Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

» About the Antarctic Expedition

  • Week 1

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  • 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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 WHOI Senior Scientist Rudolf Schetema pauses for a contemplative moment on the volcanic slope before we begin our downward hike back to the beach. (Regina Campbell-Malone)

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 A panoramic view of the center of Deception Island. The Gould is anchored in the water-filled volcano  pore. Wake from a beach-bound zodiac is visible leading away from our steel-hulled temporary home. (Regina Campbell-Malone)

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Scared of Skuas? This resting skua may not seem intimidating, but these huge and hearty gulls are very aggressive. They eat puffins, penguin eggs and chicks, and anything they can steal from other (sometimes larger) birds. (Regina Campbell-Malone)

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 This is just one of the many whale bones scattered on the shoreline of Deception Island. It is a jawbone from a baleen whale (presumably a Southern Right Whale, judging by the size). Note the dark black sand.

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 This is a close up of a Syllid worm that came up in a sample. No one was having fun with a marker, these are its natural markings! No wonder it got the nickname "The Happy Cat" worm. (Thomas Dahlgren)

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 This is the tail of one of the humpbacks that we saw today! The whales swam together and stayed around the boat rubbing one another and swimming belly up for more than 15 minutes. (Regina Campbell-Malone)

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 This image captures a pair of humpback whales surfacing, while a nearby Cape Petrel gets hit with whale blow! From high up on ship's deck, we could see the whale's white pectoral fins even when the whale was 5-10 feet underwater! (Regina Campbell-Malone)

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 Belly Up! The whales flipped over often as they swam together. They swam belly up side by side and stroked one another with their pectoral flippers. This picture shows one of the humpbacks belly up with it's right pectoral flipper visible out of the water (the left on is submerged). You can see the bumps (called tubercles) on the trailing edge of the fin. It is thought that they make the flipper glide through the water more efficiently! (Regina Campbell-Malone)

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The white from of the CTD can be seen clearly through the deep blue surface waters off the Antarctic Continental Ice Shelf. Plankton tows through blue waters such as these contain low concentrations of algae, but are often rich in other primary producers such as diatoms.
(Regina Campbell-Malone)

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Sorting animals hauled up in the net. (Regina Campbell-Malone)

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Breaking the Ice: A view of the port sponsons ("ice breakers") that push the ice clear of the hull. (Regina Campbell-Malone)

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Leopard seals and crabeater seals (like this one, lying on a floating tile of blinding ice) pay close attention as the ship approaches.  They move to the safety of another ice tile if needed. (Regina Campbell-Malone)

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This is a view from the ship as we passed through the ice on our way to the Gerlache Straits. The sun had set one hour before this photograph was taken at 1:30 am... and it rose again around 2:30 am. At this time of year, it doesn't get "dark" but twilight is spectacular! (Regina Campbell-Malone)

December 8-14, 2004

December 8, 2004
This morning we pulled through the narrow passageway into the heart of Deception Island around 6:30am. A spectacular view accompanied by frigid winds that drained my digital camera's battery within one minute! The plan was to do a plankton tow and wait out a tourist cruise ship's visit to the island. So after lunching on the ship, we boarded zodiacs around 1:30pm and hit the beach running. The beach itself is a combination of medium sized pebbles and the blackest sand that I've ever seen - truly volcanic! We saw some gentou and chinstrap penguins and a few new birds including the huge predatory skua!

We hiked up the shortest of the pebbled volcano slopes to a bluff that overlooked a small bay. Various sea birds, including cape petrels, were roosting on cliff outcroppings cliffs surrounding the bluff. A large seal floated in the water below us. When we hiked back down we investigated some whale bones on the beach - including a half buried jaw bone - all left over from when this was a major whaling station. You know that was right up my alley!

We walked along the beach for over half a mile and checked out the architectural remnants of the whaling station. There were some tin shanties, several old wooden dinghies and a tin-walled airplane hanger. The man-made structures were far less impressive than the natural view!

While walking back we saw one of the zodiacs stopped midway between The Gould and the beach. Then we noticed splashing, several black "bodies", and flippers in the water just off the zodiac! We rushed to the water's edge to see what kind of seal or dolphin or penguin the zodiac had stopped to see... one of the bodies went right up to the boat! Then we saw that there was a tank attached to one of the bodies! That's when someone realized that it was not a marine animal at all - it was the dive team!! They were diving to see whale bones in 10 feet of water.

