Greetings from the Southern Ocean! My name is Cassandra Brooks and this is my third year working in Antarctica as a zooplankton scientist. That means I spend my days sorting krill and other animals that live in the water column.
Today I rose at 345am, just in time to brush my teeth and
grab a quick breakfast before I start my 4am shift. Collectively, we work 24 hours a day on the boat, all in
different 12-hour shifts. Getting up so early is hard, but I have the benefit
of being awake for the gorgeous Antarctic sunrise.
This morning was particularly spectacular. Those of us on the morning shift gathered on the bridge, the best and coziest view on the boat. To the East, the sun peaked above the horizon, painting the thick fluffy clouds in shades of red, pink and orange. The dark Southern Ocean waters were streaked brilliant purple. Clarence Island was to the west, a small but steep bit of land, covered in sheer white ice. Above the island was the moon, just setting in the early morning light. What a treat!
We snap some photos, then rush downstairs to our zooplankton lab to get back to work. Our workday is a steady hustle of setting a net in the water (so long as the weather is calm), dragging it at depth and then bringing it back up to see what we have found. We count everything we find and take care to document the life history of the krill (like how big they are and whether they are a male or female). The goal is to better understand krill and their role in the ecosystem.
Krill are small shrimplike crustaceans, but don’t let their size fool you. These little critters are of the utmost importance. They feed all the large animals, like the whales, seals, fish, penguins and other seabirds (some people eat krill too!). We work to understand the krill, so we can make sure we protect their population and all the species that depend on them.
In my few spare moments, I try to get out on deck to take in the awesome scenery or to watch for the spectacular Antarctic wildlife. A Wandering Albatross with a 12-foot wingspan, flocks of Chinstrap Penguins jumping through the water, two fur seals porpoising, an Antarctic minke whale spouting in the distance – many of these animals are unique to the Antarctic waters and each sighting is a delightful gift.
I never dreamed I would get to spend time in Antarctica, but being a scientist affords incredible opportunities to discover plants, animals and places beyond your wildest imaginations.
Thanks for reading along!
In : Antarctica
Tags: "bold in the cold" "whale times" "cassandra brooks" antarctica noaa krill
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