Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

» About the Antarctic Expedition

  • Week 1

  • Week 2

  • Week 3

  • Week 4

  • Week 5

  • Week 6

» Learn More: Salps!

» Learn More: Weddell Seals!

» Learn More: Penguins!

» Learn More: Drake!

» Learn More: Gould!

» Learn More: CTD

» Learn More: Plankton Nets!

» Thank you!

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Our team will board the Research Vessel (R/V) Lawrence M. Gould and is scheduled to depart from Punta Arenas, Chile on November 23rd. (SeaLab:Antarctica)

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A tray of starfish hauled in by a dredge. These will be preserved three different ways (alcohol, a chemical called formalin, and frozen at -80 degrees) so that they can be looked at later. (Regina Campbell-Malone)

On a calmer day, marine technician Jamee Johnson (left) gets a little help from Regina while lowering the CTD into moderate seas. (Regina Campbell-Malone)

Deploying a plankton net. (Regina Campbell-Malone)

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 Blake Trawl Back on Board: Chief Scientist Ken Halanych at right (Auburn University) and Marine Project Coordinator Skip Owens (ARSV Gould) help lower the full blake trawl onto the aft deck of The Gould. The trawl was full of starfish, fish, crabs, snails, worms and a very surprised skate (flatfish) that was released back into the water. The square frame is dragged upright along the ocean floor, scooping organisms and large bottom sediment up so that it is captured in the trailing net.
(Regina Campbell-Malone)

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 What does this button do?: During a visit to the bridge, Second Mate James Bellanger takes a picture while he lets me steer The Gould. The console is full of buttons, switches and displays that help him control the vessel. The large windows of the bridge have windshield wipers and are heated to keep ice from forming when it is very cold! The bridge is a great place to see the sunrise and set, too!
(Regina Campbell-Malone)

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Plankton sorting in the lab. (Regina Campbell-Malone)

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For the Birds. A Cape Petrel (left) glides along in front of an unidentified Albatross. (Regina Campbell-Malone)

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Ready, Aim, FIRE! Jonathan Craft of Auburn University prepares to launch an expendable bathythermograph (XBT) from the 0-2 deck using the manual launcher. (Regina Campbell-Malone)

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My cabin. (Regina Campbell-Malone)

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Lunch in the Mess Hall with my roommate Pat Cramer. Everyone has their water bottle handy at all times. Hydration is an important part of staying healthy at sea. (Regina Campbell-Malone)

November 24-30, 2004


November 24, 2004
4am shift: I woke up every few hours last night checking the time because I didn't want to miss my first 4am shift! The plan for this shift is to do a plankton tow at 200 meters below the surface and to put out the CTD (see Learn More: CTD to learn about this instrument). The crewmen decided it was a little too rough for the CTD and too rough to allow the science team to deploy the gear themselves. So they did it for us.

I got some great video of the crew retrieving the plankton net as a wave soaks the deck! I'll try to post it when I get back so stay tuned. When we looked at the sample from the plankton tow it was almost all algae, which is NOT what we were looking for. We found a few copepods and some worms, but far fewer than we needed so we'll have to sample at the next station.

4pm shift: The watch before us put a dredge down to the bottom in water that was 80 meters deep. A dredge is a sampling device that drags along the bottom scooping up things that live in the top few centimeters of the ocean floor. We found things like starfish, squid, shrimp, crabs, sponges, sea cucumbers, worms, copepods and lots of things that I've never seen before. It was fun taking photos of each specimen and preserving them so that we can look at them later. Take a look at the picture of the many starfish we found! The smallest ones were the size of quarters!

Here are some coordinates for you.
03:38:29 S 52 degrees 43.15' W 068 degrees 04.06'
               winds 35-40 knots, air 7.1 degrees C, ship speed 10.7 knots
06:23:17 S 53 degrees 00.83' W 067 degrees 33.71'
               winds 45-50 knots, air 7.0 degrees C, waves 15 feet
16:01:45 S 53 degrees 35.84', W 066 degrees 39.28'
19:50:28 S 53 degrees 44.71', W 066 degrees 19.74'
               winds 18-20, air 10.7

November 25, 2004
Happy Thanksgiving! We are now in the process of making our way to Drake's Passage and stopping at specific spots (stations) along the way to collect samples. The goal for this morning's 4am shift was to sort and photograph benthic organisms brought in on an epibenthic sled by the last shift at station #4. We did a pretty good job! Found a lot of critters that I have heard of but have never seen, including a nudibranch, lots of amphipods and isopods, and some beautiful snails!

