Written Sunday, 23 December
The Antarctic summer shows its most beautiful side, the sun is shining out of a deep blue sky, and the water is glittering like a thousand diamonds. I walk up to the uppermost deck and enjoy the warmth of the sun for a little while until the cold wind chases me indoors. We are enjoying a quiet ride of a steady 8 to 10 knots, so for the scientists this is a comfortable day. The quiet after the hectic of yesterday’s benthos station is much appreciated; many people have worked until the small hours of the morning or followed the successful maiden voyage of the underwater video camera from the winch control room.
For me, the day had a peaceful start, as the gear that I was to run, the Agassiz trawl (AGT), was not on until the afternoon. At 7 in the morning I peacefully went to the fitness room for my early morning exercising. No sooner had I finished my workout, when the loudspeaker produced a call for me to phone the bridge, the result being that the AGT was going over the side in 15 minutes. Help!!!
Five minutes later, after having dressed in no time and with a makeshift hairdo, I fly up to the bridge to quickly re-calculate the times for the winch. Instead of the 1500 m that we had planned on, we now have a depth of 2000 m. I am nervous for sure because this is my first deployment of the big trawl on my own, and the slope here near Kapp Norvegia is steep, and stones are likely to lie on the rough bottom. If the AGT gets caught up on such a rock, chances are that we lose the gear, which would be a catastrophe.
My eyes are glued to the screen that shows the wire tension during trawling and heaving. But everything works very smoothly; only once does the tension go up, only to drop again right away (I guess that was the large rock which we later took out of the trawl). When the AGT leaves the bottom, the tension rises again and then stays constant: apparently the net is well filled. I am glad about that because we know this location from previous expeditions and the literature to be very suitable for catching benthic animals.
And indeed we are not disappointed: the net is filled to the rim. Fish, red shrimp and numerous sea cucumbers – including a real giant of 2 kg – all mixed in with a whole lot of mud, roll onto the deck. We are hard pressed to get everything off the deck into large tubs to free the stern for the next deployment, the epibenthic sledge, and afterwards there are hours of washing and sieving. But for us benthologists this is pure joy, again and again there is cheering over particularly beautiful or rare animals.
I myself am a little disappointed at first as there are only a few sponges in the catch. But later, in the lab, I recognise under the microscope a specimen of 6 cm length belonging to the carnivorous sponge family Cladorhizidae. I had hoped for a while to find a large specimen of these relatively rare and usually mm-sized deep-sea sponges. Now I finally have enough material to perform taxonomic, genetic and biochemical studies. That was a very nice Christmas present from Njord (or is it rather Poseidon who is in charge of this ocean?)
Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and we have a last rehearsal of the Christmas music. It is a bit hard to get into the spirit with the sunshine lasting 24 hours a day. At least the stewardesses have decorated everything so nicely that it might be easy after all once the trees are put up.
Dorte Janussen, Senckenberg
Photos: B. Ebbe, Senckenberg
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Monday, 24 December 2007 06:40
Polarstern: Trawling for speciesWritten by Polarstern Expedition
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