Wednesday January 29, 2014
We are back in contact after two very busy days spent preparing for the crossing to Antarctica! The past 48 hours were completely filled with packing, knot tying, and hatch battening. But the most exciting part is that our ship is finally underway! Even though Hobart gave us a wonderfully warm welcome, everyone was glad to be pulling away from the dock this afternoon. There were many steps involved in getting ready for sea, and Tuesday and Wednesday morning were spent finishing up the final touches.
Tuesday: The student contingent arrived on board early and finished up some last minute lab preparations. It was a group effort securing the various boxes, coolers, buckets and tubs for the voyage but we did get to take a break amid the mass of bungee cords and rope. The Australian Antarctic Division welcomed our group and gave us a tour of some of their labs and research facilities. In addition to seeing many things that were familiar (microscopes, diatom species, overly large freezers), we were exposed to many new sights and innovative tools. One polar scientist showed us a system he developed that mimics the Antarctic climate in various tanks, allowing for the study of Antarctic Krill. Researching krill life cycles and the effects of acidification on krill gives insight into some of the consequences that may result from the acidification of ocean water by elevated carbon dioxide levels. The polar scientist’s work is an interesting contrast to ours in that he is studying current and possible future conditions and climate whereas we are studying ancient ones. It was certainly a nice break from the heavy lifting on board. Tuesday afternoon was spent finishing up the packing and double-checking that everything was secure. After verifying that our labs were ready, the entire crew of researchers and ASC staff met for a safety briefing. Our final farewells to land were made on Tuesday night when most of the crew members left the ship to eat their final meal with the feel the solid ground beneath their feet, one last time before shipping off.
Wednesday: The morning began with more farewells, as Australian customs agents arrived at 10:00 am to ensure that each of our crew members had obtained the proper visas to both leave and re-enter the country. Following the customs inspection, our student group cleaned our lab one last time before the 1:00 pm departure. This was not just to tidy up but more specifically, we had to make sure that we cleaned away any potential carbon contamination sources. In order to accurately date core samples, carbon isotope ratios are used, so any modern carbon sources in our lab could skew these data. Seven of us armed with soap and water made quick work of cleaning the lab. Shortly after finishing up, it was time to depart! Our ship pulled away from the dock right on schedule, and it was very exciting to be sailing towards our destination.