Thursday, 15 November 2012

SIPEX-II Update, from 15 Nov

Last post from aboard the Aurora Australis as Molly, Jess, Rob and Sarah wrap up their time as part of SIPEX 2012.
15th Nov

We finally got out of the pack ice on 11th Nov, and suddenly started moving really fast towards Northeast. The entire day traveling in the MIZ, the scene outside was splendid. There were still plenty of ice floes with thick snow on it, but the blue ocean was everywhere to see. Plenty of sea birds (mainly snow petrol and giant petrol) were flying and sliding behind the heli-deck. People were all out with their fancy camera lenses to capture some real photos of those lightning-speed birds. We had an outdoor BBQ on the trawl deck under the last late-night sunshine to celebrate the joy to return home.

I start to grow into deep sadness when the sun sank into the skyline at 11pm. This will be last sunset we see beyond 60oS. We have been travelling with 16knots the entire day and night, and when midnight passed, all the ice disappeared in our sight, only left the wild ocean with swell and waves.

Last night was the Aurora night. Barry, our rocket scientist, has his contact based in Hobart to pass the information to predict Aurora. About 10pm, anyone still awake stood under the sky and looked up. There were still clouds gathering around, so at the beginning we couldn’t really tell if the light bits were only the sky or the real aurora. The real aurora does not appear as bright green as we normally see on the picture. After about half an hour, the sky started become unbelievable and incredible. I have never seen something like this. The pale green light appeared on the sky with a rhythm. It was like the wave washing the black sandy beach and left all the patterns on it. Sometimes it was more like a painter spread out all the watercolour paints randomly to the black paper. And the next moment everything was suddenly washed out. What happened on the sky was not really describable by words. I was just standing there and gazing the sky for more than half an hour. The only words came out was “WOW….”

We will arrive Hobart tomorrow.  There are still so many stories need to tell. Although we have only been on the ship for two months, I had the feeling it’s been a year. All the people on board appear to me as a big family. Our science group is a mix of experienced scientists, engineers, early scientists and students. It is fascinating for me to meet all these awesome people with passionate of their work. They are also incredible professional.

The best part is all the science nerds at the same time maintain a high level skill on something else. Ted, Peter and Polly are crazy Scrabble/bananagrams machines with words come out their brain every second. Jono and Peter are fantastic guitar players, who usually play as our bed-song singer and after-dinner entertainment. There are more than one great photographers who capture all the amazing scenes along the way. Ernesto and Maria are good Ping-Pong players. We also have Anne-Julie as our Belgian-French painter who is able to make very fine oil painting.

This will be last post for us from the Aurora Australis. The Aurora email system will be shut down as soon as we reach the port tomorrow. APECS-Oceania will follow up some great photos and videos and some post-voyage stories soon afterwards.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

SIPEX-II Update, from Oct 8

8th Oct
Stn 4
Position: 65o 08 S, 121o 01 E
Wind: 15 knots
Temperature: -15oC
Another nice and warm day on the ice, work goes along as usual. All
the groups are busy occupied with measurements. This site is full of
biological activity. At the back of our ship, in the small open water
area, looks like a temporal penguin paradise. Five emperor penguins
were swimming, diving, and hanging around there for the whole day.
They usually dived from the same spot together and stayed in the
water for couple minutes; then they suddenly appeared on the surface
and chirped to each other for a while, then dived in again.
Frequently they jumped on to the ice and walked all the way to the
scientists to peep what we are doing. We had penguins around us the
entire day. 
[Emperor swim] 
Dinner on the ship at 6pm, suddenly someone spotted a black line was
passing by about couple hundreds meters away from the port side of
the ship. We all rushed out and saw a magnificent march of Adelie
[Adelie march]
Personally I am more excited to see Adelies than elegant Emperors.
Adelie are hilarious animals to watch. They walk like they are going to fall
down at the next moment. With their wings open up behind them like a
cape, they rush around with short legs until falling on the ground,
then they start to slide on their tummy with legs and wings. Those
who have seen “Frozen Planet” from BBC, you must remember the amusing
scene when one Adelie tries to steal stones from another one when the
hard-working one is building his love nest to attract females.    
[Adelie single] 

SIPEX-II Update, from Oct 6

6th Oct, 
Position: 65o 06 S, 121o 21 E
Wind: mild
Temperature: -15oC
Muster on the heli deck
We have an emergency training every week, or every time when we leave
a station. When the ship starts to ring the emergency signal,
everyone responses properly to dress up with warm clothes and life
jacket, bring the red survival bag and get on to the heli deck. 
The first time was really exciting. It was back to 12 days ago before
we got to any ice stations. First time to try all the gears on and
the air was getting to the point of frozen. In addition, we had a bit
snow on the deck to make a snow fight.  
But after 3 or 4 times, to fully dress up for half an hour and change
back to summer clothes is not that exciting anymore. The bonus to
standing in the chill wind was, we could see all sorts of creatures.
So far, we saw a crabeater seal right behind the ship, then a penguin
family with 5 or 6 members, and some snow petrels, and some more
penguins, and surely, some amazing sea ice. 

