Dec 22: Casey Station

Post by VIMS graduate student Mar Arroyo.

17 – 22 Dec 2016 (66° 17’S, 110° 32’E)

Casey Research Station.

Land ho! We reached Casey research station for the refuel and resupply effort. The Aurora is anchored in Newcombe Bay, and passengers are taken to land in inflatable rubber boats (IRBs). Casey is home to roughly 100 people in summer and less than 20 in the winter, mostly consisting of tradespeople who keep the station running smoothly.

The main living quarters at the station is called the Red Shed

The Bronx, a hall with expeditioner cabins. I grew up in the Bronx in New York! It’s almost like home.

(long red building in the photo above). There are several halls with cabins, but also common entertainment areas like a movie theater, video game corner, and even a bar!

To get fuel to the station, a hose line is run from fuel farms on land to the ship along the water. The mission the year is to pump more than 1 million liters of fuel, setting a record for the most fuel pumped to Casey. The whole refueling operation should take about 40 hours, so long as the weather holds. The ship is not allowed to be anchored in Newcombe Bay if winds exceed 30 knots. Southern winds could drag the ship and its anchor into more shallow waters.

A barge is used to lay the  fuel hose across the water between the ship and land. © Will Hobbs.

Nearly all expeditioners are involved in the refueling, working 4 hours shifts with 8 hours of rest in between throughout the entire operation. I’m working on an IRB from 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM then again from 8:00 PM to 12:00 AM, with water craft operators Zane and Josh. We have to keep the water surrounding fuel line clear of ice and small icebergs.

Resupply began after refueling. Cargo from the ship is lifted by a crane onto a barge sitting in the water below. The barge is driven to shore where another crane lifts the cargo onto a truck. The same, but opposite, is done with cargo that is returning to Hobart. Casey sends back empty fuel barrels, waste, and recycling to Hobart.

Zane, Josh, and I pushing away an iceberg in the IRB. © Amanda Dawson.

Dec 09: Getting Underway!

Post by VIMS graduate student Mar Arroyo.

Date: 09 Dec 2016
Time: 23:03
Location: 47° 10’ S, 144° 22’ E

The Aurora Australis at the port in Hobart, Tasmania.

Hello there! I’ve officially set sail on the RV Aurora Australis, a bright orange ice breaker. This ship is massive, at 311 feet in length and a capacity to hold 116 passengers. There are about 50 expedition participants, and many more crew members, aboard on this voyage.

Every week we have drills to prepare us for fires or other emergencies where we have to put on our survival suits and lifejackets.

I landed in Hobart, Tasmania about a week ago. Before coming on board, I had to attend days of training sessions ranging from hypothermia awareness to workplace safety to make sure we’re all prepared for the cold, harsh conditions in Antarctica. I once read somewhere that Antarctica is the only place on Earth similar to Space. I had to get ‘kitted’ by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) to get the proper clothing and was given three duffel bags filled with thermals, coats, boots, gloves, hats, and more. Most of the outerwear is bright and fluorescent shades of yellow and orange. It was close to about 50 lbs of gear.

Waves crashing on the trawl deck at the ship's stern.
Waves crashing on the trawl deck at the ship’s stern.

For now, we are steaming toward Casey Station, a base in East Antarctica maintained by the AAD. We’ll be completing a resupply mission there, delivering 1.1 million liters of fuel and food for the winter season. The seas are a bit rough for now. The medical officers on board advised that we all have sea sickness pills on hand, even if we feel like we don’t need it. They were right.

Meet our 2016-2017 VIMS Bloggers

During the next few months, VIMS scientists will be providing an inside look into their experiences as they visit the waters around Antarctic on research expeditions. Mar Arroyo, a first-year VIMS graduate student affiliated with Dr. Elizabeth Shadwick’s laboratory, will take part in a cruise to East Antarctica from mid-December through January. Meanwhile, researchers led by Dr. Deborah Steinberg will be taking part in the Palmer Long-Term Ecological Research Program (PAL-LTER) at the U.S. Palmer Station on the Antarctic Peninsula from late December to mid-February.

Shadwick Lab Expedition

Mar Arroyo

VIMS graduate student Mar Arroyo

I’m a first-year graduate student in Dr. Elizabeth Shadwick’s lab at VIMS. I received my BSc in Marine and Atmospheric Science from the University of Miami in May 2016, with a focus in chemical oceanography. At UM, I spent more than 60 days at sea, participating on research cruises with NOAA and CLIVAR/GO-SHIP. I’m interested in inorganic carbon chemistry in the Southern Ocean and the impacts of the changing sea-ice environment on the carbon cycle. For the next six weeks, I will be on a voyage to the Southern Ocean and the Mertz and Totten Glaciers in East Antarctica on the RV Aurora Australis. The Totten Glacier has been recently named the fastest thinning glacier in East Antarctica. I’m excited to see the changes to the carbon system from years ago because of this glacier melt.

Steinberg/PAL-LTER Expedition

Patricia Thibodeau

VIMS graduate student Patricia Thibodeau
VIMS graduate student Patricia Thibodeau

Growing up on the coast of Maine, the ocean has always been an important part of my life. Studying at Bowdoin College, I realized I was very interested in the interactions between the physics and biology of the ocean. Plankton are the ideal organisms for studying these interactions as passive drifters of the ocean. The Antarctic represents an environment still relatively understudied, particularly regarding plankton. My interest in climate change and plankton led me to pursue my Ph.D. in Dr. Steinberg’s zooplankton ecology lab. For my dissertation, I have the opportunity to conduct research on the Palmer Antarctica Long-Term Ecological Research cruise every January. Specifically, I am studying pteropods, open-ocean snails important in food-web and biogeochemical cycling, and how they may be affected by climate change in the region.  

John Conroy

VIMS graduate student John 'Jack' Conroy
VIMS graduate student John ‘Jack’ Conroy

I am a first-year graduate student at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science working with Dr. Debbie Steinberg. Our research group is participating in the 25th annual Palmer Antarctica Long-Term Ecological Research (PAL LTER) cruise this January. I went on my first PAL LTER cruise two years ago as a William & Mary undergraduate and have since hung around the Steinberg lab with hopes of getting back to the ice. My broad scientific interest lies in how ecosystems respond to climate change. Rapid warming in the region we study—the Western Antarctic Peninsula—has lead to substantial ice loss in recent decades. I am excited to join researchers from around the world working to identify the implications of these changes.

Kharis Schrage

kharis_schrageI’m a senior honors student at William & Mary. Knowing I wanted to study marine biology, I joined Dr. Jon Allen’s lab during freshman year and started working on both the ecology and development of acorn worms. Since then I’ve participated in field courses in Virginia, Wales, and Bonaire. Last winter I spent three weeks at Lizard Island research station in the Great Barrier Reef doing developmental work on Crown of Thorns Seastars. I spent last summer on an honors fellowship in Maine doi
ng my Honors thesis on acorn worm ecology and intertidal zonation. Dr. Steinberg offers a spot on the cruise to a William & Mary undergraduate each year, and this year I was lucky enough to get chosen! I look forward to expanding my research experience through this trip!