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Bouts of Bad Weather

Last night we arrived at our destination, South Orkney Islands, northeast of the Antarctic Peninsula. In most years the AMLR cruises just survey the South Shetland Islands, but because this is International Polar Year, the survey area has been expanded to include the South Orkneys. Our survey will help CCAMLR (the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) assess the biomass of krill there, thus facilitating appropriate management of the krill fishery. Everyone on board is excited to see a new landscape and carry out research in a new locale. However, if this weather keeps up we won’t see much of anything.

Our vessel dusted with snow.

Right now, we are in the middle of a storm system. The swell has grown to an uncomfortable five meters (15 feet), and rain and gale-force 30-knot winds pelt the boat. If we tried to deploy our equipment in this weather we would risk damaging or losing our valuable gear and put the crew in danger. Thus we have to restlessly wait out the bad weather for another 24 hours.

The weather drives everyone aboard indoors.

During these times the hours tick by slowly. The stormy weather makes leaving the confines of the boat rather unpleasant and the thick fog prevents us from viewing any of the surrounding scenery.

What we could be seeing in less stormy weather.

People pass their time on the boat in a variety of old-fashioned and simple ways. We read books, watch movies, do puzzles, play cribbage, socialize, and work on other personal projects.

Many of us also try to keep fit. Some of us, myself included, still try to do yoga on a regular basis. If the thought of doing yoga on a boat makes you laugh, imagine being the one actually doing it. Take any balancing pose, throw in lots of left and right rolling and jolting and then you will experience some really challenging poses. A fellow researcher on board, Darci Lombard, describes our boat yoga well: “Instead of tree pose, you do kelp pose.”

As I send this dispatch, we are now 24 hours into the survey. Its 4am, dark, the temperature has dropped and there is a thin layer of snow coating the vessel. Luckily the wind has calmed down and the seas have flattened out to a lowly one to two meter swell allowing us to work. For the moment I drink hot chocolate–warm inside the vessel–and life is good. Now, off to sort zooplankton.

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