Sunday, 4 November 2012

SIPEX-II Update, from 3 Oct - 4 Oct

A good wrap up of some fieldwork in this update!
3rd Oct, Day nineteen 
and 4th Oct, Day twenty
POSITION: 64o 52 S, 120o 58 E
Wind: mild
Temperature: -15oC
Station 3! Yeay!
Helicopter out, and they brought back news for three possible ice
floes for a good ice station. We approached to the 1st one, and broke
it when we tried to moor the ship.
Later afternoon, we finally arrived at our Ice Station 3! Horray! 
We were all really happy that we could finally go out for a walk or
do a bit work. Especially when the weather was really gentle to us,
nice sunshine, almost no wind, and it’s really warm, only -15oC. 
We plan to stay in this ice floe for today and tomorrow only, so all
groups rushed out for work as soon after all the flags out. 
Our on-board engineers repaired krill pump for us. They are AWESOME!
More like magicians to me, I would like to call them men of
“everything is possible” (we would have a story for them shortly). We
set on a spot very close to the ship (about 10m away). Then everyone
discovered the difficulties on this ice floe. It is really THICK!
This ice floe has a heavy snow cover with an average of 1m.
Underneath, the ice all packed and rafted, with an average thickness
of 1.5m. 
The trace-metal team had a lot of troubles on this station. They
needed to walk a long way to their site with all the heavy gears, the
corers, and the survival bag. On the morning of 4th Oct, they walked
all the way to the site, dug through one-meter snow, and finally saw
the sea ice. But when they start coring, the ice core frozen inside
the corer, and they had to march back to the ship, use milli-Q water
(get it down dripping down from the milli-Q machine, take a long time
to get one bucket) to clean the gear to get the ice out. And this
happened TWICE in one day! In the dinner everyone from trace-metal
looked exhausted and frustrated. Thanks to Klaus, our chief
scientist, trace-metal team started their journey AGAIN after dinner
under Klaus’s company, and finally successfully got samples back
before the sunset.  
Time to talk about our 2nd krill pump. The giant monster flew from
the States, and was originally designed for fish farms. Now we
modified some parts of it and use it to pump krill from the water. It
sits in a blue container and pumps with long pipes. Each pipe needs 7
people to carry. Each time to set it up involves efforts from many
[krill pump operation 1 & 2]
Unfortunately, all the ice cores we are taking were crystal clear,
did not show much biological accumulation. Also because it is so hard
to cut a hole on the ice, we started to put our net down from “trawl
deck”, the back of the ship where we deploy all the big instruments,
like AUV, CTD, TMR etc. 
[Patti taking net samples]

SIPEX-II Update, from 30 Sept - 2 Oct

Some long awaited news from Molly, still on board the Aurora Australis with Rob, Jess, and Sarah..
30th Sep, Day sixteen
1st Oct, Day seventeen
2nd Oct, Day eighteen
It’s remote, wild and cold down here. All sorts of problems appeared
on the ship. The equipment failed because of low temperature;
helicopter couldn’t fly due to the bad weather; we can’t break the
thick ice since the ship engine has tiny troubles to start etc. 
When come down to 64oS, the most common thing happening to us is
stuck in the ice, or just hanging around without spotting a good
location to settle down. 
It’s been three days since we departed from the last station. Our
plan was to find the 3rd station yesterday morning, but it’s
afternoon today, we still not sure what will happen in the next 24h. 
Everyone grew a bit grumpy when there is not much to do. We finished
all the sample analyses, well prepared to be going out anytime.
Meanwhile, we almost played all the games we could play. 
Our assassin game already came to the end. Since I was killed by my
mate 5 minutes after the game started, I completely dropped my
interest for this game!
We have a new table-tennis competition started from a week ago. I was
really amazed how good-skilled people are! Although a Chinese I am,
I’m suck of table tennis. I played more ping-pong game on this ship
than altogether in my life. 
Talking about games on board. We have a full collection of board
games, including all board games you can think about. Chess,
Monopoly, Domino, Spicks & Specks, Cluedo, Pictionary, Ticket to
ride, Sorry! (The game of sweet revenge), Scrabble, and the cute
version of Scrabble – Bananagrams, etc. Apparently now, Bananagrams
became the most popular game between the dining room and the library.
Consequently, the dictionary became one of the most popular books
Also, our sweet social committee came up many brilliant ideas to
amuse everybody. Jess, one of our APECS member, with Hugo (our
brilliant British mood-maker) started a series of games for every
second night. The game named Winner-Winner-Chicken-Dinner. Jess will
write something really fun about Winner-Winner soon.