US GO-SHIP is part of the international GO-SHIP network of sustained hydrographic sections, supporting physical oceanography, the carbon cycle, and marine biogeochemistry and ecosystems. The US program is sponsored by US CLIVAR and OCB. Funded by the National Science Foundation and NOAA.

News

S4P: 23 MAR 2011 (LETTER) Oct 2, 2013

Dear Family, Friends, and Colleagues,

We’ve had a different sort of week than just one CTD station after another. First we enjoyed a thrilling transit through all sorts of ice, dodging zones where heavy ice would significantly slow us down, with a gorgeous sunset and moonrise. Then it was time to recover two vertical arrays of bottom-anchored instruments co-chief scientist Alex Orsi deployed during February 2010.

Each instrument cable was anchored to a heavy weight on the bottom, with subsurface floats pulling the cable taut, instruments were attached to the cable, and an “acoustic release” connects the cable to the anchor weight. In the following paragraph note that to recover a mooring you must first find it (none of it is at the surface while it is deployed), and you must be able to communicate with the release device (done with coded acoustic signals). If those are both successful (by no means guaranteed), you need daylight and reasonably good weather to recover it, which means in statistical terms less than 50% of the time on this cruise. Of course, the long line of instruments will hopefully rise to the sea surface after the acoustic release has been told to let go from the anchor, and you have to be able to see it - not as easy as you might think. And on top of that, you need to be careful when you grab it and haul it in.

When we reached the first of the mooring sites, Alex and Woods Hole mooring expert Jim Ryder (we are most fortunate to have him on board with us for our mooring work) went right to work. Thanks to GPS, they knew where the first string of instruments was supposed to be. The Captain brought the Palmer near that point and they tried to communicate with the mooring’s release devices, but received only a weak, partial answer. After working the ship through a search pattern, stopping every now and then to try again, they learned that the releases were more than a mile away from where they had been set down - perhaps an iceberg dragged the mooring sometime during the year. Trouble was, it was now too dark to try to recover the mooring. So we did a short line of CTD stations overnight. In the morning the weather was too iffy for a mooring recovery, so we headed over to the second mooring, about 32 miles away, to try to verify its location. By then the weather was seriously deteriorating and so we were able to do no more than learn that it, too, had been dragged, more than two miles. Further work was impossible and so we headed into the ice pack to wait out an impressively ugly storm. With blocks of ice being tossed about the sea surface in 60-knot winds, thank goodness we were safe on a sturdy icebreaker! When conditions improved, we headed to the first mooring site (the closest), where Jim and his team from the ship (our marine techs and the graduate students) recovered the mooring with few problems. Then we returned to the second mooring site, and in growing darkness its releases were acoustically triggered, and, voila, there was its blinking light beacon! The recovery was trouble free and Alex got back every instrument he deployed.

Oceanographers reading this may be interested to note that during our lines of CTD stations at each mooring site we saw water at several hundred meters depth that was colder than the freezing point at the sea surface. This can take place when cold water circulates and is cooled under floating, very deep reaching Antarctic ice shelves. This was the first time I had observed such water myself.

We then had a long steam to the start of our next line of CTD stations. Alex brought along several cases of eXpendable BathyThermographs (XBTs), small disposable instruments which provide a temperature profile from a moving ship. The students and a couple of other helpers dropped XBTs every 30 minutes over the day and a half transit.

