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Welcome Home Point Sur!

by tpastuszek ~ May 3rd, 2013

 

There are those stacks...Alex Wick has them in his sights

There are those stacks…Alex Wick has them in his sights

It is official, the R/V Point Sur has reached her home port in Moss Landing.

 

A great group of people made up our welcoming party on the dock, waving flags from MLML campus

A great group of people made up our welcoming party on the dock, waving flags from MLML campus

Arriving back at the dock, the entire crew was honored and impressed with the turnout that formed a great welcome home party.

 

The Point Sur flying the American, Californian and National Science Foundation flags, with our call sign and of course, our penguin mascot!

The Point Sur flying the American, Californian and National Science Foundation flags, with our call sign and of course, our penguin mascot!

Everyone arrived back home safely, including our mascot, an Exta-Tuff sporting penguin that has been signed by the crew and scientists on board during this journey. We continue to celebrate and reflect on this accomplishment and send out much gratitude for all those who supported us during this endeavor.

Check out the news coverage by KION on our return!

http://www.kionrightnow.com/story/22147942/point-sur-vessel-back-home-from-5-month-trip

 

 

Almost Home – Stacks, Here We Come!!!

by tpastuszek ~ May 1st, 2013

 

A view of the stacks at the power plant in Moss Landing, CA heading into the harbor at sunset

A view of the stacks at the power plant in Moss Landing, CA heading into the harbor at sunset – Photo by Tara Pastuszek

This Thursday, May 2nd at 0900 the good ship Point Sur is due to reach her home port in Moss Landing, CA. The anticipation is building among the crew as we realize the end point to our historic voyage. So much has happened in the 5 months and 5 days we have been gone.

Here is a list we compiled of some fun facts:

  • 19,906 – our total nautical miles sailed
  • 81,212 – gallons of diesel to power the boat to Antarctica and back
  • 2,274 – pounds of meat cooked and eaten
  • 59,346 - gallons of fresh water used
  • 6 – foreign ports visited
  • 2,120 – eggs consumed
  • 9 – ocean-bottom seismometers recovered
  • 11 – pilots who sailed aboard the Sur to assist in navigation
  • 1880 – miles sailed through the Chilean Fjords
  • 146 – pounds of coffee brewed
  • 45 – scientists who worked on the Sur
  • 110 – CTD casts made to obtain water samples
  • 22,584 – watch hours stood

 

The Point Sur docked at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, CA

The Point Sur docked at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, CA – Photo by Megan Donohue

Thanks to our friends at Scripps for hosting us on our first docking back in the States. We are now in between San Diego and Moss Landing and continue to make our way home. We look forward to reconnecting with friends and family, sharing stories from our adventure and hitting our favorite eateries and watering holes!

To all of our supporters, thank you for keeping us in your thoughts and following along our amazing journey. We are all proud to have accomplished this voyage and to represent the entire MLML community…..SEE YOU SOON!

 

 

 

Water, Water, Mas Agua

by tpastuszek ~ April 25th, 2013
Front Row: L to R - Andres Valverde, Erika Lee, Luis Felipe  Navarro, Ruben Castro, Eduardo Santamaria - Back Row: L to R - Maria Fernanda Gracia, Ashley Wheeler, Rene' Navarro, Thomas Rago, Curtis A. Collins

Front Row: L to R – Andres Valverde, Erika Lee, Luis Felipe Navarro, Ruben Castro, Eduardo Santamaria – Back Row: L to R – Maria Fernanda Gracia, Ashley Wheeler, Rene’ Navarro, Thomas Rago, Curtis A. Collins

As the Point Sur crew arrived in Mazatlan, Mexico a party was there to greet them. Not your typical party of spring breakers on vacation, but a scientific party, comprised of American, Colombian, and Mexican researchers from three different universities: Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, Naval Postgraduate School, and Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. Chief scientists, Dr. Ruben Castro (UABC) and Dr. Curtis Collins (NPS), brought their colleagues and students aboard and together with the Point Sur crew, embarked on a scientific expedition sampling the waters at the entrance of the Gulf of California and around the Baja Peninsula.

