarctic Peninsula) isone region that is experiencing the harshest changes due to an increase in warming.  Sea-ice availability is rapidly declining.  Shifts in seasonal temperatures are evident.  Lastly, the food-webs are being altered in a way that only certain species are benefiting and others are struggling to cope.

The whole warming in the WAP (see figure below) is due to probable shifts in wind capacities in the Southern Ocean, pushing that warm water from the ACDW (Antarctic Circumpolar Deep Water) upwards into the ACC (Antarctic Circumpolar Current).  This deep current upwells all of that warm, saline water onto Antarctica's shelf.  Hence, we see a decline in sea-ice coverage and a change in ecosystem structure.  As the sea-ice presence changes, so does the food-web. 

The shift in warmer temperatures have shifted the size in phytoplankton from larger to smaller.  This poses a problem for grazers because most are more efficient at preying on larger cells, the most notable being krill.  Krill play an extremely important role in the Antarctic food web because they are the transfers of energy from lower levels to higher levels.  If krill struggle to survive, that means the larger organisms will struggle to survive and the smaller phytoplankton cells will continue to thrive.  This can be seen with the Adelie penguins.  They thrive in areas where they can be around a constant food supply so they can reproduce and forage.  Other species of penguins that are not depend on sea-ice (Chinstraps and Gentoos) are showing an increase in population.

It is inevitable at this point that the WAP is changing and we need to learn how and why the physical effects of ocean change is effecting the ecosystem.  New technological advances have made it possible to do this.  We have gliders, animal tracking sensors, sea-floor cables, remote sensing instruments, and other technologies.  Data collection and effort will have to be a collaborative effort within the oceanographic community if we want to understand the changes occurring in the WAP.


Sea Ice

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

1-2/10thsSomething I have learned during my time here in Antarctica is that sea ice takes glider piloting to a whole new level. It can be an unpredictable moving obstacle that can mean danger for a glider. So in order to have a better understanding of this obstacle I spent some time learning about the different categories of sea ice and learning how to read sea ice coverage maps. Tom Holden is the Special Support Coordinator at NIC the National Ice Center and each morning his team sends the LTER scientists a sea ice image for the Anvers Island area. We then use these images to monitor the area and decide whether or not it is safe to fly the gliders.

Dec 3rdTypically, my image categorizes the Anvers Island area sea ice into four categories (see image Dec. 3rd). On the December 3rd image you can see an example of the sea ice being broken down into A, B, C and D. Level A ice is classified as 1-2/1oths, Level B is 3-4/10ths, Level C is 5-6/10ths and D is 7-9/10ths. The classification of sea ice is actually based on a percentage, so Level A ice in an area actually means the area is about 10-20% sea ice compared to that of Level D which means an area is about 70-90% sea ice. To go even more in depth Tom sent me the following description which explains how the age of the ice also plays a role in how they analyze the images and than categorize.

The A, B, C and D that you see on the charts, are used to designate attributes to each individual area.  Each area you see is analyzed, based upon the ice type (classification) AND the concentration.  Ice types are based upon thickness and age of the ice.  The purpose for this, is generally, older ice, is harder and thicker. The reason it is harder, is that gravity pulls on the brine content and it drains its way through, leaving nearly pure frozen water behind. New, Young ice is easily broken and Multi-year and glacial is the hardest to break.

Leopard SealUnfortunately, even with all this information the bottom line is still the more sea ice in an area, the more tightly it will be packed together, making it more difficult for a glider to surface. Comparing the various types and actually seeing them in real time and seeing the consistency of the ice allowed me to determine that a glider should be able to surface in Level A ice without problems. However, level B, C and D are a different story and therefore we avoid those areas.

5/10th'sHowever, aside from the fact that sea ice can be a nuisance and prohibit us from taking zodiacs out or potentially cause a glider to not surface it serves many useful purposes. Various species in both the Antarctic and Arctic use sea ice as a means of hunting, breeding, feeding and even resting. Down here in Antarctica we have seen numerous leopard seals hauled out on large chunks of sea ice napping. The same also goes for the various avian species such as the Adelie penguin.

A Visit from Neil Armstrong!

Monday, November 23rd, 2009
Neil Armstrong with B-019

Brian, Tina, Alex, Neil Armstrong, and Carol

This past weekend Palmer Station had a very exciting visitor, NASA Astronaut Neil Armstrong and his wife Carol. They were aboard one of the National Geographic cruises that stops by Palmer. Neil and Carol got a full tour of the station and then we got to spend some time with him and talk to him about gliders. He was very interested and even started testing the flexibility of our glider wings which made us all a tad nervous. After his visit on station, the National Geographic Crew invited us aboard their boat to watch Neil give a talk later that evening. It was quite the opportunity and we were all very appreciative of the offer.

Deep Glider Deployment!

Monday, November 16th, 2009

DeployedWednesday November 11th marked the first glider deployment for this years Antarctic field season. We couldn't of asked for better weather, it was a balmy 30 degrees, clear sunny skies and flat calm seas. We journeyed out to Station E and after surveying the water depth in the area, we decided it was a good spot to splash RU25. After she completed a few short missions it was time for her journey to begin. The main mission is to obtain a battery curve for this glider in preparation for her flight to Rothera later in the season. However, we will also be running the CTD and optics puck and collecting some science. Enjoy the photos!

Passing a Bergimg_6319

Meet Bruiser!

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

BruiserYesterday (Tuesday) was our first sampling day here at station. We would have gone Monday but if the wind is blowing over 20 knots they don't want us out on the water. Which is fine by us, no one wants to feed the fishy! So since the winds had laid down it was time to head out on our trusty zodiac 'Bruiser'. As you can see Bruiser is kind of a beast! The good news is that since it's such a heavy boat it would take an Orca to flip it, so hopefully I will have better luck here than I did in the Azores! Anyway back to the science, we have two main goals while sampling, first is the lowering of our bio-optics cage and second is collecting seawater samples. Yesterday we lowered our optics cage to 60m and collected water in Niskin bottles at 50, 25 and 10m and then two surface samples. Once we have what we need it's time to head back to the lab and filter the samples. As you can see we have a lovely filtration system setup. Filtration SystemWe use 25mm filters and filter the seawater in incriminates of 100ml until we see pigment on the filters. Right now since the water is so clear there is not a lot of activity so we have to filter more water. This will change as the weather warms and the water livens up as we head deeper into the Antarctic summer. We follow this process twice, once for chlorophyll samples and a second time for HPLC samples. Once we have the filters we store them in either the deep freeze or in liquid nitrogen. And that's a wrap!

The Season Begins!

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Palmer Station and the GouldGreetings from Palmer Station Antarctica. This year Alex (veteran from last year), Brian, and myself (Tina) are here for the LTER summer season. Some changes this year are the addition of a third person and a third glider to our group which will hopefully allow us to get even more accomplished. We will be working very closely with Maggie and Dan who are from Hugh Ducklow's group  since we are all sampling the same water and at the same depths. We will also be working closely with Kristen and Jenn who are the Penguin girls from Bill Fraser's group. Together the seven of us form the LTER science group! We have been spending the past week finding all our gear and setting up our respective labs. Today we are hoping will be our first sampling day however we are faced with a very high tide and 20 knot winds. Neither of which yields to successful boating. So instead we play it by ear and hope for a break in the weather.

Adelie Colony on Torgersen Island

It hasn't all been hard labor though... we were all lucky enough to go to Torgersen Island which has a couple Adelie penguin colonies on it. It was a beautiful day and quite the experience.