Dispatch #1


The final Southern Ocean GLOBEC mooring recovery cruise of the Laurence M. Gould (LMG03-02) has gotten off to a somewhat rocky start. The scientific staff met in Punta Arenas, Chile, on Monday, Feb. 10, and we were issued our cold-weather gear.  We hoped to get the ship loaded the next day but the pier was closed for high winds in the afternoon.  The same thing happened Wednesday.  During this time there were gusts of wind in Punta Arenas of 104 km/hour and safety lines were put up at street intersections to keep people from being blown into the street! It is common for the pier to be closed for a few hours, but this was a big storm system. Meanwhile everyone boarded Wednesday afternoon and the pier was opened for loading late that afternoon.  We pulled out at midnight into the Straits of Magellan and headed east for the South Atlantic. The main purpose of this cruise is the retrieval of instruments which were deployed a year ago.


I am a retired physicist and my brother, Bob Beardsley, is the Chief Scientist for this final mooring retrieval cruise. This is my first time on the ocean since age six, when our father was briefly assigned duty in Pearl Harbor during the early days of World War II. I've been assigned several duties on this cruise.  I will monitor the daily meteorological data that the ship collects every minute of each day, as well as the data from the last cruise, and do some analysis to clean up the data and process it.  I will also use the video camera provided by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) to document the cruise.  Finally I will spend some time on the bridge looking at seabirds and helping the whale observers as an extra pair of eyes. I have done some work with the weather data from the last cruise; however, the current data is not yet being stored automatically on the server, so I haven't been able to start it. The scientific staff on this cruise consists of seven physical oceanographers from WHOI, four whale investigators from Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), and two representatives of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). At least one of the latter two is on the bridge during all daylight hours.


Thursday, Feb. 13, we spent proceeding south along the east coast of Tierra del Fuego, in relatively calm waters.  We had the safety meeting, where we met at the muster station (the ship's lounge on level 1) with our immersion suits and life jackets.  Everyone tried on their immersion suits, then we all went up to the lifeboats and got in one, ready to go. The lifeboat is completely covered and has room for 44 people.  The ship was also carrying ten people headed for Palmer Station, so we were full, with two people in every cabin. In a real emergency with a full ship it might be necessary to use both lifeboats,


Early Friday morning we entered the Drake Passage, the winds were 30 knots from the west, and the ship started to pitch and roll.  This was true until we crossed the continental shelf and entered the Gerlache Straits on Sunday the 16th. We passed one of the SIO ARP (acoustic recording package) bottom moorings at the edge of the shelf during the night. The mooring answered an acoustic signal, saying that it was okay, but the weather was too bad to try to retrieve it. We started to see islands, icebergs, and humpback whales. Since we weren't scheduled to pull into Palmer until 0800 Monday morning, we stayed in one spot for the night and put out sonobuoys to listen for whales. Sonabuoys are disposable instruments that broadcast their data for a few hours. The next morning as we approached Palmer three more humpbacks were sighted, including a calf, and the Zodiac went out with Skip, Mark, Deb, and Deb on board, to try to approach them and take photographs and skin samples.  Because of the calf, the group decided not to take skin samples, and returned to the ship just before we docked at Palmer at 0800.


We unloaded at Palmer, looked around the station, and said goodbye for now to the group we had brought to stay. The ship seems almost empty now. We headed out at 1600 for the first of a series of ARP moorings along the western edge of the shelf, 100 miles from Palmer, and once again the mooring responded to a signal that it was okay, but the weather was too rough to try to get it back.  At that depth it would have taken the ARP two hours to return to the surface.  Now it is Tuesday morning, the 18th, and we are headed for the next ARP, which is closer in and might be calmer.


The view outside the lab on the main deck level, where I have my computer set up, is amazing to someone of my lack of experience. Gray, heaving water with whitecaps as far as the eye can see. My bunk is mounted perpendicular to the ship's direction, so that when the ship rolls I get tipped from head to toe, and only when it pitches do I get rolled sideways. Nonetheless, sleeping is not a problem I find that half a patch is enough to control seasickness in these rougher waters, but look forward to the time we will spend in Marguerite Bay later in the cruise.


Irene Beardsley