Jan 1 - Christmas at Sea
Christmas at Sea
So when we last left it we had recently set sail from Rothera and were on our way north. After Deception Island, we had hit ice on the 23rd and we would be in close proximity to this pack for several days. It was this that was preventing us from getting to the planned science area near the South Orkneys, at least in anything that was close to a straight line. We were to follow around the north of it for most of Christmas Eve. This left loads of questions, particularly as to what we would actually be doing for Christmas. No-one knew if those on board would be working hard throughout the night, putting a bit of a dampener on celebrations, or be steaming towards South Georgia, since there was certainly pack ice over the area where we were meant to be doing moorings.
And thus it was that on Christmas morning the ship was waiting in clear water, north of the South Orkneys, still unsure as to whether we would be heading north or south. It was obvious that the planned work in the area was unfeasible, and so what was the alternative plan. It was decided that a revised science schedule of moorings and CTDs (see later) would be appropriate. We thus headed into the ice and towards a possible alternate area. Thus, the crew, initially, having thought that science work might be postponed, were put on to shifts as previously planned, with the work due to start in the late evening or early hours.
Due to the planned work schedule, full Christmas Dinner with all the trimmings had been postponed until after this 24hr science program. A buffet lunch was therefore laid on in the Officers Saloon, with all on board welcome. After this was a matinee showing of Wallace and Gromett on the big screen, with the only interuption being the occasional snore from an Engineer or a Cook. Many were in bed early and so the evening was very quiet with many being woken in the early hours to start work on deck.
Monitoring Weddell Sea Deep Water
On our way from Rothera to the Western Core Box near Bird Island, we diverted to the South Orkneys to deploy some moorings for the Long-Term Monitoring and Survey program. Weddell Sea Deep Water is dense water formed in the Weddell Sea that flows north and is an important component of Antarctic Bottom Water, which in turn flows down to the bottom of most of the World Ocean. A large amount of the Deep Water flows northwards through Orkney Passage, a relatively narrow gap in the Scotia Ridge, east of the South Orkneys, so our goal was to recover a mooring already in Orkney Passage, and then redeploy three new instrument moorings across the western part of the passage to monitor the water passing through. The instruments we were going to use were current meters and various combinations of temperature/conductivity/pressure sensors.
Unfortunately most of the area east of the South Orkneys was full of heavy sea ice, and we were unable to get to Orkney Passage. With only one day of ship time for the project, we did, however, get to the continental slope north of Coronation Island, where we would expect the Deep Water to flow towards the west. After taking a few CTD profiles (conductivity, temperature, depth), we decided to deploy two moorings on the slope; hopefully they will prove useful in monitoring any changes in the properties and outflow of Weddell Sea Deep Water over the next year.
Boxing day was thus dedicated to oceanography and it was to be 27th December that was the more celebratory day on board. Turkey, trimmings, Christmas Pudding and all the added festivities was thus two days late but very much appreciated. After aperitifs, and then full stomachs, everyone retired to the officers saloon for the evening, with all invited. All the catering staff, who would normally always be up before 6am to prepare breakfast were given their one lay in of the season with the next days 'brunch' set for 10am. This allowed a few to let their hair down (those that have it) for the evening, something they can't often do.
At this point we were thus on our way up towards South Georgia for so as to undertake the Western Core Box for the second time this season, hopefully in calmer seas than when we did it last time about a month and a half ago. We arrived to start work on moorings during the afternoon of the 28th, going straight into the attempted recovery of the first in Bird Island Sound, in full view of the base there. Other moorings were recovered during the evening and then it was off to start the core box proper with the usual transects being started early the next morning.
The Western Core Box started off looking like it was going to live up to it's usual reputation. The first few days were certainly a little bit on the rocky side and it was on the morning of the 29th that the previous 'Roll of the Season' Record (obviously from the last Western Core Box) was broken mid breakfast. No-one was injured and nothing was broken but there was certainly very little tea or coffee actually left on the table or in their appropriate vessels afterwards. Hopefully this would all calm down a bit to allow the usual New Year Celebrations to take place on the last evening of the Western Core Box.