The divers went in for the first time today and found themselves in a swarm of salps. These are the ones that I showed you that are like ziploc bags full of Jell-O! (see Learn More: Salps! for further info on this cool creatures! ) During the 4pm shift we did another plankton tow, this time down to 100 meters! I was in the control room during this operation. It was neat to see it from the operations side of things.

I think I'm going to go up to the bridge and have a look around. There have been a lot of birds circling the boat for days and it would be a great spot to take some photos from. I think I saw an albatross, some petrels and others too. Maybe you can help me identify them when I post them! I hope you are enjoying your holiday! (By the way, we did have turkey and stuffing for lunch today! Certainly not as good as mom's, but it still tasted good!)

01:22:34 S 54 deg 04.90' W 065 deg 45.33' winds 17-19 knots, air 9.5 deg C
04:09:23 S 54 deg 16.1' W 064 deg 26.71' winds 20 knots, air 7.5 deg C, ship speed 8.6 knots
12:45:05 S 54 deg 25.76' W 064 deg 44.87' winds 14-15 knots, air 8.9 deg C, ship speed 1.9 knots

November 26, 2004
My new favorite job is sitting up in the control room during deck operations. This is the room that contains the controls for the big winch that has tons of cable wrapped around it. The deck crew attaches the plankton net or dredge to the cable and the winch driver feeds the cable out into the water until we reach the depth that we want to sample at. Then the winch driver's job is to bring it all back up.

The control room has a great view of the entire back (or aft deck) of the ship. From here I can listen to radio communications between the aft deck, control room and the bridge (remember, that is where the driver of the boat is!) This communication is very important for several reasons. For one, the ship has to go slowly and must face in the right direction so that the wind and current don't make the boat rock too much or go over the wire.

Another reason the deck and control room must communicate well is to that the deck team members holding onto the plankton net and cable are prepared when the cable moves. You can see in the photo that the crew is very close to the rail of the ship when deploying gear. Finally, if the boat is moving the wrong way, or the cable is going too fast or at the wrong angle it can be very dangerous! So everyone must be careful to wear their hard hats and safety gear and listen to what's going on. Safety is the number one priority at sea!

A neat feature about the Gould is that in the control room and all around the boat are many TV monitors. While we don't get TV stations at sea (no spongebob squarepants!) these monitors show views from cameras mounted in different places on the ship. So even while in the lab sorting plankton we can see what's going on outside. Other stations also show weather info, how fast the ship is going, where we are and when we will reach our next destination.

The control room leads out onto the 0-1 Deck which happens to be the best place to take photos of the many sea birds that we encounter. I'll tell you more about them and will post photos of them as soon as I can. By the way, has anyone figured out what type of penguin I photographed in Patagonia?!

How about some coordinates now?!
04:53:13 S 54 deg 26.03' W 063 deg 04.32'
09:26:27 S 54 deg 26.70' W 062 deg 10.53'
21:17:05 S 54 deg 26.02' W 060 deg 48.34'

November 27, 2004
Today was a super exciting day both during my shifts and in my time off! During my off-hours I was able to visit the bridge. The bridge has a beautiful view of the ocean and the forward decks. Captain Mike told me about the different birds that were circling the ship and he let me go out on the 03-deck to take photos of them.

Then the mate on duty taught me how to drive the ship and let me work the control console! There are lots of buttons, switches, numbers and alarms everywhere. Even though I know it takes lots of practice to steer a big ship, he made it look easy! While I was there I learned that the powerful groaning sound that makes me wake up several times a night is the bow thruster. The mate uses the bow thruster to keep the ship steady when we are stopped at a science station.

