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April 2015 - Palmer Station, Antarctica

Welcome Aboard!

An Aggie Welcome from College Station by Andrew Klein

Andrew's head

Welcome to B-518's Island to Ice blog for the 2014-2015 austral summer field season. Three of the B-518 team, Steve Sweet, Terry Palmer and I find ourselves heading to Palmer Station, Antarctica, on April 2-4th. Steve Sweet, Chuck Kennicutt and many others from the Geochemical and Environmental Research Group at Texas A&M worked at Palmer in the late 1980s and early 1990s in response to a fuel spill that occurred when the Argentine Polar Transporter Bahia Paraiso ran aground just off of the station. This incident is what got Texas A&M started in the Antarctica environmental monitoring business. Steve and I were at Palmer last season, but this is the first full year of field work here for our team so it is a mix of new and old for us.

There is a great webcam at Palmer Station so you can see the current conditions.

I have recorded a short video using Google Earth that shows how we are going get to Palmer Station and some of the other locations we may head to as we sail on the Gould.

Compared to McMurdo Station, Palmer is much smaller housing about 40 people at its maximum population. It is located on Anvers Island off of the western coast of the Antarctic Pennisula.

We will also be posting to our new IslandtoIce facebook page https://www.facebook.com/IslandtoIce so please visit us there where you can post questions and comments.

Howdy from Palmer Station, Antarctica!

This will be B-518’s first blog of the season.  Steve and I arrived in Punta Arenas, Chile, on the 3rd of April and Terry joined us on the 5th. From then on it has been an interesting trip.  Before we left Punta Arenas, Chile on the Laurence M. Gould (LMG) we went to clothing issue to receive the cold weather gear that will enable us to safely work in the cold and wet conditions at Palmer Station. We also took the time to ensure that all our equipment was on board the Gould or had already been taken to Palmer Station on an earlier cruise.

LMG coming into Punta ArenasLMG coming into Punta Arenas

We slept aboard the Gould on the night of the 6th. Steve was the lucky one who had a stateroom. Terry and I were housed in the hold in a modified milvan shipping container that is called a “man can.”  After a few delays we set forth from Punta Arenas at about 3 pm on the 7th. We went eastward through the Straits of Magellan and down the eastern side of South America toward the Antarctic Peninsula.
On this LMG cruise (our cruise number is 15-04) there are a number of science projects including the The physiological and biochemical underpinnings of thermal tolerance in Antarctic notothenioid fishes which did some scientific trawling for fish on the way down. Another project, the Boundary control of upwelling in Southern Drake Passage: Whither Weddies? is picking up gliders that they deployed earlier in the season.  Another project is a pilot study examining the Addition of biological sampling to Drake Passage transits of the ARSV Laurence M. Gould.

Leaving Punta ArenasLeaving Punta Arenas

We also had the fortune to sail with the Principal investigator - Janet Sprintall of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography - of the project The Drake Passage high-density XBT/XCTD program (click on the link for AX22). This project which has been done on the Gould for many years deploys a sensor that provides temperatures to a depth of 900 meters.  People aboard the Gould have the opportunity to take a 4 hour watch and deploy the XBT probes at specified locations.  B-518 team members participated in two watches each day.  It is nice to have the opportunity to add to this extensive dataset.

Terry Deploying an XBT ProbeTerry Deploying an XBT Probe.  

Other than helping with the XBT probe, B-518 team members constructed sampling core tubes that we will use for our marine sediment sampling later this season.

Steve and Terry constructing sediment core tubes
Steve and Terry constructing sediment core tubes


The finished product - but are they as good as last years?
The finished product - but are they as good as last years?

During the cruise, B-518 team members also worked on scientific manuscripts, enjoyed the view from the bridge and reading and watching movies.  Sadly connectivity to the internet was limited to 10 MB per day so surfing the web was not an option for the team and we couldn't update our blog!

Fortunately the weather in the Drake Passage during our crossing was very good for the first four days of the cruise. On the fifth, the winds picked up while we were trawling for fish off of Low Island. As the winds picked up to between 50 and 60 knots (57 to 70 mph), we had to abort the fishing efforts. Needless to say the LMG rocked a bit the day before we came into Palmer Station.

A nice day in the Drake Passage
A nice day in the Drake Passage

Terry aboard the LMG
Terry aboard the icy LMG

After 5 days of sailing from Punta Arenas, B-518 arrived at Palmer Station yesterday, April 12th.  We pulled into the station at 10 AM, and were allowed off the Gould at 1 pm.  We spent the afternoon in a rapid succession of orientation meetings – all the way from safety and a tour of the station to how to help the cook and properly dispose of our garbage. 
It was good as we met many people we have known at Palmer from last season as well as some folks we have known over the years from McMurdo Station. We must be old timers.

Palmer Station - we have arrived!
Palmer Station - we have arrived!

Our next blog will feature our first days at the Station so check back soon!

Our research would not be possible with many other individuals at both campuses who work hard on the program all year round. You can visit our entire team at our Participants Page. I would especially want to thank Paul Montanga, Terry Wade and Jose Sericano for their support as we strive to expand our monitoring efforts across the continent.

Those following our blog this year, as well as those who have followed it in previous seasons, will learn that science is impossible without the support of hundreds of individuals both within the Division of Polar Programs at the National Science Foundation and those working for the Antarctic Support Contract. While some of the individuals who work most closely with our project will be mentioned often in our journal this season, our research would not be possible without the efforts of many more.

I would like to take this opportunity to name just a few of the many who have helped us over the years. First, I wish to personally thank Polly Penhale who has supported our research for many years. Second I wish to thank Maggie Knuth has helped support our work at CRREL and at now NSF.

Work in Antarctica requires a huge amount of logistical support. As our season progresses, I will take time to highlight the contributions made to our work by various support personnel, but right now I would just like to take time to mention Judy Shiple and Jamee Johnson who for helped in the planning efforts for this somewhat last minute deployment. Jamee will be coming south and will be working aboard the Gould.

Finally, I want to give special thanks to Mahlon "Chuck" Kennicutt who got this project off the ground and guided it for more then a decade. I hope that retirement is treating you well. I think we all strive to be the Antarctic scientist that you are hope that maybe someday a geographic feature will named after us too.

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