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


Skip to Log Entry from the R/V Melville
Skip to Log Entry from the USCGC Polar Star
February 11, 2002: Day 38

R/V Revelle:
Position @ 2/11/02 0506Z, -50 38.2901, -175 37.0412
No. Patch Argos Drifter @ 2/9/02 1500Z, -53 12.12, -168 4.68
No. Patch SOLO Float @ 2/9/02 2300Z, -54 9.72, -169 12.252

Group photo!

R/V Revelle Log Entry: Hello all. Most excitement of the day - group photo on the aft deck. Thanks to all of these folks for making a difficult and ambitious project become a reality. We’ve accomplished a very significant result and it took the entire team to do it. Even linemen score a touchdown occasionally.

Things are really starting to wind down. There was a flurry of activity this morning as boxes were broken out of the hold and equipment was packed away. I’m always amazed at how much faster we pack up than we unpack. Labs that were completely full and buzzing with activity yesterday are now empty but for large stacks of shipping containers lashed in the corners - and a coating of the inevitable trash that comes from 40 days of having scientists doing the cleaning. 

There is still lab work going on, though, and it continues to confirm our results - the North Patch was a large diatom bloom driven by the iron that we had added. Satellite imagery suggests that the patch extends 100 km to the NE.

Last entrant in the Shackleton lookalike contest - me - and now its time for a shave. Only 1000 kilometers to go and I want the pilots to let me on the airplane. Bye for now.
- Ken J. 

R/V Melville:
Position: 66 degrees, 10 minutes South, 171 degrees, 58 minutes West

In the morning, we found a big iceberg marking our site, with a green MLML wave breaking right in front of it.

R/V Melville Log Entry: We just heard from Ken Buesseler that the USCGC Polar Star departed McMurdo Station yesterday at 1830. We also have calculated transit times from here to the North Patch and then between North Patch to Lyttelton. The Captain just reminded me that he would like to transit Iceberg Alley (the band of waters with lots of icebergs) in daylight (we are getting a couple of hours of near darkness here now) thus moving up our departure. These factors combine to firm up our schedule over the next few days and now our time here seems more finite. Unlike IronEx II, the fertilization experiment in the Equatorial Pacific during 1995, we may not be here in Antarctic waters long enough to see the end of this bloom. During IronEx II, the bloom completely ran its course and evolved back into the native equatorial condition all in 17 days. In these colder waters, cell division rates are one third what they are at the equator. Even at this rate, with zooplankton grazing rates so low, many expect the biomass here to double again before we leave. Here at day 19 of this experiment things are still on the upswing. Although many may be ready to go north, few would admit that they are ready to leave this patch when things are going so well and the processes we are measuring continue to evolve.

Yesterday we finished up a series of vertical profile stations that bisected the patch from North to South. Unlike the areal maps that were constructed from surface mapping surveys, these sections give us a semi-synoptic picture of the vertical structure of the Patch. We see, as in the maps, that there is a blob of water in the south in which represents a maximum in chlorophyll, SF6, and the drawdown of carbon dioxide and nutrients. 

As we have been working this patch, our reference buoy that the Revelle had left for us has wandered off. In fact it wandered so far, it was out of radio range and no longer in regular contact with us. We were hoping we could leave it in for the rest of the trip and only recover it once, but without regular contact and being so far away, it was no longer a useful navigational tool, nor was it collecting data from within the experimental area. Following our transect, we steamed for a couple of hours to the east to recover it. The recovery went smoothly and we were able to change out the batteries in the strobe light, return to the center of the Patch, and re-deploy the drifter in a blinding snow flurry at midnight back in high chlorophyll waters. Although the strobe was working fine on deck, it was dark after deployment and our hearts sank. Within minutes, however, it was back on the air transmitting its position faithfully to us. We had it right in the middle and, except for the strobe, it seemed to be functioning perfectly.

We deployed sediment traps inside and outside the patch. These traps will collect particles that fall from the waters above them. They will stay until the MELVILLE picks them up on their return to New Zealand in late February. Steve Fitzwater, and Craig Hunter from MBARI and MLML, and Tammy Baiz, the Ship’s Resident Technician did the deployment. More on Tammy and Melissa Turner, the Ship’s Third Officer, when we can get them to slow down long enough for a good photo.

USCGC Polar Star:

USCGC Polar Star Log Entry: Greetings from the Polar Star- This is the first log report from Ken Buesseler, Chief Scientist on the USCG Ice Breaker Polar Star, the 3rd ship involved in SOFeX (notice how you had to be named Ken or Kenneth to lead one of these ships). Our goal was to extend the time window of the experiment by meeting up with the Melville & continuing a final week of observations.

I’m writing this report from the US Antarctic base in McMurdo where we are waiting for our ship to come in. For those of you unfamiliar with McMurdo, it is the largest base in Antarctica, with a peak of around 2000 inhabitants during the summer. We arrived along with the over winterers, hardy soles who will be isolated here for the next 9 months!

Just getting here is a bit of an ordeal. Like typical research cruises, all supplies for the 13 scientists in our party needed to be shipped ahead, and both supplies and passengers are loaded in Christchurch, New Zealand for a 5-8 hour flight to McMurdo in the belly of a C-141 military cargo plane. Before even stepping near the plane, we are issued ECW, or extreme cold weather gear that must be worn during the flight and is used later on the ice. For the flight, you are strapped into a type of mesh seat, given a bag lunch and most importantly, ear plugs, as the roar of the engines is horrendous. This flight is serious business, and frequently the flights either don’t leave or are 'boomeranged' back to New Zealand at the 'PSR', or point of safe return if weather conditions are not good. Visibility and winds are two reasons for a boomerang, and two consecutive days prior to our flight, they didn’t even take off.

McMurdo itself looks something like an industrial site or mining town, surrounded by beautiful ice sheets and snow covered volcanic mountains. It’s a historical site as well, since 100 years ago the explorer Scott arrived on his ship the Discovery to the very same docking area we are at, and established his base camp prior to his ill-fated quest to reach the South Pole. 

Our ship is at the docks! Time to see if everything works or can be fixed when we unpack our scientific gear. We are only a short 3 day steam from the Melville, so its time for the SOFeX clean-up batters to get going.
- Ken B.

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