‘Core is on the floor’ is the what we hear through the intercom system on the ship, every time when a new piece of sediment floor comes up from the seafloor. What happens after the announcement is a highly streamlined sequence of steps. First the IODP technicians go out on the catwalk (see picture), where they put the core on racks, label it, and cut it in pieces.
From there it goes inside the ship and is left alone for some hours to equilibrate. Then it gets put through a series of so-called track systems, where the physical properties of the sediment are measured.
Below you can see a picture of our ship track on the Antarctic shelf over the past few days. The curly line is the result of quite difficult ice conditions with huge icebergs and some sea ice in the area where our targeted drill sites are. Earlier this week we had to sit out a storm, caused by a significant low pressure system going through the area. This was done away from the shelf, where there is only very little ice, making it a safer place to be in rough seas. On Tuesday we started the journey back to the continental shelf, to drill some more material that tells us about the transition from the Greenhouse world into the icehouse world.
I have been writing a lot about the excitement of being at sea. This post will be dedicated to giving you some impression on how life aboard the ship (the Joides Resolution) feels like.
Below you can see a picture of the cabin I am sharing with one of my female colleagues. We are lucky in that we scored one of the biggest cabins with a private bathroom. For most other scientists the cabins are significantly smaller and the bathroom is shared with another cabin. I am sleeping in the lower bunk and find it quite comfortable. The only downside of our cabin is that we do not have a window!
This week we finished our first drill site, which was Site WLRIS07 on the map. The primary science objective for this site was to recover a distal record of the first arrival of glaciers to the eastern Wilkes Land margin. This is thought to represent the Earth’s transition from a ‘Greenhouse world’ to an ‘Icehouse world’ some 33 million years ago. We drilled the seafloor in 4000m water depth and recovered sediments from down to about 1000m. The material is truly spectacular: we recovered sediments from about ten different lithostratigraphic units ranging from very biogenic material over glacial deposits to very clay-rich material.
The wildlife highlight of the last days was the sighting of my first penguin (see picture).
I had seen penguins before, sitting on icebergs in the distance, but with cheap cameras (like mine) these penguins only show up as black dots on a white berg. This penguin however was different. He was swimming very close by the ship, and thanks to an announcement of the captain, everybody who was awake got a chance to run outside and see it. The little guy was swimming up and down the side the ship, giving us a proper show – very cute!
Scientifically we are making great progress.
The first hole we tried to drill off Antarctica did not like us too much and we had to abandon it. After collecting the pipes going down from the ship to about 3700m water depths, we moved to another Site not too far away, but in a different depositional environment. We tripped the pipes again (to about 3900m; see video for one piece of pipe going down), and got our first core on deck at 2 am tonight. It seems that conditions at this new location are much more favorable for successful drilling, and we are making fast progress down the hole!
When I got up yesterday morning the labs were emptied out – everybody seemed to be outside. Soon I learned that we were passing by some quite spectacular icebergs. In the photo you can see just one of those bergs. According to our ice specialist Diego Mello we saw bergs of every possible shape, and the excitement hold up for most of the day. If you check out other blogs on the expedition (www.joidesresolution.org) you will see more bergs. The sea has been very calm over the last few days, but the fog prevented more spectacular pictures. Unfortunately the massive presence of icebergs around our first targeted drill site (‘bergy water’ is the term Diego uses) forced the captain to make the decision that drilling on the shelf was not feasible at this point.
This morning at 9:20 am we past 60°S. We have been making very good progress on our transit and detailed planning for the first drill site on the shelf has began. We hope to arrive at site on Monday. This morning at 4 am the first iceberg was sighted. Unfortunately I was asleep, but there will be more to come…
By now everybody on the ship is eager to get started – a week of transit is a long time although we have been busy setting up the labs, working out our sampling strategies, and attending science talks. It is quite fascinating to see how diverse the background of all the scientists is.
After we left the ‘roaring fourties’ behind, we are currently making slow progress in the ‘screaming fifties’ to avoid the worst of a low pressure system to the south of us. Although the video looks quite nice, the waves are actually very high and the boat rolls around significantly (up to 60 knots winds and swells of 20 ft).