My chief responsibilities with respect to a research cruise have to do with (a) preparing a cruise plan ahead of the cruise, (b) seeing that an appropriate team with its equipment is put in place to carry out the plan, (c) monitoring progress at sea, and then (d) modifying the plan as or if needed. With respect to (a), I am guided by world class experts such as Alex Orsi, Kevin Speer (at Florida State University), Stan Jacobs (at Columbia University), and the members of the science oversight committee for the US Global Ocean Carbon and Repeat Hydrography program - plus many others - so that goes well. Item (b) is easy with this team: I am honored to be able to work with these technical specialists, with the expert captain, mariners, engineers, and support staff Edison Chouest Offshore provides on the Nathaniel B. Palmer, and our experienced group from Raytheon Polar Services. Item (c) sort of takes care of itself since we keep records of, well, everything. Then there is (d). I remind myself that “if it was a good plan ashore it is still a good plan at sea”. But what do I do when, by my accounting, we have already lost 7 full days due to bad weather? Yet, some other aspects - the station work and time slowed down in ice in particular - have gone remarkably well in our favor. I listen to good advice, and make a decision.

The cruise to date included work of such high scientific priority that I felt compelled to complete it as planned, without reduction, waiting out weather. But now as we begin the second half of this long cruise, I have decided to allot specific amounts of time to each remaining segment of the cruise except for a few “must complete, no matter what” activities. This is one way to get around the unknowns. The Captain is happy to work in a somewhat similar manner: within proper maritime limits he can allocate fuel in a cruise-segment manner roughly similar to my allocation of time. (The ship uses far more fuel breaking ice than traversing open water, and also burns significantly more going, say 11 knots than 9 knots in open water.) Both of us plan when and where we will apply our resources and where we will hold reserves.

I have thus determined that we will have a go at a south-to-north line of stations along 170°W I had been prepared to cut just days ago. I allocated sufficient time to do it, and we will complete as much of it as the weather permits. Then we will move on to the next segment. But no rushing, no change in the way we work. I’ll let you know how this goes!

All is well on the Nathaniel B. Palmer.

Jim Swift
Chief Scientist
NBP-1102 / S04P

Photos this week include moonrise and an iceberg by Juan Botella, Wilson Mendoza’s photo of a line of Adelie penguins, my photo of ice and water at sunset, and Ryan Woosley’s and Juan Botella’s photos of a mooring recovery. In Juan’s photo, co-chief Alex Orsi is on the left, mooring expert Jim Ryder is left of center, and RPSC marine tech Barry Bjork is on the right.

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S4P: 18 MAR 2011 (REPORT) Oct 2, 2013

On our first Thursday, March 17th (see below for explanation) we finished our planned line of stations 525 nautical miles straight south from 67°S (roughly the Antarctic Circle) to the Antarctic continental shelf, stopping every 30 miles to make measurements. This completes for the first time the southern end of a long transect of oceanographic measurements extending from Kodiak Island, Alaska, to Antarctica, known to oceanographers as “line P16”. This also completes a key portion of our intended work on this cruise, though there is a great deal more work to do. Data quality remains excellent, and all systems are working well, except that one of the two lowered Acoustic Doppler Current meters (LADCP) is out of service, limiting LADCP profiles now to downward- looking only.

See the attached figure, and its caption below, from Alex for a discussion of some of the scientific findings apparent when comparing the 2011 data with those from earlier years.

We have all enjoyed the good weather. The last group of 5 closely-spaced stations were carried out in highly varied and increasingly more impressive ice ranging from the smallest newly-formed frazil ice that “greases” the sea surface, to new “pancake ice” of various sizes (very easy going), to first (easy) and multi-year (try to avoid) sea ice, to impressively thick pieces of broken off ice shelf (impossible), to mighty icebergs (likewise). The Palmer’s mates and our expert ice pilot Vladimir Repin enjoy the challenge of guiding the ship through the maze of ice day and night. The Nathaniel B. Palmer’s large bridge has great all-around views and is The Place To Be when one has a bit of time off, though the weather has been so good that some have bundled up and to watch icebreaking from the bow or other points outdoors on the ship. The ice and icebergs provide many photo opportunities and we frequently come across penguins and basking seals.

We are at the edge of the footprints of both of the geosynchronous INMARSAT satellites (one over the Atlantic equator and the other over the Pacific equator) that provide our primary email communications, so email may continue to be a bit sporadic until we head back north to the S04P line at 67°S. Although we did our date line crossing some time ago we saved our day/date change to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day (Thursday, March 17th) twice on the ship.

