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Feb 24 - From the Bellingshausen Sea and Northwards

From the Bellingshausen Sea and Northwards

Well, when you last left the JCR, the science work for cruise JR141 to the Amundsen Sea had just finished, actually in the Bellingshausen Sea, and we had just had the End of Cruise Dinner. It was now under a day until the end of the Cruise itself, with our arrival at Rothera. At 1am, in the early hours of the 15th Feb the JCR arrived, but due to the late hour, the ship settled on D.P. (Dynamic Positioning) just off Limpet Island, for the few hours until the morning. It was at 7am that the ship moved off and headed into Rothera Station, with many of the scientific staff due to leave on the Dash-7 high up on the Monkey Deck. For the two members of crew still on board, the view was very different from the scenery on arrival just over 2 months previously when the whole of the vista was one of fast ice and pack ice. It was now one of open water, though obviously with a scattering of icebergs in all directions. The JCR arrived at the wharf at 7:55am and was all fast 40 minutes later. Transport was waiting for all departing personnel on the wharf for a rapid 'check-in'. It seemed hardly a few breaths later that the Dash-7 passed in front of the ship's forecastle, before banking to the north, on its way to the Falklands (it was, apparently, actually 38mins from stepping ashore to take-off). The science staff would be back in the office at Cambridge before the JCR even left the waters around Rothera.

The view across Marguerite Bay, from Rothera (Picture by Dave Farrance)
The view across Marguerite Bay, from Rothera (Picture by Dave Farrance)

This was to be a very brief stop in at Rothera indeed! There was only the transferral of the coring apparatus into the forward hold and placement of the upcoming mooring equipment on to the aft deck to be done, and the whole process took no more than a few hours. This was, though, just enough time for those science staff staying on ship, and the two ships gadgets, to get to the Post Office and shop and then wander around Rothera Point to stretch their legs on dry land for the first time in over a month. Everyone, including the 7 new science staff were on board by 11am, fully briefed, and ready to start the next science leg of this sortie from Stanley, in no more than a matter of a few minutes. She ship was all clear of the wharf at Rothera at 12:20pm and was sitting on D.P., ready to start the first CTD just 25 minutes later. The CTD, and the recovery of the first mooring of this cruise, just a few hundred yards away, was watched and filmed on by those on board the SednaIV, a yacht down here filming for North American television over the coming winter.

Recovery of Mooring on to the Aft Deck (Picture by Dave Farrance)
Recovery of Mooring on to the Aft Deck (Picture by Dave Farrance)

The SednaIV viewed from the Aft Deck (Picture by Dave Farrance)
The SednaIV viewed from the Aft Deck (Picture by Dave Farrance)

It was to be a very busy coming few days for the science staff and crew on board. This part of the cruise was only to last about 48 hours, but was to be almost constant work. There were two moorings to be recovered and then redeployed and a number of CTDs to be undertaken. On top of this there was a huge amount of water sample analysis to be undertaken, and would take up all the hours available to the 4 staff that had joined at Rothera, only to be dropped off again the few days later. I will leave a more specific description of the work undertaken to Deb and Ziggy, the ships resident oceanographers at present, and keep going with the week’s happenings. All the work for this stretch, bar the deployment of the two final moorings near Rothera had been completed by the early hours of the 17th Feb. The JCR thus steamed back to the first of the two sites, where it waited on DP, ready to start work at 6am. The weather had completely cleared overnight and these final few hours off Rothera were to the most glorious backdrop of snow-covered peaks. The first mooring was completed, back in the water for another season, in no time at all and the ship was already on station for the 2nd by 10am, back within a stone's throw from Rothera.

View from the the ship, on station, before heading for Rothera (picture by Dave Farrance)
View from the the ship, on station, before heading for Rothera (picture by Dave Farrance)

The JCR was back alongside at 11.40am, dropping off the 4 scientific staff from base who had joined ship for just those 48 hours. We were heading back out before the clocks had struck midday and were well past the southern tip of Adelaide Island, ready for the start of the first CTD of this very last transect at 16:00. There were to be 9 stations, which would take 12 more hours of deck work. The science work though had not quite finished. All the CTDs undertaken over the previous 3 days had left a huge amount of seawater to be analysed. It would take most of the trip back to the Falklands to measure the salinity of the 220 samples collected over those 3 days.

Ziggy, analysing samples in the salinometer lab (picture by Dave Farrance)
Ziggy, analysing samples in the salinometer lab (picture by Dave Farrance)

The JCR was to return north via a similar course to that taken back in December. We passed into the Neumayer Channel at around 8am, sending our greetings over the radio to those individuals based at Port Lockroy, on our journey past. The ship then continued north through the Gerlache, through Boyd Strait at the western end of the South Shetlands late on the evening of the 19th Feb, and out into the open water of the Drake Passage.

Route of the JCR through the Southern portion of the Neumayyer Channel, past Port Lockroy
Route of the JCR through the Southern portion of the Neumayyer Channel, past Port Lockroy

Next Stop Stanley.