Southern Ocean Iron Experiment (SOFeX) Cruise
January 5 - February 26, 2002

Skip to Log Entry from the R/V Melville
February 1, 2002: Day 28

R/V Revelle:
Ship @ 2/1/02 05:50Z, -66 13.1298, -172 12.93
So. Patch In Drifter @ 2/1/02 02:44Z, -66 14.7492, -171 44.5686
So. Patch Out Drifter – no posit today
No. Patch In Drifter @ 1/31/02 0730Z, -54 25.08, -170 16.02
No. Patch Out Drifter @ 1/31/02 0730Z, -55 23.76, -172 31.5

R/V Revelle Log Entry: Hi all. Things are starting to go in the patch. Our chlorophyll measurements are 4-fold higher than the initial values on Day 5. MELVILLE reports to us that they find even higher values. These results are consistent with experiments that we have performed on board ship. Those measurements indicate that, with a little more time, MELVILLE and POLAR STAR should see quite a phytoplankton bloom. That will help answer many of our questions about how variations in the flow of iron through the atmosphere to the ocean might affect atmospheric carbon dioxide and climate over glacial cycles. 

Meanwhile, our time here is starting to wind down. Captain Tom Desjardins has calculated a departure time of 1700 on Feb. 5, if we are to spend two days in the North Patch on our way back to Littleton. I’d better get some good shots of the crew because they have been tremendous. No crew, no experiment, no daily update and then where would we be?

The weather is starting to turn nasty again: 40 knots of wind now and the waves are pounding on the hull. I’m typing with one hand, while I hang on with the other. No visits to the bow in this weather. There’s an air sampling tower on the bow that we can visit in good weather. 

Oliver Wingenter is using the tower to collect air samples over the patch to understand the impacts of iron on trace gas emissions from the ocean. Iron plays a key role in a variety of microbial processes, including the formation of gases such as methyl bromide.

The latest entrant in the Shackleton lookalike contest is Craig Hunter. Looks like Craig only has one more shot of iron to add to the South Patch, which he’ll start doing this evening.


R/V Melville:
Position: 66 degrees, 18 minutes South, 171 degrees, 48 minutes West

R/V Melville Log Entry: Up until 3 am initiating some incubation experiments, I called over to Revelle for some of the most recent positions. I broke squelch on channel 8 and who picked up but Craig Hunter, Steve Fitzwater, and Ginger Elrod, our friends and counterparts from Moss Landing and MBARI. It was nice to talk (and get some useful information) as it has been a comfort talking with Ken Johnson. So what is keeping them up this late? They, like us, are in 'cruise mode', a funny blend of excitement, overwork, camaraderie, in particularly demanding conditions. We all deal with this in different ways. We all allow each other that. There is the feeling that this may never happen again, we don’t want to miss it, and we better get it right. It is also light for almost the whole day and this really affects one’s internal clock. It snows, it swells, it blows like hell. Then the wind comes around and it lays down faster than it blew up. We saw 12 meter swells flatten to 1 meter in 12 hrs. The icebergs heave as waves crash against them, split, or turnover and the albatrosses soar in seemingly endless loops without one flap of their wings. During our last trace metals cast, two minke whales surfaced and blew about 20 meters from us before diving down to look at our sampling bottles. For those involved in the first IronEx experiments, we also feel that in some ways, this is the most important of the experiments so far, in the largest body of high nutrient water and the most climatologically relevant. This is what our brains tell us. We owe it to this place that is so extreme and special to do our best. This is what our hearts tell us. The Southern Ocean was also the holy grail of the iron hypothesis and for those who knew him, John Martin is very much on our minds. Do it right because this is what John would have wanted. 

I was a bit groggy getting started this morning. Few of us could believe how fast the weather laid down. Finally the swells subsided and let some of us sleep. So off we were off to work at an inside station and the day was young and smooth. I am afraid we took it as a gift, rather than a rare opportunity. The schedule slipped a bit and before we knew it, it was again blowing 40 knots and 6-7 meter swells were building. Contact with Revelle indicated they still needed to check on an errant drifter and we needed to deploy a sediment trap. We exchanged observations, traded chlorophyll measurements - "We’re seeing consistent 0.8 inside", Sara handed me the recent extraction numbers "Looks like we have a 1.2" I replied. The numbers were more about each other’s luck and analytical prowess than it was about the world, but we couldn’t help but be excited about our results. 

With new coordinates from Revelle, we steamed to patch central. With seas still building we had to cancel the TM Rosette cast, but we figured we could get the sediment traps over the side. Working in our mustang suits, we rigged for the deployment with an occasional boarding sea. The sun beamed through a break in the clouds for just a moment and shown through a cresting wave. Standing on the quarterdeck, we looked at each other in surprise and that speechless "did you see what I saw?" kind of expression. The lines, floats, buoys, shackles and our soaked and chilled fingers seemed unimportant. The wave was green...

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