Our cruise is now approximately at its half-way point. We are steaming toward the sites where we will recover two strings of moored instruments co-chief scientist Alex Orsi deployed February 2010. We will then resume our CTD work with our third crossing of the Antarctic continental slope. Weather has been good to outstanding most of the past week, and during our few days in the ice all hands enjoyed the wildlife and highly-varied ice. New ice is forming around us, with grease ice consolidating in sheets and pancakes. Meanwhile we motor around magnificent icebergs and slab-like chunks of shelf edge ice.

We continue to enjoy working with our team at sea. This may be a very long cruise but with this team it is a productive and happy one. The entire ship’s company continues to work with expertise, efficiency, and good cheer. All is well aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer.

We have included Nancy Williams’ photo of an iceberg at sunset (See above left) and Wilson Mendoza’s photo of a group of Adelie penguins (See above right).

Jim and Alex

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S4P: 17 MAR 2011 (LETTER) Oct 2, 2013

Dear Family, Friends, and Colleagues,

A few hours ago we finished our planned line of stations 525 nautical miles straight south from 67°S (roughly the Antarctic Circle) to the Antarctic continental shelf, stopping every 30 miles to make measurements. This completes for the first time the southern end of a long transect of oceanographic measurements extending from Kodiak Island, Alaska, to Antarctica, known to oceanographers as “line P16”. The entire ship’s company carried this out with their usual expertise, efficiency, and good cheer. We have all enjoyed the good weather and lack of equipment problems. The last group of 5 closely-spaced stations were carried out in highly varied and increasingly more impressive ice ranging from the smallest newly-formed frazil ice that “greases” the sea surface, to new “pancake ice” of various sizes (very easy going), to first (easy) and multi-year (hard) sea ice, to impressively thick pieces of broken off ice shelf (impossible), to mighty icebergs (likewise). The Palmer’s mates and our expert ice pilot Vladimir Repin enjoy the challenge of guiding the ship through the maze of ice - they can slide and power easily through the easy ice but of course must not hit the big stuff. It gets spicier at night, which is when Vladimir has his fun. The ship’s large bridge (where the ship is steered) has great all-around views and is The Place To Be when one has a bit of time off, though the weather has been so good that many have bundled up a bit and tried watching icebreaking from the bow or other points outdoors on the ship. The ice and icebergs provide many photo opportunities and we frequently come across penguins and basking seals. Icebreaker novices and old hands alike are enjoying this E-ticket ride (younger readers may have to look up that term).

As we worked our way south we edged closer and closer to the edge of the “footprints” of both of the geosynchronous INMARSAT satellites (one over the Atlantic equator and the other over the Pacific equator) that provide our primary email communications - we are so far south that even though these satellites sit in orbit thousands of miles above the equator, they are below our horizon. Sometimes we can “see” one of the satellites and the RPSC techs do a quick burst of email exchanges. In one sense it matters little - we are self-contained and have everything we need to complete our work - but we do grow accustomed to exchanging information, ideas, and correspondence with those ashore, and so the interruption reminds us how far away we really are here in the far south.

One of the oddities of working west-east (or east-west) in the Pacific Ocean is the date line. Most oceanographers and experienced travelers reading this are well aware of it, but many people ashore find it hard to understand that somewhere (i.e., the date line) the date and day of the week must change by one unit forward, if one is traveling west, or backwards, if traveling east. Indeed, we did that crossing (eastward) some time ago but saved our change to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day (Thursday, March 17th) twice on the ship, once today and again tomorrow. (If we had been going west we would have skipped one day/date when we made the adjustment.) This does not affect the times we record with our measurements one bit because for those we use “Universal Time”, which was formerly known as “Greenwich Mean Time”.

