7 March, 1999
March 7, 1999
Greetings from Pine Island Bay! We've taken a lot of cores in the last 24 hours! The night shift took several piston cores during their shift, and we started off with a piston core that was filled with glacial till. The stiff sediments that we found tell us that the exact spot where we cored was covered by an ice sheet at one time. We know this because till is formed under glaciers. While we were just getting the core on the back deck of the ship, a minke whale surfaced -- right at the back of the ship! It was so close . . . and really neat! We were in and out of sea ice all day today. Whenever there's a lot of ice, I especially like to look out the portholes of the dry lab where we work. While watching the ice, I was able to see lots of seals and penguins. It is really neat to look at, but ice slows down our speed and makes it difficult to get good data on the multibeam. All of the noise from crushing the ice makes it hard for the sonar to work correctly.
I would like to spend some time over the next few days telling you about some of the people I work with on the ship. The scientist in charge of the day shift (when I work) is Ashley Lowe. Ashley is very excited that we are finally in Pine Island Bay. She is a graduate student at Rice University where she is working on a Masters degree in Geology. For her research, she is studying Antarctic marine geology. Specifically, she is looking at the stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. By studying the sea floor, she plans to determine the retreat history of the ice sheet since the last glacial maximum. Although Pine Island Bay is her major study area, she will be comparing the Pine Island Bay region to Sulzberger Bay and the Wrigley Gulf areas that we recently left.
Ashley is from Lincolnton, North Carolina. She is 24 years old, and she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a major in Geology in 1997. Although it took Ashley a while to actually declare Geology as her major, she has always enjoyed that parcticular field of science. As a child, she had a rock collection and all of her science fair projects always centered around geology. She began college as an Environmental Science major with a concentration in Geology. After her sophomore year (and before she even took a Geology class), the Environmental Science program dropped its Geology concentration. Ashley talked to members of the Geology Department and decided to declare Geology as her new major. After one class, she knew that she had made the right decision. For her Senior thesis, she worked with her professor to look at long lines of depressions in the Blue Ridge Mountains and helped him classify these lineations as fractures. She always wanted to attend graduate school, but the right opportunities didn't seem to fall into place after her college graduation. After talking with a friend who was at Rice University, she called Dr. Anderson and set up a meeting. He wasn't able to take another graduate student at that time, but he offered her a job as his assistant with the understanding that she could begin working on her Master's Degree at Rice University the following fall. Last year, Ashley's two primary jobs were to help Dr. Anderson publish a book and to work on a web page for the department's Gulf of Mexico research. She started her Master's program this fall, and will graduate from Rice University in the spring of 2001.
Now, let's spend some time looking at yesterday's question: "Where do you suppose that we get fresh water for drinking, cooking, and washing on the Nathaniel B. Palmer?" We get our fresh water by distillation -- which means that salt water is boiled to separate the salt from the water. The heat to boil the seawater comes from the engines. It seems that they get a bonus out of the process -- the water is heated for distillation, and the engines are cooled (which is a good thing)!
When the water evaporates, only pure H20 evaporates . . . leaving behind all of the materials that are dissolved in the water (including the salt). Those remaining materials are released back into the sea. The water vapor is then cooled and condensed back into pure liquid water. In fact, this water is so pure that we really shouldn't drink it. As a result, they actually add chemicals at the bromide treatment plant before the water is sent out through the rest of the ship.
This ship can make up to 13,000 gallons of water per day, but we are averaging closer to 3,000 gallons per day during this cruise. For one thing, we have a small number of scientists on board (only 9). In addition, our research doesn't require the use of lots of water (and some research projects do). We do use water to wash off our core barrels; but the hose we use squirts sea water, so we don't have to use water that has been purified. In addition, there are lots of ways that the ship conserves water. For example, the toilets use much less water than a regular toilet, and the showers all have low-flow shower heads. The two biggest uses of water on the ship are the kitchen and the washing machines!
After the water is used, it goes down the drain . . . but where does it go from there? We actually have a wastewater treatment plant aboard the ship. All water (toilets, washing machines, dishwater, sinks, showers, drains, etc.) goes to the treatment plant. They have something called an OmniPure System aboard the ship, which uses a transformer to create a high amount of D.C. (direct current) voltage. This voltage is used to electrocute the wastewater -- which kills any harmful bacteria that may be living in it. This is especially necessary because of the sewage in the water. Once the wastewater has been treated, it is safe to release back into the ocean. There is a holding tank that keeps the treated water until it reaches a certain volume, and then it is discharged (about 4-5 times per day). This is a very good method of treating water before it is released. It is especially good that they don't have to use any chemicals to treat the water (like most places do). We wouldn't want to dump any chemicals into this fragile environment.
Since they are so careful about the Antarctic environment, what do you suppose happens to the trash that is produced on this ship? What about the trash from McMurdo Station? We'll look at that in tomorrow's journal! By the way, we moved our clocks forward another hour today. Now, we are only 2 hours behind Indiana time! Thanks for all the email . . . I love the questions and the journal topic suggestions!
Latitude: 73 degrees 23 minutes South
Longitude: 105 degrees 24 minute East
Temperature: -7.3 degrees C
Barometer: 969.2 mb
Wind Speed: 16.3 knots
Wind Direction: 222 degrees (from the Southwest)
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