Landfall: Visiting Subantarctic Islands in the Atlantic Ocean

Life Aboard Ship

#19 July 14, 2004

#18 July 11, 2004

#17 July 6, 2004

#16 July 5, 2004

#15 June 30, 2004

#14 June 27, 2004

#13 June 23, 2004
Bouvet Island

#12 June 20, 2004

#10 June 16-17, 2004
South Sandwich Islands

#9 June 13, 2004

#8 June 9-10, 2004

#7 June 4-6, 2004

#4 May 26, 2004

#3 May 23, 2004

#2 May 19, 2004

#1 May 16, 2004
Punta Arenas, Chile

May 14, 2004
Landfall: Visiting Islands in the Atlantic Ocean

June 16, 2004
South Sandwich Islands

May 30, 2004
Falkland Islands

May 26, 2004
Science on the NATHANIEL B. PALMER

June 24-26, 2004

June 15, 2004

May 30, 2004

Questions & Answers
June 16, 2004, off the South Sandwich Islands


Zavodovski Island, one of the 11 in the South Sandwich chain, has an active volcano and no signs of bird nesting areas or seal colonies.
Zavodovski Island is the northernmost of the South Sandwich Islands, which extend southward in a shallow arc open to the west. Their bathymetry is basically unknown, so the first thing we needed to do when we arrived was to do a bathymetric survey. Because we arrived at night (in the fog, with icebergs all around us), we did not want to go inshore but kept our distance, so we stayed out in 200-500 meters (650-1625 ft.) of water and made a complete circuit of the island recording the bathymetry with our multibeam and precision depth recorders.

It’s a very interesting place (but you surely would NOT want to live there) because it’s a single cone active volcano, rising symmetrically about 1700 feet (550 m) from sea level. Much of the time it has been totally or partially obscured by fog and the frequent snow squalls, but it was clear enough for a while in the afternoon to allow us to see the crater clearly. Although the Pilot describes it as having no snow on the lower slopes owing to the warmth of the ground, it is now all covered by snow. One of us, Rich Eakin (University of New England, Biddeford, ME), was here in 1975 on an Argentine research vessel and, at that time, there was no snow on it and it not only was emitting continuous fumes, smoke, and debris, it could easily be smelled from the ship. Now it seems to be quiescent, although we did see frequent (but not continuous) belches of white steam or smoke from the top.

Our survey (in conjunction with the data we got while approaching the island) showed that Zavodovski rises increasingly steeply from the sea bottom and that there really is no “flat” ground near it. Nevertheless we decided that we really had no choice but to take the risks involved in sampling (after all, we came to get critters here, and none of these islands will be easy to sample) we used our toughest piece of equipment, the Blake Trawl, to make bottom collections. Unfortunately, we lost one complete Blake Trawl in doing so. It seemed OK for a while but when it hung up, tension rose rather suddenly to 12,800 pounds and both bridles broke. So we left a permanent souvenir of our visit. Interestingly, Rich Eakin pointed out that his earlier cruise also lost or damaged quite a few Blake trawls making similar collections. Perhaps somewhere there is a large pile of them rusting on the bottom!

After visiting Zavodovski Island, we came back to an interesting pair of twin islands, Candlemas and Vindication, also in the South Sandwich chain, which are both active volcanoes with a one- or two-mile wide channel between them (where we spent the morning sampling). SPECTACULAR. Not a living thing on either one, no penguins, no seals, nothing we could detect. Just snow, fumes, ice, and lava rock, and shorelines composed of blocks of ice and huge falls of frozen sea spray. Forbidding is not a strong enough word!