Once back on board we dined and put out the Blake Trawl for a dredge in the shallows of Deception's volcano pore floor. After betting how much mud or rock we were going to pull up after a 10 minute trawl, we opened the net and it was loaded with starfish, sea urchins, several species of palm-sized fish, sea squirts and the largest worms ever! The worms were as long as your arm from your hand to your elbow - and just as thick too!!! Lots of excitement and sun for the day!

Since we spent most of the day within the ring of Deception Island two of the coordinates may be pretty close together... happy mapping!
08:06:30 S 62 deg 56.77' W 060 deg 37.99' air 0.6 deg C (wind chill -14.3!!) winds 16-20 knots, ship speed 3 knots, depth 161m
18:41:20 S 62 deg 59.20' W 060 deg 35.35' air 3.9 deg C, winds 11-13 knots, ship speed 8 knots, depth 111 m
20:45:34 S 63 deg 00.04' W 060 deg 28.75' air 1.6 deg C, winds 13-14 knots, ship speed 8.8 knots, depth 238 m

December 9, 2004
Today's day began a bit slowly... woke up *at* 4am for my 4am shift (oops!). Rushed down only to find out that everyone had been sent back to bed until 5:30am because there was no work to do until we got on station for the next plankton tow. The plankton tow was pretty sparse... there were some salps and a few worm larvae that got beat up in the net pretty badly (yuck!). Mild rain and deck swamping waves made deck work and XBTs more of an adventure than usual.

My mid morning nap was cut short by a phone call... I looked at my watch... "11:48?!" I thought. "My buddies are usually good about not letting me miss a good lunch, but calling *this* early was jumping the gun a little bit!" My roommate, Pat, answered and told me it was Chief Mate Scott up on the bridge. He said he found a whale and we'd be near it in a moment if I was interested. "Are you kidding me!? Of course I'm interested!" I was on the bridge with 2 cameras a coat and gloves in the time it usually takes me just to get out of bed!!

Scott pointed off the starboard bow and said "There's the whale. I think it's a humpback." I went outside on the bridge deck and hollered back "nope, there are two! and they're heading this way." Scott already was holding the ship steady in position. The whales approached us from the starboard side and came within 15 meters of the ship!

I got some great photos using a super-zoom digital camera on loan from my boss (thanks, Michael!). They swam near each other going belly up, rubbing one another, and fluking (showing the underside of their tails before diving). One image shows the pectoral fin of the smaller whale. You can see the bumps (called tubercles) on the trailing edge of the fin. They make the whales flipper glide through the water so efficiently that aerospace engineers (airplane designers) are looking into adding them to the wing design of new jets!

I was so excited that I skipped my regularly scheduled "nap #2" and stayed up downloading, editing and shrinking the images to post. One thing I didn't get a photograph of was something that came out of one whale's mouth when it was quite far away. I *think* it was ambergris (commonly known as smelly, oily, floating whale barf!?!) which was once used as an ingredient in fine perfumes and colognes. Perhaps we could train "Bob" our favorite whale sniffing dog to smell that! Ok, off to make up for lost sleep. I hope you all enjoy the photos as much as I loved taking them!

08:22:22 S 63 deg 09.15' W 062 deg 59.94' air 3.0 deg C, winds 18-20 knots, ship speed, 9.0 knots, depth 915 m
13:58:50 S 63 deg 22.71' W 062 deg 22.80' air 1.6 deg C, winds 12-17 knots, ship 9.5 knots, depth 118 m
18:57:18 S 63 deg 21.26' W 061 deg 31.03' air 1.9 deg C, winds 8 knots, ship speed 0.5 knots, depth 1074 m

December 10, 2004
I'm afraid we had a really slow day today. Dive operations last night had us behind schedule by about 2 hours. Good news was that we got some much needed extra sleep this a.m.! Saw Anvers Island in the distance for the first time... it looks HUGE! Just how close to Palmer Station are we? Can you tell from these coordinates?

