August 7, 2015 Unexpected Biology

Beach Team AdventureToday the beach team ventured out (leaving me on the ship to manage operations with the rest of the group). Their goal was to reach the exposed submarine delta beds on the south side of the river, sampling uphill from there. They seem to be more efficient without me, and returned after a 12-hour workday with nearly 100 new samples, including a boulder dropped from an iceberg onto the marine delta. They couldn’t reach the uplifted delta where it is being cut by the river – indeed, they watched the river undercut the terrace surface, eroding what we think is the submarine part, until it collapsed into a pile of rubble. They were careful, and nobody was beneath the undercut cliff at the time.

The boulder team also collected many samples, aided by efficient helicopter access. But as they attempted to land on their 10th site, a polar bear was there to greet them. OK… on to the next site. They also reported several musk ox, hundreds of rabbits, and seals swimming along the southern coast of Washington Land. We sent them fresh bread from the ship’s galley. Quite popular!

Coring DayThe water team sampled six stations from the ship, moving from our previous site in the sea ice still occupying the outer fjord, back to the ice front. We now have boxes full of carefully sampled water sampling the fjord from top to bottom. The OSU group will be measuring isotopic “return address labels” of the water trying to show where it originated. Complicated business!

Benthic AnimalsFinally the coring team was again active, taking three new cores deep in the fjord near the Petermann Ice Shelf. Surprise! One of the cores speared a benthic stalked animal with a meter-long stalk and a fist sized feeding head. A video camera on the coring frame caught the drama in real time.

We have no benthic biologists onboard, but I emailed some photos to experts. This is quite interesting, because until just a few years ago the region was covered by 200-m thick shelf ice.  It appears that a healthy biota either lived under the ice, or is moving in to new-found real estate.

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