The last time I posted onto the blog, the most exciting thing was having seen Southern Lights during our transit to Antarctica. Now, I am so happy to say that we have many days of science under our belts. But one thing about field work that many may not realize is that it is almost inevitable for things to not go as expected.
As many other posts have mentioned, we had delays in embarking and transit to Antarctica that were out of our control. But so many more things happened since we have gotten down to the ice. These waters are covered in ice that we can break through and icebergs that we must stay very far away from (see image 1). Weather can even make the waters dangerous to deploy certain pieces of equipment whereas other weather conditions make for some exciting photos that show how special this science is (see image 2). Our group has depended on our ability to get cores back up from the seafloor, and sometimes our equipment comes up with very little mud if not empty.
Even after all these curveballs that seem to come daily, we have persisted. We pivot. Fellow scientists reimagine their procedures that optimize their research goals with the mud they’ve been dealt with. Technicians work around the clock to make sure equipment is ready and operational for the small window that water and weather conditions give us to sample. Crew members have done an incredible job at maneuvering the Palmer to keep both the passengers and the science safe. This vessel is full of well-experienced and skilled individuals that have allowed us to be as fruitful as possible with the obstacles we have been thrown thus far.
And with a positive attitude, those woes turn into beauties. The icebergs become a beautiful backdrop with pink and blue sunrise skies (see image 3). Unsuccessful core recovery leads to searching for unanticipated sites that have more unique characteristics. And even if our microbiology group is left empty-handed at a site, it has resulted in us being able to witness exciting invertebrate research and maybe throw in a hand or two in processing occasionally.
In time, once samples return to our home institutions, we will be able to share what scientific discoveries we have made with this cruise. And we wouldn’t have anything to share without a team effort in rolling with the punches of East Antarctica. In between all the chaos, we continue to keep our cool and always find time for a break to go animal watching (see image 4).
University of Tennessee, Knoxville