On the science side of things today we sent down a blake trawl and dragged it along the bottom for 6 minutes in 200 meters of water. When we pulled it up it was loaded with all kinds of stuff and was so heavy that we had to use the ship's knuckle crane to dump it. The crane dumped the net into a big bin and we carried loads little by little to the sorting table. Everything was put into groups of organisms that looked alike until nothing was left in the bin. It took forever to sort through all of the contents! There were a ton of basket stars, various other starfish, snails, crabs, worms, tunicates, nudibranchs (a type of snail without a shell), water "bugs" called amphipods and isopods, fish, and hermit crabs. Each "species" was given a catalog number and was photographed and preserved so that they can be looked at later.

I was given the task of sorting through a tray of over 70 starfish that all looked alike at first. After a few minutes of staring and scratching my head I started to notice some differences between them. For instance, some had 6 legs, others had 7. Some had little baby starfish on their bodies, while others didn't. Some had round centers, others had centers that looked more like polygons. So after sorting thru this tray for nearly an hour I came up with 7 different groups! Then I asked a senior scientist named Dr. Susie Balser for her help since she knows these organisms far better than I do. That's when she told me that they were all the same species but that they can look very different. That meant that I had spent so long getting to know the various forms of the same animal! Just like people, these starfish come in all different shapes, sizes and colors! I was happy that I could give them all the same catalog number. I filed them away and decided that it was definitely time for bed...

04:20:35 S 54 deg 26.02'  W 059 deg 31.90' air 3.5 deg C  winds 8-11 knots
07:43:20 S 54 deg 25.90'  W 059 deg 03. 96' air 4.8 deg C winds 10 knots
15:41:40 S 54 deg 40.15'  W 059 deg 23.55'
16:48:09 S 54 deg 40.27'  W 059 deg 24.07'
22:21:24 S 54 deg 34. 23' W 060 deg 13.60' air 4.5 deg C winds 4-6 knots

November 28, 2004
The Gould is headed back west and we should hit Drake's Passage sometime during the night. Drake's Passage is the area of water between the tip of South America and the Antarctic Peninsula. Can you find it on your map? We've been warned to strap everything down and put all loose items away because the boat will start rocking really good during the crossing. I noticed last night that things were quite calm. During the night I noticed a huge orange moon hanging low over the sky. It was beautiful!

Today was full of sorting "the bounty of the trawl"and attempting plankton tows. Sadly one of our plankton nets was lost to the big ship propellers when we were deploying the net and the cable went under the ship. We saw the line jump and brought it back up empty... time for a new net! We also sent down a pair of plankton nets called a bongo net (since they sit side-by-side like bongo drums), but one of them opened up during the tow and lost its samples. It was also a bit too rough for the divers to go out today.

Science is not always about success and getting things right the first time... some days you learn from your mistakes and make sure you do it better the next time! Even with these little setbacks, overall we have had a lot of good luck and have gathered many organisms. So far, so good!

I got some great pictures of two types of albatross and a tiny bird called a petrel. I'll post them in a few days. Looking forward to many more birds once we leave rough seas. As we cross Drake's Passage we'll be doing plankton tows every 4 hours. I'll let you know how how it goes! For now, here are some coordinates. Can you tell when or where we turned around? (hint: you may have to look at yesterday's coordinates as well.)

05:14:20 S 54 deg 37.15'  W 061 deg 29.15' air 6.3 deg C, wind 10-13 knots, ship speed 10 knots
06:29:00 S 54 deg 36.16'  W 061 deg 53.61' air 6.1 deg C, wind 11-13 knots, ship speed 10 knots, water depth >500 m
19:23:42 S 54 deg 40.54'  W 063 deg 10.02' air 7.4 deg C, wind 9-11 knots, water depth 281 meters
21:24:32 S 54 deg 40.01'  W 063 deg 13.37' air 8.1 deg C, winds 18 knots, ship speed 2 knots

November 29, 2004
Last night we had a big meeting of the entire science staff to discuss how the project is going and what the plan was for the crossing. Today was the first day that we put those plans into effect and it went very smoothly. Every four hours a plankton tow is conducted and looked at under the microscope (see the picture of my buddy Rob Jennings and I sorting plankton while rocking out on our IPods. Maroon 5's is the best microscope music!).

