Hi! My name is Coral Halanych and I am currently an undergraduate majoring in Biology at the University of Washington. My dad has been going on Antarctic research cruises for longer than I’ve been alive. I was always the one on the other side of the world reading this blog and waiting to hear from him. He would tell my sister and I about the cool animals he saw or the giant icebergs the ship passed. Now being on an Antarctic research cruise with him, I can see how much of this experience can’t be shared with just words or pictures. Seeing the icebergs, that are ten times bigger than I ever imaged that are sitting on the horizon or forty yards from the boat. Being able to stand out on the bow for hours, just hoping to get a glance at a seal, penguin, or whale. Then feeling the excitement from everyone when someone sees them or even finds the organism they set out on the cruise for. Some days I’ve walked outside after working and had to sit there and tell myself that I’m actually in Antarctica and this isn’t just my imagination.
After a few delays on the onset of the cruise, we’ve finally being doing science for the past few weeks. We’ve been collecting a diverse group of organisms and I’ve seen firsthand how much life can be at the bottom of the ocean floor. I also never realized how much I would look forward to waiting for a ball of mud to reach the deck so we could dig through it. When we find organisms that get everyone excited or something we’ve never seen before, it really is special.
Being with a group of scientists that specialize in the animals we’re collecting, really shows how unique and amazing each animal is. For example, the other day we found a Syllidae worm with a bioluminescent tail which it uses to distract predators. We’ve also seen symbiotic relationships between annelids and sea cucumbers, urchins and brachiopods, and annelids and soft coral. But since there is not enough research or evidence on the symbiotic relationships we don’t know for certain if all of these are mutually beneficial to the organisms or harmful. This puts a new perspective on the work we’re doing here. Half of the time, we’re making our best “educated” guesses on how the organisms act, or sometimes, what they even are because of how vast, diverse, and unknown the Southern Ocean seafloor is.
(HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!!!!!)
University of Washington