We slowly made our way into the narrow mouth of Andvord Bay, guarded by steep mountains on either side that are covered in thick snow and glacial ice. There are a huge number of massive glaciers along the sides and at the head of the fjord. Each of these sheds large chunks of ice into the ocean which then slowly drift about the fjord. We make our way around the ice while Humpback whales spout in the distance. The sight is breathtaking; certainly rivaling some of the most beautiful places on earth. Though the ship is loud, there is a peaceful quiet outside as one looks around surrounded by towering peaks and blankets of soft snow. Working hard for the next few weeks will not be half bad with this amazing sight right outside!
Sampling in the fjord has been productive so far! One of the first operations was towing the Acrobat system; an instrument which measures water properties such as temperature, salinity and fluorescence. Right away there were interesting results that were investigated further with targeted CTD (conductivity, temperature depth) surveys across the fjord sill. We will continue targeted sampling to further resolve some of the possible patterns we are seeing in our data.
We also conducted the first two Blake trawls in the middle basin of Andvord Bay. These trawls allow us to collect animals living on the surface of the seafloor and identify the animals we are seeing in our images of the bottom. The first was small as the net fouled on its floats during the descent, but it still provided us with interesting animals. Of note were two stalked sea pens, numerous polychaete worms, ice fish and sea stars. Our second trawl, however, was quite the sight. As it was hauled up on deck, the benthic ecology team realized we were in for a treat. The net came up full of animals and soupy mud. It was quickly oozing all over the deck much to the disgust of the physical oceanography team who would be working there after us. When the net was opened a flood of mud came gushing onto the deck; our playground for the next 8 hours! We even caught one big boulder! There were sea stars, sponges, jellies, octopuses, fish and worms of all kinds! We sorted the bounty of animals for several hours painstakingly photographing each one and deciding what animals were destined for what analyses. At the end of the mayhem we had samples for stable isotopes, fatty acids, genetics, morphology and much more. It will be exciting to see what we catch in the next trawl!
Written by Amanda Ziegler.