Our cruise is now approximately at its half-way point. We are steaming west toward the sites where we will recover two strings of moored instruments co- chief scientist Alex Orsi deployed February 2010. We will then resume our CTD work with our third crossing of the Antarctic continental slope.

It is no surprise that I continue to enjoy working with our team at sea. I may have planned a very long cruise but with this team it is a productive and happy one. All is well aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer.

Jim Swift
Chief Scientist
NBP-1102 / S04P

Photos this week include a beautiful sunset/iceberg photo by Nancy Williams, Wilson Mendoza’s photo of two Emperor penguins, a photo showing several of the many ice types we see, a photo showing the view from the bridge (with second mate Brandon Bell and PO grad student Eric Mortenson), and a photo showing a group of penguins who are living on an iceberg, including a few living surprisingly high up on it.

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S4P: 14 MAR 2011 (LETTER) Oct 2, 2013

Dear Program Managers, Colleagues, Friends, and Family,

We recently lost contact with the INMARSAT satellite the Nathaniel B. Palmer uses for email. My understanding is that this is related to the ship’s position relative to the “footprint” of the satellite’s coverage. Although email may be temporarily regained, perhaps in limited capacity for short messages such as this, it is feasible that we will not return to full email capability for approximately one week.

Emails sent to the ship are supposed to remain queued in the USA until full email service is regained, and are supposed to be sent then without loss.

I will prepare weekly letters and reports as usual, but will not email them until told by RPSC that our regular email service is back in action. Please excuse any delay in hearing from me and others on board. All is well here, and we are making good progress in good weather.

Best Regards,
Jim Swift
Chief Scientist
Nathaniel B. Palmer Cruise NBP-1102 (S04P)

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S4P: 10 MAR 2011 (REPORT) Oct 2, 2013

The storm which stopped our work last Thursday morning finally abated early Saturday. Since then we have been working steadily on our measurement program, without weather or equipment delays. We are making good progress, though remain about 5 days behind the expedition deadline timeline. Small problems pop up in the equipment from time to time, and we have found some ways to improve a few procedures - pretty much business as usual. Data quality remains excellent. No surprise that the Circumpolar Deep Water and its closest relatives remain consistently warmer and slightly saltier than observed during the Akademik Ioffe S04P cruise in 1992.

We will soon turn from our eastward course and follow 150°W south to the Antarctic continental shelf, which will complete for the first time the far south end of WOCE/CLIVAR/IOCCP line P16. Then it will be decision time for the first cuts to the science program. The Palmer is steaming mostly at 9 knots to conserve fuel, and has quite understandably had to slow in fog at night in waters where there are hazardous growlers and bergy bits that do not show up on the radar. Not to mention that there is plenty of stormy weather out there, just missing us at the moment. Because we can make up four days simply by widening station spacing to 60 nmiles on the eastern half of the 67°S (S04P) section, we are not in an insurmountable situation regarding the present time deficit, but we are still considering a 3-day cut (the sampling along 170°W, from 73°S to 67°S), which has been discussed with the oversight committee and team PIs. Watch for next week’s report for our decision.

Small breaks provided by nature the past week include icebergs (the reliable scenic highlight of working near Antarctica), the Aurora Australis a few times (we’ve included two photos shot - see above right and below - by Juan Botella, our PolarTREC teacher), and a close-up visit by a few humpback whales.

The galley staff is great at keeping morale (and waistlines) at a maximum. Fresh bagels made a surprise appearance, the cookie supply seems endless, the meal entrees are as tasty and varied as ever (with some excellent vegetarian dishes, too). No one is surprised that the fresh vegetable supply is dwindling

  • lettuce is gone now, for example.

We have not yet accounted for the date line in our current ship’s day/date, so enjoy the odd situation of now being on the same time zone as Hawaii, but one day ahead. We have not yet changed day/dates mostly due to our plan to go back to 180°W to start a cross-shelf section after we complete the 150°W section and two mooring recoveries, though I confess that the notion of switching one week from today - thus having two March 17th’s (St. Patrick’s days) - may have entered our minds.

