The Spirit of Mawson - Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013 - 2014

Australasian Antarctic Expedition

Day 3 – A start to the science

Posted by Patrick - 10 December 2013

Nicole DeLosa Lecture

Nicole DeLosa

Today the seas were significantly rougher than the last few days. It's not uncommon to be looking out of the window and watch the grey sky be replaced by the darker frothing peaks of waves breaking against the side of the ship. Whilst I would not consider myself as someone who gets seasick, today has been by far the most challenging.

On the bright side, this is the first day we've really been allowed to sink our teeth into the science component of the trip. Erik van Sebille gave a morning talk on oceanography, how the oceans, eddies and currents are connected and possibly powered by giant squids...well, one of many contributing factors.

Afterwards, I was fortunate enough to nab myself a microscope to search for plastic in one of the samples collected from last night's trawl. The flourescent plastic stood out amongst the krill and algae like lone tourists. I wonder if they once belonged to the biodegradable plastic bags we all seemed to have adopted?

That afternoon I helped move an ARGO into the lab. This piece of equipment worth tens of thousands will be somewhat unceremoniously dumped into the water later today. From there, it will broadcast measurements for the next three years recording temperature, location and salinity. This is part of a greater combined global project to map the oceans. Apparently in the hands of a skilled oceanographer, salinity and temperature are watery fingerprints allowing them to tell you where exactly the water came from.

Ziggy Marzinelli, that evening, introduced us to the wonderful world of kelp, and its integral role in sustaining the ecosystems around the globe. Furthermore, commercially the kelp industry is worth over $4bil, so there are quite a few reasons to pay attention to the humble kelp.

Dinner time, given the unrelenting rolling of the seas, became a war of attrition. Those that managed to make it to desert were rewarded with a berry tart, which was greatly appreciated. It also happened to be Greg Mortimer's birthday, although he was being rather coy about it all. A card was passed round, songs were sung, and a cake that the kitchen had been preparing all day was presented. Afterwards, everyone dispersed to their respective cabins or for the brave, the bar, in preparation for what would be a welcome first day on land at Macquarie Island. Later that night, we all prayed for even the briefest respite from the relentless rocking. I hoped it was not an ominous sign of things to come.