While at Palmer Station, we were able to socialize with the station crew who spend several months away from friends, family and the outside world, to maintain the station and conduct research. The science party was invited to dinner at the station where we mingled and chatted with people, listened to an evening science talk and soaked in the station hot tub. Many of us also made the climb up the hill behind the station to get fantastic views of a nearby glacier. It was nice to be outside and on land for a while.
During our final day on station, much of the science party was busy rearranging the ship as we had offloaded lots of supplies for Palmer Station and were preparing for our future science operations. Three of us were lucky enough to sample the sea ice outside the station. We were interested in dissolved iron and the phytoplankton that directly utilize the sea ice, commonly referred to as ice algae. As we walked out onto the ice pulling our sampling gear on sleds, we were careful to watch for linear features signaling the presence of cracks and used ski poles to probe the surrounding snow until we felt ice beneath every step. Once at our sampling location, we used a manual corer to drill into the sea ice and collect our samples. The sea ice was thick for this time of year (about 70cm or more) and had a thick layer of slush on top beneath the snow cover. The cores had visible brown layers of diatoms, the dominant phytoplankton in the Antarctic. Samples were brought back to the ship by sled and even an Adelie penguin made an appearance, curious as to what we were up to on the ice. For all of us involved, it was a great experience and should yield some great data!
Later that evening we pulled away from Palmer Station while waving goodbye to the station crew. We will return after a month of science in Andvord Bay; a fjord located to the east of Anvers Island and our primary study site. A few miles away from the station, we deployed an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) mooring for a scientist working with the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program. LTER projects provide long term datasets on a wide range of oceanographic properties which are invaluable to scientists for establishing trends and changes especially in the face of climate change.
We then slowly made our way through thick sea ice to our first site known as Station B where we deployed a sediment-trap mooring. This mooring will collect four months of the food which slowly makes its way to the seafloor to feed a rich community of animals. We then made our way toward the Gerlache Strait, the narrow body of water separating Andvord Bay and Anvers Island. Once there, we deployed two physical oceanographic moorings. The physical oceanographic moorings will measure temperature, salinity, and currents over several hundred meters of the ocean at this location. The moorings took several hours of planning for safe and smooth deployments and were the first of many more in the next few days.
Written by Amanda Ziegler.