Map of Collins/Castro proposed stations. Blue dots indicate an across Gulf section in Pescadero Basin and red dots are stations along the Baja California coast that would be used to trace the flow of Gulf of California waters into the Pacific Ocean.

Map of Collins/Castro proposed stations. Blue dots indicate an across Gulf section in Pescadero Basin and red dots are stations along the Baja California coast that would be used to trace the flow of Gulf of California waters into the Pacific Ocean.

Surface waters in the mouth of the Gulf are highly productive, however subsurface waters contain very little oxygen, forcing biological organisms in these waters to use excess nitrogen to survive. As the Gulf and Pacific waters mix, these subsurface waters are transported by the California Undercurrent, possibly having adverse effects on fisheries in southern California due to the lack of oxygen.

Graphic depicting levels of salinity in and around the Gulf of California. The red, orange and yellow colors are a higher concentration of salinity and the purple, and blue are lower

Graphic depicting salinity levels in and around the Gulf of California as mixing occurs with the Pacific Ocean. The red, orange and yellow colors are a higher concentration of salinity and the purple, blue and green are lower.

To understand how these two water bodies interact, a CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) probe is being used to measure physical properties of the water column. As the CTD is lowered through the water column, real time data is relayed back to the ship’s computers and can be observed by the researchers. Niskin bottles are used to capture water samples at various depths.

Ready on deck, the CTD package is set to deploy at sunrise - Photo by Ashley Wheeler

Ready on deck, the CTD package is set to deploy at sunrise – Photo by Ashley Wheeler

The samples will be analyzed for nutrients, salt content, and biological productivity. Since leaving Mazatlan, a total of 65 CTD casts have been deployed and recovered, collecting over 400 water samples and we are still counting, working to complete 9 more casts on the way home!

Deploying the CTD - Photo by Tara Pastuszek

Deploying the CTD – Photo by Tara Pastuszek

What is unique about this expedition is the camaraderie that has enveloped the Point Sur because of the international community aboard the ship. This project fosters the continued cooperative, international ocean studies that are necessary to understand joint management of common ocean resources. Although our heritage, nationality, and even our native languages differ, these factors do not inhibit our ability to relate and connect with one another. We all share a common goal – knowledge – Science unites us around the globe!

Ashley Wheeler - Photo by Tara Pastuszek

Ashley Wheeler – Photo by Tara Pastuszek

Blog post contributed by Ashley Wheeler, MLML graduate student – For her thesis, Ashley is completing a comparative study on the erosion of salt marshes in Elkhorn Slough. She volunteered to assist in this cruise to expand her fieldwork and increase her ship time experience….Thanks Ashley!

Bunny Day on the Sur

by tpastuszek ~ April 3rd, 2013
Final products of a fine dye job are ready to be hidden for an egg hunt - Photo by Scott Hansen

Final products of a fine dye job are ready to be hidden for an egg hunt – Photo by Scott Hansen

When the holidays arrive, regardless of which one’s you may personally observe, it is important to seize the opportunity for a little fun and morale building on a ship. Currently the crew is transiting to Mazatlan, Mexico and managed to have some fun dyeing eggs on Saturday and throwing an egg hunt this past Sunday….kudos!

Scott Hansen sent in the above pic with the following message: “Happy Easter from 10 degrees South. About 600 miles from the Galápagos Islands.” Keep following the Sur along her journey by using the vessel tracking tool on our website.

Scott Hansen, Barrett Carpenter, Kim Gardner, Amy Biddle and Matt Davis wrangle eggs and dye while at sea - Photo by Steve Lamb

Scott Hansen, Barrett Carpenter, Kim Gardner, Amy Biddle and Matt Davis wrangle eggs and dye while at sea – Photo by Steve Lamb

Thank you to the current crew on the R/V Point Sur for continuing to make progress on this long journey to complete more science and bring the Sur back to her homeport! And, thank you to our Relief Chef, Steve Lamb, for finding the food color in the pantry!

