Antarctic voyage: Are we there yet?

By Guest Author 13/03/2013

Date: 12/03/2013
Location: 43.292704°S, 173.575944°E
Weather: Sunny
Sea state: Calm

The last couple of days we have been making our way up the east coast of the South Island back to Wellington.

While it hasn’t been blue skies and calm seas, we have had a good trip home, with no delays from wild weather. As we approached Auckland Island (south of New Zealand), we realised that we hadn’t used our “bad weather day” and found ourselves with an extra day to get some more science done as we headed north. So we took the opportunity to tidy up a couple of things that we hadn’t quite finished on a previous voyage in 2011.

The extra science has mainly involved multibeaming some interesting features. One of these features looks like a field of small volcanic cones, while another could be a potential reef to the east of Auckland Island.  Further work sampling these features will be required to find out more and to determine their origins. I guess the undersea world is one of the last unexplored wildernesses on earth, where you still find new features every time you go out and take a look….

Multibeam image of several small volcanic cones up to 300 m high. Colours represent different depths. [NIWA]
Multibeam image of several small volcanic cones up to 300 m high. Colours represent different depths. [NIWA]

Tomorrow we will get back to Wellington. So today everyone is finishing up the work, analysing the last samples, packing and cleaning up their gear, cabins and laboratories. Many of the samples are being sent back to Australia for analysis, so there is a lot of extra packing, permits and logistics required to make sure they get to the right laboratories.

We are also writing up a voyage report. This documents everything that we have done and why. A very useful reference for when you are trying to make sense of why and where you sampled when you are analysing the data several months from now.

None of this is helped by the fact that most of us are struggling to get over our jet lag from being on shift (see blog post 17: Q and A (the first one)). We are trying to adjust our body clocks before we get back to New Zealand. Our poor French colleagues on board will have to do this all over again when they get back to France in a few days time.

The idea of the real world, and catching up with life after putting it on hold for almost 6 weeks, seems rather daunting – can we turn around and go back south again? I am, however, looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and making the most of the last days of the New Zealand summer.

Look out for tomorrow’s blog post, which will be the final one in this series!