This is a harmonious, very good natured bunch. Cribbage and foosball tournaments are in full swing, groups linger at meals to enjoy conversations, music is heard from time to time. All is well aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer.

Jim and Alex

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S4P: 09 MAR 2011 (LETTER) Oct 2, 2013

Dear Family, Friends, and Colleagues,

What is remarkable about most of the past week may be how unremarkable it was: after a long storm (our 4th!) which stopped our work last Thursday morning finally abated in the wee hours Saturday, we have been working steadily on our measurement program, just as we usually do and expect to do on these cruises. We are making fine progress, though are about 4.5 days behind the expedition deadline timeline. Small problems pop up in the equipment from time to time, and we have found some ways to improve a few procedures - pretty much business as usual. (I’ll get into our science program in future letters.) The sameness of the work - we are either on station or steaming between stations around the clock - is an oddly comforting measure of progress. Of course, we very much enjoy the little breaks nature provides…

Icebergs are a reliable scenic highlight of working near Antarctica, and when we chance upon one on a sunny moment (one of my photos is attached) or at sunrise or sunset (attached unenhanced sunset photo taken by Aimee Neeley on the right), it’s time to bring out the cameras.

Along with some clear periods during days has come some clear periods at night, and we have seen the Aurora Australis (“Southern Lights”) a few times. Our PolarTREC teacher, Juan Botella, captured some excellent night photos from a moving ship (!). I have attached two (See left and below), enhanced for light level only. Notice the stars of Orion’s belt in one of them?

A few humpback whales visited the ship the other day, playing around (or feeding?) a bit before swimming off. Juan captured some nice photos (one is attached - see right). Nature is not the only source of welcome breaks: the galley staff is great at keeping morale (and waistlines) at a maximum. Fresh bagels made a surprise appearance, the cookie supply seems endless, the meal entrees are as tasty and varied as ever (with some excellent vegetarian dishes, too) - and I don’t know what it was about Mexican night, but just about everyone went back for seconds. Of course, because the ship was resupplied in that garden spot known as McMurdo, no one is surprised that the fresh vegetable supply is dwindling - lettuce is gone now, as expected.

This is a harmonious, very good natured bunch. Cribbage and foosball tournaments are in full swing, groups linger at meals to enjoy conversations, music is heard from time to time. All is well aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer.

Jim Swift
Chief Scientist
NBP-1102 / S04P

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S4P: 10 MAR 2011 (REPORT) Oct 2, 2013

We began our work off Cape Adare, a location notorious for high winds. Indeed, seas and swell have already disrupted CTD operations on Nathaniel B. Palmer four times, with 84 hours lost to date (the equivalent of 18 stations). The Palmer rides the storms well. The captain and mates choose a heading and slow speed that will provide a reasonably good ride, and try to judge when to head back to the next station just in time for the seas to have improved post-storm to the point where we can go back to work. During the biggest storm, during a long spell of sustained winds over 50 knots, a storage van on the fantail was partly caved in by a wave.

At one point while we were waiting out a storm near an intended station location, we entered a field of rotten first-year sea ice leftover from the summer melt. We quickly prepared the rosette, knowing that in the ice the large seas would be damped down, and, indeed, we got a station done despite the weather. Meanwhile we passed by some crabeater (See left) and leopard seals hauled out onto the ice, making a nice photo op.

It’s not all been storms, of course. The team is working diligently and every measurement program is going well. Water sample data are being delivered to the onboard data system by all the groups, and the data processors update the data files regularly. We already have some exciting science results: significant changes since 1992 in seawater temperature and salinity along our transect of stations NE from Cape Adare. The cold, salty Ross Sea Bottom Water dense outflow so prominent in 1992 on the west end of the S04P section is now gone, and the Circumpolar Deep Water offshore is warmer and saltier than it was 19 years ago. We’ve included a figure and Alex’s scientific caption to whet the appetites of the PIs ashore.

