Thursday, December 1, 2016

A few words about our science

This is schematic map of our upcoming expedition. We will be circumnavigating the Southern Ocean, stopping at several sub-Antarctic islands. Our cruise will consist of three legs:

Leg 1: Cape Town, South Africa to Hobart, Australia
Leg 2: Hobart to Punta Arenas, Chile
Leg 3: Punta Arenas to Cape Town

I will be participating in all three legs, which means about three months at sea. I am excited and terrified at the same time. It would be an unforgettable journey for sure. We have rather ambitious scientific objectives to fulfill, I am sure many of them will get somewhat modified and shaped to suite the existing conditions.

Our project for this cruise is interdisciplinary. Here's a short summary of our project on the Swiss Polar Institute website.

My primary science responsibilities for the field data collection will be two-fold:

I/we will be collecting meteorological data on the snow particle distribution. We will install several sensors to capture this, plus I will take macro-photos of snow flakes to determine particle distribution and crystal structure. This part of my work I usually entitle "taking pictures of snowflakes".  This line works great at social gatherings, believe me :).

We are also collaborating with other atmospheric scientist measuring weather conditions, collecting precipitation samples and such. In expeditions like that all collected data are usually shared among interested science groups, so that each person can concentrate on maintaining their own instruments and obtaining in situ data of the best quality.

We will also be launching radiosondes collecting information about the vertical profile of the atmosphere. We will do semi-regular launches, but also hope to get several profiles crossing atmospheric river events. My colleague Irina and I identified the first atmospheric river reaching Antarctic continent and we are keen to experience an event like this and gather more data. 

I/we will be measuring the saltiness of the Southern Ocean. We are primarily interested in the mixed (top) layer, but we will run all the salinity analysis for everyone else's needs as part of our contribution to the scientific effort of the expedition.

On top of that we will be collecting water samples from the mixed (top) layer of the Southern Ocean for isotope analysis back on land.  Upon our return we will analyze these samples in the lab at British Geological Survey (BIG THANKS!) to determine the sources of water, particularly focusing on abnormally fresh water sources. The goal and the title of our project is to determine the sources of recent freshening of the mixed layers of the Southern Ocean.

We will be deploying six SOCCOM floats - unique long-term laboratories autonomously reporting and collecting physical and chemical data from the Southern Ocean. Deploying these floats will be an adventure and I will try to write more about it as it unfolds.

My one sentence response on what else I will be doing on the cruise besides taking pictures of snowflakes is that I will finally "become an oceanographer".

Ok, this is the end of the science update. Here are a few images for everyone to get excited again:

Me by the docked Akademik Tryoshnikov in Bremerhaven.

Irina on the main deck of Tryoshnikov as it is about to leave the port.

The ship is currently sailing from Bremerhaven, Germany to Cape Town. There is a summer school on-board the ship and this part of the journey is called LEG ZERO. I am (well all of us really are) particularly grateful to students and scientists onboard testing our equipment and identifying potential problems. Even though my inbox everyday is filled with disaster emails, it's better to know now and come up with solutions.

Our hard-working students Nastya and Franzi, Irina and I saying the last-good byes in Bremerhaven. 


  1. Will you be able to post some pictures of snowflakes to this blog?

  2. This is amazing. miriam and I are reading all your posts carefully and thinking of you.