Saturday, January 26, 2013

Antarctica Expedition: Oh the Pressure!

Aquarium senior educator Jo Blasi is on expedition to Antarctica to help study the impact of climate change in these areas and changes in the marine ecosystem. She will be live blogging frequently about the expedition, research technologies and marine life encountered during the trip.

The research cruise is in full swing.  The entire ship is teaming with scientists, technicians and support crew 24 hours a day, all working together to make sure the research gets done in the short time we have until we return in two weeks.

Jo concentrating (Credit: Jo Blasi/Palmer LTER | 2013)

However, that doesn’t mean that people don’t have fun on the boat. People spend their free time watching movies, reading, participating in a ship-wide cribbage tournament and most recently decorating Styrofoam cups.

In my last post on the CTDs (and Nicole also explained during the recent webcast), I mentioned that the LTER group studies deep sea canyons. Some of those canyon areas are really deep! If you check out the graph, you’ll notice that the area we were in on January 14was close to 4000 meters! That’s over 2.5 miles deep! Did you ever think the ocean had areas that deep? At that depth the pressure is great enough to squish just about anything. Including Styrofoam cups!

Everyone on the boat got into the fun, using their creativity to make keepsakes for loved ones, souvenirs to remind them of the trip, fun mementoes in the middle of the busy research time. But my favorite gets goes to my sister—Happy Birthday, Kate! We filled them with paper towels to minimize the damage under the pressure and then placed the cups into mesh bags. Once the bags were full, we tied them to the underside of the CTD.

(Credit: Jo Blasi/Palmer LTER | 2013)

In this particular cast, the CTD was programmed to descend to 3,710 meters. 

Built out of reinforced metal, the CTD is not impacted by the pressure; however, as the CTD descended, the Styrofoam cups were slowly compressed. After the 3-hour trip to our marked depth, the CTD and cups were hauled back at the surface by the winch and we took a look… The cups came back with the same decorations and shape, just smaller!

A cup squished at depth – 3,710 meters!

All of Jo's entries are cross posted on the Palmer Long Term Ecological Research Station site here. Track her progress on the R/V Gould, and learn more about the Palmer Long Term Ecological Research Station.

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