PS96 Weekly Report No. 8 | 1 - 7 February 2016
Farewell to East Antarctica and passage through the Weddell Sea
No – we did not forget about the four men at Drescher Inlet and left them there for overwintering. The helicopters brought them and all their equipment back to the ship last week. It was fascinating to see how they reported about their work with the typical Antarctic glaze in their clear eyes. The stories of their impressions bubbled out of their mouths like freshwater from a thawed water fall.
They had been very successful although Antarctica blew occasionally loads of snow into their tents, onto their pans, and into a hole that they had drilled and hacked into the fast ice in front of an ice shelf. Only so much about their results at the moment: Through the “eyes” of their ROV they observed previously unseen and unknown processes below the ice shelf. Watch out for their future publications! After a hot shower, two nights of good sleep on board and three meals on a proper table they were flown to the Finnish base Aboa. From there, they will travel via DROMLAN (Dronning Maud Land Air Network) back to Germany, where their loved ones (many greetings to Kerstin) will expect them home in 10 days time.
For us, it will take some more time to get home – even if the polar impressions slowly vanish. The 66.5th degree latitude both in the Southern and in the Northern hemisphere has a special name: polar circle. From there towards the pole the sun does not set for at least one day during summer (at the pole the sun does not set at all for half a year). For weeks, we sailed at latitudes between the polar circle and the pole. Consequently, we undertook our research on 49 days of permanent illumination. The sun did not even dip under the horizon. So, breakfast became dinner and vice versa (we have warm meals three times a day anyhow). However, now we are heading north again – and it gets dark at night. Sleeping at night is easier after all, at least for somebody from central Europe.
And then there was the thing with Neptune. He gets especially upset about intrusions into his underwater world in the region covered by the Antarctic Treaty (south of 60° S). In comparison, he is not more than slightly annoyed about equator crossings. In accordance with the rules of the German Federal Environmental Agency any person crossing the Antarctic Circle has to prove his/her knowledge of environmental friendly behaviour by attending a certified course. Similarly, everybody who has reached some degree of purity and cleanliness has to carry with him/her a baptism certificate signed by Neptune himself. If somebody does not possess such a certificate... our further report won’t say a thing what will happen to him/her. Also here words cannot reflect the personal experience, which mainly depends on whether you stood inside or outside of the baptismal font. Anybody who participated in the polar baptism on our cruise may report this at home by him-/herself – ideally behind closed doors.
For a while our ship has become a floating lecture theatre when reaching the northern Weddell Sea. A new series of presentations has started, which are predominantly given by our young researchers on board. A few days on transit to Punta Arenas are well suited for reporting and discussing the first results from the data and samples collected over the last two months. Beforehand a small rustic dinner is served in the deck workshop to celebrate the end of the station work. Some ice fish and shrimps were left over from the last very successful trawl – they were treated not with formalin but with onion, garlic and oil...
After the final station is before the final station. In the north western Weddell Sea two more oceanographic moorings are waiting for us. After five years the batteries squeeze out their very last electrons. We must urgently get them back. Hopefully they will respond to the signal of their salvation and make their way up to the ocean surface and to the boat hook stretched out from the ship for their rescue. If we manage to recover them, the oceanographic knowledge about this marginal sea of the Antarctic will make a major step forward. On the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula we will do an additional hydrosweep.
Apart from this, some “thrilling” activities have now started, such as cargo packing, filling of cargo packing notes, archiving of samples, backing up of data, cleaning of laboratories and corridors so that the next expedition can enjoy using the ship.
We could finish our report by adding a nail-biting paragraph listing the statistics of gear deployments – but we prefer to refer to the cruise report for these details. We all have to focus on completing it before we arrive in Chile. Even if it was a wonderful and successful expedition (such as almost each “Polarstern” cruise”), we look forward to snow, rain and wind (courtesy of the low pressure system over Iceland) at home. See you soon!
Best regards from the scientific party and crew, master and chief scientist
who are steaming with 10 knots towards Cape Horn