Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What's on the table today?

Core barrels are pulled up from more than 3000 m water depth and are filled with delicious green mud. It is busy in the smear slide corner, because the composition of these fine-grained sediments needs to be determined by microscope: the particles are too small to be seen with the naked eye or a hand lens. Kota Katsuki is the day shift smear slide King. On the night shift Masako Yamane is doing a great job (see photo with Kota and Masako). When a new core is split and is brought to the description table, Kota takes smears of the mud with tooth picks and smears the mud on a glass microscope slide. Under the microscope he can identify the different components and determine how many diatoms are in the sediment. Today we were seeing silty clays and diatom-bearing silty clays in different shades of green. There were were also nice laminations of silt.

Coring is going well, but we are pulling out of the hole to get some double cores to fill gaps. A weather window is opening up near the Antarctic coast over the weekend and we are going to move there tomorrow evening. This is our last chance to get close to Antarctica before autumn storms and developing ice prevent us from going there. We will most likely return to our present site later to finish coring further back in time. The frequent transits and pull-ups due to weather is taking a bit of a toll on the science team. This is also a difficult period in the cruise: it is still long before we return and it has been long enough that people miss their family and friends. We are also getting a bit tired. The nice core that we are getting, the new friends we are making here on board, and the science, however, is making all good!

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