Nov 23 - Back to KEP
Noon Position : lat 53 55.2 S, long 39 07.2 W
Bearing 288 T,38 Nm from Bird Island
Air temperature @ noon today : 3.2 degrees C
Sea temperature @ noon today : 2.3 degrees C
Wind: Direction NNW, Force 6
This week in brief - back to K.E.P.
After a very enjoyable time in Stanley, it was time for us to be on our travels again. We were joined by some extra people, unexpectedly. Due to the poor weather in Rothera very few people have been able to fly South, unfortunately this means that Stanley is full! To create a few more spaces, some of the people waiting in Stanley joined the ship for a cruise. So, we left on a sunny day along the now familiar passage through the Narrows. Our aims for this trip are to return to K.E.P. with more cargo and we have three science teams on board. Initially we were hoping to do the Western core box (an ongoing project, more information next week) but the fog rolled in. As we were due to be recovering moorings this caused a problem, could we see them in the fog? The answer was no - except for the last in the line (POL BPR) for which the fog lifted,and which was duly released from the seabed, sighted on surfacing, and picked up by the ship - and so we continued on to KEP, arriving on Friday 19th, a few days earlier than expected. That remainder of that particular science project (seven more items to recover) having been postponed until the return trip to Stanley.
The weather in South Georgia was glorious, as usual. It is not for no reason that it is nicknamed 'the banana belt'! Whilst the crew worked hard, unloading building supplies, those of us who were not needed went exploring the local area. I was very pleased to meet up again with Jenn Keys and see that she is settling in to her new home at King Edward Point. We had a lovely day walking, penguin watching and sitting around in the sun.
Science Bit in the middle - What's in the water?
Following our visit to South Georgia we are now just north of the island. Our first job was to pick up two moorings, the data on them was downloaded then they were serviced and redeployed later the same day. More about them next week as they are part of the Western core box. Following that we have been taking CTD readings. CTD stands for conductivity, temperature and depth (or cold, tingly digits if you're working on the deck in the snow!), and is a core method for acquiring oceanographic data. A frame carrying sensors is lowered into the water to an estimated depth where the CTD can be measured. As well as the sensors the frame is loaded with several lengths of drainpipe (I'm sure it's not really drainpipe, but that's what it looks like). The pipe is open at the top and bottom on the way down. At a given depth the lids at both ends can be snapped shut, thus capturing a sample of water from that depth. This water is then brought to the surface and used for various experiments.
Adele Chuck and Rosie Chance are scientists from the University of East Anglia and are working on an AFI funded project looking at the chemistry of the Southern Ocean waters. They boarded the JCR in Stanley and during the transit to KEP, back to Stanley, and then down to Rothera, they are making measurements of biogenic trace gases, chlorophyll, nutrients and iodine species. The trace gases being measured are from two different groups, light alkyl nitrates and halocarbons. Knowing the concentration of these gases in the seawater, and in what quantity they are escaping to the atmosphere is important for understanding the atmospheric chemistry of the region. Measuring the biological parameters will help us to understand how these gases are being produced. We think they are being produced by the algae in the seawater, although which species and how and why they produce them is still poorly understood. The sampling system system being used is a purge-and-trap gas chromatograph with a mass spectrometer. This was all bought on board and assembled in the main lab - the girls are not looking forward to dismantling it all at the end of the cruise!!
Adele Chuck taking water samples from the CTD. Glass syringes have to be used so that there is no contamination of the samples. They are rinsed thoroughly and then water is drawn out of the 'drainpipe', avoiding getting any air bubbles into the syringe (another source of contamination). The most important thing to remember is to wear your wellies, I got very wet feet!
Birthdays on Board
This week we had two birthdays to celebrate. Doug 'the Deck' Trevett and Rick Johnson (new boatman for KEP) were both twenty-one again. The evening also coincided with the last night on board for the new KEP team and much fun was had by all.
As well as these birthdays, there was another 'birthday' on board this week. I have to report the sad demise of George the Dummy, our trusty friend used for drill purposes, he fell down the stairs and suffered terminal injury! As a consequence a new dummy was needed for this difficult and dangerous job. Over several weeks I have been gathering instructions and materials for this Blue Peter project. The first group going in to KEP created the skeleton from chain and drainpipe with the head being made of an old fishing buoy. The new ingoing KEP team provided inspiration and help so that he was built up from his skeletal state and is now nicely padded out. He even has a new name, Boris, named after a well-known MP - whose face he has borrowed! Here's a picture of him on his birthday.
That's all from us this week. We're looking forward to a week of science in nice calm waters with views of South Georgia in the sunshine! By the time I write the diary next week we should be well on our way back to Stanley. Hopefully some of the people there will have flown to Rothera by then. Byeeee!