Southern Ocean GasEx Blog

Dispatches from the Southern Ocean Gas Exchange Experiment

Archive for February, 2008

Rub the toe

Posted by sogasex on February 29, 2008

By David Ho, LDEO

Before coming down to Punta Arenas, I consulted with my colleague Tim Newberger at LDEO, because he comes down here frequently to service the underway pCO2 system they have installed on the RVIB Laurence M. Gould. One of the things he gave me was a wallet sized map of Punta Arenas, with a few markings that he had made (e.g., good restaurants, where to get good coffee, etc.) An items on the map stood out: “Rub the toe”. He explained that there was a statue there, and mariners rub its toe for good luck before setting sail.

When I came upon the square and the statue with some colleagues, we naturally looked for the toe. It was not difficult to find (hint: it’s the shiny one). There was some debate as to which toe one was supposed to rub, and the consensus was that it was the big toe (although there seems to have been spillage onto all the other toes). We also debate whether rubbing the toe meant a safe return to Punta Arenas, to Patagonia, or to land in general. We’re not sure. Since our final destination is Montevideo in Uruguay, some thought that rubbing the toe wouldn’t be prudent. We also pondered whether a majority of the people from one ship needed to rub the toe in order for it to take effect. None of this uncertainty kept us from rubbing the toe.

On the science front, people continue to setup and assemble their equipment around the ship and in various labs. The shipment for the Oregon State group finally arrived, and they have started frantically assembling everything. We’re still waiting for the shipment for the NOAA/PMEL group, which is supposed to arrive tomorrow, just in time for our scheduled departure at 5 PM.


Pete Strutton from Oregon State sheepishly rubbing the toe while the locals and his colleagues looked on


View of the Main Lab, packed with scientific equipment


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Posted by sogasex on February 27, 2008

By Mike DeGrandpre, University of Montana

Performing research at sea is challenging. Collecting water samples on the deck of a rolling ship is no easy task. Your concentration can be rattled by frequent trips to the rail and even if you don’t pray to Neptune, facing a box full of samples to analyze during a 12+ hour shift can make your stomach turn. That’s why our group develops autonomous sensors. When the Brown departs in two days, I’ll be waving good-bye from the pier, having set up our autonomous CO2 and pH instruments for deployment after the ship reaches the field site.

The SAMIs (Submersible Autonomous Moored Instruments) will be deployed on NOAA’s MAP-CO2 buoy, developed by Chris Sabine’s group at NOAA-PMEL (see drawing below). While the scientists onboard will be hanging onto their bunks amidst the high winds and large waves characteristic of the Southern Ocean, the MAP-CO2 buoy will continue merrily collecting data. The Southern Ocean is one of the largest sinks for atmospheric CO2 and the data that we collect will allow us to determine the natural processes that control CO2 cycling in this globally important region.


Mike DeGrandpre holding a SAMI


Drawing of a MAP-CO2 buoy

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Step Right Up!

Posted by sogasex on February 27, 2008

By Christopher Sabine, NOAA/PMEL

As part of an outreach effort for this project we have been working with the American Corners group of the US Embassy in Chile to explain our project to the people of Chile. Carlos Del Castillo participated in a radio interview on Thursday, 21 February that was conducted at the Embassy in Santiago and broadcast to 106 radio stations around the country. Carlos and I gave a presentation on the SO GasEx study to a group of scientists at the Chilean Navy’s Hydrographic and Oceanography Service (SHOA) in Valparaiso on Friday, 22 February.

This morning Paula Bontempi, Carlos and I held a press conference at 9am in Punta Arenas and gave a tour of the ship to local grade school and high students, teachers, scientists, and press people. In total there were about 35 people on the tour. There were many great questions and we were pleased to have the local people so interested in our work. We also greatly appreciate the Muelle Arturo Prat officials and our local shipping agent, AGUNSA, for accommodating these events. Tomorrow Carlos and I will give another scientific presentation of the SO GasEx study at the headquarters of Chile’s Antarctic Institute (INACH) in Punta Arenas.


Press conference in Punta Arenas, Chile


TV Interviews in front of the ship


Explaining gas exchange to the local people

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The Kitchen Sink

Posted by sogasex on February 26, 2008

By Dave Hebert, University of Rhode Island

The Oregon State and Rhode Island groups have not had much to do so far as our equipment (a 20 foot container and air shipment) is tied up in transit. They were suppose to arrive at the ship a couple of days ago. This afternoon, the air shipment arrive. Finally, we can start setting up our equipment.

Our group will try to close a budget of the carbon in the tagged water patch over the whole time of the experiment. We will be towing an undulating vehicle, nicknamed the SuperSoar, behind the ship that measures the temperature, salinity and other water properties. As well, water from the towed body will be pumped up to the ship and chemical analysis will be conducted on this water in real-time. The towed body will also carry a microstructure instrument to allow us to estimate the mixing occurring in ocean. With these measurements and the change in carbon content in the upper ocean, we can make an estimate of the amount of CO2 that is moving from the atmosphere to ocean or vice versa. These values can be compared to values obtained by the other groups using different techniques.

When going to sea, it is necessary to bring everything you might need since there are no stores out on the ocean. We usually bring every thing from lab in case we would need it; hence, the need to ship a large container of equipment to the ship. As I mentioned earlier, we pump water into the lab from the SuperSoar at 2 gallons per minute. This water has to go somewhere, preferably over the side of the ship and not in the wastewater tanks as they would be filled very quickly. There is a drain in the lab that dumps over the side but we needed get the water to the drain. Thus, we went to the local hardware store and bought a sink and fittings. So, the motto is now ‘Bring everything including the kitchen sink!’.


Dale Hubbard (Oregon State) listens as Dave Hebert (URI) explains the geophysical fluid dynamics associated with the newly acquired sink

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Loading and unloading

Posted by sogasex on February 25, 2008

By David Ho, LDEO

Another beautiful sunny day in Punta Arenas today, but showers are coming tomorrow.

Two groups from the west coast (one from NOAA/PMEL and one from Oregon State) are still waiting for their container vans to arrive from Valparaiso. It looks like they will show up on February 28, delaying our scheduled departure by a day.

The ship continues to take on fuel and food. I saw potatoes and lettuce. What more does one need?

The shore crane showed up, and we moved some things from the previous cruise off the ship, and a lot of things onto the ship. We also rearranged some vans around the ship. People are starting to setup their equipment in the various labs around the ship, and the ASIS buoy is being assembled onshore before being loaded onto the ship.

Given how many projects are going on SO GasEx, it was really quite an accomplishment to get everyone settled into a lab space that s/he is happy with. I think my job is done for the day.

Here are some pictures of today’s activities:


NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown


Container van being repositioned on the ship


The 4500 L tracer infusion tank being offloaded


ASIS being assembled on the dock


Setup in the Main Lab


Setup in the Hydro Lab

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Arrival in Punta Arenas

Posted by sogasex on February 24, 2008

By David Ho, LDEO

It’s a beautiful day in Punta Arenas: 19°C and sunny.

The NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown arrived yesterday morning, and the SO GasEx scientists are slowly trickling into Punta Arenas as well. Tomorrow, we’ll have the use of a shore crane to move most of the gear from the CLIVAR/CO2 P18 cruise off the ship, and hopefully move most of the gear for SO GasEx onto the ship.

Until then, here’s a picture of the ship taken from my hotel window:

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