Sunday, February 20, 2011

Leaving McMurdo

The days since my last post have been crazy. We were finally able to board the ship on the 17th at 13:00. The loading of the ship with our equipment from the containers to the ship, to my surprise, went very smoothly. We formed human chains, working together as a team to get all equipment on board. I was very impressed and happy with the teamwork. Unfortunately I did not get to set up in the laboratory I had originally planned on because the other group occupying space in that laboratory are analyzing samples for helium and tritium and, apparently, they use liters of isopropanol that are allowed to volatilize into the atmosphere. First of all I was unsure if large amounts of volatilized isopropanol would compromise my samples and, secondly, I didn’t want to breath in isopropanol vapors every day. Luckily there was plenty of space still available in the wet lab, which actually worked out better for my storage needs. We set sail yesterday and have been steaming towards our first station. We have a 10:45 meeting to discuss the sampling plan and Jim Swift, the chief scientist, will also give a brief explanation of the CLIVAR (Climate Variability) program. It seems the cruises associated with the program are primarily chemistry-oriented. My self and my colleague Emily represent, as far as I know, the only biological component. I don’t really have a solid sampling plan yet, although I have some ideas. I will keep you posted on what develops.

Prior to our departure, we did get an opportunity to visit Scott Base, the New Zealand Antarctic Station near McMurdo. Normally, scientists from other countries cannot visit the station unless they are invited. But, I guess they host an ‘American night’ once a week when McMurdo dwellers can at least visit the gift shop and the bar at the station. I also was forced to sing a little karaoke one night but I am going to try and forget that part. On a side note, we did get to see the sun 'sort of' set while we were still in McMurdo. It was a beautiful site.

We haven’t seen too much wildlife yet. We saw some penguins and seals in the distance but they were little dots in the distance. As we were leaving McMurdo, we did see some whales in the very distance. I did get a couple of pictures and you can see a teeny tiny dorsal fin above the water. But hey, it’s a whale. Right now we are in open water, so there is less of a chance to see wildlife. But I will keep you posted.


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