To get to the Antarctic by ship from South America, you must cross the Drake Passage. The Drake is why many people choose not to go to Antarctica. Even on a mild crossing, it feels like you are being tossed around in a washing machine. I got a fun video of a wave completely enveloping the stern deck and slamming into the window of the watertight door. Sadly, the video is too large for me to load from here. I’ll post it when I get home.
You should notice two things with this picture. The wave practically fills the window. The window is more than 20 feet above a calm sea. The door has a sign on it saying “keep water tight doors closed” and there are two jets of water shooting from the door seals. This happened all night long. It was OK because this door leads to the aquarium room which has a giant drain under the floor grates.
While all of this was going on, my shift mates and I were doing science. We climbed up one deck level and deployed drifter bouys and XBTs. Sadly, I don’t have any pictures as I needed one hand to launch the gear and a second hand to hold on!
Drifter buoys are equipped with with a number of sensors that record things like temperature, current and salinity. They transmit their data via a satellite connection. Down here, most drifters last three to four months.
XBTs are basically disposable fancy thermometers. They remained connected to the ship via a thing copper wire. The have a range of a few hundred meters. Once they reach the bottom, or exceed their range, the copper wire is snapped. The whole time an XBT is connected it transmits a graph of temperature at depth.
Ok, enough boring science stuff here are some photos of animals we saw right before we entered the Drake.