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Mar 2 - To Stanley and then back down to Burdwood Bank

To Stanley and then back down to Burdwood Bank

The last time you left the James Clark Ross, we had just headed out into open water after passing the South Shetland Islands, with the Drake Passage to cross prior to the ships final return into Stanley this season. The few scientific staff left on board were wrapping up all the loose ends from the last Oceanography cruise, prior to disembarking from the ship in Stanley.

The James Clark Ross on berth at FIPASS (Picture by Dave Farrance)
The James Clark Ross on berth at FIPASS (Picture by Dave Farrance)

The ship passed through the Narrows to Arrive in Stanley Harbour at 0750 22nd February, being all fast alongside the berth on FIPASS just 30 minutes later. We went straight into cargo work and demobilization of the equipment used over the previous 5 weeks. Two members of the five-strong BGS (British Geological Survey) team that had been on the ship for the cruise, had remained on board after calling into Rothera. It was their job to get all of the team's coring and seismic equipment packed and ready for transfer back to the UK. The 6 BAS/BGS staff returning the UK were to stay on board until Friday, two days after the ships arrival. They then spent a night in the Upland Goose in Stanley prior to an early departure for Mount Pleasant Airport (MPA) and their journey back to Brize Norton, via the Ascension Islands.

A total of 22 new individuals were due to join the ship, though, arriving in 3 separate groups. The first small group joined ship on the day of arrival, allowing time for mobilization of all the equipment, ready for starting science work just a matter or hours out of Port William. Two members of the cruise's dive team flew up from Rothera on the Dash-7 to join ship on 24nd February; the rest of the science team arriving in from the UK at MPA just a few hours later. With the equipment from the last cruise fully demobilized, and everyone in the new team now on board, it was time for all the final preparations. The chamber was fully tested on the morning prior to departure, in preparation for diving at the first planned location within the crater of Deception Island, in approximately one week's time. The piston corer was by now ready in place on the starboard side of the upper deck, the CTD was sitting ready in the Water Bottle Annex and the various trawl nets to be used were lashed down on the aft deck. JCR's Virtual Tour

The next 7 weeks on ship surely won't be that bad!! (Anna Hey) (Picture by Claire Allen)
The next 7 weeks on ship surely won't be that bad!! (Anna Hey) (Picture by Claire Allen)

But on the other hand? (Rich the Purser looking 'mean and moody' during the lifeboat drill) (Picture by Pete Enderlein)
But on the other hand? (Rich the Purser looking 'mean and moody' during the lifeboat drill) (Picture by Pete Enderlein)

At 1315 on Sunday 26th Feb, the James Clark Ross departed from the berth at FIPASS for the final time of this Antarctic season. As on previous occasions, once the ship was at anchor in Port William, the emergency signal was sounded and an emergency muster was undertaken by all the ships complement, followed by a boat drill, which included boarding of the lifeboats. These are routine but very important drills to ensure that all personnel know what to do in case of an emergency.

At 1500 the ship passed out between Mengeary Point and Cape Pembroke, heading south towards the Burdwood bank, ready for the first work of this second long science cruise of the season.

Huw, Jan and Rachel on the Monkey Deck when leaving FIPASS (Picture by Anna Hey)
Huw, Jan and Rachel on the Monkey Deck when leaving FIPASS (Picture by Anna Hey)

The passage of the JCR away from Stanley and the Falkland Islands
The passage of the JCR away from Stanley and the Falkland Islands

In the early hours of Monday 27th February, the ship arrived on station over a shallow portion of Burdwood Bank. This work over the next two days consisted of various activities at four different sites, of 200, 500, 1000 and 1500 metres water depth. Although I will leave the specifics of this part of the cruise to the science team themselves, we were to undertake a CTD and 2 trawls at each site, with a trial deployment of an additional item of equipment, the Otter Trawl, at the shallowest of the 4 sites. All of this was going to allow the team a good first chance to work together for the deployment and recovery of the equipment, followed by sorting all the scientific samples collected from each trawl. Two days were spent trawling around Burdwood Bank area before setting off southwards across the Drake Passage. Those first two days of the cruise were to be fairly tough for some individuals and the subsequent two days of passage to the next work-site would allow them a well-earned break; it will also be an opportunity to start analysing some of the samples collected.

