Wednesday, February 9, 2011

February 9th: Back in Punta Arenas

Traveling through the Neumayer Channel.

Ian in Neumayer Channel.
Sunset pulling into Punta Arenas.
 Hello everyone.  I was a day off in my last update, probably because I was laying down most of the time and didn’t really know what day it was and I also wanted to be off of the ship.  Anyways, we finally made land fall today in Punta Arenas at 2:00 in the morning.  Most of us were sleeping, but we could not get off of the ship anyway because we had to be cleared by customs to come in to Chile.  The last day and a half was a lot smoother as we travelled up the east coast of Chile and into the Straits of Magellan, which was a relief for everyone.  Even if you do not get seasick it is not fun to see others not feeling well.  I forgot to mention that we were sleeping in our metal cans again, which I described earlier in the blog on our way south.  I got the special room this time, which almost felt like a jail cell inside of the metal can.  It was nice not be sleeping in a bunk bed though.

After breakfast the ship’s crew starting offloading all of our freight and I went with a small group to walk around the city and get some spending pesos for our stay in Chile.  Around noon we got to move into our hotel.  It is so nice to have a private room and shower.  I cannot say that enough.  We will be here a couple of days and then be off onto our flight back home. 

Thank you everyone for your interest and I hope you all enjoyed our stories and experiences.   

Ian and Mark signing out from our Antarctic voyage.

February 7th, 2011

I am going to brave a couple words on the computer and hope it doesn’t make me sick.  We are one day away from land and we have had a good crossing so far.  The waves have approached 20 feet over the last couple of days and left a lot of us laying in bed and waiting for good weather.  I have not been feeling well, but have not had to throw up yet.  On the good side it is nice to catch up on my sleep. 

I did get to spend some time up on the bridge this morning and was amazed to see how much the ship moves around with the waves and yet is able to keep upright and get us to our destination.  There is not much to do on the boat at this point.  People are mostly reading and watching movies since everything is packed up and it is hard to work on computers during this weather.

I can’t wait to step off on land tomorrow.  We are planning a dinner with all of the science folk to celebrate a great cruise and then everyone will start flying out the next morning.  

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Few Photos

Feb. 6, 2011
Ian's "favorite" evermoving iceberg and remote navigation hazard

Editor's Note: Cal Poly Professor Mark Moline and Senior Researcher Ian Robbins have left Palmer Station, Antarctica, and are en route from Antarctica to Chile. They indicated Internet access would be spotty, but managed to send a few of their favorite Antarctica photos to Cal Poly. Here they are. -- Teresa Hendrix

Professor Mark Moline with the beneficiaries of his research and NSF grant: penguins.

Out to the Open Sea

Feb. 5, 2011

Mark Moline, me (Ian Robbins) on a typical summer day in Antarctica

Since we were in a hurry to get down here five weeks ago due to snowstorm delays for a lot of the U.S. scientists, our ship did not take the scenic route along the Antarctic Peninsula. Today we are traveling through massive snow- and glacier-covered mountain ranges that grow right out of the ocean.  

We traveled up the Gerlache Straight and then headed into the Neumayer Channel which narrowed at times to only a mile or two. The sun was shining and the water was very still, which reflected all of the surrounding beauty as we passed by.  We were hoping to see Orca
whales, but so far we are unlucky in that quest.

As I speak we are heading into open water and will begin our 4 day journey. We will be looking at nothing but the ocean. The original weather forecast was not looking to good, but now looks like it will only be a little bumpy.  

This as been an amazing journey and today was the perfect end to our stay in Antarctica.

Goodbye, Palmer Station

Palmer Station group photo
February 5th,  2011
After a wild and crazy night, our ship left the dock this morning at 10:00.

Last night, the Palmer Station band played 28 songs and we had a big Mexican dinner fiesta. Everyone talked about what they were able to accomplish over the month. 

We woke up this morning and made sure that everything was on the ship and out of the
station buildings and then said our goodbyes to the people we had been living with for the last month. After spending a month with such a small group we had grown pretty close with a lot of the people living on station.

Since we do not have any plans to come back, it was hard to get so close to people and then leave knowing that we would probably not see any of them ever again.  And then on the bright side, we knew we were getting one step closer to our families back home, which made everything okay.

Friday, February 4, 2011

February 4: Last Day On Station

Laurence M. Gould here to take us home.
Our chariot arrived this morning at 0730 to take us home.  I wanted to wake up to watch them pull in, but they were a little early so I only got to see them throwing their lines over to tie up at the pier.  Everyone was excited to be off of the ship and walking around.  Now the madness ensues to get everyone’s cargo on board and samples offloaded.  Since we are leaving tomorrow morning, everyone is scrambling to get everything taken care of.  We moved out of our rooms and will be moving on the ship shortly too.

