11 October, 1995
Wednesday, October 11, 1995
Research: Day Three This day could end up being a day from another chapter in the story about a teacher that went on a research trip
It has snowed all day. Not just snowed but a blizzard - the wind has been blowing 30-35mph all afternoon and the snow has been piling up on the deck at the rate of 1-2 inches per hour and it is cold. 0.0 degrees centigrade - just at freezing but do not forget to add in the wind chill factor. At one time today, the thermometer read -0.0 degrees. I tried for a long time to figure that out...the humidity is 99.6% and the barometer is dropping 1-2 millibars per hour. It was at 1002 this morning and it is now 2123hrs and it is at 982.6 millibars. Oh my gosh, its gone up .4 millibars.
It is still blowing out and the snow is still coming down and with the barometer at this level the captain says we might have good weather tomorrow. The problem with that statement and I'm still trying to figure that out is that he might be right. The weather fronts move so fast through this area, that by the time the barometer has recorded the pressure, the new front is on its way or in
the process of arriving.
We get our shipboard weather forecast from the University of Wisconsin...they provide all the Antarctic weather through their internet server - yesterdays forecast after an explanation of the highs and lows and all the etc. etc., was for the Polar Duke: "the weather for today will be perpetually crappy, but tomorrow it will be better as it will be partly crappy." I know which part we had today.
We are on a 24 hour sampling project today so all of us will be up al day and night sampling every 2 hours beginning at 0600hrs and ending tomorrow at 0600hrs. You can learn to work on 15 minutes of nap at the end of the sampling period. So today my day was like this: I got up at 0415 to have some coffee and private time to myself since there would not be any for 24 hours. This is not a big ship at 215 feet and sometimes it seems to shrink in a matter of minutes.
Our first sampling was at 0600hrs and I'm outside because it is the only way to break up the monotony of running filtration pumps for two hours. Rigging the underwater pump, uncoiling the hose, setting it in the crane, filling the jugs with -0.6 degree centigrade water and then bringing the pump back aboard, coiling it because outside it would become brittle and freeze (so it is stored inside a big chest) and carrying 50 liter jugs of cold southern ocean water is just the beginning. Remember I do this every two hours in the blizzard snow just to break up my day. Breakfast isn't until 0730hrs. I then after changing out of foul-weather gear, now watch small pneumatic pumps pump sea water through .200 and .800 micron filers as we are trying to filter the bacteria out of the sea water for identification and DNA counts later. The filtration takes about 1hour 45 minutes. So you can figure up the time scale and how much extra free time we have left. I will try to explain the entire research project to you soon. At breakfast time, I skip it and go to my cabin for a 10-minute nap and get up and start all over again. All day long for two hours, the same thing.
By this afternoon, it is really snowing and the CTD measuring device needs to be tested (temperature, depth and conductivity) It is lowered into the water for calibration at the surface and then to 150 meters deep for more calibration. AL, the polar projects coordinator asks me is I want to work outside for about an hour dropping this device into the water. It means standing out in the cold and watching the ocean with a cable dropped in it attached to the device. "Absolutely," I say, as the Flaming Trees or Smashing Zucchinis, whatever CD my ex-roomie Ross (who, by the way, is a 23 year old smoker, drinker, baldheaded, tattooed, swearing, graduate student, awesome, stellar guy,(he taught me these new adjectives)) plus the Dead Kennedy's and every other band I can't pronounce is being played in the wet lab where we are working is finally driving me insane. He is my ex-roomie because after we left Palmer Station and dropping the researchers off there, we all got our own private room for the next thirty days. However, on the way home, we will be rooming together again, as we will put some returning people on board at Palmer. I truly believe that one of the greatest rewards of my experience such as this or just travel is the opportunity to meet people who look different, act different, live in different locations, but when we meet them, we find out that they are like all of us. We need to be reminded of that as we continue to live in a world that many times appears to be growing in different directions, each direction based upon people differences, dislikes, and hatred. At least is seems that way to me. I have become a firm believer in the universal languages of music and laughter.
