Aboard Ship, Dispatches From South of the "Roaring Forties"
#19 July 14, 2004
#18 July 11, 2004
#17 July 6, 2004
#16 July 5, 2004
June 30, 2004
June 27, 2004
June 23, 2004
June 20, 2004
#10 June 16-17, 2004
South Sandwich Islands
June 13, 2004
June 9-10, 2004
June 4-6, 2004
May 26, 2004
May 23, 2004
May 19, 2004
May 16, 2004
Punta Arenas, Chile
May 14, 2004
Visiting Islands in the Atlantic Ocean
June 16, 2004
South Sandwich Islands
May 30, 2004
May 26, 2004
|Science on the NATHANIEL B. PALMER
June 24-26, 2004
June 15, 2004
May 30, 2004
Questions & Answers
Wednesday, June 9, 2004
I am in Grytviken, South Georgia (for cruise map, go to http://www.icefish.neu.edu/).
We arrived here around noon after spending yesterday and all night sampling
to the northeast in Right Whale and Rosalita Bays. The first thing I have to
say is WOW! The many on board who have been to Antarctica told me this was
not as spectacular as the Antarctic Peninsula, but for me it's quite amazing.
Yesterday morning I was
awakened by my cabin mate, Steven Young, a graduate student from Birmingham
University (UK), who told me we were in South Georgia
I couldn't quite get my eyes open then, but he came back again a few minutes
later and I decided I had better get up. I looked out of the port and saw
a massive wall of rock streaked with snow going up into the clouds (about 500
feet altitude, I think). I got into my clothes as fast as I could, grabbed
my binoculars and my "outdoor" camera (it is a Panasonic digital
with a 12x stabilized 35-420 mm telephoto lens), put on my heaviest sweater,
polar fleece vest, parka, boots, gloves, and hat and rushed up to the bow.
I stayed out so long I skipped breakfast. I can eat anytime.
The old whaling station at Grytviken, South Georgia.
When I got out on deck
I saw what was, I think, possibly one of the most wonderful views I have
ever seen. We were in Right Whale Bay on the northeast coast,
setting fish traps and trawling, and it was snowing steadily. The Bay is a
fiord with steep walls, and on the places where there were beaches (or rather,
more gentle slopes; "beach" is kind of misleading) there were thousands
of king and gentoo penguins with an occasional fur seal, elephant seal or leopard
seal. We had a few fur seals, penguins, and the native ducks around the ship
along with icebergs and floes. Ducks, shags, and sheathbills (sort of like
a pigeon but brilliant white) flew around us occasionally, too. It was not
too cold (a few degrees below freezing) but a light breeze and the snow made
my fingers cold enough to hurt in an hour or so, so I went back in and warmed
up. When my watch was on duty (1200-1800) it was really a pleasure to be out
on deck working with snow falling and surrounded by the spectacular scenery.
We made a tow with the Blake trawl, an otter trawl, and picked up the fish
traps that were set early in the morning. The results were not too good although
we didn't tear anything up or lose any gear, we got hundreds of pounds of glass
sponges (this type of sponge has a skeleton formed of siliceous threads and
cannot be handled without thick gloves or your hands fill up with glass slivers
that cannot be removed!) and only a few fishes. And of course, it was a calm
sea because we were in protected waters, and that was nice too.
This morning I spent at
the King Edward Point laboratory of the British Antarctic Survey. One of
the scientists there, Suzi, and I are collaborating on a study
of snailfish egg-laying in the local deepwater crabs. I "met" her
about 6 months ago when another correspondent of mine wrote to tell me that
the lab had collected some crabs with snailfish larvae living in them, sent
me her e-mail address and suggested I contact her if I was interested. I
immediately did. I had wanted to study this curious behavior for years, but
had not had
the chance. Suzi wrote back enthusiastically and we planned a joint study
using new specimens she has and those she thought she could collect from
observers in South Georgia waters. By a wonderful coincidence, I was actually
going to be here and today we finally met in person. We had a great time
looking at fish, talking, and walking around the lab and the long-abandoned
about 1960) whaling station.
She has been saving snailfish adults and larvae that the fishery observers
have collected, and they will be extremely useful. At my suggestion, some
of the larvae have been preserved in ethanol for genetic analysis. Because
larvae do not have adult characters, they can't be identified using just
physical characteristics. Genetic analysis allows us to match eggs and larvae
Then we can describe the eggs and larvae so they can be identified using
the "usual" characters.
In addition, she has been keeping some of the larvae alive. She started with
over 20, and two are still alive after 3 months, so she must be feeding them
the right things: egg yolk, shrimp meat, and some fresh plankton once a week.
Thursday, June 10, 2004
The cemetery where explorer Ernest Shackleton is buried. His stone is the grey one in the upper left.
Last night the ship hosted
the station personnel for dinner, and the lab had the ship crew and scientists
over for a party at
their bar. There are
members of the British Antarctic Survey here at KEP (including a doctor),
and the scientists stay for two unbroken years; support staff stay for
times are uninterrupted by vacations to anywhere else. They perform scientific
studies, license and inspect the toothfish trawlers, provide medical
services for fishermen when needed, run the Post Office, act as Customs and
for visiting ships (quite a few smaller cruise ships stop here in the
summer), and everything else you can think of that might occur here. All of
at least two hats", and they are very versatile people indeed. They
get mail and some supplies once a month or by serendipity from other planned
by ships, and have e-mail but no Internet or telephone except by radio.
It's a spectacularly beautiful location, but very isolated, so they are
and have to be able to cooperate with each other. I think this would be
difficult when kept indoors for days by bad weather in the winter when
days are very
short, but there is no choice - they do it. They were all uniformly cheerful
and it was clear they had formed a unit. They share housekeeping duties,
so they rotate responsibilities for cooking, cleaning, "night watchman",
etc. A few weeks ago they held a South Georgia Half-Marathon in which
all or almost all of them participated. Suzi and I will be in contact
we will be able to send specimens and information back and forth through
the Falklands, but irregularly and at relatively great expense. So, we
organize now to make this work efficiently.
We leave at noon today, so I'm going to cut this off to go and work on
some fish with Suzi. More news in a few days!