Goan to Antarctica....

Goan scientist Helga do Rosario Gomes is en route to the icy continent, and is keeping her blog of the journey...

Monday, November 28, 2005

The day we left Mother Ship

We are now in a spot that seems ideal for our work. Big sheets of ice surround us. The ship pushes and shovels around to give us enough free water to deploy our instruments.

All through the latter part of the journey, the two ice captains have not had the luxury of auto pilot. Every day they stand on the bridge trying to find the path of least resistance -- we often take a longer and more circuitous route just to avoid the very thick ice. Like a bulldozer we back up and then push again.

Vladimir, one of our two ice captains has spent the better part of his life on both poles with hi s favorite haunts being Siberia and the Antarctic! He swings his arms around like a conductor to point the best possible route but even though I try to figure out his 'plan' for us by watching his arms in conjunction with the terrain outside, it all looks the same to me!

Whiteness and brilliant sunshine.

Now that we have stopped, we take our first trip outside the ship in small rubber dinghies. It's a strange feeling to leave the mother ship which looks huge from our small boats. It also feels more real because we can touch the ice and water.

Unfortunately we can't touch the two curious Adelie penguins that come close to us because we will be slapped with a 10,000$ fine and attain pariah status with the funding agency. The penguins do everything to distract us from our work which is not much except to collect water in carboys.

We just want to be away from the ship and its metallic particles and of course we want to ride the cool looking Zodiac dinghies. The Adelies are at their cutest best, flapping their wings, raising their beaks high, flopping on their bellies and sliding around.

Some party pooper calls us back because we are wasting too much time playing with the penguins and they need to deploy other instruments like the Echo Sounder. This temperamental gadget gives us information on the magnitude of internal waves and bubbles all of which can transport phytoplankton in and out of the well lit waters.

Eco Sounders in plain language send a 'ping' of a certain frequency and then receive the signal back. This received signal or Echo changes on its way back through the water because of certain things in the water such as bubbles, particles or even fish.

Often shoals of fish are detected using Echo Sounders. Analysis and interpretation of the signal and the ability to filter other unwanted signals like ship generated turbulence can be a trying task as the two lady scientists from the Old Dominion University,Virginia are finding out!


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