19 December 2003

I just learned that everybody is likely to be vacating their email by the end of today (your time) until well into January. Given that, here is a rapid update.

Half of us are now watching evidence of the sun rolling to the horizon behind the clouds and the other half watch the glow advance a new day. We are groggily changing to the 12 noon – 12 midnight shifts. Our first oceanographic transect is almost complete, with the CTD being used as a grab sampler on the first station (whoops), the grab sampler not picking up any sediment (hmmm!) and the CTD camera gear not working for the last few shots. Other than that (no critical malfunctions) it is going great! When the CTD camera was working, we managed to capture a shot of a deep sea cod. What are the chances of dropping a camera to the sea floor in 3000 m of water and taking a photo of a fish?

Ever stood on the deck of a ship trying to take a photograph of the many types of birds flying around? Then try and do it with a digital camera when there is a lag between pressing the shutter button and it taking a photograph; and then consider how birds like to gracefully roll, dive and swoop amongst the reasonably large waves; not to forget the ship is rolling at the same time; and remember how the human eye is really good at focusing on small objects making them seem really big – black blurry dots on the edge of the frame is the usual result. Nevertheless, we continue to try!

Excitement is brewing. In the next couple of days we begin our first sweep of the eastern part of the area to see what is in the water using acoustics (elaborate depth sounders/fish finders). This will be accompanied by a number of 'target trawls' to see what beasties are in the acoustic marks that we see. During that time, we are going to have a go at using the video camera to film the seafloor. Can't wait!

It's certainly not long until Christmas. By then we will be in the thick of trawling for the critters that are fed upon by the seals and penguins.

From all of us here on the Aurora Australis, have a great Christmas and a wonderful New Year!