March 22, 2006
Funded by the
National Science Foundation
Office of Polar Programs
Location: Latitude 63° 20.6' S, Longitude 55° 53.2' W
Air Temperature: 4.1°C
A few weeks before starting this trip to Antarctica, I spent a few days in Romania. The people with whom I was traveling knew that I had worked here and that I would soon return. They thought I was being facetious when I said I had never been so cold as while walking around Bucharest. However, I will maintain that my statement is relatively true. For one thing, no one, at least not I, is walking around bare legged in heels and a skirt here, nor do I intend to do so. Secondly, it really isn't that cold, at least not on a sunny day like today in the northern portion of the Antarctic Peninsula. There is no negative sign in the air temperature I have listed at the top of this page.
Over the last few days, the air temperature has been fluctuating wildly. Some of this variability can be attributed to the fact that our position has been changing. This cannot explain the four-degree rise in temperature that happened seemingly instantly last night while the vessel was nearly stationary. Changes in temperature can also be attributed to daytime versus nighttime conditions, but that it is just a few degrees usually. Our temperature has changed by about thirteen degrees in the last day and a half. This warming has been brought with the wind on the heels of a storm we never really felt. Believe it or not, we really would prefer it to be colder.
Most of our problems with getting longer cores are due to the time required to stay on station not fitting with the schedule of drifting ice that eventually reaches any spot. It has seemed that any good water we pick closes and leaves us with no option but to pick up and move again. As the air temperature drops, the sea surface begins to freeze. The water is about -1.0°C near the surface. It just takes a slight drop in the air temperature, and the surface of the water quickly goes from being liquid at the surface to frazil ice-little ice spicules floating in the water, to grease ice putting a sheen on the water over a large area, to nilas as the layer starts to thicken. If there is any swell in the water, my favorite, pancake ice, starts to form. A few days ago, we saw all of these things start to develop. This was a good sign to us. Once the majority of the sea surface has frozen, things stop moving around so much. The NB Palmer can hold position without difficulty against things like grease and pancake ice. With young ice, wind doesn't reach the water. Without fetch, the wind can't create much current and this means that the ice floes and big icebergs stop moving around so much. There is enough water for us to drill. We just need it to stay in one spot and some young ice could do the trick for us. Thus, we were a bit dismayed at the sudden rise in temperature. In the stairwell today someone said to me "If it's not one thing, it's three."
I have written this from the comfort of my desk in a room where I can control the thermostat. While I have done this, the drillers and MTs are working outside and if they read this later, they might think to themselves that I really have no idea if it is cold or not, or what it is like to be outside for hours on end in the wind, whether the temperature is just above freezing or just below. They would be correct. My response is just to say thank you so much for all that you are doing for us.
Photo of Mt. Alexander in the Firth of Tay by Pat Manley.
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