Saturday, 13 October 2012

SIPEX-II Update, from 27 September

Molly has supplied some more stories from the SIPEX-II voyage. As you can imagine it's a very busy period (hence the delay in receiving these) but the updates are worth the wait!  Due to data limits on messages from the Aurora Australis, photos follow separately.  So we'll get them posted once they're received.
27th Sep, Day Thirteen
Wind: 0.2 knots
Air temperature: -15

First successful ice station! (or the 2nd official ice station)

After one day drifting from the last ice floe, we finally settled
down on another good size, good condition ice floe. The Stationing

Followed by the safety check by Klaus and Psycho, all groups with all the fancy equipment set feet on the ice. It is very interesting to see, within this small area with a thickness of 35cm wind pack snow covering on 100cm thick sea ice, scientists on board found all their interest from different perspectives.

The 35cm snow served physicist for their research interest on snow
thickness, snow density, albedo of snow, and carbon evidence of
atmospheric pollution within the snow, and the snow-wind interaction. The sea ice underneath was more interested by biologists. (Exception: One group of physic statists are interested how fast brine comes into ice) Lots of ice core taking, accompanied with incubation of sea ice community. The sea ice biologists/ecologists are trying to find out how the sea ice structure, and how this structure related to the biology community living in the sea ice.

[picture: taking ice core]

There is also a trace-metal team focusing on the trace metal in the
snow and sea ice. They need to travel a long distance to be far away
from everyone to avoid contamination. We will leave their story until next time.

Water column is interested by a mixed group of biologists (I’m one of them) and physicist. We have two expensive fancy “toys” on board to investigate what the underwater world looks like beneath the sea ice.  They are ROV, Remotely Operated Vehicle, and AUV, Automotive
Underwater Vehicle. These two vehicles travelled around under the
ice, and brought back high-resolution images and videos of the world
hiding underneath our feet. Sure they are scientific equipment more
than just an under-water camera; please move to Wendy’s blog to read
more about their science objective.

We biologists are planning to discover how the under-ice community
structured and how it works. All those amazing creatures we could
see, like whales, seals, penguins and fish, are living on the tiny
plankton in this ecosystem. It is another amazing world in the
plankton community. Please be patient for some great photos of the
plankton world coming soon. Today we are going to focus on people on
the ice.

[picture: tripod]

We dig holes on the ice, and put equipment, nets and pumps under
water in hope to grab as much information as we can from the water.
Three of our zooplankton and phytoplankton boys set up a 3m tripod on the ice for deployment. We also have two pumps, one flied from
Germany and one from U.S., specially designed for krill pumping. The
pump from U.S. was purchased by Australian Antarctic Division and
most of the setting up was designed by Rob King, our great brilliant
krill biologist.

Krill pump explosion

[picture: krill pump]

The reality crashes into our brilliant plan, as the old saying. We
found a really nice spot for krill pumping. It took us more than half an hour to set up everything. The German pump started pumping with all of our hope. Half way through, we stopped the pump to check what we got, and 5 min later, started again, and suddenly it EXPLODED!!!!

The seawater froze in the pipe and stuck, and the pump vacuumed all
the air from the little chamber, and this is the reason for the
little explosion.

Luckily no one hurt, but pumping for today became impossible. The
krill group is facing some unhappy situation.

More information about SIPEX-II is available through the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre website.

And the blog of Dr Wendy Pyper, science reporter for the Australian Antarctic Division, who is covering the expedition.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Antarctica New Zealand Conference Report

Sira Engelbertz and Lorna Little have provided the following report and photos of APECS Oceania activities at this year's Antarctica New Zealand Conference.  Thank you both for your work organising, and also to all others who made the event the success it was.


APECS Oceania @ 2012 Antarctica New Zealand Conference, 4-5 October, Christchurch:

APECS workshops at the annual New Zealand Antarctic Conference have become an integral part of this conference’s program over the past years. This year APECS Oceania (formed in May 2012) organised a session for this conference. Instead of the usual workshop or panel discussion, as has happened in previous years, APECS Oceania tried something new this time: Speed-Meet-A-Geek, a speed networking game.