The food is great (some of us already fear we may be getting great ourselves). All hands - ECO, RPSC, and science guests alike - enjoy the friendly and productive atmosphere on board. The ECO engineers and RPSC staff have been very helpful in quickly solving any problems that arise. We may get a tiny bit frustrated during the storms - we came here to work, after all - but we are a happy bunch.

All is well.
Jim and Alex

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S4P: 09 MAR 2011 (LETTER) Oct 2, 2013

Dear Family, Friends, and Colleagues,

One of the inescapable aspects of working in the Southern Ocean is storms - both the ones that hit directly and the more distant ones that generate the long, rolling waves known as swell. The Southern Ocean may be the stormiest large-scale environment on earth - I don’t know that for certain but it feels that way. Big low pressure systems (storms) develop and evolve to circulate around Antarctica in a steady parade. Our mote in the ocean - the Nathaniel B. Palmer - has been hit three times so far by storms with winds well over 40 knots (equals 46 statute miles/hour), plus the ship is always affected by swell (sometimes quite large) propagating from distant storms. We can work in wind and swell to a degree, but we have already had more than 77 hours of down time when the seas were too rough to work.

As part of our cruise support, we receive weather forecasts customized to our location. In the old days such forecasts were next to worthless, but with the advent of weather satellites and computer models, we get a day or two warning of each storm. So what do we think when we hear a storm is forecast to affect us soon? Well, officially it’s “get as much work done as we can and get everything tied down”, but unofficially it’s also “get to the laundry before the storm hits”, because the laundry machines must be shut down during storms in order to avoid damage to them caused by ship motion.

The Palmer rides the storms well. The captain and his officers choose a heading and slow speed that will provide a reasonably good ride, and try to judge when to head back to the next station just in time for the seas to have improved post-storm to the point where we can go back to work. We have work to do, but the pace definitely slows with no new samples to analyze. Some people suffer more than others from seasickness, though the fortunate majority of us have now adapted to the ship’s motion in stormy seas.

The biggest storm, with a long spell of sustained winds over 50 knots, caused some damage: a storage van on the fantail was partly caved in by a wave. A photo frame from the ship’s stern video camera (See left) shows a large wave breaking over the fantail. You can see why we do not go out on deck in heavy seas or storms!

I have been asked, “how much ‘bad weather time’ did you allow when you planned the cruise?” The answer may surprise you: none. With the cost to taxpayers of a research cruise like this running in the $100,000/day range, one cannot justify extra funds for contingency expenses. And, anyway, this cruise is already near the Palmer’s maximum duration at sea (mostly determined by fuel) for our type of work. What I do have is a maximum science plan that will accomplish all objectives within the allotted time, and the responsibility to make the best cuts to it (if needed) at the best times so that we accomplish our highest priorities while still ending up at the last planned station shortly before the time, barring emergencies, that we must head to port.

The other day, while we were waiting out a storm, I noticed we were entering a field of rotten first-year sea ice leftover from the summer melt. Aha! I asked the gang to prepare the rosette and alerted the deck tech and bridge: I knew that in the ice the large seas would be damped down and we could do our station. The mate on watch kept us in a small patch of open water in the midst of the ice field, and everything worked out great. Meanwhile we passed by some crabeater and leopard seals hauled out onto the ice (photos attached - See above right and below). [Quick, how can you tell, when you see a seal on the ice, if you are in the Antarctic or, instead, the Arctic? If you can come right up close to the seal, you are in the Antarctic, and if the seal dives in the water at first sight of you, you are in the Arctic. The difference: polar bears (an Arctic-only predator).]

We already have some exciting science results: significant changes since 1992 in seawater temperature and salinity along our transect of stations NE from Cape Adare. We’ll soon send early results to the science team ashore to whet their appetites.

