Dispatch: May 25, 2006

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Wind: NW 8.4kn
Air Temp: -0.3°C Wind Chill: -6.2°C
Surface Water Temp: -1.589°C

Day's menu: Roast Chicken, pork chops, spinach, rice, salad, lemon cake, carrot bread; Tortellini casserole, quiche, veg lasagna, brussels sprouts, spinach, rice, salad, whatever cake we didn't eat since lunch, and cookies.

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The ship is back in the Bransfield Strait, and the waters are calmer. Yesterday, we were actually in the western waters of the Drake, and I'll tell you, the Drake is still an angry place. Thanks for rekindling the memories, but, no thanks.

We are traveling somewhere south of St. George Island (yes, we've gone north from where we were a couple of days ago - all part of The Plan), but between snow showers were able to see the coast of Antarctica today. You can tell it's The Continent because…. well, actually you can't tell it from most of the other landscape here, but the chart says that's what we're seeing when we look east. It does make you pause to know what you're looking at.

The Antarctic Continent, hazy backdrop to a stegasauric iceberg. (Photo by Janis Umschlag)

There were some delays due to equipment today. That should come as no surprise, given the climate these huge instruments are relegated to work in down here. A spotlight froze up the light worked, but the hydraulics that allow it to scan had seized from the freezing rain and spray. Same with a winch lead, and a cable block as well. The MT's and winch technicians are looking at the mechanics of their equipment throughout an operation. If they see something not turning that should, operations are suspended until things are running smoothly again there is no fury like that of a large cable under great tension (oh, well, maybe that of a woman scorned, but that's not happening down here). Except for Paul Waters' climbing the platform on top of the Bridge in wind and freezing rain to free the spotlight, resolve was relatively simple and it was well placed force that freed things up (like, whack the thing with another thing that won't do the first thing any damage). But the real query is about the occurrences being unexpected at current temperatures, just below freezing - perfect conditions for snags, it seems. The Captain said he had never seen rain down here before. "It doesn't rain in Antarctica." Weather goes from no snow to snow, but not the 'in between' that we're seeing this year - dampness and somewhat cold in combination seems to make the equipment complain. The crew is well-equipped to make things work when they cease to, that is the blessed talent of this ship's team. There is no frenzy, no yelling, no wringing of hands (maybe a little gnashing of teeth, however) a thing stops, it gets some attention, and then it works again. We can't do anything about the weather, we can only be more vigilant about how it might affect operations.

Sea Mouse" a type of worm, quite large in Antarctic waters. (Photo by Ellen Bailey)

This evening's plankton tow brought in a great deal of krill. It was difficult sorting plankton with the quantity and physical size of these crustaceans, but that's where the sieving comes in. More valuable samples were found despite the preliminary inconvenience. Another piece of the krill scenario was the presence of crab eater seals following the net. They dove and surfaced with the net. Why chase krill if they're crab eaters??? Now, I'm not a linguist, and I don't have access to Google here, but I was told over dinner that it's actually a derivation of the German name for these seals. Tell me if I'm wrong, but the German word for "krill" is close in sound to our word "crab", and the English-speaking piniped namers just borrowed the sound, not the meaning of the word in the name for these seals. It makes perfect sense to me, since I was just told (unrelated to the seal conversation) that they rarely see crabs in Antarctica. There are occasional spider crabs, but there would not be a population that would be the food source for seals with the prevalence of crab eaters. With so many krill, there will likely be other mammals feeding I wonder if the whales are watching us sail by tonight.

it might affect operations.

Also large, "Sea Cockroach" (Isopod) on the arm of Diego Giberto (Photo by Ellen Bailey)

The benthic tow was equally productive. It is the best array of diversity I have yet seen. Among the trays of critters being sorted were many types of worms, crinoids (related to sea stars), sea spiders (the largest I've seen in 2 trips down here), several of a white variety of sea slugs (nudibranchs), very large sea cockroaches (isopods), sea mice (annelid worms with hair, segmented like earthworms, only UGH-leeee!!), many sea cucumbers and sea squirts, and a huge sea anemone that, when cut open, had a whole sea mouse in its mouth (even Ugh-lier). Jon Craft showed me a true shrimp they'd captured that was very rare in Antarctic waters. This was a fun-to-observe trawl.

Diego Giberto, Argentine Observer (Photo by Ellen Bailey)

Getting to Know You
My name is Diego Giberto. I work at the benthos laboratory of the National Institute for Fisheries Research (INDEP) of Argentina. My main interest is the understanding of ecological processes that control biological diversity in frontal areas, e.g. predation, niche partitioning, dispersion and tolerance to environmental gradients. Marine and estuarine frontal areas are important because, among other characteristics, they usually have high values of biological production, they constitute major foraging grounds for nektonic organisms, and they could promote larval retention, with the consequence that they affect the biological patterns of surrounding waters.

I have a fellowship through CONICET (The National Council for Scientific and Technological Research of Argentina) to complete my PhD in Biological Sciences at the National University of El Comahue. My advisors are Dr. C. Bremec and M. Acha. The research topic is the trophic ecology of seven species of benthophagous fishes of the Rio de la Plata estuary, Argentina-Uruguay, which is characterized by the presence of two salinity fronts. I study both the diet (gut contents, habitat use and morphology) and the availability of potential prey in the benthic communities (abundance and biomass patterns, diversity and habitat use). Recently I also started to explore the potential effects of an exotic species (a predatory gastropod) in the local benthic communities and the food webs of the estuary.

I am on this research cruise invited by the USAP, due to the fact that part of their work is in Argentinean waters, and I am representing my country as a Scientific Observer. Since I am a benthic ecologist I am helping with benthic sampling and sorting of the target species, in particular, polychaetes. The personal contact and collaboration with experimental scientists and students from different countries is providing me the possibility to update and exchange scientific information regarding frontal areas, larval dispersion and invertebrate biology, which will be very useful not only from a personal point of view, but also to the institutions which I represent.



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Last updated May 30, 2006
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