Sunday January 12, 2016

Position 76° 45’ S,  52º 16’ O
Water temperature: -1,9°C
Air temperature: -14,0°C

Encounter of the representations of both crews on an ice floe

Encounter of the representations of both crews on an ice floe.

After breaking ice and navigate between channels and small cracks between the ice floes covering the southeastern Weddell Sea, Polarstern found its way to the westernmost point of the expedition and the morning of January 11 we reached the edge of the Filchner- Ronne ice shelf! The ship docked at the edge of the fast ice attached to the Filchner-Ronne ice shelf, where thickness was enough to withstand the weight of the download. We reached the Far West!

As explained in earlier reports the way was not easy, among other things in our way southwest we had to surround the A23A iceberg, a block of ice about twice the size of Luxembourg and with approximately 1480 G tons! This huge mass of ice detached of the Filchner-Ronne ice shelf and since years it has accompanied penguins and whales in the area also enabling sea ice to persist from one winter to the other. The good news is that its presence meant that we were already in the western flank of the Filchner Depression and thereby the hope to sample the area became real. The first station in the area was a success for all, each group could retrieve the first samples of the area with which all can assembly a clearer idea of ​​the processes taking place in this area.

The western flank of the depression is, in contrast to the eastern flank, a wide platform undergoing sea ice coverage for most of the year. The fluorescence profiles along the water column, (indicating indirectly the amount of phytoplankton is in the water column) were almost flat, meaning that, here at this time of year, phytoplankton still does not flourish, hence there is not much food in the first link of the food chain. The underwater images also showed that visible life on the seabed is not abundant. We could also saw some rocks, sea cucumbers and starfish, and some more animals, sometimes accompanied by small fish, all as little reliefs on a background of fine sediment. I am very curious to know what the information still hidden in the sediment cores may tell us but for that I’ll have to wait a few more months.

Along the way we found human life! The vessel Ernest Shackleton of the British Antarctic Survey crossed paths with ours in their journey back to the Base Halley so the two ships docked for few hours at the periphery of a small ice floe, where a representation of each crew shacked hands at the middle of it before finally boarding the British ship. Some members fo the Shackleton’s crew also boarded the Polarstern where they could see the facilities of the ship and buy souvenirs. After this brief encounter we continued our way to new stations along the vast and here, not so ephemeral white territory.

Best regards,


General view of the iceberg A23A


Detail of the iceberg A23A


The Vessel Ernest Shackleton.

To the West

To the West.