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Dec 07 - Art & Heritage

Date: 7th December 2003

Noon Position: Noon position Alongside Biscoe Wharf, Rothera Station, Adelaide Island, Antarctica
Air temperature: -3.9°C


The JCR this week.

Once again apologies to our regular readership for the late appearance of their regular fix of JCR adventures. The delay was due to cargo operations at Rothera Station. We have now left Rothera and have a few minutes to put the finishing touches to last week's diary.

  JCR at Rothera. Click to enlarge.

The week began with a little bit of science as we headed south across Drake's Passage. This was a continuation of work done in previous years, mapping this area of sea bed, with the additional task of dredging for rock samples. To explain this a little better we've re-introduced our "Science bit in the middle" section later on in this week's diary.

With the dredging completed, we headed into the Bransfield Strait, which separates the South Shetland Islands from the Antarctic Peninsula. The next stage of the voyage was to put the summering party into Port Lockroy before heading south to re-supply Rothera. The science programme had been so successful we were left with a couple of hours in hand, so the Captain treated all onboard to a brief sail into Deception Island as we were passing.

Deception Island

For those of you who have not heard of Deception Island before we'll give a brief explanation. The centre of Bransfield strait is a volcanic area. The island is a dormant volcano in which the crater or caldera has been breached by the sea and is therefore flooded. The picture below shows the island as it appears on our charts with the course lines at the bottom right showing our track into and out of Port Foster, through the dramatic entrance passage, Neptune's Bellows.

 Chart showing Deception Island. Click to enlarge. Chart showing Deception Island. Click to enlarge.

The bay just inside the entrance on the right is known as Whaler's Cove, which was used at one time as a base for whaling operations. It was also the second base to be manned by the predecessor to BAS, aptly named Base B. The base was initially built in 1944, and was later taken over by BAS. It had to be abandoned in 1969 after being damaged by the volcano erupting once again. To find more details to go to Deception Island in the historic base sections of this site.

Neptune's Bellows ahead. Click to enlarge.
Inside Neptune's Bellows. Click to enlarge.
The remains of BAS base "B". Click to enlarge.
Neptune's Bellows ahead.
Click to enlarge.
Inside Neptune's Bellows.
Click to enlarge.
The remains of BAS base "B".
Click to enlarge.

The pictures above show our band of sight-seers looking towards Neptune's Bellows from the Monkey Island (left). The centre picture shows the other side of Neptune's Bellows and the remains of Base "B" -Deception Island is shown on the right. Click on each to enlarge.

Port Lockroy

Having seen Base "B" it was time to go back in time a little further. Base "A" or Port Lockroy, was our next stop, to land the summer party who will man the station on behalf of the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT). Click to check out the details of Port Lockroy.

It is always a pleasure to visit Port Lockroy, situated as it is in one of the most spectacular areas of the Antarctic Peninsula. The island is also a home to a Gentoo penguin colony. These penguins are comical to watch as they busy themselves stealing stones from neighbouring nests to build their own.

This year we had plenty of help in getting the cargo ashore and getting the party set up. However, this efficiency does have a down side as it curtails the time we can spend there; once the work was done we were on our way once more. It was a spectacular morning, which we hope can be appreciated to some extent from the pictures below. Top left is the boat shed with penguins in the foreground and the main base behind. Top right we have one gentoo vainly checking his appearance in the still waters before the visitors arrive, or is he just asking who's that handsome chap looking at me? In the centre we have the happy workers retuning to the ship with the job complete. Finally we have two more penguin shots that we couldn't resist. The penguin in the lower right picture managed to build his nest on the concrete base for the flag pole and then seemed a little put out by all the attention when someone wanted to raise the flag. Don't penguins know what flag poles are for?

Port Lockroy. Click to enlarge. Paddling penguin. Click to enlarge.
Group photo. Click to enlarge.
Penguins on the rocks. Click to enlarge. Don't penguins know what flag poles are for? Click to enlarge.

Having mentioned them we thought we'd better show you this years "tourist guides" for Port Lockroy. Left to right we have Pete Milner, Dave Wattam and Rick Atkinson.

 The Lockroy Three! Click to enlarge. The Lockroy Three! Click to enlarge.

We wish them all the best for a successful season.

Lemaire Channel

The next job on our list was to drop off some packages at the Ukrainian research station "Vernadsky" which is situated in the Argentine Islands just at the southern end of the Lemaire Channel. The beautiful weather just added to the magic of the passage down this channel, often referred to as Kodak Crack due to the amount of photographic film that is expended there. What can we say with mountains 1000 metres high on either side off a seaway which closes to less than a quarter of a mile? It is almost too much to take in. We only hope that the pictures below give you some feel of what we're trying to describe. Our passage was a little more eventful than usual this time as we had traffic to contend with. This was the cruise ship World Discoverer which was heading north as we went south.

Lemaire Channel before us. Click to enlarge. World Discoverer passing in the channel. Click to enlarge. The cliffs tower above us! Click to enlarge.
Lemaire Channel before us.
Click to enlarge.
World Discoverer passing in the channel.
Click to enlarge.
The cliffs tower above us!
Click to enlarge.

Then at the southern end a boat was sent ashore to the Ukrainian station. To many it was a home-coming as the station had been operated by BAS as Faraday station from 1947 until 1996 and was always a favourite.

