29 April, 1999
At 5:30 AM, word came down from the bridge that there were icebergs and loose ice in the vicinity. This could be potentially dangerous when the ship is creeping forward with an expensive and heavy piece of equipment hanging over the side. If a piece of loose ice were to strike the cable, it could give the ZAPS sled quite a bump. Several of us climbed the 5 floors of stairs to the bridge to see the icebergs. We were greeted by yet another of the many surreal sights destined for visitors to the ends of the earth a pitch black sky with some kind of light precipitation casually descending through our bright search lights which were trained and held on a huge, double ice berg off to port. It was lit up in brilliant contrast to the dark sky and dark sea by a spotlight whose path was defined by the reflective trails of the precipitation, like shooting stars. The ‘bergs were silently lurking, like barracudas or a nest of wasps, with little “growlers” (they growl as they scrape against the side of the ship) schooling around the ‘berg like buzzing wasps, occasionally slipping free from the eddies that form around the berg’s environment. And the iceberg does produce its own environment - Stephen Pyne describes in his book , The Ice, how a ‘berg forms its own microcosm that is a self-similar picture of the greater whole, Antarctica (students: what is self-similarity? What popular branch of mathematics deals with this? What types of natural systems demonstrate self-similarity?). Pyne shares how the iceberg releases accumulated nutrients into the surrounding waters, which feed algal blooms. These in turn attract zooplankton, which draw other organisms, resulting in a “small marine biosphere.” Physically, not only does the berg interact with currents, but it even lowers local air temperatures, though the extent of this is extremely limited and a function of its size.
Woke up again at 3 PM, went out to watch the sunset before the night’s work began. Tonight it was fairly clear until a low hanging, furry, gray cloud descended like a shaken blanket onto the surrounding seas, effectively smothering out the sky from view. In the distance I saw another berg stealthily creeping towards the ship. I knew that the mate on the bridge would be watching the radar for its whereabouts in this limited visibility.
Back in the lab, the day-shift people are bringing in their equipment, popping open film canisters onboard their towed instruments, and downloading stored data from their CTD after a day of surveying an interesting formation on Hook Ridge. Dr. Klinkhammer’s ZAPS data and intuition (based on years of study and experience) point him to this structure on the ridge that bathymetric data shows to resemble what Sven Petersen said was a “caldera-like depression.” We shall begin a series of ZAPS surveys of this area while the GEOMAR group interprets their data and develops their film for further refinement of where the best possible location to find a vent might be. So everyone is scurrying around, either closing up shop from their shift, or preparing to start the next one. In addition, tonight we are meeting as a group to discuss preliminary findings and consequent plans for the remainder of the trip.
The interesting thing about this investigation is that it pulls so many strands together the biology of classifying fauna in the search for key indicator organisms, the geology of interpreting structure, the chemistry of analyzing samples for elements and compounds, the engineering involved in keeping the equipment in order and modify things on the fly. Yet all of this is brought together under the umbrella of oceanography as all of the data is interpreted and of all the consequent activity is coordinated. Each brings his or her interpretation of the data to the meeting and together a plan will be hammered out. As expected, when there are multiple viewpoints, the discussion becomes more enthusiastic, with many more interesting ideas and counter-ideas to weigh out and hold in mind in order to arrive at a wholistic picture. Debate is natural, as keen minds each process parts of the puzzle. After much discussion and impromptu presentations, a plan is developed that has us at the ridge for at least another night. We will explore the valley to determine the source of a strong plume detected a few nights ago while we allow the sediment around the caldera feature to settle from earlier activities conducted by the day crew.
That’s all for tonight,
Latitude (S): 62 11.3 Longitude (W): 57 16.4 Time (GMT):2021
Depth (m): 1023 Temp (C ): 2.6 Barometer (mbars): 1006.8
Wind Speed (m/s, knots): 6 11.7 Wind Direction (degrees) 278
Salinity (ppt) 34.1 Relative Humidity (%) 83.4
Student Weather Station
Barometer (mbars): 1014.4
Temperature (Celsius): 3.6
Relative Humidity (%):85.1
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