Antarctica 2009 Expedition

Life on the Ship

The colorful view of Punta Arenas greeted the science teams back to land. Photo by Amanda Kahn.


After being cleared for customs, the science groups were allowed off the ship late last night.
A pilot boat transfers a pilot onboard the Palmer. The pilot assists the bridge with navigation through the local waterways. Photo by Debbie Nail Meyer.

Pilot boats

A pilot boat approached the ship in the afternoon and transferred a pilot from the small vessel onto the ship.
Hai Lin and Scott Kindelberger do iron and peroxide analyses in the trace metal van. The portable laboratory provides a clean environment, reducing the chance of sample contamination from external sources. Photo by Amanda Kahn.

Portable laboratories

When it was built in 1992, the Nathaniel B. Palmer was designed to accommodate a wide range of scientific research.
Waves rock the ship around as we cross the Drake Passage, but mechanisms such as anti-roll tanks are keeping our transit as smooth as possible. Photo by Kim Reisenbichler.


As we cross through the roughest water yet on the cruise, science groups made sure to prepare equipment and themselves for the stormy Drake Passage.
Color-coded pipes and machinery weave through the lower deck. Credit: Johnny Pierce.

Engine room procedures

The engine room, located below the main deck and below the water line, houses the engines, generators, freshwater distillers, wastewater processing, and other essential ship machinery.
One of four 8-cylinder diesel engines powering the ship. Two engines are connected to each shaft and propeller. Credit: Johnny Pierce.

Inner workings

Four 3,000-hp diesel engines power the 93.9-meter-long ship. The Palmer typically runs on two engines in open water, though some activities, such as breaking heavy ice or maneuvering into port, require more or less engine output.
Sunsets last over an hour in the polar ocean because the sun moves more slowly across the sky. Photo by Amanda Kahn.

Long sunsets

Sunrises and sunsets last longer in polar regions.
Seawater from directly outside of the ship is converted to freshwater for our needs. Above, a Cape Petrel is reflected in the Weddell Sea's glassy surface during an fleeting moment of calm from both swells and wind. Photo by Debbie Nail Meyer.

Drinking water

As part of being self-contained, the Palmer generates its own fresh drinking water from seawater.
The Palmer treats all wastewater before returning it to the environment, preserving water quality for wildlife like these Adelie penguins. Photo by Johnny Pierce.

Wastewater and plumbing

Our first introduction to the wastewater system on the Palmer was the extremely loud flush of the ship’s toilets.
Dani Garcia and Mike Fox stand ready at the MOCNESS trawl. Both rearranged school or work schedules to be available for this cruise. Photo by Larry Lovell.

Rushing to be ready for the cruise

Visiting Antarctic waters is a rare opportunity; for weeks in advance, the science team prepared for the upcoming two-month hiatus from ordinary life in various ways.
Crates of plums slowly ripen in a chilled cold room in the galley. Behind sits ultra-pasteurized chocolate milk. Photo by Amanda Kahn.

Preserving perishables

When the cruise began, each meal included a salad bar stocked with fresh pineapple, carrots, mango, avocado, melon slices, radishes, and a variety of greens.
This photo, taken while the RVIB Palmer was in dry dock, shows the ship's massive propellers and rudders, which are protected from backing into ice by an ice knife above. Photo by Mike Watson.

What does it take to be an icebreaker?

This photo, taken while the Palmer was in dry dock, shows the ship's massive propellers and rudders, which are protected from backing into ice by an ice knife above.
Electronics technician Dan Elsberg runs the data acquisition software during a CTD rosette deployment. Photo by Debbie Nail Meyer.

Support staff

Land-based involvement in this cruise has been invaluable, but this post will focus on those who are on the cruise with us. The onboard support staff from RPSC accommodate the science that needs to be done while considering the realities of being at sea.
Jake Ellena and Debbie Meyer reel out tether as ROV IceCUBE dives deeper near the iceberg. Photo by Amanda Kahn.

Multiple hats

The number of science crew the Palmer can accommodate is fewer than the number of positions available for the science teams. Some people wear multiple hats, participating with multiple science groups or lending a hand where needed.
Kim Reisenbichler flew a successful UAV mission today while wearing the lucky aviator scarf his daughter, Sarah, wove for him before he left. To his right is co-pilot Craig Dawe. Photo by Lindsey Eckern.

Bringing a little bit of home

Forty days is a long time to be away from home; people onboard had to leave husbands, wives, children, and friends behind. We have been at sea for 26 days now, but many people are still comforted by mementos from home.
Diane Chakos, Maria Vernet, Karie Sines, and Lindsey Eckern are prepared for the outdoors on a cold, sunny day. Photo by Diane Chakos.

Venturing outdoors

Preparing to go outside of the ship’s heated interior takes a considerable amount of time. Most indoor areas are heated to 20ºC or higher, while outside temperatures are typically around 0ºC.
Marine science technician Lindsey Ekern prepares nutrient samples in the hydro lab on the Palmer. Photo by Debbie Nail Meyer.

Long workdays and long vacations

Support staff from Raytheon Polar Services Corporation (RPSC) help scientists with the ship’s logistics, science equipment, chemicals, labs, computers, and electronics.
Ben Twining and Maria Vernet study data plots to plan their sampling schedules. Photo by Debbie Nail Meyer.

Planning the science

Ben Twining and Maria Vernet study data plots to plan their sampling schedules.
The ship's radar system shows an image of an iceberg. Photo by Rob Sherlock.

Sensing through the fog

As we travel across the Weddell Sea toward iceberg TK-231, the bridge is monitoring the surrounding area for other, smaller icebergs we may pass by.
Third mate Brandon Bell holds the ship steady for hours during an ROV deployment. Photo by Amanda Kahn.

