I am now finally back at home, it has been a most adventurous trip indeed. Now that my long journey has come to an end, I would like thank those who made it possible. My participation was equally dependent on three parts:

- Family. Maybe the hardest work was done at home? It´s not to be taken for granted to just leave a sambo and two small boys for such a long time. I love you all.

- Anna, my supervisor. Thanks for having the vision and knowledge to conduct research at the most faraway place on earth and letting me come along for the ride.

- Sang Hoon Lee and all our korean friends. 고맙습니다 (Thank you)  for the time on your very fine ship, I will remember it for the rest of my life.

Team Sweden.

A special thanks goes out to Jimmy for letting me use his camera gear, without which my trip and this blog would have been a lot less exciting.

Adios amigos.


Achtung, albatross!

Pos: 46°59.85 S, 175°05.60 E
Sea: 7 m
Wind: W 20 m/s
Weather: Sunny

Today I will try to probe a little deeper into the world of the amazing albatross. To my aid I have the fine book A complete guide to Antarctic wildlife by Hadoram Shirihai.

Quote from page 12: “In the enormous waves of the Southern Ocean, these massive birds (Great Albatross) appear small, but even in the fiercest of storms their supremely agile, effortless and relaxed flight is obvious. Experiencing these birds in such conditions is arguably the ultimate birding experience.“

It is obvious that my birding career can only go downhill from here. The biggest swell so far is hitting Araon on the port side and wind gusts are exceeding 20 m/s. Numerous albatrosses of different kind are following the ship now.

The great albatrosses consist of two groups, Wandering albatross and Royal albatross. Within these subgroups “taxonomy and nomenclature of the seven taxa of great albatrosses […] are still highly controversial, subject to further study”. There are also some risks of confusion within the group of small and medium albatrosses. If any birding expert can help me out here, don´t hesitate to post a comment.

 Chatham or Salvin´s albatross?

Salvin´s or Shy albatross?

 Wandering albatross (Anitpodean or Amsterdam)?

 Wandering albatross (Tristan or Gibson)?

 Campbell or Black-browed albatross?

 Wandering albatross (Anitpodean or Amsterdam)?

Sadly, 17 out of 22 species of albatross are threatened with extinction. The main threat to albatrosses is death at the end of a hook on a fishing long-line. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds runs a campaign to save the albatross.

 Definitely Adélie penguin. Not an albatross, but I really like this pic.

Heli-ride and stepping onto ice

Date: 2014-01-23
Pos: 51°37.57 S, 179°26.61 E
Sea: 2 m
Wind: W 12 m/s

We were lucky with good weather while following the ice shelf edge, so the heli ride did happen. In these areas it´s important to have proper visibility for safety reasons. Thanks to the Kiwi pilots Steve and Ricky and engineer Daegal we got to check out the big Getz ice shelf and glacier from above. Looking south over the glacier there was only flat whiteness to the horizon.

Getz Ice Shelf

On the way out through the ice there was a stop to take some ice cores, which was an opportunity to leave the ship for a while. It was a great sense of freedom to put on the skis and enjoy a day on the ice. Some distance away from the ship I could experience total silence and stillness for the first time since our departure. There was also close encounters with Ross- and Crabeater Seals and some curious Adélie penguins. Certainly one of my best ski trips ever.

 Only 1762 km left to the Pole

 Busy day for a Crabeater Seal

 Penguin meeting

 My name is Lefty

 Talking to me? (Photo: Johan Rolandsson)


Rig work finished

Date: 2014-01-13
Pos: 73°6.23 S, 116°0.59 W
Sea: flat
Wind: N 4 m/s
Weather: Partly sunny

Now all the rigging work is done. What is left is to recover data, service the instruments and then start packing. The new postition of our final deployed rig ended up to be 73°9.34 S, 118°8.20. It will hopefully have a safe home in a small depression at 480 m depth on a passage between the Getz and Dotson areas. The final position was decided with help from the Araon´s hull mounted multibeam, which maps the seafloor topography. We also had the opportunity to run the multibeam in some unchartered areas, which will be really useful information. The data from the new rig will help to detect any connections between the waters further west and our other moorings.

Meticulously monitoring the multibeam 
The revisit to the mooring we left without recovering earlier turned out to be successful. This time contact was established with both releasers, and this time both of them released. But in spite of this, no bouy did appear on the surface, so preparations were made to start dragging with an anchor to catch it. But after the Araon had steamed around the rig in circle, the bouy popped up. So to sum up, I think we can satisfied with all the moorings recovered and two out of three redeployed.

Today we are having another rare day with almost no wind which is a pleasure. I am still on the lookout for Humpback and Killer whales, but they are nowhere to be seen so far. The only bird lately has been a brown/grey petrel, which I think is Great Winged or Grey Faced petrel. Spotting the right petrel is not as hard as albatross, but not far from it.



