From a floe on the Southern Ocean, two seals look up as the U.S. Antarctic Program's research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer pushes through the ice carrying researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and the University of Washington.
Part of the Princeton-based Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling (SOCCOM) project, the cruise is gathering a variety of data about the region and deploying a dozen biogeochemical profiling floats. In addition to UW’s Steve Riser and recent Scripps graduate Caitlin Whalen, the scientific team includes Scripps’s Ellen Briggs, Joseph Gum, Matt Durham, and Susan Becker (whose work is being overseen by SOCCOM’s observational theme leader, Lynne Talley).
The ship got its first taste of ice-breaking this cruise as it approached the British base Rothera, wrote Greta Shum, who is documenting the trip at http://soccomatsea.blogspot.com.
"It was thin sheet ice that stood between us and the Brits, the kind that took only a bit of pressure break. A long dark crack shot down the ice in front of us. It widened quickly as we sailed forward," she writes.
"Every few minutes, we'd pass a pair of seals lying on the pancaked ice. They'd awaken from their peaceful nap in the summer sun, look up at us lazily, and gave us a chiding roar."
SOCCOM is an National Science Foundation-sponsored program focused on unlocking the mysteries of the Southern Ocean and determining its influence on climate.