The rules were simple. First, quickly find someone in the group to talk to. Then, you get three minutes to exchange information about yourself, your research, your further interests, etc. When the time is up, you move on to another person in the group and talk to him or her for another 3 minutes, and so on. BUT, to make it a little more challenging, participants also had to find a matching pair of Flakes, Blobs and Bubbles!

The Flakes, Blobs and Bubbles were taken from an art project and education & outreach flagship activity for the Fall 2012 International Polar Week. Pairs of images of flakes, blobs or bubbles – all drawn by kids at IceFest, the New Zealand Antarctic festival in Christchurch – had been handed out to participants at the beginning of the session. The task was to find the person with the matching image while networking at speed.

There were fantastic prizes for the first three matching pairs, kindly sponsored by COMNAP (Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs).All participants received a free drink, generously provided by Antarctica New Zealand. To make a long story short, there were many reasons to be part of Speed-Meet-A-Geek and none not to! Over 40 conference attendees (out of around 80) including students, early career scientists, mentors, APECS members and non-members (but potentially future members…) made Speed-Meet-A-Geek at the 2012 Antarctica New Zealand Conference a great success!

Apart from the Speed-Meet-A-Geek event, APECS Oceania presented also its poster to introduce the new joint Australian and New Zealand branch of the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists.

Special thanks to: Ed Butler, Michelle Rogan-Finnemore, and Heidi Roop for all their help leading up to the event, Melissa Idiens for helping run the session, Igloo Bar for hosting APECS Oceania Speed Meet A Geek, and all conference attendees participating in the game!

Monday, 1 October 2012

SIPEX-II Update, from 25 September

More stories of adventure in the Southern Ocean!  Stay tuned for photos.

You can check out views from the Aurora Australis webcam via the AAD website.
Images are updated every 30 minutes.

25th Sep, Day Eleven
Wind: 0.4 knots
Air temperature -11oC
As you can see, the weather was mild, we had a beautiful sunny day,
weak wind and super warm, and we found our first ice station. 
First ice station, two emperor penguins (“empire penguins” in the
Chinese translation!) in the morning, following by another bunch of
ten on the big ice floe, which the ship sat next to for a while. Late
morning, found a big chunk of ice that seemed pretty stable and safe,
Klaus and Psycho (our field training officer) went exploring for the
whole group. Apart from Psycho fell into a small hole and thick snow
ranged between 30-120cm, the ice condition seems very stable. In the
afternoon around tea time, people started to get on the ice for a bit
of work. We had intended to make our very first stop for the next
Penguin attack! 
Krill group went out to explore a nice place that might be a shelter
for the larval krill we are looking for. About 50m from the edge of
the ice, we found this big ridge sitting on the ice. This is possibly
a perfect location for us to capture some krill underneath. A group
of emperor penguins came over to spy on us, the aliens coming with
the huge orange boat. It was an absolutely amazing experience to find
out we were surrounded by penguins in the next 10 minutes.  They were
so close that we even could clearly see the tiny black eyes, the pink
orange-ish beak, and the little water drops resisting on their
oil-coat feathers. Their white belly looks golden and shiny with the
reflection of sunshine. It is really interesting how they fall down
on their belly and slide on the ice with feet and flippers. When
standing up, they need help from the beak and the flippers. “They are
the most interesting animal I have ever seen” – quoted from R King.

An incident   
When one group was on the ice planning deploy their instrument, there
was a swell right between them and the ship. According to witness, the ice moved like a wave and lifted almost one meter.
According to witness No.two, he felt the ice moving up and down under
his feet. Soon after all these signs, a huge crack appeared in the
middle of the ice floe, and separated the snow team and the rest of
the people on the ice. Our rescue team, crew, and all the other
people worked together nicely and brought all people and instruments
back safely. However, we decided to move on after the incident, to
find a new floe to settle down.
Read more great articles about the expedition and research projects via Dr Wendy Pyper's blog.
Follow the links on the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre website.