Back in the Drake

We are officially back in the Drake Passage. After a week of little movement due to ice, everyone is getting reacquainted with life aboard a moving ship. After some last CTD casts to collect water samples, the process of dismantling and packing begins. When I woke up this morning, I realized that we are nearing the 60 degree south latitude line. This line generally designates the Antarctic zone. We are leaving Antarctica and have less than 400 miles to the tip of South America. The change in sunrise and sunset is already obvious and there are no ice chunks to remind us of the last few days. Whether I like it or not, the research cruise is nearing its end. Today's plan includes our last science sampling events and lots of packing - both sure signs that we are almost finished.

Squeeze in Some Science

Most of us thought that yesterday's deep trace metal CTD cast was the last sampling event of the cruise. But, like any research cruise plan, things changed. Timing worked in our favor to allow not only the deep trace metal cast, but a conventional CTD cast and an additional trace metal cast last night. This morning, two additional trace metal casts were completed to finish out our science sampling. In all, 64 CTD casts were completed over the duration of this research cruise.

Prepping the last cast
Marine Technicians Rich Thompson and Jullie Jackson prepare the trace metal rosette for its final cast. This image shows the rosette without the Nisken bottles used to collect water. They will be added once the rosette is secure.

Trace metal team
Members of the 'trace metal team' pose for a picture before the last CTD cast. From left (front to back): Cara Pekarcik, Dr. Dreux Chappell, Dr. Randie Bundy, Dr. Kristen Buck and Sveinn Einarsson.

Prepping the Nisken bottles
Sveinn Einarsson and Dr. Kristen Buck prep the Nisken bottles on the trace metal rosette. These Nisken bottles will collect samples below the mixed layer for this cast. This water will be used for future incubation experiments.

The deep trace metal cast to 3500m/10500ft was used to generate a deep water profile for this area of the Drake Passage. The conventional CTD was used to collect water samples for molecular biology analysis. The three additional trace metal casts collected water samples just below the mixed layer. You may remember that the mixed layer is the layer where wind and waves mix the nutrients to enhance productivity in the photic (light) zone. Water was collected just below this area because the water does not need to contain high amounts of biomass. Once the water is filtered, it will be stored in large carboys and shipped back to the four research labs and used for two purposes:

  1. Use the natural water of the Southern Ocean to maintain the diatom and bacterial cultures collected during this research cruise.

  2. Use the natural water of the Southern Ocean to set up more incubation experiments using the cultured microorganisms (isolates) from this research cruise.

By collecting water from this area, the science team has the unique advantage of using ambient (natural) water conditions for both maintenance and experimentation. The science team could use sea water samples from other locations, however, these samples may not have the same chemical signatures as the water in the Southern Ocean.

Let the Packing Begin

With the water collection complete, the science team now begins the process of packing. Everything that was unpacked at the beginning of the research cruise must be inventoried, re-packaged and stored for shipment. In addition to the equipment, the science team must also inventory the samples that were collected over the past 5 weeks. Frozen water samples, frozen DNA/RNA samples and other water samples will be shipped to the laboratories when we arrive in Chile. With only a few hundred miles to go before we dock in Punta Arenas, the packing pace is sure to pick up.

Packed water samples
Frozen water samples from the trace metal bubble are packed in boxes for shipment. Each box weighs approximately 50 lbs. and hold about 44 bottles. Biological samples will also be packed and stored in the freezer before they are packed.

Repacking gear
All of the gear that was initially brought to the RVIB Palmer must be re-packed and prepared for shipment back to the indvidual labs. The grey containers on the right hold all of the incubation bottles from the experiments.

Birthday Wishes

Wishing my cousin Sierra a very HAPPY 14TH BIRTHDAY! Have a great day!

Tomorrow's Journal

I don't normally give a preview of an upcoming journal, but I think tomorrow's will be exciting to read. During the research cruise, the science team had an opportunity to leave the ship. Curious?? Find out more in tomorrow's journal. I have been waiting to write this journal for some time - kind of like I saved the best for last.

Weather Summary
Partly sunny with good visibility. Windy and cold.
Wind Speed
20-25 knots
Wind Chill


Vivian Tran

Hey Mrs. Pekarcik. I can't wait to read the next journal, it sounds very intriguing. So, how are you going to pack the samples? Are you going to keep it in a cooler or a special container that can keep the samples the way they are?

Bill Jenkins

Dear Cara:
Martha and I have enjoyed reading your journal--we hope your students found it as interesting and enjoyable as we did.
We wish you fair seas for the rest of your voyage and a safe journey home.

Bill and Martha Jenkins

Cara Pekarcik

Hi Vivian - something like that :) I will be doing a journal about the complex packing process later this week.

On 2016-10-11 10:14, PolarTREC wrote:

Cara Pekarcik

Thank you so much! I have enjoyed sharing my stories with everyone and have truly learned a lot from Bethany and the rest of the science team
and crew. This has been the chance of a lifetime! I am so lucky!

On 2016-10-11 10:41, PolarTREC wrote:

cara lew

how many samples were you able to collect while on this trip?

Cara Pekarcik

Hi Cara -I don't have an exact number, but I can estimate the total at around
1500 different samples. These may be water samples, preserved filters
or individual cultures.

On 10/18/16 4:17 PM, PolarTREC wrote:


Where do the packages go after being taken off the ship?

Cara Pekarcik

Sheila - as I mentioned in the journal, all of the gear is going back to the four labs: URI, ODU, USF and WHOI

From: PolarTREC
Sent: 10/20/2016 7:04 AM
Subject: Re: SheilaB commented on 11 October 2016 Salute to Science