Dec. 30 to Jan. 5 – Dalton Polynya and Totten Glacier (almost…)

Post by VIMS Graduate Student Mar Arroyo

30 Dec 2016 – 5 Jan 2017
65° 7’ S, 121° 19’ E

Dalton Polynya and Totten Glacier (almost…)

After leaving Casey research station, we’ve spent a few days steaming east in open water or crunching through sea ice to reach our next stop two stops: the Dalton Polynya and the Totten Glacier.

The Aurora’s travel path in red. The black dots are CTD stations, both in the Dalton Polynya and in the waters in front of the Totten Glacier (more on this next).
The Aurora’s travel path in red. The black dots are CTD stations, both in the Dalton Polynya and in the waters in front of the Totten Glacier (more on this next).

The weather during the ~3.5-day transit was quite foggy and cold, with visibility less than 1 mile most times. Once we broke out of the ice reached the Dalton Polynya, the weather entirely changed. For those who don’t know what a Polynya is, it’s an open area of water surrounded by sea ice. It was super calm, with no wind present. The surface waters were so still that you could see the reflection of the clouds and icebergs on the water. There were penguins and seals on ice floes all around the ship.

Skyline in the Dalton Polynya. A polynya is an open area of water surrounded by sea ice.
Skyline in the Dalton Polynya.

As we reached the SW edge of the polynya, we headed for a narrow open crack in the pack ice along the edge of the coastline to reach the Totten Glacier. Most of the ice in the area is locked in by icebergs that are grounded on shallow banks, making it much more difficult to battle through. We were able to get through some of the pack ice, but after about a day of ice breaking, we couldn’t reach the Totten area of interest before the weather gave out. Strong winds (~40 knots) forced us to turn around and head back toward the polynya to wait out the bad weather.

A Weddell seal relaxing on an ice floe.
A Weddell seal relaxing on an ice floe.

Pro: CTD stations in the Dalton Polynya! More about this on the next post!

Mar