Last night we planned out what we thought would be likely our last full day of science. We planned to look for krill on the acoustics for a few hours, then use our underwater 3D camera system to make observations of the krill, and then at 4 am to go out with the small zodiac boats, (the black ones in the background of the jump-rope photo) to collect sea ice and look at the microscopic plants which live in the ice. I’m really interested in what krill eat, and many people think they eat these ice algae, so I wanted to collect ice to compare it to what I see in krill stomachs. We’ve tried to collect ice a few times before on this trip, but always been stopped by weather or logistics.
I finished up an experiment around 11 pm, then coordinated people and gear for the zodiac work until midnight. At 2:30 in the morning I was bounding out of bed, pulling on all my layers of fleece and water proofs, and bringing gear up to where the boats are stored to get ready to go. But in the few hours I’d been asleep the wind had picked up. So we took off some of our many warm layers, and stood around the main lab as the ship moved out to where we wanted to sample – watching the wind and choppy waves out the window, and the wind speed on the data screens in the lab. We tried to be optimistic, but as we moved to our site the wind and waves only got worse – when we finally got there the captain called down to the lab to say he would not allow us to take the small boats out. Walking past one of the white boards I saw one of the crew start to write the words no-one wants to see “Weather Decks Secured”. Weather decks secured means no going out on the main deck or the bow without permission from the bridge.
So now we’re running an acoustic survey, because quite simply there’s nothing else productive we can do. It will be interesting though to see how the animals that we can see in the acoustics have moved since we last did a survey a few days ago. People are finishing up experiments today too, and some of the more proactive ones are even starting to pack. We’re all hoping the wind dies down and we can get in a tiny little bit more sampling before we have to head for home.