Sorting out the first large catch in the ship's wet lab (Picture by Anna Hey)
Sorting out the first large catch in the ship's wet lab (Picture by Anna Hey)

Collection of marine and terrestrial invertebrates and pelagic microbes along the island chain of the Scotia Sea
with Katrin Linse

The current cruise involves RRS James Clark Ross sailing to the Antarctic Peninsula and the islands of the Scotia Sea (Elephant Island, South Orkney Islands, South Sandwich Islands, South Georgia) to study marine and terrestrial biology (from microbes to fish) and marine sediments. We will commence science for nine different science projects and have 20 scientists and support staff on board to undertake the fieldwork. Most of us work for the British Antarctic Survey, but we have also AFI and external collaborators on board from the University of Bangor, University of Cardiff, NOC and the University of Hamburg. Six of the projects are linked to evolutionary biological studies.

Map of proposed cruise track
Map of proposed cruise track

The Scotia Sea region is a transitory area between the Magellan and Antarctic regions. Magellanic species (e.g. from Burdwood Bank and Falkland Islands) are thought to differ in their DNA to Antarctic ones, as response to their evolution under climate and physical constrains. But also within the Antarctic the DNA of marine and terrestrial animals, like fish, octopus, seaspiders, clams and mites, might differ between the populations from different islands. We will study the gene expression in selected target species linked to environmental variation as we collect specimens from different latitudes and temperature regimes. We will assess the biodiversity at local and regional scales and investigate the between genera and between species relationships (phylogenetics) and population structure of selected marine and terrestrial invertebrate taxa and their biogeography in reference to the climatological, oceanographical and geological history of the Scotia Sea. The marine microbes will be used for the construction of DNA libraries. The results will be used to determine of the role of Antarctica and extreme environments in general in evolutionary innovation and generation of global biodiversity. To collect the samples for our various studies we will dredge the sea floor using an Otter trawl, Agassiz trawl, epibenthic sledge and Rauschert dredge, dive at 4 islands of the Scotia Sea and filter marine microbes from the water column. We will also collect terrestrial invertebrates by hand ashore.

Epibenthic sledge META to collect small crustaceans from near the seafloor (on loan from DZMB Wilhelmshaven) (Picture by Pete Enderlein)
Epibenthic sledge META to collect small crustaceans from near the seafloor (on loan from DZMB Wilhelmshaven) (Picture by Pete Enderlein)

Two projects around South Georgia are linked to the Long term Monitoring and Survey Programme at BAS: the Western Core Box (WCB) and the subsurface mooring to detect daily zooplankton movements.

One project (PEP-G) will collect underway-geophysical data, underway water samples to monitor modern phytoplankton assemblages and use a piston corer at selected sites near Signy Island and South Georgia to drill into the seafloor. These cores will contain fossilised phytoplankton and can be used to study past climates.

Over the next couple of weeks the individual science groups will explain their studies in detail.
More info: www.antarctica.ac.uk search for BIOFLAME BIOPEARL & BIOREACH, CACHE PEP-G, LTMS, AFI 6/16 and AFI 6/33.

Some of this weeks samples

Overview of one of the Agassiz Trawl Catches from Burdwood Bank 
<br />(Picture by David Barnes)
Overview of one of the Agassiz Trawl Catches from Burdwood Bank
(Picture by David Barnes)

Squad lobster (Munnida subrugosa) from Burdwood Bank 
<br />(Picture by Dave Barnes)
Squad lobster (Munnida subrugosa) from Burdwood Bank
(Picture by Dave Barnes)

ydroid with scale worms and brittle stars from Burdwood Bank 
(Picture by Dave Barnes)
Hydroid with scale worms and brittle stars from Burdwood Bank (Picture by Dave Barnes)