06:53:53 S 63 deg 24.73' W 061 deg 42.51' air 2.2 deg C, winds 20 knots, ship speed 10 knots, depth 1089 m
09:54:14 S 63 deg 38.97' W 062 deg 14.20' air 2.7 deg C, winds 27-30 knots, ship speed 10 knots, depth 259
16:44:41 S 64 deg 02.68' W 063 deg 23.99' air 1.0 deb C, winds 17-19 knots, ship speed 10 knots, depth 648 m
19:40:41 S 64 deg 08.23' W 063 deg 41.93' air 2.5 deg C, winds 11-15 knots, ship speed 10.5 knots, depth 207 m

December 11, 2004
Today we're steaming southbound... Part of the cruise plan called for a trip below the Antarctic Circle (an arbitrary latitude line down here just south of 66 deg)! The "Three Musketeers in Charge," the Captain (Captain Mike Terminel), Chief Scientist (Ken Halanych) and Marine Projects Coordinator (Skip Owen) had to wait and see what the weather conditions were like down here before making the call.

Quite often this region is iced over or is unstable (in the process of breaking up) and would prevent us from coming so far. The weather forecast looked great and the ice shelf wasn't built up so the boat could make it to all the stations planned so far! We reached our second station of the day in a glassy calm region near the Continental Coast far south of Anvers Island.

The sun was shining, the sea was flat like a mirror speckled with Cape Petrels and tiny bits of broken up ice! A plankton tow brought up a juvenile starfish larvae which we hadn't seen anywhere else. Finally, a whale was spotted off in the distance, surfacing, blowing and disappearing into the endless sea of scattered ice.

Five more hours of steaming ahead of us before we reach the next station... and that doesn't even account for dive operations stops during the night. Another good night's rest ahead!

02:53:00 S 64 deg 47.46' W 065 deg 41.34' ship speed 1 knot
18:20:42 S 65 deg 02.41' W 065 deg 59.92' air 1.9 deg C, winds 6 knots, ship speed 7.5 knots, depth 200 m
20:03:53 S 65 deg 05.74' W 066 deg 25.81' air 0.5 deg C, winds 5-7 knots,ship speed 10 knots, depth 503 m

December 12, 2004
Today was "*Surprise* It's Time for a Plankton Tow Day!" Ken Halanych, our trusted Chief Scientist, plotted different stations that he wanted to visit on a local nautical chart (just like the one you may be plotting on!).

As we headed toward the station, if we met an obstacle that would prevent us from reaching that station (like an ice shelf!), the bridge would tell him that we were as close as possible and we'd have as little as 10 minutes notice to get dressed and man our stations for a plankton tow.

The plankton tows are coming in cleaner and clearer the further south we go... that means there is less green algae in the water and fewer organisms. Through Drake's Passage, and for most of the voyage since then, the water itself is a vivid blue color! You can see the color in this picture of the CTD's white frame coming to the surface.

It is not like the turquoise color of hot tropical waters, but a deep sapphire blue that tells oceanographers that there is little algae in the surface waters. When there is a lot of algae the water is cloudier, browner or greener (like we see on New England beaches). This might lead to very different organisms being found here than in a coastal community that relies on algae at the bottom of the food chain! We'll see...

Tonight around 23:20 (11:20 p.m.) we crossed the Antarctic Circle (S 66 degrees 33.000')! A crew member told me earlier in the day that there was a strange ritual that all who have never crossed the Circle have to go through... Something about someone being crowned King Neptune!? The crew decided not to initiate us into the "Antarctic Circle Club," but many of us came up with our own ways of celebrating.

I took a quiet moment alone to look around at the calm water and icebergs from the bow of the ship before joining some of the crew and science staff on the bridge. There, we took photos of the latitude/longitude screen and looked at our position on the chart.

Another group "sacrificed" a spoonful of Manjar (a Chilean caramel sauce that tastes great on apples) to the Sea Gods. Meanwhile, science continued! As we drifted across the Antarctic Circle, a plankton net was deployed. Dive operations were scheduled during the night and we're scheduled to wake up to a benthic tow being pulled up to sort.

