Hi Pete and Eileen,
It has been a few days since I've given you a news bite and I wanted to tell you what we are doing and why we are doing it. After completing process site 1 (pretty successfully!), we were six days into the cruise, a pretty bouncy one at that, and about half of our scientific party had not collected any data at all: our predator groups, led by Jen Burns and Bill Fraser. It was clear from the images we had been getting and the sst that we were not going to be seeing any ice to speak of and we still needed to get these folks some data sooo.... I decided to take us directly to site 5. The logic was that if we couldn't get ice, at least we could get a rocky shoreline or calved off bergie bits with a reasonable chance at access to crabeater seals and penguins. Also, our krill groups had some good trawling locales within striking distance of any predator concentrations that came to light.
Our strategy paid off reasonably well. We wended our way up Laubeuf Fjord, which is the main channel that runs to the east of Adelaide Island, and in the northeast corner of the channel that runs around Wyatt Island we found some crabbies. Jen et al. had a good day instrumenting and working up seals. Unfortunately, no penguins were to be found, and to get Bill some data I had the Gould shoot over to Avian Island, which is just south of Adelaide, in the hopes that we'd find some Adelies for him to wreak havoc with. The weather held off just long enough after our arrival at Avian Island for Bill and Chris to get ashore and instrument and lavage a few penguins. We got a good full day of work done there and then shot back up toward Pourquoi Pas Island and Bourgeois Fjord (gotta love these names, eh?) to explore for seals and penguins, but that turned out to be a bust. In the interim, during dark hours we have been getting at least a MOC 10 and MOC 1 every night and an ADCP survey every other night and during weather bad enough to preclude any other data collection. As a consequence, we have mapped this entire area quite well and have tows in close proximity to predator concentrations as well.
Yesterday we returned to Wyatt Island to get Jen some more quality seal time and they had a great day, processing two seals and instrumenting them as well. Yesterday went so well that our scientific party agreed to let her have another day at Wyatt. Unfortunately, we got up today to 45 knot winds (I'm sure you're enjoying them as well) and we decided to head for our next station.
After talking with our PI's and assessing a couple of critical factors, notably daylength and ice cover, or lack thereof, we are heading for our original site 4 in the vicinity of George VI Sound for the same reasons we went to site 5. It is the best bet for everyone getting the data they need. We have the head of the canyon right there for night ops and testing our faunal concentration hypothesis and we have some islands right there near the canyon for penguins and seals to hang out at. Also, it is a pretty likely likely spot for ice formation. We are now running for it.
I have to say, I've fallen deeply and abidingly in love with this MOC 10. It's been working really well (almost afraid to say it out loud). We've been getting great catches with it and the control you have with it is fantastic. I want one for my very own. The physiognomy of the catches has changed fairly radically from the shelf break to the site 5 area, which I'm sure you've noticed as well. The most obvious change has been the presence of beaucoups adult krill in the 50-100, 100-200 depth strata. Some new species have made an appearance, notably the mysid Antarctomysis ohlinii (I think, in the absence of a mysid key. That's our operational name for the cruise. Don't know what else it could be...). It is the dominant species in the 200-300 m depth stratum and is very abundant in the 300-500 m stratum as well. Pleuragramma antarcticum has become the dominant fish and we are finding it from 50-500 m, with more individuals generally in the 200-500 m depth range. Pareuchaeta has become a major player in the upper 100 m and krill furcilia, while present, are not nearly as abundant as at the shelf break.
The euphausiid, Euphausia triacantha, a dominant at the shelf break, (and one of my favorite species), is completely absent from our catches inshore as are other members of the classical midwater fauna including Gnathophausia, Gigantocypris, and the coronate scyphomedusa Periphylla. At a couple of our inshore trawling sites we have picked up considerable siphonophore biomass at the 200-400 m depth range, and in one, we picked up a huge swarm of thimble jellies in our 200-300 m net. When we finish sorting out our circulation, our nets, and our sites we are going to have one kick-ass paper between our two boats. The one thing we need to make this cruise near perfect is a shot at colonization of newly forming ice. The gammarid amphipods that you have been seeing with the orange eyes and their relatives with the blood red gnathopods? Their name is Eusirus, and they go up to the ice and live under there when there is ice around. If we can document colonization of the newly forming ice by the "sympagic fauna" it'll be grand. I'll tell you, if I were a furcilia I'd want to get out of this water column here. It's a jungle out there.
I'm sorry that you are getting thumped out there and hope you are staying safe and morale is OK. We are with you in spirit. I wanted to mention to you that Meng has been a terrific ally on the Gould. He has a dandy plotting program that gives us locations to keep the bridge happy and is always willing to step into the breach with an ADCP survey when we have some free hours due to weather or whatever. I don't know what I would do without him here. Our total group here is really first rate and I think we are doing quite well in meeting our GLOBEC mission and satisfying our individual proposal objectives. Right now I have a glorious 12-hour dead leg ahead of me and can catch up on my writing, including the weekly report. Pete, I gotta say it, I stand in awe of your daily reports. If I tried to do anything like them every day, I'd be dead now from lack of sleep. It's bad enough as it is.
keep on keepin' on, friends, Jose