November 10, 1995
Location: 62 16" South Latitude x 57 48' West Longitude
Update: We spent most of the day Sea Beaming to produce sea floor maps of the
entire ridge area near King George Island. We want to have maps that are as
detailed and complete as possible to help identify probable sites of
hydrothermal activity based upon the sea floor topography.
We have been under a major high pressure weather system for the last three
days. The weather has been clear with light winds that pushed most of the
ice in the Strait in this area up against the shore of King George Island
forming pack ice. I spent a couple of hours as we were beaming just
scanning the ice. We saw our first whale near the ship. Because of the ice
it was difficult to get a good view, but the consensus aboard the ship was
that it was a type of whale called a Minke. Minke whales are about 25 feet
long and light gray in color. The have a snout similar to a dolphin, but it
is wider and not quite as long. The whale was spotted from the bridge, and
the word spread through the ship quickly. People made their way out onto
the deck to catch a look for themselves.
I saw the most penguins that I have seen on the entire cruise today. The
penguins had made their way across the pack ice from King George Island to
the open water. I saw more than a dozen small groups of 10 or so penguins
in the time that I was looking. They are interesting animals. They seemed
to be unimpressed by our ship and continued on doing their own business.
The pack ice is a spectacular mix of spires, caves and cathedrals of ice.
As you look across the pack ice it is possible to imagine that you are in an
old European city. The shapes of the bergs trapped in the pack ice look
like churches and bridges, tunnels and turrets. The collection of ice is
constantly shifting, and the whole scene reminds me of watching children
playing with blocks. Each time you look, there is a new grouping of the
same blocks, but each arrangement is new and different in its complexity
Some of the bergs on the edge of the pack had tunnels that looked like
caves worn through their entire length by the pounding waves. The light and
shadow in these caves cause the water in them to appear a brilliant glowing
turquoise blue. It was beautiful contrast to the dark blue sea pounding
against the ice around theses cave pools.
By the time that my watch started, we had completed our Sea Beam surveys,
and the geophysicists were confident that they had mapped the sea floor as
completely as possible. The decision had been made to try a second drift
using the ZAPS sled along the ridge near King George Island to look for
other hydrothermal vent areas. We started this new drift at 5:00 PM. The
captain on the bridge kept the ship on a heading traveling along the seven
mile length of the ridge. We stayed on this course by positioning the ship
so that it caught the wind like a sail. The wind was pushing us on a track
that that was west of the ridge, so the captain used the engines to back up
a little at a time to get us back on course.
At about 9:00 PM The OSU team found another peak in the manganese
concentration in the water along the surface indicating that for the second
time this week that they had located a probable location of a hydrothermal
vent. This is really extraordinary. Consider that a vent is typically a
feature on the sea floor about the size of a small car. The ridge that we
were surveying is about 2 miles wide and 8 miles long. Think about how
difficult it would be to find your parked car in a parking lot this size in
the dark. It is really like finding a needle in a haystack, and as of today
the OSU team has found two needles. Because of the detective work done with
the Sea Beam surveys, the OSU team was able to follow the ridge along
topographical features that would indicate that vents were present. It was
primarily due to the cooperative effort of the OSU and Texas groups that the
search for vents has been so successful.
At about 2:00 AM we had finished our survey of the ridge using the ZAPS
sled. Our next objective will be to return to the Scotia Sea in the Drake
Passage to do some seismic work. Everyone hopes that the good weather
remains with us.
Mercer: I apologize for any typo or grammatical errors in these updates.
I usually do them after watch when most the crew and science teams are
asleep. I am both writer and editor, and I know that some obvious mistakes
are making it to the final update. I am trying to proof them more
thoroughly. I am glad to have the Mercer students on-line. I look forward
to their questions.
Itchy@utexas: I am glad to have you on-line. I hope to add some
information over the next week about each of the science teams members from
UTIG and OSU so that readers can get to know them. It has been very calm so
everyone is doing well. We are expecting to sea rough seas again in the
Drake. We all hope that our sea legs are ready and we all avoid being sea sick.
Sparta High: I look forward to your questions. Given the extreme
conditions here safety is a major concern. We have fire and safely drills
every week. I plan on devoting an update to safety plans on the ship.