 

Seismic Studies by OSU in the Chilean Subduction Zone

by tpastuszek ~ March 25th, 2013

 

Moorings deployed by Oregon State University are recovered from the ocean floor and aboard the R/V Point Sur - Photo by Scott Hansen

Moorings deployed by Oregon State University are recovered from the ocean floor and aboard the R/V Point Sur – Photo by Scott Hansen

Last week, the Point Sur arrived back in Valparaiso after seven days of scientific operations off the coast of Chile. Led by Chief Scientist, Anne Trehu, the scientists onboard were a dedicated bunch of seismic researchers from Oregon State University who deployed ten moorings in May of 2012.

Each mooring, weighing about 600 pounds, sat on the ocean floor to collect seismic and hydrographic data for almost a year.

One of the moorings being recovered after spending almost one year at the ocean bottom collecting seismic and hydrographic data - Photo by Steve Lamb

One of the moorings being recovered after spending almost one year on the ocean floor – Photo by Steve Lamb

Situated over two thousand meters deep on the Chilean subduction zone, they were collecting data on a ‘megathrust’ fault: an area of extreme tectonic activity. Not too far away, to the south, the Valdivia subduction zone is known for the Great Chilean Earthquake in 1960, which had the highest recorded magnitude in history, 9.5!

An image from Wikimedia depicting an explanation of subduction

An image from Wikimedia depicting an explanation of subduction

The first two days of our trip were more successful than we could have hoped: we retrieved all but one of the moorings from the ocean floor, and the cruise wasn’t even half over.

Another successful mooring recovery in progress - Photo by Steve Lamb

Another successful mooring recovery in progress – Photo by Steve Lamb

But the final mooring proved to be a stubborn one, and did not want to leave the muddy bottom.

For the next three days, we dragged 5000 meters of wire across the  ocean floor, hoping we would haul in the final mooring, or at least  dislodge it from the bottom so it would float to the surface on its own. After countless passes, we had to give up and head to shore.

It was a very successful cruise. We sent our scientists off with nine out of ten moorings, plenty of ocean-bottom surveys, and even a T-shirt or two. Once the data is processed and analyzed, researchers  will have a better understanding of tectonic movement, and why some earthquakes cause devastating tsunamis while others do not.

We have resumed our transit north. Next stop: Arica, Chile!

This blog post was written by Amy Biddle, sailing as second mate on the Point Sur

Transitting through the Chilean Fjords

by tpastuszek ~ March 13th, 2013
Southern Chilean Fjords - photo by Scott Hansen

Southern Chilean Fjords – photo by Scott Hansen

After two months of hard work and scientific excitement in Antarctica,
the crew of the Point Sur is headed North. The ship seems large and
empty with only eight crewmembers as we transit through the fjords of
Southwestern Chile, but the change of pace is welcome.

Map showing area between Punta Arenas and Valparaiso, Chile

Map showing area between Punta Arenas and Valparaiso, Chile

Because the fjords are sometimes difficult to transit, we have two
guests onboard: pilots from Valparaiso who have studied these waters
and made this transit hundreds of times. Standing five hour shifts,
one pilot is on the bridge at all times, expertly navigating us
through narrow channels, past floating salmon fisheries and around
rocky shoals.

Navigating through the Straits of Magellan - photo by Scott Hansen

Navigating through the Straits of Magellan – photo by Scott Hansen

Forged by glaciers, the fjords are a magnificent display of the power
of wind, ice and water. As we journey north, craggy, barren rocks jut
out of the water. Cliff faces with cascading waterfalls and scraggly
trees surround us. The sea floor below us is just as bumpy as the
landscape ahead of us. In a mile-wide channel the water might be as
much as a thousand meters deep, or it may be dangerously shallow, with
rocks just beneath the surface. It’s a good thing our pilots know
these waters well.

