LARISSA - LARsen Ice Shelf System, Antarctica, a NSF-funded project.

LARISSA - LARsen Ice Shelf System, Antarctica, a NSF-funded project.
We are conducting an integrated, multi-disciplinary field program to address the rapid and fundamental changes occurring in the Antarctic Peninsula region as a consequence of the abrupt collapse of the Larsen B Ice Shelf in the fall of 2002. A profound transformation in ecosystem structure and function is occurring in coastal waters of the western Weddell Sea. This transformation appears to be yielding a redistribution of energy flow between chemoautotrophic and photosynthetic production, and to be causing the rapid demise of the extraordinary seep ecosystem discovered beneath the ice shelf, providing an ideal opportunity to test fundamental paradigms in ecosystem evolution.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Getting ready for life aboard the RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer (NBP)

Craig and Jackie (the two at left) checking in for their ECW issue. Good spirits all around!

3/5/12 -- Our UH team woke early on the 5th to a hearty breakfast in our hostal and a discussion of ship loading logistics. We then headed down to the USAP warehouse near the ship to be issued our USAP Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) clothing. Very warm clothing, including thermal underwear, insulated pants, down parkas with fur-lined hoods, balaclavas, multi-layered waterproof gloves, heavy woolen socks and steel-toed boots are absolutely essential (especially for thin-blooded Hawaiian residents!) for our work in Antarctica. We will be working during the Antarctic “summer” and “fall”, but in the Weddell Sea, the term “summer” is merely relative. We expect to be in sea ice and temperatures below – 10 C (14 F) for the whole cruise, with wind chill dipping below – 30 C (-22 F). The clothing-issue station was busy with 15 or more scientists trying on their ECW gear. Getting the right-sized gear is very important since we will be working in this garb for >12 h per day “on the ice.”

The USAP logo on an ECW parka.

After our ECW clothing issue, we went to the NBP to check and load our oceanographic gear stored in Punta Arenas from previous cruises. We also inventoried the long list of supplies shipped down from the USA specifically for this cruise. All seemed to be in order, so we then organized and labeled our lab supplies, and began securing (i.e., tying down) our lab equipment for the potentially rough crossing of the Drake Passage. We also set our watches: the Benthic group will work in 12 hour watches of 3 people each. Antarctic research opportunities and ship time are so precious that the ship must conduct science 24 h a day. Science never sleeps!

3/6/12 – We moved out of the Hostal La Avenida and aboard the NBP by 1400 h on the 6th. The rest of the day was occupied with loading and securing of gear and supplies, and buying personal supplies in town for the long cruise. You don’t want to run out of shampoo or toothpaste half-way through the cruise; there are no supermarkets in Antarctica! We finished the day with a pickup basketball game with our Punta Arenas friends. We need to get in shape for the physical challenges of Antarctica!

3/7/12 – The highlight of the day was our ship-safety meeting, where we donned our PFD’s (Personal Flotation Devices), extreme cold immersion suits (popularly called “Gumbi” suits) , and had an abandon-shop drill piling into the lifeboats. The covered life boats appear to be seaworthy, but are very cramped and stuffy. They certainly would bob around like corks so let’s hope we never have to use them!
To day’s lowlight was that our departure will be delayed some days due to fuel issues.

Paulo and Craig heading towards the NBP.

Michael D. (our benthic team member) and Mike McCormick (from Hamilton College) modeling their Gumbi suits during the NBP safety meeting. They are ready to leap into frigid Antarctic waters.

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