notes from the field

No. 23 - Hump Day

Yesterday was hump day, the half-way mark, and we celebrated with a batch of pisco sours -- the Chilean margarita, so sour they clench your jaw. We'd finished surveying the northern part of the South Shetland Islands, fishing on the shelves and banks surrounding the steep islands -- islands with names like Elephant, Clarence, Eades and Cornwallis, massive edifices of stone named after places in England or participants on the early expeditions. We'd already moved down to the southern part of the archipelago and had one day of sampling under our belts. These islands are less dramatic in relief, but much more numerous. There is no bottom fish habitat on the south side of this group in the deep strait that separates it from the Antarctic Peninsula, so we're concentrating on the north side facing Drake's Passage. Here there are many islets, rocks and submerged pinnacles; the bottom is volcanic and uneven and we must pick our way through and hope not to damage our gear. Surprise is the enemy of mariners who keep their ships safe by being prepared, and the Captain does not enjoy working in this area. But our job is to see what's here and that we shall do.

The other concern is to keep the momentum going with the biologists processing the catches and working 12-15 hours a day. As we overtly celebrate being half finished, the brain is given permission to put a subtle spin on things -- so subtle that we're often not aware of the quiet whisper saying we're over the top and we can coast the rest of the way. This is a great group of people, excited by the prospect of exploring new places and seeing new creatures, and as yet there's no evidence of waning enthusiasm, but I understand this phenomenon well enough to know it's there -- somewhere below the surface.


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