Friday, December 21, 2012

Shackleton & Agulhas II Updates

Another update from the Shackleton, but this time with pictures!

We're still at sea, and entered the edge of the icepack two nights ago.  Saw our first icebergs on the 17th, and also passed by Bouvet Island.  Bouvet was an interesting sight to behold: the first land we'd seen in a week, but small, remote, and very uninhabited.  And for good reason: it's a volcanic island located at the very southern end of the mid-Atlantic ridge, and is 93% covered with glacier.  The Norwegians have an unmanned weather station there.  The waters around it are apparently quite rich, and Bouvetøya is home to tons of nesting seabirds (apparently some seals and walruses too, but we didn't see those).  We'd enjoyed the company of a couple albatrosses and petrels on the journey down from Cape Town, but the skies around Bouvet are teeming with seabirds of all sizes.   

Continuing south, we've entered an area of exceedingly calm water.  It helps that we missed a big storm system in its entirety, but it feels like we're on a lake.  The crew decided to exercise the lifeboats, which involved lowering them into the water, firing up their engines, and running laps around the ship for a bit.  The sea ice is still sparse enough that this was a good place to do it.  The operation looked fun!  Also: penguins!

Port side lifeboat, coming back for recovery.
Thinly distributed first year sea-ice.

Chin-strap penguins playing near the lifeboats.

Finally, a quick update from the SANAE crew: following some unexpected difficulty with the last bit of sea ice, they're unloading.  From Brett (yesterday night):

Most of our BARREL cargo got off-loaded today onto the ice shelf!  Progress!  Another science team has "priority" cargo in the container, so it'll be in the first set of containers to reach SANAE IV.  Off-loading operations seem to be going well, though I do not know how soon we'll be finished. [...] We've had a lot of penguins out today!  I'm glad to finally see penguins in Antarctica, on my third trip down!
 And that's all for now!