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Dec 2 - Rothera Bound...

Noon Position - Lat: 57° 18.0' S Long: 056° 54.2' W
Location: 280Nm North of the South Shetland Islands
Total Distance Travelled: 9482.7Nm from Immingham, UK
Air Temp: 8.1°C
Sea Temp: 3.8°C

James Clark Ross Tracking Map

Web cam

Rothera Bound....

When I last wrote we were approaching Stanley and what was supposed to be a brief stop of just a couple of days. Fortunately we undertook inspection work and identified some problems that required repairing before we could continue. This took us all last weekend and the early part of this week to complete, but when done we were ready for action once more. We then loaded the remaining cargo and finished the preparations for our next science programmes, which would occur as we headed south.

Thursday afternoon saw the gangway lifted and we were on our way. Rothera was to be our first major port of call, but first we had a bit of science to complete and it is in the middle of this that you find us today.

Buoys, Buoys & More Buoys!

The largest science party on this leg are from the National Oceanographic Centre in Southampton (NOCS) and British Antarctic Survey (BAS). They are undertaking a study of the currents that pass through Drake's passage. This is an experiment that has been done on several occasions in the past and as this one is the twelfth (plus one) time it has been done I don't want to tempt fate by saying too much at this time. Though those of you who wish to know more about the science can check out a previous crossing by clicking here.

Part of the work this year included the deployment of six Argo floats. These ingenious devices are launched from the ship and then submerge to a particular depth, normally about 1000m, where they drift and then every ten days they sink to 2000m before rising to the surface collecting a profile of the ocean as they come. On reaching the surface the data is transmitted to shore via satellite. Then they submerge again to continue sampling. Below we can see one of our drifter buoys being deployed. Though the second photograph shows an occupational hazard before they submerge i.e. the curiosity of the local wildlife.

Click all images to enlarge

ARGO float deployment
ARGO float deployment


Black-browed Albatrosses inspect an ARGO float just after deployment.
Black-browed Albatrosses inspect an ARGO float just after deployment.


This is an international programme to study the oceans and for further information you can check out the UK Met.Office's website or the ARGO home page.

Another of the regular activities on this passage to the Antarctic Peninsular is the servicing of Bottom Pressure Recorders by the team from the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory in Liverpool. These are incredibly sensitive devices that sit on the seabed and measure the height of water above them. The data is then stored within the unit before being recovered in two years time. This year the system is changing and so we only had to deploy two instruments. The instruments deployed last year will then be recovered next year complete with all their data. This is then used by scientists to understand the tides and circulation of the oceans, all important details in the understanding of climate change. Below we see the first instrument being deployed. Once released we listen to it acoustically to ensure it lands safely and to check its position for recovery.

A BPR frame about to be deployed.
A BPR frame about to be deployed.


Going, Going, Gone.
Going, Going, Gone.


The final part of this weeks buoy extravaganza was the deployment of a new type of weather buoy for the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS). This is a new bit of kit for us and is designed to be deployable by so called "ships of opportunity" to increase the amount of data acquired without the cost of diverting ships and having to send additional people to sea. On this occasion a box arrived with its instructions and below we can see our Chief Officer Robert Paterson turning it on before the deployment. It had to be turned on a specific time, so that its clock would be correct and it could establish its position and test its communications before being deployed.

Turning the SAMS buoy on.
Turning the SAMS buoy on.

The week ahead.

Well it is science all the way to Elephant Island, which we'll hopefully see in daylight and if we're really lucky cloud free though I'm not too hopeful on the later. Then, depending on the ice conditions we'll head down Bransfield Strait, which lies between the South Shetland Island and the Antarctic Peninsular. This was the scene recently for the dramatic and sad events concerning the MV Explorer; a ship that we have seen on several occasions in the past and included in the diary, as in 2001.

Unfortunately our visits to Damoy and Vernadsky, the Ukrainian station, have been curtained due to our late departure, but if the calm seas prevail short calls should be possible. The week will then conclude with with a little more science before our anticipated arrival at Rothera next Sunday, weather and ice allowing. To find out how we do tune in next week, but given the sunset below the omens have to be good for a calm crossing.

Who said the Drake Passage was rough!
Who said the Drake Passage was rough!


If that title isn't temping fate I don't know what is. So if there isn't a diary next week you'll know the weather got bumpy and someone got keel hauled for making silly comments!

SAW