We are now at -64 58.366° S; -68 51.088° W (23:19 local) and steaming on a southwesterly course (230) at about 10 kts headed for our first station in the SO GLOBEC grid. The wind is blowing between 25 and 30 kts and the temperature is about 0.2° C. Off and on, we are getting precipitation in the form of snow.
In the early morning daylight, we entered the channel leading to Palmer Station to rendezvous with the L.M. Gould. The silhouettes of mountains rising out of the sea illuminated by the first light of the sun still below the horizon were breathtaking. For many of us it was the first time that we had seen a piece of the Antarctic Continent. The sky was mostly clear for the first time in several days and there was just enough light to give the rugged snow covered mountains a blueish tinge. The ship moved into a deep harbor area a few hundred meters from the station dock where the Gould was tied up, dropped anchor, and shut the main engines down. From the deck of the ship, we could look into the face of a glacier only a few hundred meters away. The winds were very much reduced - down to about 15 kts leaving the sea fairly calm. Perfect conditions for the rendezvous.
The Zodiac was launched about 0900 and a number of individuals (mostly Raytheon folk) went over to Palmer Station and the Gould, including Mark Christmas who was to be examined by the doctor there and Wendy Kozlowski who did some calibration work on the fluorometer and other equipment which reside at the station permanently. Then the Zodiac was used to carry some equipment to the Gould, which was tied up at the Palmer Station dock, and to bring back some MOCNESS spares that were intended for the Palmer. This was a quick stop and by a little after 1100, the engines were restarted and shortly after we were headed back to the open waters of the Western Peninsula shelf and towards our first station.
While we were at anchor, Scott Gallager, Cabell Davis, Andy Girard, and Mark Dennett were hard at work re-checking the work done yesterday to find the video noise problems and a new one - a forward ground fault on our 300 volt power line. After checking a number of things, they found the ground fault problem in a connector on the same junction box that suffered a melt down yesterday. This did not solve the video noise problem however. Subsequently, a number of changes were made in the video camera wiring to try and isolate those signals from all of the others emanating from the fish. The changes appear to have solved the problems and BIOMAPER-II will likely be ready for deployment after the work at Station 1 is completed around 0800 tomorrow morning.
The weather today has been pretty good. As we steamed back out into the open seas of the shelf region of Western Peninsula, the sunny sky gave way to overcast and then heavier cloud cover. The winds, however, stayed down until early evening and the seas had only a moderate swell. Snow squalls started in the evening.
Bird observations reported Erik Chapman and Chris Ribic included sightings of the Southern Fulmar, Cape Petrel, Southern Giant Petrel, Kelp Gull, Antarctic Tern, and Brown Skua. Erik said, "The most common bird of the day was the Kelp Gull, indicative of our position close to land near Palmer Station. We collected data using our standard survey protocol from the observation box outside the bridge beginning at 12:25 until it was too dark to survey at 16:30. We also saw a large number of Fur Seals during this observation period. The box worked well as an observation post. However, because temperatures today were relatively warm and winds were light, we have yet to see how well it will work under less than ideal conditions."
Marine mammals were also sighted today by Ari Friedlander. There were a number of fur seals and elephant seals in the vicinity of Palmer Station. A minke whale was also observed close to the Station. Shortly after departing the Station, several humpback whales were spotted and Catherine Berchok deployed a Sonabuoy, but no calls were recorded
The first full day of SeaBeam data was made available for ping editing and the UNIX and MAC workstations in the computer room were fully utilized for a good portion of the day. At this stage in the cruise, it takes longer to edit the data than it takes to collect them.
Tomorrow is the start of the survey grid. If all goes well, it will be finished in about 18 days.