Clear weather and the end of the experiment

It was another good and productive week on the ice. Rory only needed two days to get back up to speed which was important considering our tasks for the week.

I wanted to see if there was a similar feature to the wall of bacteria that we saw at cinder cones anywhere else. A likely location would be Turtle Rocks (also there was a hut there so we might as well check.) There was no wall of bacteria but there was some great marine life.

Crinoids, at one stage of earth’s history, ruled the oceans. Now they are relatively rare to find except in a few key places. We hadn’t seen any yet this year but found a few at Turtle Rocks.

This sponge was a pretty one with the lightening ice in the back ground. Sponges are very difficult to identify, even in areas such as this that have a legacy of over 40 years of research.

I’d never seen Pycnogonid reproduction before this year and it has been everywhere. In the back you can see the silloutte of Rory. There has been an incredible increase in ice algae changing the blue hue of the water early in the season to green.

Pycnogonids are supposed to eat Cnidarians (anemones and such) and Tunicates (Seasquirts). No one seemed to have told the Antarctic pygnogonids that thought. This one is eating a gastropod (snail – likely Amauropsis rossiana) and we have seen them eating pteropods as well (another kind of mollusk – better although poorly known as sea angels.)

It can be challenging to take photos of the animals under the ice. Here’s Clint Collins doing something challenging.

The green of the ice algae and the activity of the cracks makes the sky (i.e. frozen surface) just amazing from below. This is a site where many seals have access to the air because of the ice dynamics that keep breathing holes open for much of the year.

The rest of the week was breaking down our final time point from our experiment. At this point we have had samples running for 6 weeks straight without a problem. It is a huge relief to finish up the last 24 samples. The algae that we added to them all has been either eaten or buried. Green surfaces have become brown again and there are many happy worms even after over a month in these conditions. A few more dives and we are done. Here is a view of an especially wormy core:

The community is still ‘alive and kicking’ after 6 weeks of experiments.

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