The bridge's role in deployments

Captain Mike Watson and the mates of the Palmer have been integral to the science being conducted on this cruise.
Cook Alejandra Monje Miranda prepares dinner for all 70 people on the Palmer. Photo by Amanda Kahn.

Food preparation

A galley crew of three—Alejandra Monje Miranda, Antonio Ford, and Lorenzo Sandoval—is responsible for preparing five hot meals a day for 70 people. Meals must accommodate many different eating styles, including vegetarian and regional eating preferences.
In the galley, railings surround the stove to prevent sliding pots from falling to the floor in rough weather. Photo by Amanda Kahn.

Ready for any weather

A large storm is building west of the Drake Passage and may soon intercept our course. We are finishing up the last bit of surface mapping on iceberg C-18A tonight and will set out early tomorrow morning for the next iceberg in the center of the Weddell Sea.
Shelves are stocked once before departing from port and must sustain 70 people for the whole 40-day cruise. Photo by Amanda Kahn.

Food storage

Going grocery shopping is a weekly activity on land. At sea, grocery shopping happens one time: before departing from port. Chefs Alejandra Monje Miranda and Antonio Ford stock the Palmer’s galley while in Punta Arenas.
Most people carry bottles filled with water in order to stay hydrated in the dry, heated air. Photo by Amanda Kahn.

Staying hydrated

During one of the first safety meetings, Stian Alesandrini, our Marine Projects Coordinator and a trained EMT, warned that the most common health problem on Antarctic cruises is dehydration.
A team of sorters process samples from the MOCNESS. On the left side of the table is Dani Garcia, Larry Lovell, and Amanda Kahn. On the right side of the table is Mike Fox, Vivian Peng, and Jake Ellena. Photo by Debbie Nail Meyer.

A day of sorting

A day of processing MOCNESS trawl samples is a full day indeed. Ron Kaufmann’s team, which includes Dani Garcia, Mike Fox, Larry Lovell, Rob Sherlock, and Stephanie Bush, has a long day of work when MOCNESS samples are collected.
Float coats keep science teams dry as they deploy and recover equipment. Photo by Christine Huffard.

Deck work

For humans, the Southern Ocean is an inhospitable place: the water temperature is at or below freezing (between -1.6 and 0 degrees C is common), air temperature and wind chill can cause hypothermia, and large waves and swell are common.

Scheduling sleep into a 24-hour workday

The return to iceberg C-18a marks the end of testing and the beginning of sampling. Some teams have been studying the iceberg using CTD casts and laser scanning while others have been collecting water and trawl samples.

Sounds of a moving ship

The walls of the Palmer are insulated against the cold, but a variety of sounds pervade. The constant low rumble of the ship’s engines slowly transitions from a distinct sound to background noise as our ears adjust.

Ocean workouts

Staying in shape is an important consideration for a 40-day cruise. Forty days is enough time to take major steps back in a training regimen or in fitness.
Each lifeboat fits the entire capacity of the ship--70 people--in close quarters. Photo by Amanda Kahn.

Disaster preparedness at sea

Yesterday’s post introduced the lifeboats on the ship. Today’s post further describes the lifesaving features of the lifeboats and some of the resources available if one must abandon ship.
One of two closed-top lifeboats on the Nathaniel B. Palmer. Each lifeboat can hold the complete capacity of the ship (70 people). Photo by Ron Kaufmann.

Safety Saturday

Once a week, the crew of the Palmer meets to discuss a topic in safety and scientists and staff are welcomed to attend.
Maria Vernet gets a cup of coffee at "Cafe Vernet" on the ship. Photo by Ron Kaufmann.

Self-contained world on a ship

When a car breaks down, we bring it to a mechanic to fix the problem. The mechanic diagnoses the problem, acquires the parts necessary to fix it, then does the work for us and delivers a fully-functional car in the end. When something breaks on a ship, it is not as easy to bring it somewhere to get fixed.
Alana Sherman checks her e-mails. Photo by Stephanie Bush.

Staying connected

Being out at sea makes it difficult to stay up-to-date on what is happening in the world and our lives, but the IT group on the ship works hard to help keep us connected.

Getting away from it all

In our everyday lives, we are inundated with technological widgets that connect us to the rest of the world. Newspapers, journal articles, television, email, and of course, the internet, provide us with constant sources of information about what is going on in the world around us.
The team prepares to launch the ROV IceCUBE.

Extreme cold weather gear

Before the cruise began, everyone was issued a set of extreme cold weather gear (ECW). For those who had not been to Antarctica before, it was difficult to look through the standard gear allotment and judge whether it would be enough to stay warm.
Jake Ellena with a cocoanut out in the Antarctic. Photo by Ron Kaufmann.

Summertime in the Southern Hemisphere

Seasons in the southern hemisphere are opposite from those in the northern hemisphere due to the tilt of the earth. The first ICEBERG cruise occurred in December 2005, equivalent to the austral (southern hemisphere) spring.
This photo shows Stephanie Bush, a research technician for Bruce Robison, rubbing the toe the afternoon before we boarded the ship.

A little good luck our way

Certain traditions and customs are common in maritime culture. Tradition states that sea-going travelers departing from the port of Punta Arenas, Chile, must rub the toe of one of the statues in the town square.
Photo by Christine Huffard.

Rocking around a rocking ship

Delicate instruments and glass jars of chemicals were not designed with stability in mind, but stability is important while on a rolling ship at sea.

The p's and q's of going to Antarctica

Designing a research expedition in the Southern Ocean involves years of preparation prior to the cruise. Each of the researchers involved have been planning what equipment to ship down to Antarctica for months.