Dear Family, Friends, and Colleagues,

Our decision to do a somewhat-shortened version of the 170°W section worked out fine. (I’ll attach a map to show you where we have sampled so far.) The weather was great, we got the 8th (final) station done 6 hours before deadline, and the data showed the features we hoped to measure. We then began a planned 50-hour steam to our next station. Half-way through we had to slow down due to the rough ride in moderately heavy weather. The slow-down used all the hours we had gained and then some, but we are back to work in light winds, easier seas, and fog.

At our last station on the 170°W line a group of humpback whales swam around us - close by - for a couple of hours. Although we have no way to know, they seemed to be enjoying themselves, swimming by in different positions, flapping fins on the water, making grunting sounds, etc. Just listening to their deep breathing was a treat.

Some of you have asked for more about life on board. Juan Botella’s blog covers some of this. Juan is a high school science teacher from Wisconsin who is participating on our cruise as part of the NSF-sponsored PolarTREC program. You will see that Juan is gifted at describing what we do and he is also an excellent photographer. Please see < southern-ocean>.

The Palmer is 303 feet long and 60 feet wide. We work and eat on the main deck level, which includes the outside working decks, the “Baltic room” from which we deploy most of our instruments, 6 principal laboratories, marine tech shops, the galley, the mess room, and some of the food storage areas. The staterooms for most of the science and Raytheon team are on the “01”, i.e. one deck above. The machinery spaces, shops, storage, and tanks are below the main deck, and most of that territory is off-limits for good reason. Although there are other, successively smaller decks above - the bridge (“05”) being the top

  • each of us spends most of each day in a relatively small portion of the ship. Most of us work 12-hour shifts. That’s a long time “on”, but the work is usually not too intense and we like having 12 hours “off”. Meals are served cafeteria style at 0730-0830, 1130-1230, 1730-1830, and 2330-0030, plus there is always food available at other times such as coffee, tea, soda, milk, juices, fruit, cereal, bread, sandwich fixings, crackers, and a host of fresh- baked goodies - and more. There is fresh-baked bread almost every day, and, this being a Louisiana ship, there are beans and rice available at every meal. Breakfast is pretty much your traditional breakfast choices. At lunch and dinner (each has a different menu) there are typically 2-3 entrée choices, one or two starches, a soup (the same for both meals), and one or two vegetables. At mid-rats (what the 2330-0030 meal is traditionally called) there are breakfast items, some leftovers from earlier meals, and often a special item or two, such as fresh bagels, or pizza, or, well, almost anything. Meal time is a social time, and enjoyed by all. In our time off we do our laundry (there is a self-serve laundry on each level where there are berths), use the gym, enjoy time on the bridge, read, watch movies, play cards, practice a musical instrument, etc. - and sleep of course. Most people have roommates and the work schedule and roommate assignments were coordinated where feasible so that people on opposite shifts room together. Every day is pretty much like every other day except for weather and food. We have talks - science or slide shows of trips - on Wednesday evenings and Saturday after lunch. These are open to everyone. We spend no time on the internet because we have no internet here, but everyone looks forward to email. There is a conference room on the “03” level and a movie theater (like a large home theater) with comfy recliner chairs on the “02” level. There are DVDs you can borrow to play on your computer, too. Each stateroom has its own head (bathroom) with sink, toilet, and shower. We are responsible for all our own cleaning. The crew does an amazing job keeping the public areas of the ship clean - this is one of the cleanest, best maintained research ships in the world - and we try to help out by keeping our cabins, and especially the labs, in good order. The crew is always very friendly and helpful. It’s a relaxed, pleasant environment, though in work terms never a sloppy one due to our universal attention to safety and to maintaining very high measurement and procedure standards.

There are a few group activities such as a themed movie time. Presently we are being “killed” one by one: a tag game called “murder”, popular on research ships, is in final stages. You are “killed” by the murderer accosting you in private with the Queen of Spades. If you correctly challenge the secret “murderer” before you are a victim, you become the new “murderer”, but if you are wrong, you are “dead”. Meanwhile the cribbage tournament is into round two. And there are plans afoot for a couple of other group events or activities. Little things, but it keeps life moving along.

All is well on the Nathaniel B. Palmer.

Jim Swift
Chief ScientistL
NBP-1102 / S04P