Watch closely!

February 3, 2014

Students plotting way points

Michelle Guitard and Kara Vadman plotting way points while on shift

Today is Monday. It is the first full day that the research crew has been standing an official watch. Our watches are set up into 12-hour shifts, with one shift starting at noon and lasting until midnight, and the other shift beginning at midnight and lasting until noon. This structure ensures that scientific work is occurring 24 hours a day, taking full advantage of the time that we are spending in the Antarctic. Part of every 12-hour shift comprises many tasks that need to be fulfilled in addition to our own research. Among these tasks, each member of the research crew must help to maintain accurate records by dedicating 2 hours per shift to recording the ship’s log. Each log entry includes the Julian day, time, latitude and longitude, the speed of the ship, the “Course Made Good” information (our intended heading compared to our actually heading), the water depth as calculated by a multibeam echosounder, and gravimetric readings for the strength of the gravitational field in the region that we are sailing over. All of these data not only track our location and progress but also help us define and describe ocean bathymetry and seafloor characteristics. In addition to the log information, a constant eye must be kept on seismic and CHIRP (Compressed High Intensity Radar Pulse) data. Whereas the multibeam echosounder provides data for mapping the surface of the seafloor, the information from the seismic and 3.5 kHz CHIRP sub-bottom profilers allows us to interpret the sedimentary layers found below the surface. It is through the interpretation of seismic data that we will determine where to take sediment cores and dredges.

In addition to checking on all of the seismic and standard watch data, today we had a treat provided by Scott Walker, one of the IT specialists on the ship. Despite limited internet access, Scott was able to broadcast the Superbowl on one of the computers on board. Both Scott and I are Denver fans so it was tough for us to watch, and our captain (a Seahawks fan) couldn’t help rub it in with some good-natured ribbing.

Even though our shifts are mostly quiet now, we are approaching the Mertz Glacier region, where we will begin more in-depth seismic study and begin taking sediment dredges and core samples. With so many new sources of data coming in, every person on shift will be much busier keeping up with the proper sampling and recording techniques.

P.S. This afternoon, we saw our first iceberg! There will be plenty more but the first is definitely exhilarating.

1st iceberg

Our first iceberg sighting!

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