Thursday, 10 April 2014

Further sea ice shenanigans

Saturday 5th April 2014 
(post by Kim)

Well our predictions from yesterday were correct, and as we travelled southeast to the second mooring site the sea ice became thicker and more compacted, so that most of the day we’ve been slowly ploughing our way through solid pack ice. It’s been an incredible experience, watching the ship churn up thick blocks of ice, with the flat snowy landscape stretching out in front as far as the eye can see. The local wildlife seem to appreciate the clear strip of water that the ship leaves in its wake, and we saw troops of Adélie penguins lined up in single file to dive in, and the fined backs of a few Minke whales following alongside us. There was even (drumroll please!) a brief sighting by Hugh of a distant Emperor Penguin, which was amazingly exciting, as it’s not usual to see them this far north!

The bow of the JCR, ploughing through compacted pack ice (above). The view of this churned and broken up pack ice as we pass through it reveals brown layers at the base of the ice (below, photo courtesy of Ollie) which are actually layers of diatoms – microscopic organisms that make their shells out of silica – living within the ice. 

We successfully reached the second mooring site without incident, and although the extent of the pack ice made it impossible for us to release and find the mooring that was already there, we were able to deploy a new mooring that will continue to make observations for several years to come. Just as the new mooring was being lowered into the water from the back deck crane, a Minke whale breached the surface just behind the ship. Those of us clustered around the UIC windows to watch the deployment were blown away, and I can’t imagine how amazing it was for those out on deck! Another amazing experience, and another spectacular day in the Southern Ocean (with some successful science thrown in too!).

The perfect moment captured by Jesse. A Minke whale breaches right by the mooring team hard at work on the freezing deck!

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