Wednesday 19 November 2014

Life on board the Nathaniel B. Palmer

Life on board the Nathaniel B. Palmer
We have been living on board for about three weeks now and the ship almost feels like home. Work continues around the clock so there are always people working. There are hot meals four times a day and coffee and snacks are available all the time. To make sure we do not go overboard on the food and snacks, one of the scientist organised weekly Monday weigh-ins, just in time to see if you have to hold back on Taco Tuesday.

Ella and Rob divided the day in two blocks where Ella is working the night shifts and Rob the day. However, now that we are sampling with two GO-FLO’s on a wire, it takes a long time to collect samples. At many sampling locations (called stations) we want to collect a large number of samples and we both need to be present. This means sleep is not always easy to come by, but who needs sleep when there are metals to analyse and beautiful views to see. 
A sunset/sunrise over the ice. We are below the polar circle and as the summer is starting down here, it barely gets dark. The sun starts to set but rises just as it disappears below the horizon. In a few weeks there will be 24 hours of daylight around here. If you look carefully at the left photo you can see the ice is not a solid sheet anymore, but consists of many small pieces, called floes.

Rob’s cabin after a bit of a tidy up (guess what is behind the curtain…..)

On board, we sleep in cabins that most of us have to share with a roommate. The cabins have bunk beds with curtains that come in handy if you want to sleep during the day and do not want to be disturbed by your cabin mate who is on an opposite shift. Climbing in and out of the top one can be a challenge when the ship is rocking and rolling on the open ocean! Lately we have mainly been in the sea ice that, at this time of year, still surrounds Antarctica. So no more rolling, but if the ship is breaking through some heavy ice, it can still be quite bumpy. Every spring this ice breaks up and sunlight penetrates the water, allowing phytoplankton to flourish. The phytoplankton is the food for bigger organisms that feed the iconic Antarctic wildlife. It is still early in the season, but we have spotted some seals and whales and an Emperor Penguin paid the ship a visit! It stayed next to the ship for a long time while we were taking samples, posing for pictures and squawking at us, almost as if it was asking us what we were doing and why we looked so funny.

An Emperor Penguin and a whale. The greenish discoloration you can see in the ice behind the whale is actually phytoplankton that lives in the sea ice. These are known as ice algae.

In this photo you can see the ice algae even better

Beautiful view of the Antarctic Peninsula with the sunlight reflecting off a glacier.

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