Thursday, 21 March 2013

Day 6 Crossing the Antarctic Circumpolar Current

With the 6th day our work truly begins. The ocean depth is now reaching 3-4km and all instruments are operational. The cruise track takes us across the core of what is known as the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. The Antarctic Circumpolar Current (in case you hadn't guessed) is a current which flows circumpolarly around Antarctica. It is not just any old current though. It is the biggest...yep....the biggest. And right here between South America and the Antarctic Peninsula is where it is the fastest. Across this narrow stretch, passes 140...billion liters of water...per second. That is 140 times more than all the rivers on earth...put together. 

Photo: JB and Andrew M and Andy W look over todays sea ice maps.  

Our biggest concern at the moment is the status of mooring we intend to pick up close to Antarctica. The mooring are anchored lines of instruments (thermometers current meters etc) left there for 2 years. Phil from Columbia University has come all this way just to get them out of the water. We gather to look over maps of the ice and find it is much more widespread than it is 'normally'. As these things go any year and any week can be different with the wind pushing ice around all over the place. In fact it is thought that the coverage of floating sea ice around Antarctic is actually increasing as the world warms, mostly because it is getting windier in these parts and this is dispersing the ice more and more.

Photo: The Eagrits.

The day ends on a sad note. We discover a flock of Eagrit birds - slender and stalk-like, not fit for long periods in the open ocean - stranded on our boat. We think they have migrated south for the winter and gone off course. We are too far now for them to fly back..

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