Dear Family, Friends, and Colleagues,

We have increased our basic CTD station spacing to 60 nautical miles, from the original 30 nautical miles. We kept to 30 over the core (and highest priority) part of the cruise plan. We knew, however, that when we crossed into the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which we are now sailing in and along, there was little oceanographic damage switching to 60-mile spacing, which helps save some time. The pace in the labs is now a little more relaxed. With a plan in place regarding how we intend to complete the measurement program (within the next two weeks), everyone is focused on simply getting the job done.

Holidays can be fun on board. Many of us have celebrated nearly every holiday at sea one time or another (Christmas and New Years included). We’re a bit short of holidays this cruise, so April 1st got some special attention. Even better, some of us who were “fooled” forgot that it was April 1st, adding to the joy of the conspirators and the fun had by all. Yes, they got me, and good, by pasting photos of my head on the body-builder posters in the gym. Chris Measures was genuinely alarmed when the deck tech told him “blue sparks” were coming out of his CTD when he turned it on. And so on. Check out Juan’s blog for more of the fun.

The Big Activity this week was deployment of a more than 4000-meter long string of moored instruments - current meters, CTDs, and the like - with floats, releases, and anchor, at a specified spot in the ocean for Xiaojun Yuan (Columbia/LDEO) and Janet Sprintall (SIO). Neither PI was on board, but because world-class mooring expert Jim Ryder (Woods Hole) was along, they knew

  • quite correctly - that their project was in great hands (See photos above). The specifications called for the top float of the mooring to be 100 meters below the sea surface - in ca. 4500 meters of water - so it was important to know very well the depth to the bottom there (so that the mooring cable length could be adjusted), plus the mooring needed to be in an area where the bottom was flat, and had to be deployed in reasonably good weather. We used the Palmer’s multi-beam bathymetric mapping system (managed by Chris Linden, RPSC) to map the bottom, then we did a CTD cast at the most likely looking mooring-deployment spot to measure the water characteristics and verify the bottom depth. There were also other CTD casts and a host of XBT casts associated with the mooring, not to mention the long deployment itself. Add a day of time lost to bad weather, and you can see why this was quite an operation, and one we are glad to have completed successfully and now have behind us.

A highlight for the science team was tours of the Palmer’s engine spaces this week by Chief Engineer Johnny Pierce (“JP”) and his expert team of engineers. With two of the four large marine diesel engines powered up plus some of the electrical generator diesels, of course hearing protection was needed, and there are hot/dangerous spots to watch out for. But ordinary clothes are fine

  • nothing will get dirty during a tour to the engineers’ nearly spotless work place, as clean and as orderly as can be. Wow!

During the mooring-related activities the Palmer crossed (and recrossed) the Antarctic Circle, which we had been south of until then. There is a long marine tradition of marking such events with “initiations” of the “polliwogs” who have crossed for the first time. Of course these affairs are now voluntary and fun (well, mostly). At any rate, our polliwogs are on notice that something is up in their future, and volunteers among the resident “red-noses” (those initiated in the past) are rumored to be plotting their fate.

We’re a relaxed bunch, well-fed, tired of stormy weather, happy for the present good weather, and working together to get the job done.

All is well on the Nathaniel B. Palmer.

Jim Swift
Chief Scientist
NBP-1102 / S04P