The food is great (some of us already fear we may be getting great ourselves), and all hands (ECO, RPSC, and science guests alike) enjoy the friendly and productive atmosphere on board. We may get a tiny bit frustrated during the storms - we came here to work, after all - but we are a happy bunch.

All is well aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer.
Jim Swift
Chief Scientist
NBP-1102 / S04P

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S4P: 24 FEB 2011 (REPORT) Sep 30, 2013

Our cruise for the NSF and NOAA-sponsored US Global Ocean Carbon and Repeat Hydrography Program will cross the far-south Pacific sector of the Antarctic region on the US Antarctic Program (USAP) icebreaking research ship Nathaniel B. Palmer. We are scheduled for a 60-70 day voyage from the USAP McMurdo base to Punta Arenas, Chile. This cruise is unique for the program in that it is being carried out from a USAP ship operated by a commercial operator, Edison- Chouest Offshore (ECO) (under charter to the US National Science Foundation), with pre-cruise planning, shipping, logistics, and on-board science support from a second company, Raytheon Polar Services Corporation (RPSC) (via contract with the US National Science Foundation).

Our science team assembled in Christchurch, New Zealand, where we attended a pre-ice-flight briefing and cold weather clothing issue, and on 14 February flew to the ice sheet runway near Ross Island via a US Air Force C-17 transport. Although cancelled flights and “boomerangs” (flights turned back by weather or equipment problems) are frequent, our flight went without incident. The science team was excited to be in Antarctica and had two days to enjoy the unique amenities, scenery, and recreational opportunities at the base, including a guided tour to Robert F. Scott’s 1902 “Discovery Hut” at Hut Point on Ross Island.

We soon discovered that much of the S04P “do not freeze” cargo was for reasons not yet explained sitting outdoors in sub-freezing conditions at McMurdo, despite our use of the proper procedures, forms, and labels required for “do not freeze” cargo items. In the end the chief scientific damage was to the Argo float program, which was cancelled with all 17 floats shipped back to the USA. By what appears to be a blind stroke of good fortune, the one “do not freeze” cargo container which had been kept above freezing contained the salinity and carbon seawater standards - with the loss of either the expedition would have been cancelled. Some other cargo had been water damaged at some point during transit, then was damaged by mold, then frozen, but the direct losses to the science programs from that damage were minimal.

The science team boarded the ship midday on 17 February and soon set to unloading scientific cargo from the 5 20-foot container vans and setting up the CO2 lab van (a trace metal lab van was already at the ship from the previous leg). All RPSC staff on the ship (staff from the previous cruise plus staff from the S04P cruise) plus all ECO personnel were friendly and extremely helpful. Lab set-ups went very well, again with RPSC and ECO personnel efficiently providing assistance. Because the ship was refueled upon its arrival, cargo loading and lab set-ups were delayed, making it necessary to delay the ship’s departure one day from the plan.

RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer departed McMurdo Base at noon local time on 20 February 2011 in good weather, into McMurdo region waters nearly free of sea ice. The planned transit to the first station on the S04P line was estimated to be approximately two days, barring stops. On the 21st the science team held two test/training rosette casts with the large 36-place rosette. Only minor problems were encountered, all fixed in short order. The evening of the 21st the trace metal team carried out a trace metal cast of opportunity, making up a station from the previous cruise lost to weather.

During the 22nd, as the ship neared the location of the first S04P station off Cape Adare, winds rose well past 30 knots, then 40 knots. It was thus necessary to wait until 1000 local time on 23 February to begin the S04P transect stations.

After nearly two weeks of travel from the US, cruise preparation at McMurdo, and transit to the northwestern Ross Sea, it was a joy to begin work. Weather conditions have been good, and we have almost completed the portion of our transect across the Ross Sea deep outflow with virtually no problems … an outstanding beginning.

