Welcome to the web site for Sediment and Solute Transport on Rivers and Margins (SSTORM) Research Group! Reide Corbett and J.P. Walsh from East Carolina University and the UNC Coastal Studies Institute lead the team.
Check out our research in/on wetlands, estuaries, barrier islands, shelves and groundwater.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Icebergs, Radium and Sunset

This afternoon we had the good fortune to pass close to an iceberg that
had penguins attempting to rest on it. It was a fairly small piece of
ice, and it was rocking dramatically with the swells. After watching
for a few minutes I was able to see penguins attempting to jump up out
of the water and land on the top of the iceberg. Some of the penguins
could jump high enough; others could not and were bounced back into the

We continued on with our science shifts today. One of the major
focuses of this research is deciphering the origin of the water that is
being sampled. We want to know how much iron is present and where it is
coming form. By testing for specific radioisotopes, it can be
determined if the water was groundwater, ice melt or seawater. To test
this we measure the amount of radium present by pumping large amounts of
our sample water through a fiber that is saturated with potassium
permagenate, which will bond with radium and pull it from the water.
The fiber is then dried and tested in a RADECC machine. The RADECC
machine measures the rate that radium decays to radon at a known rate.
The radon is carried by helium gas to a cell coated with a zinc compound
on the walls of the scintillation cell to create a photon. The rate
photons are emitted can indicate which isotope of radium is decaying.
The amount of radium in the water indicates how much groundwater has
mixed with the seawater.

As we collected water for the radium testing this evening we were
treated to a spectacular sunset. This may be the first night we have
had clear enough skies to really see the sun "setting". The picture
above was taken a little after midnight. It never really got dark, just
overcast and a little gray. Shortly after midnight we also enjoyed what
they call midnight rations or "midrats" on the ship. Since there
are people awake and working 24 hours a day an additionl meal is served
around midnight every night. Tonight's meal was a lot like a
traditional Thanksgiving dinner. It was delicious.

It is not all work on the R/V LMG. As we near the Holiday Season
members of the science team and ship personnel have started decorating
labs and shared spaces with Christmas decorations. There was a bit of a
friendly competition between the two, but I think the addition of a
homemade cardboard tree with lights and ornaments by the science team
clearly cemented our victory.

-David Sybert
Educator, UNC-CSI


  1. You guys look great! The sunset, I'm sure, was even more amazing than the picture!

  2. Dave, JP, or Reide,
    My class wants to know if it's possible to see the Aurora Australis? Thanks!

  3. Great information! My daughters want to see a picture of the tree/decoration competition and also of course, please say hello to Happy Feet!

  4. Sandy,
    We have not been lucky enough to see them yet, but we are definitely keeping our eyes open. One of the scientists we have been working with said they have been seen at Palmer Station, but usually in mid winter. There may be too much light this time of year to see them.
    Thanks for the questions and keep them coming!
    - Dave