Antarctic Blog 28 December 2016

From Cape Town to the Prince Edward Islands

by Julia Schmale

The expedition departs on time, 3 pm local Cape Town time. The first two days at sea are calm, it is still warm and nice to spend the time outside on deck. All instruments are up and running. Our team is happy and looking forward to what is to come.

After two days we get into the Sub-Antarctic Front, temperatures drop, the wind picks up, and the boat starts rolling. The weather is deteriorating so strongly that work on the main deck is not allowed anymore. Luckily, our container sits on the rack deck, two stories further up, and we can still access it. However, the hefty winds and the position of the containers and the ship structure have created something like a wind tunnel. It is extremely difficult to open the ship and container doors. Checking on the instruments has become challenging quickly.

The storms of the roaring forties are now pushing the ship towards the Prince Edward Islands (46°36'16.7"S, 37°54'10.2"E). We are doing 15 knots, a pretty fast speed for an icebreaker. In this condition, most of the time the air is contaminated by the ship’s exhaust plume. But as soon as we put the anchor in front of Marion Island, we are facing the wind again and get clean air from the ocean and the island. The ammonia contribution clearly increases which we think might have to do with the emissions from large penguin colonies with about 250.000 individuals on the island.

And not only the data are becoming exciting, also much more wildlife appears around the boat: swimming penguins, flying albatrosses and playing pilot whales. Rain is coming horizontally and the weather is unsteady. There were several occasions when the sun came out and presented us with beautiful rainbows or even double rainbows.
Rainbow over Marion Island