Dispatch: May 17, 2006

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Dinner menu: Turkey, pork chops, cauliflower au gratin, asparagus, soup, cheesecake and chocolate muffins; Stuffed peppers, sausage and kraut, peas and carrots, rice, salad, soup, and cookies

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The ocean is much calmer today, and everyone is up and participating fully again. There was a bit of sleet during the morning trawl (around 7 a.m., but it's still pretty dark then), but the sun came out and the skies were clear and blue today. It's a bit cooler out - I've needed my jacket even for short hops out to the upper deck. The albatross and petrels are still with us, and are a pleasure to watch.

Errinopsis reticulum, the coral after which "Coral" was named. (Photo by Ellen Bailey)

Early plankton tow and trawl yielded good specimens. The Blake was especially laden with starfish (once the 3 boulders and 2 large rocks were out of the way. From this 'tumbling', you'd think everything would be smooth and shiny!). We're still seeing lots of soft coral (bottle brushes), and they are quite colorful in the mix. One of the hard corals seen today is exactly the one I just know a Crayola crayon was named after. "Coral".

Dr. Christopher Mah, in his element. (Photo by Ellen Bailey)

Getting to Know You - Dr. Christopher Mah
Chris Mah received his undergraduate degree from Humboldt University. He pursued his Masters degree at San Francisco State Univ. during which he worked at the California Academy of Sciences. He received his PhD from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Chris' specialty is asteroids or 'starfish', and he is a huge asset to those sorting in identifying sea stars and brittle stars as they're being processed. To engage Chris in a conversation about starfish, you would assume he speaks Latin as a second language. But don't be fooled by that book's cover. Chris also has a quick sense of humor, and laughs as he tells of his passion for Godzilla action figures and comic books. And ladies, he's currently available.

I think Chris must have a photographic memory to be able to identify these critters so readily - an aspect which is invaluable in his current Postdoc position at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (what a gig!!). He hopes to be able to bring back some new specimens for the Smithsonian. There are some rare species more common to the waters we'll be in, especially deep water varieties, that haven't been seen in the Smithsonian collection before. It would be an honor indeed to be able to see these stars in Washington, and know that we were on the Antarctic trip on which they were collected. Stand by, as I'll put them in the Journal and you will have seen them fresh from the ocean, too.

The "Hyball" is deployed by MT's Rick Lichtenhan and Stian Alesan. (Photo by Ellen Bailey)

Image coming back from the Hyball. (Photo by Ellen Bailey)

Chief Scientist Ken Halanych takes the Hyball for a spin. (Photo by Ellen Bailey)

On with the Science
The "Hyball" ROV (remotely operated vehicle) was deployed today, relative to the benthic study. It is a relatively small, round instrument in a steel tube-like frame, and today it went to the bottom - about 110 meters down. The purpose was to look at the ocean floor where we might be doing a trawl, to see the density and content of the sea life down there. Electronics Technician (extraordinaire!), Dan Elsberg, took the helm of that vehicle with a joystick-type of control box. As the Hyball moved along the ocean floor, we could see sea stars, crabs, fish and plants as they rested, a view you could appreciate after only having seen them all jumbled up together in the nets. The trawl gives content, but not a density point of view, as Steve Alexander (Marine Science Technician) pointed out while watching the images on the monitor.

Tomorrow we take our last look at this part of the South Atlantic, then head southwest into the Drake Passage.



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Last updated May 18, 2006
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