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April 14 – 20th , 2014 - Laurence M. Gould

Mostly Fishing

by Andrew Klein

Andrew's head

Sorry that we have gotten a bit behind on our journals. With only two of us, journal writing seems to be one of the things we do not always get to. For most of this period we have been on the Laurence M. Gould doing some sort of fishing as well as occasionally using the Smith-McIntyre Grab Sampler to collect our benthic samples.

There are two science groups who are studying different things. The Chief Scientist on the cruise is William Detrich (http://nuweb.neu.edu/detrichlab/index.html) at Northeastern University and is studying Antarctic Icefish. Another group from Georgia Tech and John Hopkins University and are studying the movement of terrapods through the water column (http://www.yen.biology.gatech.edu/index.php).

Both of these groups are attempting to capture their critters using trawling. The Yen group trawls for zooplankton and the Detrich group for fish. They also set pots on the bottom to catch fish.
Because both of these groups wish to get their catch back to Palmer Station alive, we typically are doing our sampling when we leave the station for a little while and once we were lucky as we returned to Palmer at 4 AM but could not dock until 8 AM so could collect for 3-4 hours. Over this period we have collected samples from a few places.

Our travels the past few days have looked something like this and I have constructed a simple map to show where we have been.
April 14-15: Trawling off of Low Island for Icefish
April 16-17: Palmer Station Stop
April 17-18: Terrapod fishing at several places
April 18-19: Palmer Station Stop
April 19-21: Trawling off of Low Island for Icefish
April 21st: Return to Palmer

Map of our Fishing
A map of our travels

Because we are not involved in the trawling in general we do not have much to do. Most of the operation is handled by our very competent crew of Marine Techs (Matt Ulsh, Thomas Desvigne, Ryan Wallace, Tom, Sigmond) and Marine Lab Tech (Skye Moret) who are overseen by Jamee Johnson. However, we were involved in one step in the pot fishing which I will describe later. The marine technicians handle most of the operations while the scientists examine, identify, sort and process the catch. The individuals they want are moved into the aquarium tanks for transfer back to Palmer Station.

Spending time on the Gould has been one of the most interesting experiences in my life. The vistas as we have passed through the Neumeier Channel and the Gerlache Strait (aka De Gerlache Strait or Détroit de la Belgica) are some of the most stellar I have seen, comparable to views in the Andes, Himalayas or seeing Mt. Erebus in Antarctica for the first time. Sadly photos cannot do justice to the views.

Because there are only five ASC contractors and five scientists in addition to the crew, we really have a lot of space. It is nice as we each have our own stateroom and bathroom which is not the case if we were staying at Palmer Station. It is cool to go up to the bridge to see the scenery and talk to the captain and mates whoever is on duty. And because the ships complement is small you get to know them a bit. I found out that one of the engineers, Josh just graduate with a degree in Marine Engineering Technology from Texas A&M in Galveston; he is a Sea Aggie! Our captain is from Beaumont and the third mate is from Galveston area as well so lots of Texans on board.

One of the more interesting things we did was help with retrieving the fish pots when they pulled them out of Dahlmann bay. Our job was to coil the lines as they came in. You quickly find out you are not nearly as good as some of the old timer’s on board like Kevin Pedigo who is the electronics technician aboard this cruise. Fortunately the weather was as calm as could be and it was quite a neat life experience.

Fishing Pot Bouys
Fishing Pot Bouys in Dahlmann Bay

Bouys near ship
Bouys ready to be grabbed

reeling in the line
Reeling in the line

One of the neat things is that all the pot fishing gear is stored in a millvan secured on deck so when the pot fishing is complete all the gear is simply loaded back in the millvan. A good system.

In our trips we have seen lots of majestic peaks emerging from the water; whales – minkes and humpbacks and penguins shooting through the water. We have also see tons of icebergs. All very stellar. And as it is late fall, the light at sunrise and sunset can be spectular.

Senic View 1
A senic view from the Gerlache Strait

Senic View 2
A senic view from the Neumeier Channel

Our own research is conducted much closer to Palmer than we cruise – we have typically been going out 10 hours or so. Our Smith-McIntyre grabs are all collected within a few miles of the station and not far from the path the Gould takes into Palmer Station. Many of the sites originally sampled by Texas A&M scientists aboard the Polar Duke after the sinking of the Bahia Paríso are not reachable by the Gould, but we have collected many sites.

At each site, the Marine Techs along with Steve and I prepare the Smith-McIntyre Grab Sampler for use. This involves opening the jaws of the sampler and cocking them into position. When the “feet” of the sampler hit the bottom, the jaws snap shut and, in the absence of a rock, and scoop up a portion of the top 10 or so centimeters of the bottom which is returned to the surface fairly intact.

To deploy the Smith-Mac, the Gould carefully maneuvers into position and the marine techs working in concert with the ship’s crew manning one of the winches lowers the Smith-Mac into the water on the A-frame at the stern of the Gould. The grab is lower to within a few meters of the bottom, allowed to stabilize and then lowered the last few meters. When it touches bottom the cable goes slack and the jaws close. The sample is then returned to the surface. Sometimes, the grab was been empty but most of the time in the absence of a rock preventing the grab from closing we have gotten good sediment.

preparing the Smith-McIntyre
Preparing the Smith-McIntyre Grab Sampler

Smith-McIntyre hanging
Smith-McIntyre being deployed

Smith-McIntyre hits the water
Smith-McIntyre Hits the Water

Once the Smith-Mac is in its frame aboard the Gould, Steve siphons the excess water out of the grab and then we process the sample. Depending on what we need to do, we may simply stick an syringe with the end removed to suck up sediment that we deposit into a 250 m jar to analyze the geochemistry or we may stick several sampling tubes directly into the sediment inside the Smith-Mac to attempt to retrieve the upper 10 cm intact so our colleges at Texas A&M Corpus Christi can look at the benthic infauna. The sites we have selected were sampled after the sinking of the Bahia Paríso so are able to look for changes at these sites over the intervening 20+ year period.

Smith-McIntyre Grab
A small piece of the Antarctic Benthos

Andrew and Steve processing a grab
Steve and Andrew processing a grab sample