I also have a new side job during the crossing. I was taught how to launch expendable bathythermographs (XBTs) - which is just a complicated way of saying "Regina gets to toss little sinking thermometer torpedoes off the mid deck of the ship using a launch gun!" While the ship is underway these devices are sent over the side attached to a thin filament that is connected to a computer. The XBT sends back the temperature as it falls and we can plot the temperature along one axis and depth along the other axis to create a graph that tells us how the temperature changes from the top of the ocean to the bottom.

Today marks the end of one week at sea. So far so good during the crossing. No bad weather at all. Winds have stayed low. Lots of fog. There is definitely a chill in the air that wasn't there a few days ago. Perhaps because we are going further south!?! The days are kind of blending together, but I know that it will soon be december because the crew has started playing Christmas carols on the speakers during my watch.

Here's a picture of my cabin. You can't see everything, but to the right (on top of the shelf) is the TV/VCR and below the shelf is the computer. On the far right are many cabinets since everything has to be stowed away so it doesn't get lost or fall when the boat moves. You can see my little window and the bunk beds. Which one do you think is mine? There are some clues to help you figure it out. If you look carefully some of you may even see yourselves!

Now for those coordinates:
04:58:36  S 55 deg 25.23' W 062 deg 31.51' air 4.4 deg C, ship speed 1-2 knots, winds 5-6 knots, depth 4154 meters
15:50:47  S 56 deg 54.01' W 060 deg 52.65' air 5.9 deg C, ship speed 11.6 knots, winds 19-20 knots, depth 3832 m
19:40:17  S 57 deg 26.35' W 060 deg 16.79' air 3.9 deg C, ship speed 12 knots, winds 20-22 knots

November 30, 2004
More Christmas Carols and the countdown has begun in the galley... "Only 25 more shopping days until Christmas!" We've had great luck so far while crossing Drake's Passage. The bad weather front that we thought we were going to run right into decided to head south and miss us completely! Some people are actually disappointed that we aren't getting tossed about... they're hoping for bad weather so that they can tell the story to their friends. I told them I'm happy with the stories that I have without getting sick, thankyouverymuch! Still hoping that the calm keeps up.

So far I've had an absolutely awesome day! XBTs during both shifts were all launched without a single bad one in the bunch (see yesterdays entry for details about them). Because the wind is blowing in a different direction today, we had to release them from the 02-deck. That means getting all geared up in a float coat, hat and gloves (because it is 1.1 degrees C!), climbing a metal staircase with the launcher in your hand attached to a long cable... then walking across the deck, spooling out the cable and firing it off, waiting for it to drop to ~1500 meters, breaking the filament, reeling in the cable and heading back down. It's a cold, wet and windy job, but I love it! All three shifts combined have released 55 of them during the crossing, so we've got lots of great temperature measurements.

On the plankton sorting side of things, I found the "catch-of-the-day" during my watch... two worm larvae that were good enough to photograph and keep! One is called a nectochaete (pronounced neck-toe-keet) and the other (which has a really odd shaped head) hasn't been identified by name by any of the senior scientists. I also found a tadpole shaped larvae that we are investigating further.

The galley cooks pulled out all the stops with today's menu. We had our choice of biscuits with sausage gravy, eggs any way you like 'em, crepes, pancakes, bacon, sausage and steak & eggs. For lunch they set up a taco bar with hard & soft tacos, ground beef, chicken & steak fajitas too! Then for dinner we had shrimp-stuffed filet mignon wrapped in bacon, salad, corn chowder and fried cauliflower... with rocky road ice cream for dessert. MMmmm! Ice cream is definitely a great way to end such a fun day! More tomorrow!

Today's Coordinates:
06:39:22  S 58 deg 37.43' W 058 deg 54.98' air 3.0 deg C, ship speed 10.7 knots, winds 20-22 knots, water 3943 m
13:28:28  S 59 deg 27.91' W 057 deg 55.41' air 2.0 deg C, ship speed 10 knots, winds 25 knots, water 3552 m
17:14:45  S 59 deg 55.35' W 057 deg 22.10' air 1.8 deg C, ship speed 9.8 knots, winds 23-25 knots, water 3708 m
20:47:32  S 60 deg 21.94' W 056 deg 49.80' air 1.0 deg C, ship speed 3-5 knots, winds 20-26 knots, water 4025 m

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