For Every Season; turn, turn, turn…

14 Dec

One of the science groups here at Palmer Station was studying the effects of the changing of the seasons and it’s effects on phytoplankton.  The group in their third year of the project, arrived on station in August and remained here until mid-November collecting and processing data. 

As often as they could, weather being the biggest constraint, they would head out on the open water in a zodiac (an inflatable boat ) and take samples of phytoplankton in a variety of areas.  They brought these samples back to their lab on station and extracted the data they needed. 

During the later half of September and through October, sampling became challenging since the weather blew in all the ice and made it impossible to sample in open water.

As a part of the program down here, we all have to be creative and work within the confines of what we have available.  Without open water, a new method for collecting was created.  Since the sea ice was so packed, it created a safe walkway far enough away from the station to find a location to cut a hole for sampling from below the ice.   They sampled from this hole at several times throughout the day and night.  I was given the opportunity to go out with two of the Principal Investigators (PI’s) for their 9pm sampling.  

The three of us headed out to the hole and brought the required equipment for gathering the samples. 

Joe and Deneb (the PI's of the project) were setting up at the sampling site.

Joe is dropping the next for the first in the series of samples.



Here you can see Joe pulling out the net (hopefully full of phytoplankton).




It was still light a bit after 9pm and arriving at the sampling site.  The darkness set in shortly after we began.

Palmer Station at a winter wonderland.

Next is where I come in to help out.  To gain an accurate sample, Deneb had to drop the net ten times before removing it with the official sample.  I helped her count.

It's hard to tell which time this was or if it was going up or down. To help us from forgetting, we used larger pieces of snow to help us keep track.

After the net was removed from the water and the sample put away appropriately, we cleaned up our sampling area and headed back to station.

On a comical side note:  During another sampling at this same hole, up popped an interesting visitor.

Well, HELLO Mr. Weddell Seal.

You never know what sort of adventures will come your way down here.

It was pretty cool to learn more about the science that’s happening down here AND being able to help, even if it was just to be counting.


For more information about this science project, check out the Antarctic Sun (news about the program) at  The article is posted on November 11 and called Turned On and Off by Peter Rejcek


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