Amy Biddle in Antarctica - photo by Scott Hansen

Amy Biddle in Antarctica – photo by Scott Hansen

This blogpost contributed by Amy Biddle. Amy sailed on the Sur for the Antarctic expedition as an A/B and is currently sailing as Second Mate for the transit North. Amy works full-time at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and is also an up and coming author. Check out Amy’s website and read about her debut novel, “An Athiest’s Prayer”

Navigating Antarctica – Ice and Weather

by tpastuszek ~ March 11th, 2013

Point Sur in the distance past an ice flow

Indeed it has been an epic journey for the good and trusty ship Point Sur and her capable crew. The Antarctic part of the voyage has come to a close and we would like to recognize some of the many agencies behind the scenes that assisted us along the way.

As some of you know, Antarctica is a hostile environment in many respects. There are two very important factors responsible for this. One is the never ending change in the ice conditions and the second is the weather.  Not necessarily in that order, but they both go hand and hand. Either one of these factors can be a show-stopper in the meeting of science objectives and, more importantly, the safety of the ship and all that sail aboard her.

An example of a satellite image of ice conditions provided by the U.S. National Ice Center

An example of a satellite image of ice conditions provided by the U.S. National Ice Center

During this deployment to the frozen continent we received daily updated ice and weather reports which proved to be invaluable in assisting us in the decision making  process for a safe and productive voyage.

Imagery depicting weather conditions and sea state for the working area of the R/V Point Sur

Imagery depicting weather conditions and sea state for the working area of the R/V Point Sur

On behalf of Captain Rick Verlini, the Crew and Scientists aboard the Research Vessel Point Sur, we would like to extend our deepest appreciation to the folks at the following agencies:  The National Ice Center in Suitland, Maryland – The Navy Fleet Weather Center, in Norfolk, Virginia – The Navy Fleet Weather Center in San Diego, California.  Their professionalism and timely, accurate weather and ice reports contributed greatly to safety and success of the R/V Point Sur during this expedition.

Capt. Diego Mello, photo by Tara Pastuszek

Capt. Diego Mello, photo by Tara Pastuszek

Captain Diego Mello contributed this post and sailed on the Sur during the Antarctic expedition as the Onboard Ice Advisor and Chief Mate. Capt. Mello works full-time at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and we greatly appreciate the lending of his expertise to support this voyage.

University of Alabama Diving Expedition

by tpastuszek ~ March 1st, 2013
The dive team from the University of Alabama - L to R:  Kate Schoenrock, Julie Schram, Maggie Amsler, Chuck Amsler, Kevin Scriber  - Photo by Tara Pastuszek

The dive team from the University of Alabama – L to R: Kate Schoenrock, Julie Schram, Maggie Amsler, Chuck Amsler, Kevin Scriber – Photo by Tara Pastuszek

Just before leaving Palmer Station we completed a whirlwind two day trip in which we supported diving operations for a group from the University of Alabama. Chuck Amsler wrote an excellent blog post about their trip on the Sur and their fieldwork. Definitely check out UAB’s Department of Biology blog.

In Chuck’s post titled “Long Stemmed Seaweeds, Magnificent Cliffs, with Memories of Old Heroes” explains why the science community has been hoping a vessel like the Point Sur would available in the field for research around the Antarctic Peninsula.

As a crew we had been preparing for months for this voyage and focused on the logistics of getting to Antarctica safely. During the early stage of that planning we did not know who we would be working with or the exact nature of the operations we would be executing. Now that our mission is complete in the Peninsula and we are back in Punta Arenas, we can realize and appreciate the positive impact our vessel and crew had on the various science parties we supported. This was, and continues to be, an amazing journey.

Thank you Chuck for a great story!

