Making the Crossing

Saturday February 1, 2014

RVIB Nathaniel B Palmer bridge

A view of the bridge on RVIB Nathaniel B Palmer

Today we are three days into our crossing of the Southern Ocean to reach Antarctica. The marine geology labs are out of commission because of the transit, in case of rough water. With all our materials stowed, we will not be taking core samples until we reach the Antarctic continental rise. Instead of focusing on the science portion of our cruise, the transit has allowed us to focus on the actual sailing. For many, it has been tough to adjust to the constant rocking of the ship but luckily, the weather has been good so far and we are making progress to our destination. While some of us have been adjusting, or “getting our sea legs,” others have been working tirelessly to carry out the business of sailing a research vessel. While we will focus on the scientific exploration of the expedition, we could not begin to collect data without the sailing expertise of the bridge officers. We had the chance to talk with Captain Sebastian Paoni, Chief Mate Brandon Bell, Second Mate Rob Potter, and Third Mate Pete Kaple to gain some insight into their experience. It is the responsibility of the crew on watch to ensure that we sail safely in addition to getting us to our desired destinations.

As we approach the continent, Captain Sebastian and the lead scientists have been discussing our course. Because the concentration of ice is a major limiting factor, they have been analyzing the most current ice imagery available in order to pick out regions that are accessible. While our principal investigators have an idea of where they would like to go, it is ultimately up to the captain to determine if a region is safe to enter. As captain, Sebastian knows the behavior of the various types of ice that we will encounter, as well as how our specific vessel will interact with that ice. It is this expertise that we rely on to explore new areas safely. In addition to maintaining a safe course, it is the responsibility of the bridge crew to ensure the safety of any marine technicians or researchers participating in operations on the main deck of the ship. The bridge crew will position the ship so that the back deck avoids large swells, and will monitor the actions of the people on deck. This is an added precaution to the safety measures from our training session that will be enforced on deck; a doubly safe system. While it is important for us to take as many samples as we can from as many places as possible, safety is the most important part of an expedition. Without the knowledge of our captain and crew, none of our scientific research would be possible.

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