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Saturday, 19 January 2008 12:59
Today was –again- a great day for me on board Polarstern. It started in a bit of shock, as Bram, doing the early morning shift in counts of birds and mammals on top of the ship, woke me up by calling me via the stand-by mariphone in my cabin. He excitedly reported seeing “Brown Spots” which must sound weird and requires some explanation. Since my first marine science cruise on Polarstern, almost 20 years ago in 1988, I have been seeing occasional mysterious ‘brown spots’ while conducting the bird and mammal counts. They measure from several meters up to maybe a 100m in diameter. They are not easy to see if you’re not constantly on the lookout. Only with variable success I have been able to convince other people that indeed ‘something’ was there in the water. In my view, th...
Friday, 18 January 2008 12:56
My day started quite unspectacularly. After my morning routine of looking briefly into my computer files, I went to breakfast, expecting nothing special. I had just sat down when Uli, the expedition leader, approached me and asked whether I possibly wanted to join the first helicopter flight, starting at 9 a.m., and help the colleagues of IMARES from Wageningen, the Netherlands, with their top predator counts. Well, what was I going to say. Of course I was very happy and I immediately agreed. Originally I had planned to sort the last part of the sample from Maud Rise in the lab, but the sample is fixed well in alcohol and could wait. I did not have much time, 15 minutes had to be enough to recharge the camera battery, then I rushed to the helicopter hangar and wriggled mysel...
Thursday, 17 January 2008 12:52
While the Polarstern did her utmost best to break through the pack ice towards the shelf, most scientists finished their practical station work and had the first look at the preliminary results. As member of the benthology team I work on the smallest, though surprisingly amazing members of the multicellular benthos, the Nematoda. These wormlike creatures are so numerously present and show such a great variability that they simply have to fulfil an important role down there. Because they are so small you need a microscope with high magnification to be able to identify them. Therefore and also because I plan to do some biochemical analyses on the nematodes found in the deep-sea sediments, my preliminary results on board would be limited to mentioning that the sampling we did by means of the...
Wednesday, 16 January 2008 12:49
For about two weeks the Polarstern had been fighting against a forbidding fortress of ice, and day after day there seemed to be very little progress. The scientists on board of this research icebreaker were less than happy. Some stations had already been given up when we were called to the Atka Bay for the second time. On Monday afternoon, it still looked like our goal was still very far in the distance. In the middle of the night from Monday to Tuesday, around 2 a.m. the birthday parties of two scientists and a member of the helikopter crew were about to wind down. Suddenly, out of the blue, the happy news reached the “Zillertal”, the ship’s bar, that the Polarstern had reached the shelf ice edge. I could hardly believe it! After a bit of hesitating, I put on my Po...
Tuesday, 15 January 2008 12:45
It is early in the morning, the aroma of my second cup of after-breakfast coffee is pleasantly wafting through the room. Next door in the mess room the clatter of dishes is telling stories of busy work, and when drawers are opened, the familiar sound of the closing mechanism can be heard that keeps them from springing open in heavy seas. Heavy seas- that is something we have not had in a long time. My photographs from the transit through the roaring forties, which sure did live up to their name back then, look like they are from a different life. Outside ice and calm, deep blue water are shimmering in the clear sunshine of the Polar summer. So what is going on, anyway? Many stories are offered. “We are going around in circles.” “What, is this just ot do something- anyt...
Monday, 14 January 2008 12:40
The Polarstern has been breaking a canal into the sea-ice for some days now to open a way for the Naja Arctica to the shelf ice edge near the Neumayer station. It is on the sea-ice in front of Neumayer where the colonies of Emperor penguins are. That we know, and every now and then whole groups of adult penguins pass by on the ice. Well, we have seen grown-up penguins before, but I would have loved to see the young ones, especially since they are so close! We can not get to the colony, but the penguin chicks ae nice enough to come and visit us. And so I am standing on deck until 2 a.m., watching a group of young emperors on their first trip to the water. This sight is really the nicest I have ever had of any penguins. ...
Sunday, 13 January 2008 12:35
To be precise, this is my 12th Sunday on Polarstern. As I participated in the transit from Bremerhaven to Cape Town, I have been on Board as long as the crew. Of course, my longing for my family, friend and home is growing, but Polarstern is an easy place to call home for a while. Even after all these weeks no feeling of everyday life has crept in. Each day is different from the previous, some are more exciting than others, but it is never boring. On today’s program was, like on every Sunday, the weightwatcher’s club – one of the few regularly occurring events on board besides the meals. After that I went for the regular cooling container check-up. As we stopped station work a few days ago, I am glad to be able to keep some animals alive for experiments. I am one of th...
Saturday, 12 January 2008 12:18
Definitely no plans for today. But life on board is sometimes surprising and unexpected things happen. And today is one of these days. Just during breakfast time I received wonderful news… “at 9 o’clock there will be an AGT”…and only in a few hundred meters of depth…this means…Cnidarians!! I was really delighted and hopeful…maybe this time I will find the missing genus, the object of my PhD studies. “Antarctica’s gorgonians. Evolution and biodiversity. Distribution and reproduction patterns.” This is the title of my research, focused on the family Primnoidae and mainly on the genus Thouarella, the best represented in the Southern Ocean. Around half of the species have been described from Antarctic waters, and most of them were found below 800 m depth. T...
Friday, 11 January 2008 18:13
Friday, 11 January Hi, it’s me again, Nils. I wish I could report about something special or exciting. But I can’t. From my point of view, nothing remarkable happened today here on board of Polarstern. We benthologists (investigators of the seafloor) do not have a station right now, which means we are not deploying any gear into the water. There is very little practical hands-on work to do. So I got up this morning, had breakfast and then went to my lab. My small room is not only my laboratory, but also my office. I do everything there. We investigate the communities on the sea floor wi...
Thursday, 10 January 2008 18:09
Submitted Thursday, 10 January 8 January 2008, 5 p.m: We are sitting in our cabin, working at our computers. An announcement comes through the speakers, as it does many times a day. Usually people are called to the phone over the speakers, nothing special. But this time I recognise Bram’s voice immediately. Bram is one of our Dutch top predator specialists. His calling is to investigate birds, seals and whales. And normally Bram can be found in his outdoor cabin on the upper deck unless he is counting animals from the helicopter. So, now Bram is at the microphone and speaks the following short and snappy words: “Hi, this is Bram. There are Orcas in front of the ship. Killer Whales ahead!” “Hallo, hier spricht Bram. Orcas vor dem Schiff. Schwertwale vor...
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