Positive thinking

Date: 2014-01-07
Pos: 73°6.65 S, 114°6.52 W
Sea: 1 m
Wind: NW 10 m/s
Weather: Sunny

Our heavy working stint is now over for this time and we have had some time to catch up with sleep. The weather is finally really nice and sunny. My portfolio of iceberg photos is steadily growing. Not so many animals to be seen where we are now, only the occasional albatross and snow petrel. We saw a minke whale the other day, but no humpbacks yet. I have had a first glimpse of the Dotson Ice shelf and its massive glacier, quite impressive.

Minke Whale

We have managed to recover one mooring and to not recover another. What I described as the worst case scenario actually did happen. But since I am a rookie in this business I did not consider the possibility of recovering it in another way. It is actually possibly to drop a special hook from the boat, drag it along the bottom and hope the rig sticks to it. The mooring was clearly located with the ship´s sidescan sonar, standing up in it´s original position so it should be possible. If the MicroCATs can survive the beating is another question, but the other gear should handle it.

 Anna, a master of positive thinking, claims we will be able to recover it on our way back. And if not, this was our "cheapest" rig (no ADCP, old MCs) with the shortest time series, so it could have been a lot worse. 

The probable reason for the failed recovery is either the releasers theselves not functioning the way they should or the possibility that they got covered by a mudslide on the bottom. We will see how it goes later on our way back. Now I am just hoping that the weather stays so we can go on the promised helicopter ride.


First successful recovery

Date: 2014-01-03
Pos: 72°3.21 S, 117°2.64 W
Sea: 1 m
Wind: N 12 m/s
Weather: Grey

After working for way too many hours in a row our first mooring operation was finished last night. We successfully retrieved our S2 mooring, which has been active for two years since last service. There was some minor drama, but all worked out good in the end.

We had partial ice cover and the ADCP buoy got stuck in some ice, but was freed using the Zodiac. During this procedure we were observed by a lone Emperor penguin close by. But the biggest stress was the fact we did not get any response from one of the releasers, which recieves our signal to release the rig from the bottom weight. This is why you have two releasers, and not just one, and luckily the second one responded. Having both releasers failing may be the worst thing imaginable (except of course for bodily harm), all gear and data forever lost on the bottom of the ocean. Our tech wizard Johan has worked on the releaser today and it seems to be in working order now.

 The lonesome Emperor Penguin

Now we are in the Amundsen polynya and the rest of our stations will be in this ice free area, so recoveries will hopefully run smoothly. A polynya is an area in the ice that will melt and be ice-free every summer season, due to the supplied heat from winds (sensible heat polynya) or ocean currents (latent heat polynya). The Amundsen polynya is like most Antarctic polynyas of the latent heat kind. Hoping this info is correct, no textbooks or Wikipedia available now, only my brain to trust, which may not be so reliable at the moment considering the amount of sleep recently. Speaking of which, time to hit the sack now before next shift begins.

Giant Petrel

Ice, ice baby

Date: 2013-12-30
Pos: 66 2.66 S, 144 3.02 W
Sea: 1 m
Wind: SE 14 m/s
Weather: Partly sunny

Our internet connection is now more or less down, sending this post during the last remnants of sporadic connection. 

We have now reached the edge of the ice-covered area which I showed on the Polar View map in the last post. It´s nice to be in ice, since there is not much swell. The waves are dampened by the ice. On the other hand there is the occasional banging in the hull from hitting ice. But for sleeping, this is much better than 5 meters of heave.

The heading is ESE at 13 knots along the edge of the ice area. The estimated time of arrival at the first mooring is now on the evening/night of New Years eve. At this site we will try to recover our mooring rig which is to be put back in later at another location further south. This will make for a less hectic start of our mooring operations, since it is more stressful to recover and also put back a mooring at the same site. As mentioned earlier, sea ice concentrations at our sites looks to be favorable.

The procedure for retrieval of the mooring is the following (Check Sketch of bottom mounted rig figure from blogpost Scientific Background):

- Launch Zodiac (rubberboat) and locate the mooring with GPS.

- Send release command with GPS to releaser at the bottom of the rig.

- The rig is released from bottom weight and floats to the surface due to the top buoy. The     bottom weight (train wheel) is left in place.

- Connect rig to Zodiac and drive to Araon.

- Hoist the rig up on deck with crane.

Done deal!

The Koreans are following the lunar calendar and thus there might not be much of New Years celebrations going on. We will also be working anyway (it´s more or less light all the time now). But I wish all of you a happy new year with good parties, food and friends!

 Crabeater seals