Weather causing delays

RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer NBP-1102/S04P Weekly Scientific Report 03, 10 March 2011
from Jim Swift, SIO, Chief Scientist and Alex Orsi, TAMU, Co-Chief Scientist
ca. 67°S, 153.6°W
0030 Z (1430 local)
-0.8 degC (31 degF)
winds 11 knots from S
on station 041

The storm which stopped our work last Thursday morning finally abated early Saturday. Since then we have been working steadily on our measurement program, without weather or equipment delays. We are making good progress, though remain about 5 days behind the expedition deadline timeline. Small problems pop up in the equipment from time to time, and we have found some ways to improve a few procedures – pretty much business as usual. Data quality remains excellent. No surprise that the Circumpolar Deep Water and its closest relatives remain consistently warmer and slightly saltier than observed during the Akademik Ioffe S04P cruise in 1992.

We will soon turn from our eastward course and follow 150°W south to the Antarctic continental shelf, which will complete for the first time the far south end of WOCE/CLIVAR/IOCCP line P16. Then it will be decision time for the first cuts to the science program. The Palmer is steaming mostly at 9 knots to conserve fuel, and has quite understandably had to slow in fog at night in waters where there are hazardous growlers and bergy bits that do not show up on the radar. Not to mention that there is plenty of stormy weather out there, just missing us at the moment. Because we can make up four days simply by widening station spacing to 60 nmiles on the eastern half of the 67°S (S04P) section, we are not in an insurmountable situation regarding the present time deficit, but we are still considering a 3-day cut (the sampling along 170°W, from 73°S to 67°S), which has been discussed with the oversight committee and team PIs. Watch for next week’s report for our decision.

Aura by Juan Botella.

Small breaks provided by nature the past week include icebergs (the reliable scenic highlight of working near Antarctica), the Aurora Australis a few times (we’ve included two photos shot by Juan Botella, our PolarTREC teacher), and a close-up visit by a few humpback whales (see the previous post).

The galley staff is great at keeping morale (and waistlines) at a maximum. Fresh bagels made a surprise appearance, the cookie supply seems endless, the meal entrees are as tasty and varied as ever (with some excellent vegetarian dishes, too). No one is surprised that the fresh vegetable supply is dwindling – lettuce is gone now, for example.

We have not yet accounted for the date line in our current ship’s day/date, so enjoy the odd situation of now being on the same time zone as Hawaii, but one day ahead. We have not yet changed day/dates mostly due to our plan to go back to 180°W to start a cross-shelf section after we complete the 150°W section and two mooring recoveries, though I confess that the notion of switching one week from today – thus having two March 17th’s (St. Patrick’s days) – may have entered our minds.

This is a harmonious, very good natured bunch. Cribbage and foosball tournaments are in full swing, groups linger at meals to enjoy
conversations, music is heard from time to time. All is well aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer.

Jim and Alex