Yous ain’t left yet…!

17-20 August 2012

It is Monday evening. I have just said goodbye to my new friends and find myself alone at Ottawa International Airport, waiting for the check-in counter to open in a few hours. My newly-acquired book “Dangerous Passage” by Gerard Kennedy, bought at Iqaluit airport, turns out to be a great read. The book tells the stories of Roald Amundsen, the first to transit the Northwest Passage, and Henry Larsen, the first Canadian citizen (although Norwegian by birth) to do so. It is the latter after whom the coastguard vessel is named that we have travelled on the past two and a half weeks. I recognize the names of places that we too have been to and can only imagine what it must have been like without all the comforts of a modern icebreaker.

The CCGS Henry Larsen, named after the first Canadian to transit the Northwest Passage.

Ever since we left the ship in Resolute on Friday, travel plans have changed continuously. When we were about to be airlifted from the ship to the shore and we tried to say goodbye to the crew, one of the stewards simply said “Yous ain’t left yet…!”, which has since become our motto. Ron and Jo, who will do the science on the Des Groseillier instead of Dave Spear and Pete Davis (see Pete’s blog post from August 15) were unable to get to Eureka because of bad weather conditions. The rest of the party, except for myself and Barbara, a coastguard radar specialist who had joined the Henry Larsen to test a new system she was developing, left to Iqaluit on Saturday (although rolling-in fog jeopardized their timely departure). Barb and myself would take the Sunday morning flight to Iqaluit, and join the others on the Sunday afternoon flight to Ottawa. We did meet up in Iqaluit, even boarded the flight and made it to the runway, but then returned to the gate with a mechanical problem. The result was another 24-hour delay. Déjà-vu…

The delay had one advantage: We got to have a proper goodbye dinner! It was slim pickings, as half the items on the menu were not actually available. Further inquiry revealed that this was the result of the icebreaker that had so kindly held the waterway open, allowing resupplying of the town, being called away to do science up north. Our science… we realized. We dearly felt the consequence of our science now: no Riesling with dinner.

Today is really the last day. I made it through security in Ottawa and all my new friends have left on other airplanes to their own home towns and families. My plane will leave in an hour. Although, yous ain’t left yet…!

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Brevoort Island, by Dave Riedel

13 August 2012

Brevoort Island, Smith Sound, 78˚ 41’ N, 74˚ 07’ W

In 2009, after a particularly blustery trip to Cape Baird, Ellesmere Island, I wrote “The problem with weather stations is that in order for them to be of any interest, you have to put them in quite inhospitable spots.”  Brevoort Island is no different.  Located at the entrance to Alexandra Fjord and its comparatively lush shorelines and well-fed walrus, Brevoort is exposed, barren and generally unremarkable, but it retains a small amount of charm by way of its size.  It’s only about 200m wide, and perhaps 400m long, just right to say “Look, there’s a nice little island.”

Brevoort Island from the air

This little island was our destination as we departed by helicopter from the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Henry Larsen from approximately mid-way down Alexandra Fjord.  We flew about 25 nautical miles to the island and circled it once to look for other visitors.  Much to our surprise we spotted two polar bears wandering across the south end of the island.  It was great to see them.  I love polar bears.  But, I prefer to be a safe distance where I might see them coming.  Brevoort’s topography is somewhat folded such that there are a lot of ridges and ledges to hide behind as you sneak up on scientists.  The already small island was feeling much smaller.  However, they clearly did not like the noise of the approaching helicopter and were running off towards the south end of the island when we last saw them.  We hoped that they had left, as we landed to service the weather station.

Polar bears (bottom left)

Don, the pilot, shut down the helicopter.  Near silence; it’s eerily quiet when you shut down the engines, especially when you’ve been on an icebreaker – there is always some noise there, even if it’s just the generator running the electrical system.  Ron, the electrical tech, Don and I got out with only the sound of the breeze swirling around us.

“Now, you’re not allowed to get eaten by a polar bear.” – said the chief scientist, after the birth of my first child.  I have always thought this to be sage advice.  We could not *see* the bears, but we knew they were somewhere nearby – it felt like a suspense movie.  So, I proceeded to try to refurbish the weather station like a pit crew at a car race.  But, time passed and no sign was seen of the large local inhabitants.  No black noses poking out over rocks, no furry glimpses of off-white, none.  So, we… was it ‘we’? Ron’s somewhat an old hand at this, I think he was less concerned… we relaxed a bit and stopped looking around every few minutes.  I believe this must be a survival instinct.  If we as humans allow our concerns about predation to paralyze us, we might fail to act, and subsequently starve.  Besides, we did have Don standing watch with a shotgun – possibly useless against a charging bear, but better than my screwdriver.

Since it was bolted to the island with ¾” rock bolts on the three feet of the tripod and the three stabilizing guy-wires, the weather station was in excellent physical condition after its three years of operation.  It would appear that the bears had not bothered with it, as the more fragile pieces had not been broken, bent or outright removed.  Unlike the situation north at Cape Baird, the station was also in good shape electrically – no wires were chewed-through by arctic hare or foxes.  As such, our job at Brevoort Island was simplified to five tasks: get the data card, replace the sensors, upgrade the system to enable satellite data transmission capability, put in a new set of batteries and confirm correct operation.