This errand completed it was further south, over the Antarctic circle and onto Rothera, but more of that next week.


Science bit in the middle

As promised earlier here is the return of the science bit in the middle. This week we've been under the charge of Roy Livermore, who assisted by Alex Tate, has been leading our mapping of the Shackleton Fracture Zone. This is a project that has been ongoing for several years and is building up a fuller picture of this important area of the sea bed.

As an introduction here is a brief explanation of the work by Roy Livermore.

The drawing below shows this year's survey area. To give you some orientation, the light blue area in the bottom right-hand corner is the shallow water area immediately around Elephant Island. The Shackleton Fracture Zone, we were interested in, is the red area running as a band towards Elephant Island. The black line shows the ship's track and the four stars indicate the dredge sites.

The survey area. Click to enlarge.The survey area. Click to enlarge.

What’s it about?

The Earth has been experiencing global cooling for 50 million years. This may have been triggered by events at Drake Passage, involving the Shackleton Fracture Zone which is an active plate boundary. It is where the edges of the Antarctic and Scotia plates (a plate is a fragment of the 100 km thick outer shell of the Earth) slide past each other. The Shackleton Fracture Zone is therefore a major active fault, just like the San Andreas fault, and, like the San Andreas, it produces earthquakes each year. It also represents the scar left by the departure of South America from Antarctica approximately 50 million years ago.

What are we doing?

We are using the Simrad EM120 swath bathymetry sounder and shipboard magnetometers to examine and date crust formed during the earliest phase of Drake Passage opening, to see when and how the passage opened. In addition to this we'll dredge the ridge to obtain rock samples that will allow us to date the material making up the ridge and hence its age.

Why are we doing it?

The existence of a deep water pathway is crucial for the establishment of a circumpolar current, the last obstacle to which was probably the connection between South America and the Antarctic Peninsula. Once a circumpolar pathway was established, polar seas were cut off from warmer, tropical waters, and Antarctica became glaciated. Some scientists believe that a deep water connection between the Pacific and Atlantic was prevented by overlapping slivers of continent, one of which is the ridge adjacent to the Shackleton Fracture Zone. We aim to show that this ridge formed after Drake Passage opened, as a result of tectonic deformation. Hence, the deep water pathway was established much earlier, at around 33 Ma, correlating with Antarctic glaciation and global cooling. The resulting bathymetric data will be combined with data from past and future expeditions, to create a new, high-resolution map of the Scotia Arc. Further to this, the rocks collected will help to date sections of the ridge.

Alex and Roy with the first dredge samples. Click to enlarge. Mud and more rocks! Click to enlarge.

Alex at his other job: monitoring the swath equipment. Click to enlarge.

Alex and Roy with the first dredge samples. Click to enlarge. Mud and more rocks! Click to enlarge. Alex at his other job: monitoring the swath equipment. Click to enlarge.

The pictures above show the dirty side of the operation, collecting the rock samples from the dredge, and the clean side monitoring the swath bathymetry system.


Artist and Writers Programme

Some of you may know that BAS takes part in an Artists and Writers programme each season where it assists people to visit the antarctic and use their artistic talents to interpret the environment. For more details click here Artist and Writers Programme.

Over the last six weeks JCR has been playing host to this year's two winning applicants and we are now about to deliver them to Rothera where they will continue their work. Before they leave the JCR we'll give you a brief introduction. Further details of the programme and links to their work can be found on the main BAS website.

First a composer

Craig Vear is a professional musician and composer with over twenty years experience and has worked with numerous artists and bands including Tom Jones. He has been patrolling the ship with his ever faithful microphone, christened "Fluffy" for obvious reasons, recording all manner of sounds. These vary from people speaking to machinery noises, the outside environment and of course the wildlife. He will layer and mix these sounds together in an interpretation of the side of Antarctica that he has experienced. This will then be produced using the latest surround sound techniques and performed before being released on DVD. It was Craig's recording of a light mantled sooty albatross that we used a few weeks ago. Another piece of Craig's raw recordings is this ice break piece - Icebreaking traking in our forward holds as we approached Rothera.

 Craig and "Fluffy" at Deception Island. Click to enlarge. Craig and "Fluffy" at Deception Island. Click to enlarge.

Then an artist.

Sandra Chapman's day job is as a Professor of Space and Astrophysics at the University of Warwick, UK. However, she is currently a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard, but has taken leave to follow her other great love, art. During her time on board a corner of the bridge was turned into a studio as she produced numerous sketches and paintings. Some of these will become finished work while others will supply the ideas for a bigger piece. It is Sandra's intention to use her knowledge of science to view BAS's work and then interpret it through her art. She is producing work for an on-line gallery and has therefore agreed for us to show one of her paintings here.

Sandra, a little wind-swept at Deception Island. Click to enlarge. One of her pieces, so far! Click to enlarge.
Sandra, a little wind-swept at Deception Island.
Click to enlarge.
One of her pieces, so far!
Click to enlarge.

A final thought until next week...

With Rothera sinking behind us we head towards Stanley, but as always there's a little bit of science to be completed. More of that next week.

 Pretty berg in the sunshine. Click to enlarge. Pretty berg in the sunshine. Click to enlarge.