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The Iceberg Alley

April 5th, 2009

ABOARD THE RVIB N. B. PALMER, ON THE SOUTHERN OCEAN– Within 40 nautical miles southeast of C18A iceberg, we found an area known as the Iceberg Alley: a large concentration of icebergs in western Weddell Sea, moving in a north-northeast direction following the clockwise circulation around the Weddell Sea gyre. Hundreds of icebergs, medium and small, bergy bits and growlers can be seen all the way to the horizon. Our question is: Are phytoplankton here similar to what we found close to the large icebergs? Can we see similar iceberg effect?

An iceberg in the Iceberg Alley.

More icebergs in the Iceberg Alley.

A striped iceberg in the Iceberg Alley.

The number and variety of icebergs is incredible. We sample from surface to 500m with a CTD rosette (Conductivity-Temperature-Depth sensors mounted on a stainless steel frame with twenty-four 8-liter bottles). Phytoplankton concentrate on the surface, where there is plenty of light. Our sampling is designed to see plant abundance and composition and to capture any vertical structure in relation to the chemical and physical properties of surface ocean waters.

CTD rosette: Conductivity-Temperature-Depth sensors mounted on a stainless steel frame with twenty-four 8-liter bottles.

If icebergs change the physical and chemical structure, we expect phytoplankton to show parallel changes. With the release of the micronutrient iron from the ice, do phytoplankton change their concentration? Do we find more large cells, as expected from relief of iron limitation? Or is the mixing of the upper 200 meters pronounced and we see less stratification in the Iceberg Alley when compared to non-iceberg impacted waters? Analysis of cell number, microscopic determination of species and nutrient concentration at different depth will give us answers to these questions? Unfortunately we need to wait until we are back in our home institutions before analysis. The ship motion precludes any detailed analysis under the microscope.

The ARIB Nathaniel B. Palmer’s shadow seen on an iceberg during a clear evening at the Iceberg Alley.
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2 Responses »

  1. Love that shadow photo!

  2. I’ve been reading a book by Clive Cussler -THE NAVIGATOR and they are in iceberg alley and i wanted to see it if really existed and what it looked like. I’d say beautiful and dangerous to float by. and Cold