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>Seas: What seas? Flat as a pancake
>Winds 1 knot
>Temp -0.7 C ; w/ wind chill –0.7 C
>Location: Latitude 64 degrees 52.47’ S; Longitude 63 degrees 45.17 W

Above, The LMG crossed the line to the Antarctic Circle on Dec. 13. The "line" is just below the LMG flag.
Below: A microscopic image by Susie Balser of Isopod, one of the crustaceans that are often seen in the benthic tows.
Bottom: The famed "green flash" above the setting sun. For details and a larger image, click on the photo.
Click on each image for larger view.

14 December 2004

The ride to Palmer Station.

Everyone onboard is anxiously leaning toward Thursday when we will dock at Palmer Station and have the chance to walk on land again — and even more excitingly, on glacier. We’ve spent most of the day moving at varying speed through flat flowing ice. Watching from the aft deck, we are mesmerized by the jostling turning chunks of ice — some green on the bottom with algae, others blue with age. We have seen leopard seals, crab-eater seals (that really eat krill), and penguins lying on the ice — and even knowing that they have insulating hair or feathers and inches of blubber, we shiver a bit.

The ice flow limits the collecting we can do — hard to pull a net through water filled with giant ice cubes. The divers, at the moment — 12 midnight — are contemplating a dive, trying to determine if the ice is broken apart enough to allow safe ingress and egress. Personally, I find this kind of diving akin to something visualized by Dante — but can imagine the crystal beauty the divers surely see. The sun set thirty minutes ago, but the sky is still light.

The ship is equipped with sonar, which is used, in part, to look for large ice blocks submerged below the surface. We discovered this fact a few nights ago, when in great angst we were convinced that one of the many albatross or Cape petrels had somehow become trapped behind the wall of our cabin. This chirping was without end. After looking in all the cupboards and on the deck above our cabin, we made for the bridge to report to the captain. The captain, with a sly smile and a "I’ve answered this one before" look, informed us that the chirp was the returning sonar signal.

As Dr. Balser has mentioned above, the bottom of the sea ice is often greenish-brown in coloration. The basis of this pigmentation is a community of microalgae called diatoms that inhabit brine channels within the ice. Thus these species "overwinter" entombed in icy and salty chambers. In the Fall and Spring months when the pack ice is intact, these autotrophic protists use light that passes through the ice to drive the process of photosynthesis. During the Spring breakdown of the pack ice, the diatoms are released into the water column, and they are responsible for a rather incredible algal bloom. These diatoms are important sources of food for krill and serve as the base of the planktonic food web in the waters that surround Antarctica.

Tomorrow (really later today) we will steam to Paradise Bay — one of the truly most beautiful places on this planet.

Cheers to all


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