Only two short months ago we were all here in Punta Arenas, Chile, offloading from the Laurence M. Gould. Samples were shipped, equipment was stowed away, and scientists and crew went their separate ways. Now, our teams are assembling once again for the second cruise of the project. (Visit the rest of our webpage for a detailed look at our previous cruise and more information about the FjordEco project).
This second cruise will be aboard the Research Vessel and Ice Breaker (RVIB) Nathaniel B. Palmer. The 308 ft vessel holds 27 crew members and 43 scientists who will all call this vessel “home” for the next 32 days. This vessel not only supports vessel-based research but also supports zodiac operations for land-based projects, as well as helicopter operations for transport to field sites and aerial sampling techniques. Prepping and mobilizing our gear for the cruise fell on Easter this year, and there was certainly no shortage of holiday spirit or candy with the galley staff providing whole chocolate bars (a hot commodity on a month long cruise) and others donned playful bunny ears. Our cruise begins with a 4-day transit across the Drake Passage to the shelter of the western Antarctic Peninsula. We ensured a safe crossing by rubbing the toe of the famous Magellan statue in Punta Arenas. We will begin our work at Station B, a site on the outer continental shelf located near Palmer Station on Anvers Island. We will then move into the fjord to continue sampling for the remaining days (>20).
During this cruise, one goal for the science party is to recover moorings deployed in November-December 2015. The moorings must be recovered in order to retrieve data and prepare them for the next year as these will not be visited again for approximately one year. All moorings will ideally be turned around within the first week or so of the cruise if weather is cooperative, mainly ice conditions. Ice in this region makes mooring work a risky business. Sea ice can move in quickly endangering instruments while they are at the surface while massive icebergs can damage even deep moorings. We will be anxious to see if the shallow moorings survived the passages of large icebergs during these past few summer months. During the previous cruise, we were surprised to have found a mooring >5km from its original deployment location which had been dragged by an iceberg even with >600lbs ballast attached proving that ice can make it quite challenging to work in this environment. Once the moorings are recovered, the physical oceanography team led by Dr. Peter Winsor will work to download data from all of the instruments, charge batteries, ensure that everything is working properly, and redeploy them again. These physical oceanography moorings will provide data about the water circulation in the fjord and help to relate this to patterns observed in productivity and animal distribution. The benthic ecology team led by Dr. Craig Smith (chief scientist) will also be recovering two sediment trap moorings and a time-lapse camera mooring during this cruise. These moorings will help collect data relating benthic food supply (particles sinking to the seafloor) and animal responses over time in the fjord.
In addition to servicing moorings, the team will also be using zodiacs to access weather stations and time-lapse glacier cameras on shore. It is imperative that we service this equipment before the coming winter as power failures or other problems could limit the amount of data retrieved over the next very long deployment. The science party will also be conducting a wide range of chemical, physical, biological and geological sampling (see Project Summary for a more comprehensive look at the sampling). Stay tuned for MUCH more about all of the fun and interesting work we’ll be doing!
Written by Amanda Ziegler.