Yesterday afternoon we had planned out a very efficient day for today, full of sampling krill in open water and under the ice, collecting ice algae, and calibrating one of the acoustic instruments. But in the early hours of this morning, as we went to start towing our net to collect krill, it became clear that the whole plan was going to go out the window. The wind had been blowing steadily, though not particularly hard, from the north-east, and had packed the sea ice into the bay we were working in. There wasn’t any where left to tow a net that wasn’t so full of ice it would be hard to get the net back. After surveying around for a bit, we decided to just get out of the ice, and head to our next sampling location.
Heading out was slow going, even with an extra engine on-line we were only making a few knots and frequently stopping, backing, and ramming to get through the larger ice flows. Watching the ship break through the ice is incredible; the sea ice is snow covered and bright shiny white, as the ship rams the ice floe a thin dark crack appears as a jagged zig-zag across the ice. As the ship continues to press forward the crack widens into a line and then a swath of deap dark blue, and more cracks form at angles to the original crack, each widening and turning the floe into a mosaic of white and blue. You hear the ship sliding through the slushy broken ice, with a softer sound from sea ice, and a hard grating sound when we hit pieces of glacial ice.
We’re now solidly south of the Antarctic circle. A couple of days ago we crossed the circle at 66 degrees 33.44 minutes south. Many of us took a few minutes to go up on the bow to experience crossing this line. There is, of course, nothing particularly different about the ice just to one side or the other of the line; but is was still exciting. Hanging out up on the bow taking in the wonder of the sea ice we also saw a few seals! They are huge, but move almost like an inchworm on the ice. Much debate was had as to the relative speeds of seals and penguins – who would win a race on flat ice, ice with pressure ridges, or in the water?