|Colville's photo album
Because the Palmer's email connectivity is very low, Colville is limited in the size of photos she can send from the ship.
Story and photos by Lisa Colville
I settled into my home for the next five weeks, the Nathaniel B. Palmer (NBP), the United States Antarctic Program’s (USAP) 305’ research vessel/ice breaker, on December 21, 2006. We will make a voyage from Lyttleton, New Zealand to McMurdo Station, Antarctica.
Most of the five weeks on board will be spent zigzagging across the Adare Trough, located 100 km northeast of Cape Adare, Antarctica. While we are cruising we are collecting bathymetry and seismic data, which will be used to create a 3-D representation of the sea floor topography and underlying sedimentary and basement rock structures.
Intermittently, we are dredging the trough’s escarpments (walls) and seamounts, volcanic mountains rising from the sea floor that do not extend above sea level. From this we are hoping to determine tectonic history of the Adare Trough and thereby gain greater understanding of past Antarctic and Pacific plate interactions.
I am a member of the six-person dredging team. The team is headed by two professors: Kurt Panter of Bowling Green State University and Pat Castillo from Scripps Institute of Oceanography. My responsibilities include helping with the collection of rock from the dredge, cleaning them, sawing them open, identifying and characterizing them, and preparing them for shipment back to the US.
Something unknown to me before the trip is that the sea floor is covered with a thick, transparent-pink, smelly goo, affectionately known as “sea snot”. Let’s just say it makes cleaning the rocks a whole lot more interesting.
In addition to my responsibilities to the dredging team, I am “on watch” from 3 p.m. to 9 p. m. While on watch my roommate, Franziska and I record the latitude, longitude, speed, temperature, salinity, and other key pieces of data into the ship’s log every 15 minutes.
I also am given a "ping editing" assignment every day. Ping editing is necessary to clean up the bathymetry data that the ship collects, or “pings”, every 10 seconds. The data will be used to create maps of the ocean floor along our cruise. Then from 11pm to midnight, I am on marine mammal watch, on lookout for whales, seals, and penguins; I’ve seen several of them in the wee hours of the morning because the sun never sets within the Antarctic Circle at this time of the year.
I’ve had a lot of fun getting to know the people on the ship. A majority of the students and professors hail from outside of the United States. In between our watches the students always find time to have fun, such as parading around the ship in our emersion suits or dressing up at penguins. I’ve also had the opportunity to learn to navigate and steer the ship—it definitely is harder than it looks!