Mist on the Moscow Ice Shelf

Friday, February 21, 2014

As the week draws to a close, the Palmer has entered the Moscow University Ice Shelf region and the weather has taken a turn for the worse. Up until now, we have been incredibly fortunate in regard to the weather, as we have experienced calm waters accompanied by plenty of sunshine thus far. However in this region, stormy weather is the norm. Over the past 24 hours, we have gotten a small taste of the rough conditions that frequent the southern seas. Winds of up to 50 knots blew through, making any deck operations impossible. The captain closed all decks to ensure the safety of all crewmembers by keeping everyone protected within the skin of the ship. High winds and low temperatures leave the decks slippery, even for heavy duty, steel-toed boots.

Unfortunately the closed decks caused a temporary halt in geologic and oceanographic operations from the evening through the night but while the decks were closed, we were still able to ride out the storm while acquiring interesting multi-beam data. The multi-beam allows us to map the bathymetry of the ocean, providing insight into interactions between the geology and ocean structure. The region that was mapped overnight shows dramatic changes in depth, and we have been following and mapping a deep trench at the edge of the Moscow Ice Shelf.

In addition to the direct effect that adverse weather has on our ship, changes in weather strongly influence the course of the cruise. The wind direction and severity can change the position of sea ice significantly, making areas more or less accessible at any given time. Storms have the ability to push ice together, making transit impossible but storms also have the ability to blow ice into open water, clearing a path for the ship. Although last night’s storm originated in the south, winds were blowing from the northeast, which unfortunately means that the high winds we experienced did not open up a path to the Totten Glacier.

We continue to place moorings, take CTD data, dredge geologic samples and map the region of the Moscow Ice Shelf. Even though we haven’t been able to reach our goal location, a high volume of new and interesting data has been collected, and the science team is very excited with the work that has been done so far.

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