Monday, April 22, 2019

A tale of pancake ice, furious seas.. and a drifter - by Isa R.

"Below 40 degrees south there is no law and below 50 degrees south there is no God"
- anonymous sailor.

Until now, we have sailed in defiance of this idiom of the Southern Ocean, blessed by remarkably calm weather as we made our way to Antarctica. But now the ferocious brutality of the Southern Ocean has finally arrived; and I love it!!

The Screaming Sixties, strong westerly winds blowing south of 60 degrees S, have made a crashing entrance today. Initially standing-by because of winds up to 45 knots, we managed to deploy the CTD rosette in the water during a briefly calm window. We can hear the winds roaring outside now at 30 knots, while our CTD rosette fights against the swell of 2 m on its ascent back to the surface. Our highly skilled winch operators, marine techs, captain and mates and the students at the CTD console have been doing a remarkable job in keeping the position of the ship, deploying the rosette in this weather, driving it 5 km down to within 10 m of the sea floor, and now hauling it up to the surface.

Snow petrel on pancake ice.
In the past days, blessed by an almost flat ocean, we kept a very fast pace, and completed 24 stations. The start of our I06S line occurred in one of the most incredible places I've ever seen…

Slowly approaching our first station, the first lights of dawn revealed a stretch of grease ice, which turned into pancake ice. I felt like an intruder in that silent space of Antarctic life and was incredibly grateful to be able to witness it!

CTD rosette deployment during the first I06S station.

Giuliana, me and Loicka with the Troyeshchyna Gymnasium's drifter (ph. by Jackson)
Not only did we keep a remarkable pace with CTD operations, but we had an intense series of deployments as well. Today let's talk about the drifters. We have a total of 16 buoys planned for deployment on this cruise, and the first one (#300234066615940) was deployed at 66 deg S, 30 deg E. A drifter is an instrument that measures sea surface temperature (and sometimes other parameters such as barometric pressure, salinity, wave height, wave speed and direction) and records its location. The data are transmitted to a satellite, using an antenna on the surface float. At the bottom of it there is a drogue (a long cylindrical tail), which allows the buoy to be pulled by ocean currents beneath the surface, rather than just pushed down by winds from above. Data are commonly used to map surface currents, sea surface temperature… and, importantly, in forecasts.

Off to its journey! (ph. by Jackson)
#300234066615940 is special not only because it was the first of the cruise, but also because it was "adopted" by the Troyeshchyna Gymnasium (Nataliya Byzova) in Kyiv, Ukraine, as part of the Adopt-a-drifter program!! This is very exciting, as the teacher and the students can now track the life of their instrument, in its errands around the Southern Ocean!! Looking for more information? Check the program's website to know more:


  1. Hi Giuliana, Isa, Loicka and Jackson,
    I'm Nataliya, a teacher of English from Troyeshchyna Gymnasium in Kyiv (Ukraine).
    Thank you for the deployment of our drifter!!!
    I am so excited to involve my students in this wonderful project.
    Your blog about your work and impressions is just amazing!
    I will be seeing my students in 2 days, and they are sure to be absolutely happy
    They have been waiting for the event for some months.
    I hope you don't mind my adding some of your photos to my students' Adopt a Drifter photo album?
    Have a wonderful time in the ocean.
    Best wishes,

    1. Hurray our drifter has been deployed and what an exciting location! Thank you Giuliana, Isa, Loicka and Jackson for your blog posts. I will have my students read this and then we will collaborate with our friends in Kyiv. This will be a lot of fun and educational.
      Safe travels!
      and students from Doral Academy of Colorado

  2. Great to hear from you, Nataliya!! :-D
    Thank you so much for your comment!!
    Please, add the photos you like to the album. This is such a great opportunity for schools to be involved with science, and I can't wait to hear about their impressions! Being able to engage with students in what we do is such a great opportunity for us as well :-)
    All the best and please send a big Hi to your students, from a roaring Southern Ocean!

    1. Hi Isa,
      Thank you for the warm welcome on board the blog).
      My students have been surfing the blog today and tomorrow will post their feedback.
      Say Hi to the Ocean and the people you are working with.)
      Best wishes,

  3. Hi guys.
    I've been watching the blog with interest all this time, up to this point (including :) ), and now that we have to say goodbye, I want to express my mind about this project.
    In my opinion, it was probably the closest experience of communicating with people from other countries, not counting direct communication. Probably, I think, that it was really cool idea, to connect our school for this project. I'm sure not only me, but your entire class had a lot of fun reading our wonderful'n'cute stories.
    So... I wrote this comment to thank you a lot, by this good times and experience. And at last, wish you to have a nice Easter.
    Good luck in ocean.

    1. Hi Mykhailo,
      Thank you for reading the blog and being the first to post a comment.
      However, the deployment of our drifter does not mean that it's the time to say good-bye. On the contrary, we start a month journey tracking our drifter in the OCEAN. Our partners from Colorado Doral Academy also don't say goodbye because they are going to join us soon. I am sure the authors of this blog will be happy to share their impressions in their articles and answer some of your questions.
      Enjoy the terrific opportunity to be part of this project.)
      Best wishes.
      Nataliya Ivanivna

  4. In my opinion, it was very interesting. I thank you for your work and for the fact that you are working together with us or with you. It was interesting to read about how it all happened. I would like to have more such projects.
    Dima Maievskij

  5. Hi.
    We are students from Troyeshchyna Gymnasium, 9-B class.
    We enjoyed reading this blog. Personally, we think that it describes this scientific mission very well, so that it would be understandable both to students and at the same time adhering to scientific terms.
    We are really interested in tracking the blog and our drifter.
    Good luck to your expedition.
    Say "HI!" to the Ocean from us and from our river Dnieper.
    Your 9-B class, Kyiv, Ukraine

  6. Hi.
    How are you?
    In my opinion, this is an exciting project and I love it a lot. It gives students the opportunity to learn something new and reveals some secrets of vast ocean spaces.
    I have a question: Why does the ice look like pancakes?
    Thank you for the answer.
    Yaryna Slaba
    9-A Class, Troyeshchyna Gymnasium
    Kyiv, Ukraine

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