Food on board is excellent, relationships between all on board friendly and productive, the ship itself lovingly-maintained for productive research and pleasant life on board. Some of our colleagues and hundreds of RPSC personnel being flown out of McMurdo (as it switches from 1000-person summer staffing to a 200-person winter complement) were caught in Christchurch by the latest earthquake. We have heard that the people we worked with on board are safe, though many were separated from their belongings, passports, and so forth, and face many difficulties along with those endured by the residents of that lovely small city. Our thoughts are truly with them.

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S4P: 19 FEB 2011 (LETTER) Sep 30, 2013

Dear Family, Friends, and Colleagues,

Most things are going well, with a few exceptions (more or less as usual). We took shuttles to the ship Thursday after lunch, and after a quick introductory tour and some safety reminders, we began unloading our cargo from the container vans that had been shipped south from California in December. We had six 20x8x8 foot vans, plus there was quite a bit of loose cargo that arrived by air. I heard someone say we loaded 90,000 lbs of cargo.

The RPSC techs here were efficient in getting a van onto the deck, where our team would unload it like a swarm of army ants, then RPSC would swing it back down to the dock and replace it with another. There was deck space for two vans at a time so we worked nearly continuously. I thought we would be working into the night, but we got all the main load done before dinner, with most boxes in the correct lab. There was lots of sorting out to do, and some more items came Friday morning, but even before Thursday’s dinner people were setting up equipment.

We still do not know the full extent of freeze damage caused by someone allowing most of our “Do Not Freeze” scientific cargo to freeze, but it appears to be light. Miraculously our seawater standards for salinity and carbon were in the one van that was kept above freezing - if either had frozen I would have had to cancel the cruise.

Mary Johnson (our CTD data processor) noticed mold in some of the computer- related boxes she was unpacking, and soon found damp, moldy office supplies and manuals, and more mold in other boxes. There were several plastic tote boxes with four or more inches of water with moldy, now frozen, contents, and others with some water/mold. The only thing we can figure was that someone took these items out of the well-packed SIO cargo container in California when it was raining. Then the wet items molded on the trip south and froze in the Antarctic. I lost all my office supplies and my back-up hard drive (frozen solid in a block of ice), and some of my sea clothes are now battered and splotchy after being washed twice in hot water and bleach. Thank goodness I am very conservative about my packing - because I have enough sea clothes to get by, and I brought a second back-up hard drive in my luggage. Fortunately the bassoon I brought - shipped in that same container - was dry and fine.

There have been a couple of Adelie penguins (one either old or molting - See left) hanging around near the ice pier and one molting Emperor penguin, too (see photos). I also attached a photo of the Palmer at the ice pier, and a shot of me (See above right) after I walked out of the Air Force C-17 onto the ice shelf runway near McMurdo.

As some of you know, I am an amateur bassoonist, playing in the La Jolla Symphony (look them up on YouTube; I suggest the “Frog’s Eye” performance as a good starter). The symphony’s first bassoonist, Tom Schubert, loans me a bassoon of his to take on my trips (probably hoping it will improve my playing!). To accompany the photo of me playing Tom’s bassoon at the North Pole in 2005, I have attached a photo of me playing in Antarctica this morning, with the 109-year-old Scott “Discovery” hut in the background. It was windy, about 18 °F, with light snow. My fingers were cold, and the sound was not so good, but no matter: I did it! (Thanks, Tom!)

We leave at noon tomorrow (the 20th on this side of the date line), a day later than planned, but necessary due to the sequencing of events dictated by McMurdo’s closing for the winter in a couple of days. I have a great team here, and the ship’s crew and RPSC staff are very supportive. The steward and the chief engineer (both key people and both great) remember me from 2003. The captain and I enjoy each other’s company. So it’s already feeling like a “sea family”. I’m optimistic that we have an enjoyable and successful venture ahead.

By the time of my next message we should have completed our test casts and be starting our scientific work off Adelie Land in the northwestern Ross Sea. All is well.

Best Regards,
Jim Swift
Chief Scientist
NBP-1102 (S4P)

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