December 04, 2006
The main scientific activities in the polynya ended Sunday morning. Captain Scott Dunaway requested 13 days to take us home, giving himself some extra time in case we encounter thick ice to break through, or likely storms while crossing the "Sizzling 60s," "Furious 50s" and "Roaring 40s."
After rendezvousing in Lewis Bay with a helicopter from McMurdo Station to let Walker Smith off the ship and join his other team working on a separate project on base, we completed our polynya survey by towing along the 76.5° S parallel all the way to 180° E, where we did our last CTD profile and water collection. We collected water for our routine measurement for water-column characterization and more water for experiments.
Having two more weeks to get back to New Zealand, we productively use ship time by continuing experiments in several different incubators available onboard. While we are still in cold polar waters we will also use on-deck incubators that are kept under natural light conditions and at ambient temperature by pumping surface water through them.
Different groups are testing in different ways the effects of light, temperature, Fe, and other trace metals, and carbon dioxide levels on the growth and physiology of phytoplankton cultures or natural assemblages now mostly dominated by Phaeocystis antarctica.
Without the overwhelming and continuously changing schedule that we had previously, when we were surveying the polynya and running our experiments at the same time, we can now better manage our time and arrange for some more leisure activities. The 02 deck lounge, also known as the movie lounge, gets easily filled at night with people and a strong popcorn odor and crunching noise. Those less interested in movies are organizing all sorts of entertainment and tournaments. Some get together and jam with their guitars. Others are talking about having a crossword tournament; Cribbage and a Jungle Speed tournament are also considered valuable options. So far the foosball tournament has six teams signed up, and it will be a very special tournament having to play on a rolling ship.
Soon we will start having sunsets, losing the high-latitude-characteristic 24 hours of daylight. We will definitely hit higher seas and will start packing some of our gear, all clear signs of being on our way north and on our way home.