April 16, 2012 Ikaite
Speed 12.3 knots
Location Bransfield Strait (-62.27022167, -56.72387333)
Depth 1193 meters
Although we didn’t make a lot of progress through the ice yesterday, we finally made it out into mostly open water today. The landscape has changed dramatically from solid ice everywhere to little chunks of ice. We are headed into the Drake Passage, which means pretty rough waters for a few days so my updates may disappear while I deal with the big waves.
One of the more exciting finds in recent days was a mineral called ikaite. Ikaite (pronounced icky-ite) is made up of calcium carbonate and water. However, the structure is not stable at surface conditions and will quickly dissolve when exposed to air.
Two ikaite crystals were found in the last Jumbo Kasten Core. As soon as they were removed from the sediment, they were placed in -80°C freezers to keep them from losing their structure. If they had been left out, they would have turn into mush.
Ikaite crystals form in cold conditions where there is a large amount of productivity. This means there is a lot of plankton and other organisms living in the area. Part of the calcium carbonate in the ikaite comes from the carbon in those organisms.
Ikaites are found only in certain regions of Antarctica. They have also been found forming in the water column in the Arctic. However, as of right now, there is still very little known about these crystals and what secrets they hold.