Report of Activities
on the RVIB N.B. Palmer Cruise 02-02
16-17 May 2002
On 16 May, the N.B.
Palmer arrived in ArthurHarbor
where the Palmer Station is located just before
after a 16 hour steam from CrystalSound.Since the dock was too
small and the water too shallow to tie up at the Station, the ship held station
in the harbor.Joe Pettit, the
Palmer Station Director, came by Zodiac out to the ship about 1300 to issue a
welcome and to brief us on the ins and outs of the Station. During the stay,
several Zodiac trips were arranged to enable the scientists on board to visit
small islands near the station on which there were seals and penguins that
could be viewed up close (Torgersen and Humble
Islands) and the wreck of an Argentine cruise ship that went down in late
1980's next to DeLaca and Janus
Islands. It did so when upon leaving ArthurHarbor, it took a shortcut through
a channel that was poorly charted and too shoal. On TorgersenIsland,
there were a number of fur and elephant seals, one Weddell seal, and about 16
penguins, and HumbleIsland
had a number of elephant seals.A more
regular shuttle service was set up to enable N.B. Palmer personnel to visit the station and become familiar with
the activities there. In addition, it afforded the opportunity to do a short
hike by climbing a small glacier that has its base a few hundred meters from Palmer
Station. In the early evening, the N.B.
Palmer hosted many of the residents of Palmer Station at a barbeque dinner
and then later in the evening, many on the ship went to the Station to
The weather during the day was not wonderful; it was cloudy
with on and off light snow or drizzle. Winds were around 20 kts
out of the southwest, but the temperature was around -0.7șC, the warmest it had
been in quite a few days. The barometric pressure continued to drop from 1000.6
mlb in the morning to 995.9 mlb
The N.B. Palmer
left Palmer Station in the early morning hours of 17 May on a course that took
us back to Punta Arenas, Chile
via the inland passage.This route went first through the BismarkStrait
along the southern side of AnversIsland and then along the Gerlache strait. To the northwest of this strait were Brabant
To the east was the DancoCoast,
and the Forbidden Plateau.All were snow
and ice covered with ice cliffs at the waters edge. Sea ice and ice bergs
occurred sporadically. The last point of land as we steamed through the BoydStrait was IntercurrenceIsland at the end of the Palmer Achipelago.Although
somewhat longer than the more direct route from ArthurHarbor out across the continental
shelf, it was selected because marine mammal observation opportunities were
enhanced and it is a beautiful passage. Furthermore, there was a great deal of work
to be done on the deck and the passage afforded the protected waters needed to
complete the work before running into the usual high wind and seas of the Drake
Passage. One of the major tasks was to end-for-end the
electro-optical cable used to tow BIOMAPER-II.The towing end of the cable had experienced a great deal of wear during
the first three Southern Ocean GLOBEC broad-scale cruises and strands of the outer
armor were beginning to break. Reversing the wire, put unused wire on the front
line and the worn wire where it would not experience additional wear.The end-for-ending was done by laying the
more than 600 m of cable in a figure eight on the deck and then winding the
cable back on the winch drum in reverse. This sounds simple, but in fact it was
a hard job that took most of the day and was done with great care by MTs Jenny White and Steve Tarrent,
and BIOMAPER-II group members Phil Taisey, GaelinRosenwaks, Amy Kukulya and Andy Girard.
As anticipated, the Gerlache
strait afforded Deb Glascow a great opportunity to
observe several groups of whales, as reported below, in spite of the weather.
In the morning, there was a light snow and low thick clouds, but low winds
(< 10 kts). Visibility for a while was quite poor,
but during the day it improved and there was even a bit of sunlight for short time.
But the barometer continued to drop from 987.6 mlb
around 0900 to 980.4 mlb around 2330 and the winds
picked up to the low 20 kts by close of day.The air temperature varied between -2.3 to -0.4șC.
At 1300 on 18 May, we are now well out into the Drake
Passage. The seas are rough with winds in the 30 to 35 kt range. The barometer at 985 mlb
is now rising. A sea surface temperature of -1.67șC indicates that we are still
in polar waters and that we have yet to cross the polar front. The CTD group
has been dropping XCTDs, and XBTs at 10 nm intervals
since reaching the 2000 m contour after leaving BoydStrait early this morning. Seabeam bathymetry, ADCP, and along track meteorological
and sea surface water properties continue to be measured. Most of this data collection
will cease when we reach the 200 nm limit of Argentina
late tonight or early tomorrow. From there, the Palmer will steam to the Estrecho del la Maire on the
southern end of Argentina
and then up along the eastern Argentine coast to the entrance to the Magellan
straits.After picking up a pilot, the
final leg of this cruise will be along the Magellan straits to Punta, Arenas, Chile,
which we are scheduled to reach on the morning of 21 May.
This cruise has been very successful, having sampled at all
of the survey grid stations and at a number of ancillary locations as well, in spite
of encountering pack ice and icebergs about halfway along the survey grid that
proved quite challenging. Some work that had to be dropped because of bad
weather or equipment problems was later picked up and some special projects
that could only be done after the grid was completed, such as the penguin diet
sampling, were successfully accomplished.The success of this cruise owes much to the incredible competence,
skill, and great attitude of the Raytheon technical support group. The officers
and crew of the N.B. Palmer also
provided superb assistance.
This will be last of the individual reports of the
scientific activities aboard the N.B.
Palmer on this the third in a series of four Southern Ocean GLOBEC cruises.
Members of the scientific party are hard at work preparing their sections of
the cruise report, which we plan to have completed by the time the ship reaches
Marine Mammal report (Debra Glasgow)
Thursday, 16 May dawned with fog, snow, and very poor
visibility of <300 meters as the Palmer
passed through an area of many growlers on its way from CrystalSound to Palmer Station. Captain
Joe Borkowski saw 2 humpbacks surface 50 meters off
the port bow at approximately 0924. I was
on the bridge 5 minutes later, but did not see them as the fog and snow limited
visibility. No marine mammal survey was conducted today due to the inclement
weather and arrival at Palmer Station at .
On 17 May, the marine mammal survey began at 0910 as the Palmer started the transit through GerlacheStrait
in fog and snow. Visibility was poor at <1 nautical mile, but was variable,
clearing late in the morning. It was a balmy -2.2șC and a mere 4.5 knots of
wind (increasing in the afternoon), with variable ice conditions with icebergs,
bits, and growlers near the beginning of the Strait. Fur seals were seen on
floes and in the water and a few elephant seals were also passed, mostly near
the beginning of the Strait. Several groups of porpoising
penguins were passed periodically.
At 1035, we encountered the first of 2 sightings of minke
whales for the day and from then on whales were seen regularly. There were 7
sightings for the day, 14 whales in all. Two minke, 9
humpbacks and 3 like-humpbacks. The ship was made available today to
deviate from our course to approach whales for I.D. photography purposes.
Successful identification photographs were taken of 3 of the humpback groups.
One pod of 3 humpbacks first sighted at 1251, stayed with
the ship for over half an hour as we stopped for I.D. photos, swimming to the
ship, and surfacing right beside us repeatedly. Good I.D. photos were taken of this
group and two of the whales had very distinctive dorsal fins and white patches
on their flanks, fluke shots were successfully taken of at least 2 of the
whales. The third whale was smaller and lighter in color. The two larger whales
were surfacing side by side, often touching each other. These whales actually
followed us briefly when we began moving on. The survey ended in poor light at
1539 as Palmer left the GerlacheStrait.
There have been 54 cetacean sightings to date of 112 animals.