Fur Seal
Antarctic Tern
Yesterday I got to take an amazing farewell trip with the birders to look for a tagged Chinstrap penguin.  We got to go to Dream Island which is a long boat ride away.  The penguin wasn’t on the island yet so we got to relax for an hour and see if it came back from foraging.  The bird group had to stay close to the nest, but I got to go hike around the island.  There was a small cave and these beautiful rock formations all over the island.  I accidentally ran into a Skua nest and was then chased away by the parents.  I almost forgot, but I saw a Fur Seal, Weddell Seal, Elephant Seals, 2 kinds of penguins, an antarctic tern and it chick.   I finally went back to join the birders to make sure that I didn’t get left behind.  The tagged penguin never returned so we came back to the station to eat dinner.  Afterward, Mark gave a science talk about his research back home and then explained what we were doing down here.  Everyone was very excited to see what we had been doing and to see some of the preliminary data.

Well everyone it has been an amazing ride down here.  I’m not sure what the next couple of days across the Drake Passage will be like, but I imagine it will not be as smooth as the trip down.  Hopefully I will only be sick for one of the days and not all of them.  We don’t have Internet on the ship so I will be emailing Teresa at Calpoly who will be posting my emails and some pictures on the blog so check back periodically to see how the crossing is going.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

February 3: All Packed Up

Adelie Penguin chick.  If you compare this picture to the earlier Adelie chick you can see that it is now getting some real feathers and coloring instead of its all gray fluff.

Well, everything is all packed and in a container to go on the ship.  We spent the last two days taking the vehicles apart to get the batteries out for shipping and then putting them back together.  Once the vehicles were all packed we started with all of the accessory stuff that makes our operation possible.  We had to make sure that everything was packed properly and in the correct boxes so that it makes it back for us to go on our next trip to Palau at the beginning of March.  We handed the packing lists and boxes off to logistics, which will take care of labeling everything and making sure it gets home as quick as possible.  Hopefully everything goes smoothly.

Chlorophyll a concentration.
This is a very interesting limbo period for us now.  We are very excited to have had a successful trip, but now that everything is out of the water and we don’t have to worry about things we can feel our bodies relaxing and we find ourselves very tired.  We also know that we are getting close to being home, but still have 10 days until we get there.  We get very excited thinking about this, but that leads to letting our emotional guard down that has been up for the last month to protect ourselves from missing our families and home life too much.  There is always a little (or a lot of depending on who you talk too) of emotional control that a person needs to have when going away on these long trips and managing that control can always be hard at times.

Acoustic Backscatter.
I'm not sure what the last couple of days will bring here, but the ship comes in tomorrow and we will move out of our rooms on station and back onto the ship.  We still have a lot of data to go over and we need to make sure that we share the data with all the groups we are working with before we leave.  We will also probably try to sneak in a boat trip or a hike. 

I forgot to post an example of the data we have been seeing down here, so I added a couple of quick plots from the REMUS.  The first plot is chlorophyll concentration,which indicated if and where the microscopic plants that krill eat are located. In the second plot, acoustic backscatter is plotted,which indicates where the krill are located in the water column.  For both plots, hotter colors indicate higher concentrations.  For the acoustic backscatter plot, ignore the dark read lines which are noise and look at the blue coloring at deeper depths and the red layers closer to the surface.  The white line down the middle is the vehicle's path.  As I stated in my last post that we have almost 100 hours of this, which we will have to go and examine over the next year and compare with penguin tracks and ocean satellite data.  Scary, but exciting.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

January 31st: Final Sampling Day

Ian with vehicles in laboratory 1 at Palmer Station
Well, we completed our final REMUS mission today and got the vehicle back. Mark had one more area that he wanted to cover with the vehicle today so we sent it out across the Bismark Straight to the Wauwermans islands. This was the last area that the penguins had been traveling to that we had not yet explored. It had been raining for most of the day. When we were getting ready to go pick the vehicle up the rain started turning into a heavy thick snow and the wind began to pick up. It was a beautiful scene to pick the vehicle up in on our last day. We also went and picked up the acoustic transponders that the vehicle used to navigate back to the station.
Mission Control, where I spent most of my time.
After we deployed the REMUS today we went and picked up Matt’s University of Delaware glider. It has been in the water for three weeks now and still looked remarkably clean. Normally during a glider deployment they start accumulating small marine organisms that like growing on it, since it is a hard substrate that is moving around. Matt was very excited to have it back in the lab.

So everything is officially out of the water. Even though we lost a couple of items and damaged a couple more, we have had a very successful field campaign. With our REMUS vehicles spending 100 hours in the water and traveling over 550 kilometers during our stay down here, this has been the most intensive sampling effort we have ever undertaken.

Good night, Ian