Well, I’m back home after a long day’s travel from Punta Arenas, Chile to Boston, Massachusetts and then to Cape Cod. I took a few days to think about the cruise and put it in perspective. The main impression I have is the wonderful camaraderie of the whole crew- from the captain and his guys from ECO through the techs from Ratheyon to my fellow scientists. People worked very hard, round the clock, and got along so well- a real team and almost family effort. Then there was the place we were working. Antarctica must be experienced in person to really appreciate it. It’s an awesome place (an overworked word, but appropriate here) that really gets under your skin. It’s not surprising that so many of those aboard come back many times.
So what did we find that was surprising? Well, first and foremost was the sea surface temperature- above 3 deg C in many places. This is much higher than anyone has seen before, and of course is the direct cause of the lack of sea ice we saw and what allowed us to get as far south as we were able to go (south of 70 deg- further south than the Gould has ever gone!).
We also saw a very high amount of microbial activity, again in some cases the highest that has been observed in the LTER. The high sea temperatures no doubt contributed to this, but the full causes remain to be elucidated. Lastly, the zooplankton group found Salps(they are a pretty large form of strange jelly-like zooplankton) in every net tow – something they never had seen before. Penguins, whales and seals do not eat salps, so their abundance might be detrimental to these animals.
Remember the the bulk of the work will be on the samples shipped back to the US so many conclusions await months or even years of work. Also, remember that no one year is indicative of the overall trend- that’s why the LTER exists- to study the same areas over many years, even decades.
So, it’s back to “normal” life. I hope you’ve enjoyed the blog and that it gave you a hint of what our cruise was like and with that I’ll say goodbye.