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12 April: Great Expectations (Scotia Arc Expedition 2013)

By: Dr Nerida Wilson, Category: Science, Date: 15 Apr 2013

Today I asked one of our scientists (who had never been on an Antarctic research cruise before) what she thought of the operation so far.

12 April: Great Expectations (Scotia Arc Expedition 2013) #1

Nerida Wilson & Greg Rouse © Australian Museum

12 April 2013

"Impressive is the first word that came to our minds when asked what we thought of the US Antarctic Program thus far. We were not aware of the range of research that occurs every moment on the ship.

I naively thought that the only research happening onboard the ship would be the research that each science group was conducting. Much to my surprise and amazement, the ship is a treasure trove of scientific equipment which actively collects data even while I sleep or am doodling in my journal.

This equipment does not sleep. It collects data on sea surface temperature, dissolved oxygen, current profiles, salinity, and turbidity- to name a few. The Nathaniel B. Palmer also collects meteorological data on humidity, pressure, wind direction and strength, the amount of sunlight reaching the surface at our current location, and more.

There will not be a test on all this equipment and what it does, but the main point to take away is that the US Antarctic Program research vessels collect heaps of data every second of the day. This data is then shared with the world a few years later on the Marine Geophysical Data website.

It is quite an impressive contribution to science! I have much gratitude for the technicians on the ship who work diligently to make sure the equipment is collecting accurate data all year long.

Our new scientists aboard this ship were also admiring the logistics of the whole operation. While walking down the dock in Punta Arenas, flanked by 3 Antarctic research vessels, surrounded by scurrying crew members, and watching cranes loading equipment (and food!), it is easy to be in awe of the whole program. It made Anke pause to think, “So! This is what it takes to get samples of animals from isolated places.”

Stephanie Baccarella

Stephanie is accustomed to reading about this research in scientific papers, but being here definitely puts those papers into perspective. Now, the sample of the Antarctic nudibranch referred to in a paper conjures up the image of ALL that equipment, ALL those helping hands, ALL those warm clothes, and ALL that time at sea travelling to the location where the sample was taken.

Which means we will no longer breeze over these papers lightly. We’ll take out a map and imagine the scale of the operation necessary to obtain such samples. Which brings me back to the first word out of our mouths: the whole operation is truly IMPRESSIVE.