Amundsen Polynya

I never, until I read Silke Severmann’s  email about sediments she gave me, heard the word polynya. Quoting her:

“Polynyas are areas of open water surrounded by ice, that open up every summer. We study them because there is very high biological productivity in these ecological hot spots, which means that they provide a lot of food for the fish, penguins and whales, and they also suck up a lot of carbon dioxide from the air.”

I can’t imagine the stink she describes any more than I can imagine such colored water.

“Here’s an amazing picture of an insane phytoplankton bloom that we encountered in the polynya. There was, “quite a stink in the water, which was accompanying us for much of the cruise.”

Marker buoy for  a drifting sediment trap in the central polynya. The organisms causing the green water are called phao-cyctis.

“The sediment I sent you was taken right in front of the Dotson Ice Shelf as it meets the ocean. The sediments are mostly made up of fine clay particles that are falling to the seafloor as they are released from the melting ice. The ship’s position was 74°11.14′ S, 113°15.06’W, about 870m deep.”

The sediment was applied to unfired clay and fired once, making this orange color. This method produces a smooth fired result because the shrinkage of clay and sediment glaze are similar.

The ASPIRE project (Amundsen Sea Polynya International Research Expedition) interests me in a similar way that volcanic materials do.  It gets at the guts of planetary dynamics when I see that mud from Glacier Bay Alaska seems to have similarities to the glacial sediment melting out of the icebergs, falling to the seafloor, arriving by some route to my hands — sliding off my brush.  BUT the glacial material from Alaska has a sound almost like pebbles in slush rolling onto a Woods Hole beach during an icy winter.

I need to hear more conversations from scientists about how airborne particles move around — I’m vaguely assembling a time/space map in my mind about how the molten inside layers become volcanic ash flying about at varying altitudes for varying lengths of time before gravity brings them down.

Brown is the polynya sediment — looking like smoothed out glacial grit — finer than Glacier Bay Alaska — it was pulverized by some process someone has yet to explain to me.


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