Sunday, January 29, 2006

Greater Number of Samples?

My last entry had a huge gap before it and I would just like to give you an idea of why things have become so hectic. We started the season sampling from the zodiac to collect two bottles per depth, a 1 liter black Teflon bottle for our delicate samples and a brown plastic gallon bottle for our pigment filtrations. Pigments are a sample taken to define the types of biological matter present in the water; this is frozen and sent back to the US for HPLC analysis. These were taken in this order and each depth would take about 5 minutes to sample from. This has increased to 8 bottles and the time required to sample each depth is about 15-20 minutes. So things have changed more than slightly. I thought over the next couple days I would run through the reasons for increasing the amount of samples and explain what these samples are used for.

Back when we were experiencing early growth of a pretty large phytoplankton bloom, we realized that the DMS samples (delicate gas samples) needed to be sampled out on the boat instead of trying to re-pour the samples after getting them home. The reason for this is that the phytoplankton are more apt to create DMS while being disrupted. There is not really any good way to keep from disrupting them while transferring them from the black bottle into a sample vial. This is one of the difficult sampling situations we had decided against back in the beginning of our stay. This is unfavorable for us due to the increased amount of time out in the boat pushing our very full day back and potentially sacrificing our ability to perform well on rough sea days. We fear this from the aspect of seasickness and loss of good sampling technique.

Since we started this type of sampling we have had better reproducibility until the bloom really started to produce. A couple samplings later it became obvious that there was still some DMS production occurring in the samples. Too many of the phytoplankton were getting into the samples so we had to resort to increasing our time out on the boat again. This time the answer was to pass the water through a Nytex mesh screen to remove a large portion of the phytoplankton. Since the transportation of the samples with the phytoplankton still insolution was the cause of extra DMS, this simple screening keeps the DMS levels stable and our analysis more exact.

The next issue…

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Too long of a pause.

Wow!  It has been a very long time.  We are getting near the end of our stay here and it is really starting to become obvious how much we have to complete before we pass the whole operation over to Maria.  If I have not said it before Maria Vila is a Graduate student from Barcelona Spain who is here to take care of our project for the last month.  She has had a whirlwind training period but she will have everything under control.

So in the last seven days all of the ships have left and gone on their way, mostly everyone who stayed were holding out for our hurricane to have passed.  Yes we recorded hurricane force winds here; up to 78 knots!  Not only did this event clear up keep us inside but it completely changed the dynamics of the phytoplankton colonies that we were investigating.  This changes things for us but it is a part of the natural organization here.  Well now that all of our sailing friends are gone we are all alone.  This is good but it has been very nice having visitors.  We have built great relationships with all of the people here at the station but when people are limited to anything we crave a little variety.  Plus the people that have made it all the way down here on their own boats are a special breed and bring great stories.

Kerry and I are really starting to crave home but that should be expected from anyone that has come down here to work endless hours in the lab for almost four months.  We also have many things to catch up on like my thesis needs to be finished this semester, something I was supposed to have time to work on down here.  But all of this pull to get home will not completely outweigh the erg to stay here with our new friends.  I am already starting to realize how difficult it will be to leave.

Oh yeah… today is my sisters birthday! Happy Birthday Joy!  Another reason to get home is to see my family.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Successful sampling and Boats galore!

After yesterdays failed sampling trip we were determined to succeed in sampling today.  We were so lucky for the weather that we had today.  It was so clear and beautiful that we were able to see the Mountains in all of their glory.  Better than that our sampling went smoothly letting us soak up the sun and take in the sights.  While we were sampling at station E we saw the Clipper Adventurer entering the area from the Lemaire Channel.  The Clipper was due for tours of the station earlier today but had some better sights to see on their way.  We left E and while sampling at station B the 338 foot cruiser came by us with only three people out on deck watching their entrance to the harbor.  I don’t know, but they must have been serving drinks or lunch inside for so few to be out in the beautiful weather.  If I had paid $10,000 to get on a boat in Antarctica I would be stapled to the bow.  This makes four boats in the harbor right now, Amazing!  I had no idea that we would ever see anybody down here except for the scientists and staff.  I have to say that it is not bad to have people coming around asking questions about what we are doing and being truly interested in hearing about science that we are conducting.  It is also nice to see new faces and hear about the outside world.  The New York Times is not always the way to get information.

Our other guests are the Canadian vessel Sedna IV, the Chicago Vessel of two Onora and the Spirit of Sydney from Australia.  These boats are all sailboats.  The Onora and the Spirit of Sydney are family owned boats that are on fun trips while the Sedna’s trip may be fun their goal is to complete a documentary about climate change in Antarctica.  The crew that will be on this boat for the next year, during a winter over deployment, is the very same crew that filmed a documentary on climate change in the Arctic.  They have very kindly given the station a copy of the series; it is five DVD’s filmed in HD.  This series was on the Discovery channel.  Last night they visited us and gave us a wonderful overview of their early filming and a nice little talk from a scientist on board studying cold tolerance in Antarctic birds.  This was very nice and educational.  

The Onora crew joined us for this presentation making this gathering even more special.  Jim and Jean Foley have been circumnavigating the globe throughout their retired lives.  This is their second long trip lasting 1 year.  But 10 years ago they went on a 3 year tour of the world and traveled around the entire globe.  They are documenting their trips on a web site at .  We are all looking forward to seeing more of all of these people, we are talking about having them over for dinner tomorrow.  

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Slammin Seas

At 7 o’clock this morning I thought I had had my great experience of the day when I stepped out of the bio lab front door and almost fell over an elephant seal.  He was very playful and cute but this very cool sight was greatly lessened by the awesome seas that we experienced today.  We could see this morning that the winds were going to make going out and sampling station E very interesting but we really had no idea what was really happening out there.  Let me explain this a little better.  The southern side of Anvers Island is where we are located.  We have no protection from the raw ocean.  There are some rocks here and there that help a little, but not enough to call protection.  So when we get a northerly wind it brings us open ocean built waves, we saw what this really means today.  So after two days of a steady wind and a low pressure system quickly approaching, we should have known better.  But the wind measured at the home station was only 13knots, so we headed out for our Thursday morning samples.  Just after we had made it out of hero bay the waves picked up to 3-4 feet and they were tight spaced.  By the time we made it out to the tip of Bonaparte pt. we were pretty well shaken.  We had determined that we would make it out to station E and determine the feasibility of sampling out there.  We motored on rising up and down in the swells which had grown to 5-6 feet.  The waves would twist the boat allowing waves to plow over the side of the boat burying Maria in water.  Every time we twisted I would correct to stop the flooding, eventually we were heading the wrong direction.  I looked down to check the GPS, not 2 seconds later the boats’ nose was in the air and we were falling off the backside of a huge wave.  We landed hard and the boat momentarily bent in half.  All of our equipment made an attempt to evacuate the boat, and we almost lost Ron and Maria over the side.  This was the turning point.  We were still more than a mile away from station E and we had been motoring along for 20 minutes.  Turning around in the waves that had built to 7-8 feet was a little hairy but we made it fine and we were on our way home, with the waves.  Lots of Fun!