The Spirit of Mawson - Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013 - 2014

Australasian Antarctic Expedition

Day 3 – Our first day of work – Auckland Islands

Posted by Umberto - 30 November 2013


For this blog post we have included some of the highlights from each teams first full day of the science program. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed doing it!

Although the lake coring team didn't actually manage to core any lakes per se today we had a great time sampling some ancient lake sediments preserved as siltstone exposed on the north coast of Enderby Island. We found a beautiful sediment sequence of glacial till (rock and sediment of all shapes and sizes deposited by glaciers) overlying laminated siltstone that was probably deposited in a lake. Beneath this siltstone was another layer of glacial sediment. The stark differences between the glacial till and the siltstone suggest major changes in the depositional environment and/or climate. While we aren't sure what these changes are yet, we took lots of samples to be analyzed and hopefully dated. Lots of fun playing around in the mud!

A successful day of slug hunting on Enderby Island. Mobilizing the masses to search for an elusive species of onchidiid mollusc that lives on land (others all live in the intertidal zone) has been a very productive - four were found living among rocks and tussock. Some other very interested molluscs were found, including a tiny one with a very reduced shell. Looking forward to exploring Ewing Island and Tucker Point tomorrow!

A wet and wild day on the lookout for Enderby Island birds with Kerry-Jane, Alice and Mat. Battling the sea-lions, tussock grass and mud, we were able to record the numbers of Light-Mantled Sooty Albatross nesting in the northern cliffs and two colonies of Auckland Island Shags. Yellow-eyed penguins, Red-crowned parakeets and Auckland Island Dotterels also made appearances. Overall, a great day of spotting.

Some others spent a more relaxed day at Enderby Island. A three hour trek around the island took us through sandy beaches that resulted in some close encounters with roaring sea lions (more like puppies really), albatrosses and the elusive penguins in the swards and rata forests.

For the ocean coring group the day started with preparing the gravity corer for use. After a bit of fiddling, a section of PVC pipe was improvised as a sacrificial core liner, and we now have a (theoretically) functional gravity corer. The next task for the day was to mount the sensor for the multi-beam sonar to the retractable swing-arm. The first attempt from a zodiac beside the ship proved incredibly frustrating with the ship and zodiac moving completely independent of one another, whilst trying to attach a $350,000 sensor to a rather mobile beam, whilst hammers and spanners rained down from the helpful Russians above. After giving up in utter frustration, we learned the value of unregulated Russian engineering practices! With the sensor mounted, I had the afternoon free for wet, windy and bouncy jaunt 10km across Port Ross and up the coast to the main island to drop off a couple of teams, before heading back to Enderby Island. On Enderby, I had my first experience with the mega-flora and mega-fauna, which included a bull sea lion that tore a hole in my over-trousers!

The benthic survey team spent the day on the Zodiac working with BRUVs (Baited Recorded Underwater Video). They used a metallic frame equipped with a camera pointing at the bait, in this case tuna cans (cooked tuna, so no bacteria were introduced in the environment). The deployment lasted about an hour during which the GoPro camera recorded what happened on the seafloor. Particularly interesting was all the animals attracted by the fish. Crabs, bonefish and shrimps were caught in the eight deployment spots. Fish and crabs were predominant towards the open ocean, crabs in the middle of the port and, interestingly, scampi in the inner part. Several hours were spent in wet and windy weather, but the view of seals, penguins and lot of other birds, as well as the amazing underwater footage, made the effort totally worth it.

Look out for the next science program summary here tomorrow! Time for a well deserved drink at the ships bar!

-The Blog Team