This is only my first blog post and barely my fourth day in Hobart, Tasmania, but I already feel like I left home ages ago. Perhaps this is because it took about 30 hours of traveling to get from Florida to Tasmania, or maybe because I have been busy every day. Or maybe I am finally beginning to realize how much work we have to do and the weeks are stretching out endlessly in front of me.
That sounds like I am dreading this cruise- quite the opposite! I am so excited to finally be here and have the opportunity to contribute to the understanding of changing ice dynamics in East Antarctica. I think the reason I feel so removed from what I consider “normal life” is because the cruise is really a whole different ballgame. First off, it spans 46 days. It will take 7 days just to get down to Antarctica, and then there is a solid month of work surveying and sampling the continental shelf from the George V Shelf up to the Totten and Shackleton glaciers. Second, our study area is so isolated and the elements are so extreme, it’s enough to make anyone feel slightly anxious. And third, this cruise has been in the works for many years, with many smart and experienced scientists spearheading the effort. This puts the scale of our research into perspective: a multi-year, multi-disciplinary effort to understand why/how marine-based glaciers and ice shelves are accelerating and thinning, and the role ocean temperatures are playing in their retreat (past and present).
We have the marine geology group, the geophysics group, and the physical oceanography group. Marine geology folks are responsible for collecting, sampling and analyzing cores. Our sampling begins here, but will continue well into the future when we open and describe the cores at Florida State University. The geophysics group will be busy taking multibeam swaths and seismic images of the continental shelf. Multibeam will be used to look at the bathymetry of the seafloor and seismic profiles will allow us to see the different layers of sediment below the upper layer. These will be the first of these images ever taken of the shelf. Physical oceanography people will sample the water column to investigate how surface and deep currents are circulating throughout the area.
All of this research is brand new … brand new! It blows my mind to think that we are part of only a handful of people to be sampling this section of the East Antarctic continental margin. I can’t emphasize how excited I am about the whole endeavor. It truly is going to be the experience of a lifetime.