I have skipped lunch because we started hauling water again at noon so I sleep from 1125 to 1145. Actually my eyes feel pretty good. The sounds of the ship are intense. The CD player (those bands would drive anyone crazy) the stern thrusters, (large jets of water to help hold the ship in position,) the reversing of the props, the welding going on down below, (maintenance on a ship is on going and doesn't stop just because we are researching) all add up to a decibel lever that at times makes you want to yell SILENCE, EVERYONE, RIGHT NOW - but you don't.
It is even colder now outside as we are tied to the bulkhead of the ship with a safety line. The gate is swung away and Al and I push and manhandle this large 7 foot high conductivity, depth and temperature device with a thick electrical and hoisting cable attached to the side of the ship and the crane finally lifts it over the edge. If one of us fell in without our survival suit, death is going to come quick because of hypothermia. In fact, if you fall overboard with a survival suit on, by the time the ship gets turned around in these cold waters, the only reason they would look for you is to get the suit back as one crew member told us. They don't want to be involved in the government lost
and found paper work. I don't believe him.
It is getting dark outside and the snow is piling up. Someone has stepped in and is filling my role as pump and filter watcher, because there is now 6-8 inches of snow on the aft deck and tomorrow we are supposed to lower some buoys overboard. If we don't get the snow off the aft deck and it freezes, we will be out tomorrow chipping it off with picks, so now I am snow shoveling the snow out to the scuppers and off the aft end to throw it overboard. I have also hauled 50 meters of cable for an hour today as we tested the underwater ultraviolet radiometer. The snow has been thick and at times as we hold position on day three using Global Positioning System (GPS), the ships engines and thrusters, the pack ice seems to move back and forth, sometimes inching its way towards us in the fog and snow. Thin films of ice that look like oil slicks are forming on the surface of the water. We call it skim ice. I swear that I can see it form and it looks like it's clumping together to appear as a slimy-like cotton that bunches together. At times I see large icebergs off in the distance that look s like ghosts of a land that I don't know exists. I think of what the early sailors and explorers must have thought upon seeing apparitions on the horizons and realizing that early cultures and beliefs were based on folklore and were centered around spirits, gods, and beliefs that today seem wildly imaginative, I look out to the ghostly bergs and try to imagine if they actually look like some design or made up creature in my mind. It is late afternoon and getting colder. As I stand in my Helly Hansen rain gear, float coat, wool gloves and Thinsulate mittens and my GIG HARBOR BASEBALL HAT I think also of Shakleton and how he kept his crew together, crossed the ice pulling life boats because they knew that they would eventually need them, then spent a winter on the ice, set sail in the life boat and crossed part of the southern ocean only to find themselves on an island, but on the wrong side, and then climb over the mountains to find people at a whaling station, and after 17-19 months of this incredible adventure, not a single member of his crew died. This occurred in the early 1900's. It is one of the most exciting stories ever told and very easy to read. And I am still cold, especially my hands.
I skip dinner and go to sleep for 35 minutes. When I wake up at 1700hrs, 10 minutes before we haul water, I grab a cup of coffee and plan on grabbing a bite to eat from the pantry at 1900hrs. I am not the only person working. Two other people are sampling and running radioisotope samples and others are using the water we gather to do their own sampling. It is going to be a long night.
By ten, the snow is letting up but the temp is dropping now at -0.5 degrees centigrade, however, the barometer is rising and has gone up 1 millibar in the last hour. A large high is building towards us from the west. This could also bring cold polar continental air. I am trying to download barometric files to the laptop and to a disk to bring home. This could be a neat classroom project where we compare the graphs of Antarctic barometric highs and lows to the barometric highs and lows in the Pacific Northwest.
I probably need to stop rambling as some of you are probably saying "save some for later", however this is so unique and there have been a number of you that have said "keep telling us what is going on". The extra credit question of the day is the following:
IF THE WATER IS -0.5 DEGREES CENTIGRADE OR BELOW FREEZING AND I SHOVEL SNOW INTO THE OCEAN AND THE SNOW IS FROZEN WATER, WHY DOES THE SNOW MELT?
'Til later, thank you all for reading these reports and writing back.
Contact the TEA in the field at .
If you cannot connect through your browser, copy the TEA's e-mail address in the "To:" line of your favorite e-mail package.