Dave and Ron at work on the weather station, while Don stands watch

The most difficult step was the addition of the modem to transmit to the iridium satellite network.  The modem and extra electronics were mounted to a data-logger project board, so while still involved, it was simpler to replace the board and all the electronics inside the large plastic housing instead of trying to add the new electronics to the system already in place.  The Brevoort station has a modest set of sensors to measure wind speed and direction, temperature, relative humidity, and pressure.  The wind monitor was very convenient to replace, as there is a locator ring on the station mast which allowed the refurbished unit to slip right on and automatically line-up with the locator pin retaining the heading established during the original installation.  The heading was confirmed by a quick check with a handheld GPS.  The new temperature and humidity was inserted into the existing radiation shield, and the new pressure sensor was already on the data-logger board as attached.  The addition of the new battery pair was quickly done also, as Ron had made up the box to require very limited effort at the site: simply wire the site’s solar panel to the box and plug the pre-wired cable into the data-logger to provide 12V of power.

The final step was to power-up the station, connect to the data-logger with a laptop and confirm proper operation of the station.  All sensors were confirmed to be working as expected, and we stayed connected long enough to get confirmation of the first iridium data transfer.  With that final test concluded, we packed up our gear and got in the helicopter.  The whole operation was over in about two hours, but it was nice to be finished, back in the helicopter, and underway without anyone having been eaten.

After lift-off, we circled the island looking to see if the bears had stayed nearby.  We saw no sign of them. However, we did have the good fortune of seeing a small pod of narwhal; four, resting at the surface just off shore to the southwest.  In the end, it was a very successful mission: an efficient refit of the weather station, bear presence without incident, and a narwhal sighting.  Nice.  Maybe Brevoort Island isn’t such a bad place at all.

Dave Riedel, Sidney, BC, Canada

Narwhal off Brevoort Island

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Screeching in

13-16 August 2012

We are on our way back. The days are filled with servicing weather stations and recovering/replacing more tide gauge moorings, while at night we do more CTD sections. I feel sad realizing that I will have to leave this wonderful place shortly, but privileged at the same time to have seen and experienced it all. While steaming southwards we spot more wildlife. The polar bear in particular attracted much attention, and I must admit that this animal looks majestic in his natural habitat. We also saw walruses doing a group hug on an ice floe close to Alexandra Fjord, where we recovered and redeployed a tide gauge mooring. This fjord is also home to a small science camp for biologists, who had just run out of coffee and were therefore very happy with our surprise resupply.

A walrus in Alexandra Fjord in 2009

Before leaving the ship there is one more thing that has to be taken care of. As a non-Newfoundlander (the ship is based in Newfoundland) you are given the opportunity to become an honorable member of the Royal Order of Newfoundland Screechers, better known as “being screeched-in”. For this test you need to dress as a Newfoundlander, eat like a Newfoundlander, drink like a Newfoundlander, talk like a Newfoundlander, and kiss the cod (“you kiss what you catch”). All of this is done while you hold your foot in a bucket of water and ice. Without revealing too many details, I can report that five of us took the test and the jury found us all worthy. I am therefore now the proud owner of an official screeched-in certificate, which is valid all over the world…

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Saturday nights at sea

11/12 August 2012

It is weekend on the Larsen. This is a strange thing to realize, as our weekends don’t look much different from weekdays. We are only here for two and a half weeks and want to get done as much science as possible in that time period. The crew, on the other hand, is on the ship for 6 weeks and pretends to have a normal week rhythm. For us the only things that remind us of the time of the week is bingo night on Saturdays, and suddenly all the officers being dressed up in their whites on Sundays. Bingo is great fun. You can secure your bingo card during the day, and between 20.00 and 20.30 the crew’s lounge starts to fill up with bingo cards on seats (meaning “This seat is taken”). The bingo is played in four rounds and wonderful prizes can be won, ranging from t-shirts to toques. As I had only brought two of the latter, I was glad to win an extra one. Bingo was a bit delayed this Saturday evening (a very rare thing indeed!) because part of the science team and the helicopter pilot had not yet returned from servicing a weather station, but upon their return the game was started in all its semi-seriousness, which makes it even funnier. After the bingo the true Saturday night atmosphere was continued by first playing music and later, as the evening progressed, karaoke. I’m not normally a big fan of the latter activity, and not knowing most of the songs doesn’t help either, but it was still hilarious!

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The realities of Arctic research

By Pete Davis

Over the last few days the news coming back from the Nares Strait has been nothing but good. The science team has managed to recover the majority of the ADCP and TS moorings (which hopefully will have recorded data effortlessly for the last three years), the CTD sections are being successfully completed (which give us the most detailed picture of the hydrographic properties in Nares Strait, albeit only as a snapshot), the ship has managed to make it into Petermann Fjord (whilst dodging an ice island the size of Manhattan), and there has been success in servicing the met stations that have deployed in the region. However, although this may give the impression that Arctic research is relatively “easy”, don’t be mistaken!

