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Today is Antarctic Treaty Day!

12/01/2010, 12:00 AM by Lollie Garay
Look very,very close...can you see the chinstrap penguins?<br/><br/>Credit: Tish Yager
Look very,very close...can you see the chinstrap penguins?
Photo Credit: Tish Yager

December 1

66°24'S 71°28'W

Near Marguerite Bay

Today is Antarctic Treaty Day! 51 years ago 12 governments agreed to designate uninhabited Antarctica as a scientific reserve. The treaty states that no country can “own” Antarctica; no military activity is allowed; and science research must be shared with all nations involved. Now, 48 nations (representing 2/3 of the human population on Earth) honor the treaty!

Good news from the NBP: the weather has calmed; winds are down to 10 kts!

Here’s the latest update from Tish:

“The storm subsided and we had an absolutely lovely day near Marguerite Bay. First thing this morning, we had crane operations to bring equipment down to the main deck from "Drake Passage" storage in the helo hanger.

Following that, we steamed up the continental slope to the shelf break, measuring the bottom topography with very high resolution using a "multi-beam" depth sensor. Once we had a good map of the seafloor, we turned around, headed back down the slope, and deployed the towed benthic camera (we are calling it the "Crab Cam").

This camera has to be towed so that it "floats" 2 m off the bottom in order to get a good photo of the seabed. It's tricky to fly and takes a coordinated effort by the mate steering the ship, the winch operator, and the engineering team for the camera. Deployments last up to 16 hours to get a continuous high-resolution map of the sea floor along a transect.

The crab team (Sven, John, Frank, Jeff, Maggie, Roberta, and Stephanie) is looking for the invasive crabs entering the region because of global warming. These crabs are expected to spread into the region as the water warms and then run amuck in the benthic communities here who have not had to defend themselves against such potent predators for at least 10 million years.

With much excitement, the first images came back to the ship in just a few minutes, showing lots of brittle stars and also rays living on the seafloor. No crabs yet, but we have five days to investigate. A few crabs were discovered here "accidentally" a few years ago, and now the team is returning to map their density and extent.Since the deployment of the camera required the ship to move very slowly along the sea floor (less than 1 nautical mile per hour), it felt like we were sitting on station all day.

We were also treated to a raft of unique-to-Antarctica seabirds hanging out around the ship, including chinstrap penguins, Sooty Albatross, Southern Fulmars, Cape Petrels, Antarctic Petrels, Snow Petrels, and Fairy Prions. I spent a couple hours this afternoon in the glorious sunshine snapping pictures of them as best I could. Keep in mind that the air temp was about -3C, and the wind chill was about -20C! I was standing out on the widow's walk of the bridge... occasionally coming inside to get warm. Forgive my amateur shots... but it was a truly delightful afternoon.”

Brrr… can’t wait to see the first iceberg pictures Tish!


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Question of the Day

  • What are Polynyas and why are they important to study?

    Polynyas, are recurring areas of seasonally open water surrounded by ice.

    Energy and material transfer between the atmosphere, polar surface ocean, and the deep sea in polynas provide polar ecosystems with just the right ingredients needed for high productivity and intense biogeochemical recycling.

    Polynyas may be the key to understanding the future of Polar Regions since their extent is expected to increase with anthropogenic warming.