05:49:24 S 65 deg 37.97' W 067 deg 45.32' air -0.4 deg C, winds 3 knots, ship speed 0.0 knots, depth 207 m
11:37:43 S 65 deg 43.86' W 068 deg 21.92' air -0.6 deg C, winds 3-4 knots, ship speed 9 knots, depth 420 m
13:00:06 S 66 deg 01.11' W 068 deg 47.67' air 0.2 deg C, winds 6-8 knots, ship speed 10 knots, depth 335 m
20:01:26 S 66 deg 17.10' W 069 deg 20.59' air -1.6 deg C, winds 7 knots, ship speed 9.6 knots, depth 443 m
23:22:36 S 66 deg 33.00' W 069 deg 59.52'!!

December 13, 2004
My shift woke up this morning to our southernmost station and an incoming Blake Trawl at 5:30am. The net had gotten hung-up on the bottom and had come back with a 5 foot tear in the 6 foot long net! Only a single starfish clung to the net - and I'm told it was an amazing specimen unlike any others that we've seen. We decided to retire the old net (whose nickname was "Patches" since it had obviously seen better days). So we cut our losses, packed up and headed North.

The evening shift went a little smoother. With a new net on the Blake Trawl, we tried again. When the net was hauled in it seemed awfully heavy for the small load that we could see. When Skip Owen opened the net we saw 2 huge, heavy granite rocks (knee high!)! Scattered around the rocks were enough associated bottom dwellers to make it a good catch (including fish, some really big worms, sea urchins, starfish, snails, clams and more).

We're still steaming north toward the Bismarck and Gerlache Straits, to the east of Anvers Island. Are those labeled on your map? There we will do the last of our benthic sampling in the local bays before pulling into Palmer Station on the morning of the 16th.

Today's Coordinates:
09:46:56 S 65 deg 59.76' W 068 deg 52.16' air 0.2 deg C, winds 5-7 knots, ship speed 10 knots, depth 334 m
~16:00 S 65 deg 41.25' W 068 deg 05.31'
20:10:13 S 65 deg 26.67' W 067 deg 25.45' air 2.3 deg C, winds 2-4 knots, ship speed 11 knots, depth 149 m

December 14, 2004
I was called to the bridge this morning when a whale was spotted in the distance. After an hour of spying it between long feeding dives I saw the V-shaped blow and tell-tale fluke shape that told me it was a Southern right whale. This species of whale is the circumpolar cousin of the North Atlantic right whale, which I study! It was too far to photograph, but great to admire from afar.

After a few minutes sleep this morning, I woke up to the sound of rushing water and thought "my roommate has been in the shower for a very long time!" I rolled out of bed and realized that the bathroom was empty, the shower was off and the noise was coming from the wall. It was the sound of ice & water rushing across the hull of the ship - The Gould was breaking through ice for the first time on this voyage!

The ship is well equipped with sponsons or icebreakers which are outcroppings at water level that move ice away from the ship as it pushes through frozen seas. They are also called "water wings" because they look like stubby wings on the starboard (right) and port (left) sides beginning midway down the ship and extending more than halfway toward the stern. They push ice out and away from the hull just like a street snow plow pushes snow toward the curb of a street.

The view from the bridge was spectacular - ahead was the sea, covered in a mosaic of large, flat tiles of snow- covered ice separated by floating bits of crushed ice. Behind us, the boat left a clear path bordered by slowly sinking ice pile trim.

Every now and then small dots would pepper the ice tiles. As we approached the dots we realized that they were seals! If a seal was close to the path of the ship it turned its head toward the boat and yelled at it like my grumpy neighbor used to when kids ran on his lawn chasing after a ball! Then the seal would slide its hefty body along the ice until it was safely out of harm's way.

We passed penguins on the ice too. They looked really funny flapping their wings and running in circles! The mountains and pastel-colored sky look spectacular just after sunset when they are reflected in the flat water between ice flocks. Heading north through the Gerlache Straits tonight. Hope you can keep up!

00:28:53 S 65 deg 09.39' W 066 deg 48.20' air 1.0 deg C, winds 2-3 knots, ship peed 10 knots, depth 642 m
15:22:40 S 64 deg 47.61' W 065 deg 13.06' air -0.2 degC, winds 13-15 knots, ship speed 5-6 knots, depth 699 m
23:16:55 S 64 deg 51.50' W 063 deg 57.71' air -1.7 degC, winds 3-4 knots, ship speed 6 knots, depth 413 m 

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