Two members of the SAMS Physics Department are in the Antarctic deploying oceanographic moorings amidst pack ice near the Antarctic continent. The British Antarctic Survey ship RRS Ernest Shackleton is working in the Weddell Sea on a joint BAS/University of East Anglia/SAMS project called UK SASSI: Synoptic Antarctic Shelf-Slope Interactions study. UK SASSI is part of an international collaboration to quantify the freshwater loss from ice melting around the Antarctic continent.
Here are some personal accounts from Colin from the ship in the Antarctic:
"We're now on our way back to the Falklands. We've spent most of the last week servicing BAS moorings around Signy, one of the South Orkney Islands. We called in there briefly to close the BAS base down for the season. I managed to get ashore for an hour and take some photos of the resident elephant and fur seals."
"Finally our luck has run out weatherwise, punching our way through a Force 9."
SAMS physicists settling down to read their local newspaper
at Halley base station in the Antarctic (click image to enlarge)
"All well here, we're alongside @ Creek#4, the closest docking site for the Halley base - which is some 16 kms inshore. Getting a wee bit chilly, -17oC overnight. All being well we'll visit Halley tomorrow and then sail Sunday midday.
The remaining SASSI mooring is a day away. Trip fine, bit like the Arctic, cloudy a lot of the time but when the sun does shine, it's time to get snapping. Thirty people are joining us for the journey back to the Falklands, we'll also pick up another 8 from Signy as we go past."
"All well aboard. Docked last night, here for a few days and then, all being well, we'll deploy the last of the SASSI mooring late Sunday/early Monday.
Installed thermistor chains under the ice yesterday for Keith J. Penguins supervised the operation (see image)."
"We've just had to pop into Halley, one of the officers wasn't well so they were dropped off this morning. They will now fly out to Rothera and then onto Chile and if needs be onto the UK. All well aboard, we're half way through deploying six Norwegian moorings. When that's done, there will be a mixture of turbulence measurements and CTDs. We're due back into Halley for a couple of days in a weeks time.
We will deploy the last of the SASSI moorings once we've left Halley on the 22nd, ice permitting. John and I have both been on the ice with the seal tagging team: nine Weddell seals have been tagged with Argos receivers including miniature CTD sensors, one to go. Trip is fine, weather has been very good, cloudy most of the time."
"On our second BAS recovery but we're having some fun and games with the release; ice is also a problem as usual - plus it's minus 11oC."
"All well aboard.
Finally managed to get four of the five SASSI moorings deployed. We had to move further west from the original positions because of ice. The remaining mooring in 3000m will hopefully be deployed after we've left Halley on the 22nd Feb. We've recovered one BAS mooring, now into CTD mode.
12 hours on, 12 off. John and I are both on midnight to midday.
Weather very good indeed, a wee bit chilly but not as cold as Boston.
Another CTD is fast approaching, we're working a line from the coast into the ice just South of Halley. Stations are 4nm apart."
"All well aboard. We sailed from Stanley on the Friday. We popped into Signy, one of the South Orkney Islands, to drop off three people. We will collect them on our way back. Weather has been very good. We're now heading towards the SASSI site, due there late on Thursday. We'll start with a CTD line and then work our way back across the shelf deploying the moorings as we go.
We'll then be doing some more mooring work on our way to Halley. We're due there mid Feb. We have four mooring teams aboard, one from BAS, a Norwegian group from Bergen and someone from the US."
THE AIMS OF SASSI: the Synoptic Antarctic Shelf-Slope Interactions study
SASSI will make observations in geographical regions that have never been intensively studied. The first sub-ice observations using moored instrumentation, under-ice floats, and Unmanned Underwater Vehicles/Remotely Operated Vehicles have the potential to radically alter our view of the Antarctic system.
SASSI will provide a unique synoptic snapshot of the marine environment of the Antarctic continental shelf and slope including physical, biogeochemical and biodiversity measurements. The aim is to establish a baseline for assessing current ocean climate processes, against which to measure future change.
By improving the understanding of continental shelf and slope processes (a critical contributor to global climate variability), SASSI will facilitate their accurate representation in climate models, to help predict variability. Interannual and seasonal variability will be documented for the first time in many locations.
SASSI is designed to understand the role of the physical, biological and biogeochemical polar processes in global climate, including the efficiency of the biological pump in the carbon cycle and the carbon budget. The planned snapshot will help us to assess present-day conditions and likely future changes in the context of global modes of variability such as Antarctic Circumpolar Waves, the Southern Annular Mode, and the El Nino - Southern Oscillation.