Antarctic Voyage: My first experience of the Southern Ocean and Antarctica

By Guest Author 14/02/2013

Written by Eva Cougnon (PhD student at ACE CRC)

Date: 13/02/2013
61.360933˚S, 139.828564˚E
Weather: Cloudy, light breeze – 20 knots (37 km/hour)
Sea State: Calming down – 2-3 m swell only

Eva Cougnon sampling the CTD for oxygen analyses. [Helen Bostock]

This is my first trip down to Antarctica; in fact, it is my first time at sea!

We left Wellington about a week ago, with wonderful weather – the perfect start for my first voyage! It didn’t last, however…on day 3 the sea state was not especially bad, but the ship had a weird rolling – my first experience with seasickness! Fortunately, it was not as bad as I expected and the following day I was feeling much better. I have now got my sea legs, and am coping alright with the rough seas.

I started my PhD studies in Tasmania in October 2012. My research project aims to quantify the impact of the glacial meltwater, from Antarctic ice-shelves, on dense water formation. I will primarily be using a regional oceanographic model focusing on the Mertz Glacier region, so this voyage is a great opportunity to learn about collecting real data, and meet people who work on related projects.

I am part of the Australian oceanographic team and my main job is to help with the CTD sampling (see blog post 5, The Oceanography Team). During the first CTD I was in charge of firing (triggering the closure) of the bottles. It was a bit stressful at the beginning – I was worried about forgetting to tell the crew, who control the winch, to stop the CTD at the right depth as it comes back up.

We also learnt how to take the many different samples for oxygen, carbon, salinity, and nutrients. I realised that we have to be careful that everyone knows who is sampling for what, as it gets very confusing.

Over the last few days we have become experts at running and sampling the CTD as we complete a transect line of 13 stations (with a few pauses due to the weather and sea state) from the Southern Ocean to the Antarctic shelf.

I can’t wait to see the ice and experience my study region – it will make my PhD project feel a lot more real when I am sitting behind a computer trying to run the models!