The Transit from New Zealand (43°S) to the Ross Sea (76°S)

We left port at Lyttelton, New Zealand just over a week ago and have been cruising almost due south ever since. In ~36 hours we will rendezvous with the R/V Palmer, a polar-class icebreaker, who will escort us through some sea ice. The sites we plan to drill are in ice-free areas (called polynyas) but we need the icebreaker escort to get us to those areas. At some point before our rendezvous with the Palmer, we will cross both the Antarctic Circle (66°33′,47”S) and the International Date Line. (However, we will be staying on NZ time to avoid mass confusion!)

The transit included a few days of some high winds and up to 6 m high waves. The Southern Ocean (the ocean surrounding the Antarctic continent) is notorious for this kind of weather and, although it wasn’t as bad as it can get, it was still a rough ride. Thankfully, I do not get seasick, but several others in the science party weren’t feeling particularly well. Here’s a video from the bridge of the JR the other day showing the ~6 m waves (with bonus albatross).

The seas have calmed down a bit and the science party has begun moving on to their shifts (either noon-to-midnight or midnight-to-noon). I’m writing this post as I try to remain awake after staying up all night in an attempt to transition to the midnight-to-noon shift. Up until today, the science party has been all in a normal day shift and working in their lab teams to learn procedures. It’s a challenge to effectively ‘practice’ what we’ll be doing without core actually coming up, but it’s still a good idea to get some familiarization with the equipment and overall workflow. I’ll write more about what analyses are done and what data are collected in a future post.

We’ve also spent time during the long transit to learn more details about the coring operations (via tours and presentations; photos below) and to write/edit the methods sections for the expedition report that we, as a collective, will be creating as we go.

When we get to our first drilling location we will have traveled 33 degrees of latitude (from 43°S to 76°S), or approximately 3,660 km (2,270 miles) during this transit. The Earth’s oceans are vast, the JR is designed for long transits to get to where we need to go.