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(Peter Wiebe)


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Magellenic penguins at Ordway Reservation (Ellen Bailey)


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Introduction

Welcome to the Cruise to Antarctica, May-June 2006 aboard the Research Vessel Laurence M. Gould.  We will depart from Punta Arenas, Chile, and our path will somewhat trace the one followed by this same core research team in Nov-Dec 2004.  I was there, too.  This Outreach Journal hopes to give you a glimpse at life on a research ship, the research that is done there and with what tools and adaptations it is done in this remote and sometimes unforgiving climate.


Science Overview

When South America and the Antarctic continent separated about 40 million years ago, the Drake Passage was formed.The waters of the Drake flow with great force in an eastward direction, and because it makes a strong divider, it was thought that the fauna of Antarctica would become unique to its extreme environmental conditions over geologic time.In most (80-90%) of the fauna found here, this theory proves true.But there are certain benthic invertebrates, for example polychaete annelid worms, in which approximately 45% of the species shows not to be unique to the Antarctic continent.There must be some sort of exchange of these animals between Antarctica and South America to account for this. 

The course of this study shows that there is a pattern in the ocean current (in the form of swirling ‘eddies’) that delivers plankton from one side of the Drake to the other, thus depositing the same species on both sides.Two earlier cruises were performed by this group to study this phenomenon in the spring/summer.The purpose of this trip is to study the extent of these theories near the austral winter (for us, between May 13th and June 14th).Surface net tows and benthic or ocean bottom dredges will be performed on both sides of the Drake Passage, in the coastal waters of South America and along the Antarctic Peninsula. Because this had not previously been done using modern DNA-discerning technology, the study may reveal genetic differences as well as similarities in the studied species, in addition to further explaining the role of larval dispersal in explaining these findings.



 

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Last updated May 23, 2006
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