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Dec 06 - Stanley...AGAIN!!


Noon Position : lat 59 00.6 S, long 55 50.8 W

Bearing  032 T, 411 Nm from Port Lockroy

Air temperature @ noon today :  3.0 degrees C

Sea temperature @ noon today :  1.9 degrees C

Wind: Direction NW, Force 4

This week in brief

At the beginning of the week we steamed towards Stanley, in glorious sunshine as usual!  There was quite a lot of shipping traffic as we approached the Narrows and we were pleased to be able to watch the Queen Elizabeth II.  She was moored in Port William, her draft is too great to pass through the Narrows unlike us.  The ship was a hive of activity with small tenders taking passengers ashore.  The population of the QE2 is roughly equal to that of Stanley and with all of the visitors the town was positively overcrowded.  As well as the cruise ship, there were the Falkland Islands fisheries patrol vessels "Dorada" and "Sigma" passing through, and a trawler leaving port.  The summer season has arrived in the southern hemisphere.

The QE2 in Port William; photo L Handcock

Once moored alongside we were able to begin loading cargo ready for the next leg of our journey to Port Lockroy and Rothera.  More importantly we were able to have a party!  This was a 'bridge' party, nothing to do with playing cards, it was held on the bridge of the ship.  Some 120 people came along to enjoy the hospitality of the ship.  The party is a chance for the Ships company to entertain and thank all those people in Stanley who contribute to our operations in the south, and without whom we could not perform our function.  It was great to be able to put faces to names after so many weeks on the ship; a good sociable evening was had by all.

Over the next couple of days the cargo was loaded until the inevitable last few things were lashed to the deck, the personnel were all on board and we were ready to leave again on wednesday.  On this particular passage we are heading towards Port Lockroy, where we will drop off the summering staff and then steam on to Rothera.  Predicted good weather for the Drake Passage crossing,  and poor sea-ice conditions off the Antarctic Peninsula, dictated that it would be more sensible to carry out the SOC and POL science work on the south-bound passage. Consequently we have been crossing Drakes Passage very slowly. PSO Mike Sparrow explains why below.

Science bit in the middle - do they really need all that water?

Project Title/Location: Drake Passage repeat hydrography: WOCE Southern Repeat Section 1b – Burdwood Bank to Elephant Island.

Personnel: Mike Sparrow, Liz Hawker  (Principal Scientific Officers), Adam Williams, Justin Buck, Marc Lucas, Sue-Ann Watson
Dates: 1st-20th Dec 2004

The Southern Ocean is one of the most hostile environments on the planet, and consequently is greatly undersampled in both time and space. Within the Southern Ocean the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) connects the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, transporting around 130 million tonnes of seawater per second eastwards.  The ACC carries anomalies from one basin to another, affecting both regional and global climate.  In addition, the Southern Ocean plays an important role in the global meridional overturning circulation (the so called ‘Conveyor Belt’).  North Atlantic Deep Water is drawn up to the surface while Antarctic intermediate and bottom waters descend into the oceans’ depths.  The ACC’s narrowest ‘choke point’ is at Drake Passage, between the Antarctic Peninsula and the tip of South America, and it is here that Southampton Oceanographic Centre has been making annual hydrographic measurements for over a decade.

JR115 is the tenth occupation of the Drake Passage section, established during the World Ocean Circulation Experiment as repeat section SR1b, first occupied by Southampton Oceanography Centre in collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey in 1993, and re-occupied most years since then. Thirty CTD/LAcoustic Doppler Current Profile stations will be carried out across the 753 km section from Burdwood Bank to Elephant Island. Maximum station spacing on the section is 33 km, with stations closer together on the continental shelves.  Water samples are drawn for salinity analysis, for subsequent CTD conductivity calibration.  Various underway measurements include navigation, vessel-mounted ADCP, sea surface temperature and salinity, water depth and meteorological parameters.

The main objectives are:
i. To determine the interannual variability of the position, structure and transport of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) in Drake Passage;
ii. To examine the fronts associated with the ACC, and to determine their positions and strengths;
iii. By comparing geostrophic velocities with those measured directly (by the lowered ADCP), to determine the size of ageostrophic motions, and to attempt to estimate the barotropic components;
iv. To examine the temperature and salinity structure of the water flowing through Drake Passage, and to identify thereby the significant water masses;
v. To calculate the total flux of water through Drake Passage by combining all available measurements.

Station locations as the James Clark Ross crosses the Drake Passage

Trips around Stanley

Whilst in Stanley during this visit, I managed to do a little more exploring of the local area.   The eastern end of Port Stanley is dominated by the 223ft wreck of the Lady Elizabeth, commonly called the Lady Liz.  Built in 1879, she was condemned in 1913 after hitting a rock.  A short walk from FIPASS (where the JCR is moored) took me along to admire the crumbling hulk.

Lady Elizabeth in Whalebone Cove; photo J. Edmonston

I then continued along the grassy coastline until I came to the port beacon of the Narrows  It is quite odd to stand next to the beacon having approached Stanley three times and passed this point more often by ship than by foot.  The black and white beacons on either side of the Narrows were built in the 1860's and are still important aids to navigate this tricky passage of water.  Continuing further, it is possible to scramble along the rocks and shoreline towards Gypsy Cove.  At this time of year the surrounding area is covered in the brightest yellow gorse that I have ever seen and there is the smell of coconut from the gorse flowers.

Gypsy Cove; photo J. Edmonston

From here it is easy to reach the Penguin walk.  This is a section of the sand dunes of York Bay where there are many Gentoo Penguins.  Their antics kept me entertained for ages.  They are not afraid of humans and will carry on as if no-one is present.  Unfortunately, this area has many ordinances left over from the Falklands Conflict in 1982.  The positive benefit of this is that the penguins remain undisturbed, as visitors must remain behind the fence and observe from a distance.
This little walk is probably the most popular from Stanley, for people visiting for a short time.  I think that a lot of people have the misconception that the Falkland Islands are a bleak place in the far south with apalling weather.  My little trip round the coastline showed just how beautiful and friendly this corner of the world can be. (Don't get me wrong, the next day the wind was about 40 knots and I could barely cycle into town upwind!)

So we shall leave you for another week.  Today the 'Drake Lake' is just starting to break up and we are heading into snow and wind towards the 'screaming sixties'.  Very shortly we shall arrive at Port Lockroy where the tourists are almost as abundant as the penguins.  For the final picture this week I have George Dale, one of the AB's contemplating what the future holds for us!

photo L. Handcock