Point Sur Leaving Antarctica – Success!

by tpastuszek ~ February 24th, 2013

Today was a monumental day for the R/V Point Sur and it’s crew.

Back Lto R: A/B Scott Hansen, 2nd Mate Leah Harman, Chief Engineer Barrett Carpenter, Marine Technician Stian Alesandrini, A/B Alex Wick, 2nd Engineer Jack Lavariega  Bottom: First Mate/Ice Advisor Diego Mello, Steward/Chef Tara Pastuszek, A/B Amy Biddle, Captain Rick Verlini

Back Lto R: A/B Scott Hansen, 2nd Mate Leah Harman, Chief Engineer Barrett Carpenter, Marine Technician Stian Alesandrini, A/B Alex Wick, 2nd Engineer Jack Lavariega Bottom: First Mate/Ice Advisor Diego Mello, Steward/Chef Tara Pastuszek, A/B Amy Biddle, Captain Rick Verlini

 

The past months have delivered a series of challenges and achievements at various stages of this epic journey. As the lines of the Sur were dropped for the last time at Palmer Station in 2013, our greatest success to date has been realized. The entire voyage is far from over. However, the entire crew of the Point Sur is able to celebrate a bit after the completion of our support of scientific operations around the Western Antarctic Peninsula.

Now, back to Moss Landing….after some more science along the way!

The crew worked hard on creating a piece to leave behind at Palmer Station....something to remember us by!

The crew worked hard on creating a piece to leave behind at Palmer Station….something to remember us by!

And, yes…..that is a replica of the R/V Point Sur on the sign….thanks Scott!

Close up of the Sur installed on Palmer Sign

Many, many heartfelt thanks to the entire cast of characters at Palmer Station. A stellar community exists at Palmer Station and our trip was only possible because of their presence and support. It was a busy day as we departed but we managed to get a chance to say thank you and goodbye to our new found friends.

Station Manager Rebecca Shoop and Chef Stacie Murray, surrounded by Palmer crew, kick up their heals to bid the Sur farewell

Station Manager Rebecca Shoop and Chef Stacie Murray, surrounded by Palmer crew, kick up their heals to bid the Sur farewell

 

Krill, Food for the Masses..

by tpastuszek ~ February 19th, 2013
A close-up of krill after a bongo net tow - photo by Tara Pastuszek

A close-up of krill after a bongo net tow – photo by Tara Pastuszek

Everything has to eat and in Antarctica, krill is the food of choice for many species of whales, seals and penguins. Krill is integral to the overall food chain in the Southern Ocean and may be the most important organism swimming the sea. As the members of the Friedlaender science party work to study whales, they must follow the food chain so their work on the Point Sur has included collecting data on the krill population.

The bongo net is deployed and towed behind the Point Sur to collect krill

The bongo net is deployed and towed behind the Point Sur to collect krill

The net tapers and funnels into the "cod end" where the krill are collected - photo by Tara Pastuszek

The net tapers and funnels into the “cod end” where the krill are collected – photo by Tara Pastuszek

NMFS permit 14097

This tow was a good catch filling the cod end to the brim. Krill is being bagged to be measured and processed for data

This tow was a good catch filling the cod end to the brim. Krill is being bagged to be measured and processed for data

Members of the LTER group out of Palmer Station are shown measuring krill

Domi and Kim, Members of the LTER group out of Palmer Station are shown measuring krill

Krill and ice are tightly coupled. The life cycle of krill is dependent on a successful spawning season. The sea ice delivers protection and provides an environment for them to thrive as juveniles can hang just under the ice and gobble up plenty of phytoplankton throughout autumn and winter.

A slide showing the sea ice community in autumn and winter

A slide showing the sea ice community in autumn and winter

The krill population is decreasing at a rapid rate and scientists are working to understand the reasons why and the implications this could have on the food chain. The reasons for the decline have not been concluded. However, one thing is clear, seasons with less ice means less krill. Less krill=less food for the masses of species depending on them.

 

 

 

 

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