Running concurrently with the cruise to Nares Strait on the CCGS Henry Larsen, a second ship, the CCGS des Groseilliers, was tasked with recovering three moorings in Cardigan Strait which had been deployed in 2009, whilst transiting though the region on it’s resupply mission to Eureka (a small scientific research base on Ellesmere Island at approx. 80 degrees north). However, a couple of days before I was due to leave the UK and fly to Quebec City, we received an email from the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) Regional Arctic Operations Centre informing us that the des Groseilliers had been delayed much further south due to extreme ice conditions in Frobisher Bay. As a result the crew change flight, which was meant to take Dave Spear and myself along with the new CCG crew to the ship in Resolute Bay, was rescheduled to fly into Iqaluit on Baffin Island where we could join this ship. We would then wait in the area for a approximately a week to 10 days before hopefully navigating our way out of Frobisher Bay and heading north to complete the fieldwork.

However, this was not the last of it! A few days later another email arrived from the CCG to inform us that instead of us joining the ship in Iqaluit they instead wanted us to join the ship in Resolute (as originally planned), but 10 days later on August 18th. Unfortunately, after a flurry of emails between Dave, myself and Humfrey Melling (who was onboard the Larsen at the time), it was concluded that it made no sense for either Dave or myself to travel to the Arctic, and Humfrey would crew the ship with some of the science team currently on the Larsen.

Despite the disappointment I felt from no longer going to the Arctic, this is the harsh reality of Arctic research. The region is so remote and unforgiving that any logistical plans are likely to change at very short notice, and you have to be prepared to be flexible. Flights to and from the Arctic are extremely expensive and we may well have learnt our lesson the hard way, and it is better to spend a little more on refundable/changeable tickets, or to wait until you know an exact date before you book anything! Hopefully the insurance claims will help recover some of the lost costs!

Nevertheless, fingers crossed that as and when the des Groseilles does makes it up to Cardigan Strait the moorings are easily recovered and, along with the moorings from Nares Strait, they have recorded three years of good quality data. It is, at the end of the day, this data that is the reason for all the detailed planning and expense that goes into these research cruises, and it is the success of their recovery that determines the overall success of the cruise – not whether you get to go to the Arctic or not!!.

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Data collection in Petermann Fjord

10 August 2012

After a short night I woke up this morning for regular breakfast hours between 7 and 8 am. It became clear that we would not be taking measurements in at least the next few hours, so I took the opportunity to catch up on some sleep. After about two hours I was woken up in a not-so-gently manner by the ship’s crushing the thick multi-year ice in the southwestern part of the Petermann Fjord entrance. After an ice reconnaissance flight by helicopter the captain had decided that it was safe to go into the fjord, provided the ice flights were repeated every hour to make sure the ice island did not rotate southwards and close off the whole entrance. This was the first time I saw the boat in action as a real ice breaker: breaking ice. Quite an experience I must say! Thick floes of ice were crushed by the ship’s bow and pushed sideward. The landscape around us is breathtaking: steep cliffs on both sides of the fjords, on top of the cliffs theGreenland ice sheet, large ice bergs that have calved off from Petermann Glacier in the ocean around us, smaller glaciers flowing into the fjord, and the rest of the ocean around us covered in thick ice floes. The wideness and calmness is amazing. The passengers on the helicopter flights today get a real treat. Apart from the amazing landscape a large group of narwhals (whales with long pointy noses) is spotted. I stay on deck for a long time just to admire in silence.

It takes to halfway the afternoon for the boat to break its way through the ice to the vicinity of the edge of the glacier tongue, where we start a CTD/rosette section across the fjord. I asked Humfrey to add some stations to the schedule, even it would only be the top few hundred meters, to better resolve possible finer structures in the fjord. He agreed and added a ‘shallow’ station in between every planned station, warning us though that the whole operation would then take up to 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning. As I really wanted this data I was willing to stay up that late. Apart from the CTDs and rosettes, which tell us something about the water properties and currents in the fjord, we also want to know what the underwater topography (known as bathymetry) looks like. The only information we have is from previous ships in this area, and that information is extremely limited. We basically don’t know more than that the fjord is at least over 1100m deep and that around the entrance the deep part is separated from Nares Strait by a shallow sill, probably no deeper than 450m deep. Therefore we zigzag from station to station, while recording the depth soundings from the ships. The ship’s echo sounder sends a sound signal out to the bottom and waits till this signal returns. From the time it takes to go to the bottom and back, combined with the speed of sound through the water, the depth of the water under the ship is calculated. So, while covering as much ground as we can, we basically map the bathymetry of Petermann Fjord. Knowledge about the bathymetry is of vital importance to be able to make reliable computer models of the ocean circulation in the fjord.

CCGS Henry Larsen in Petermann Fjord in 2009

The zigzagging had one minor disadvantage: it took almost an hour to get from one station to the next. Most of the science team had gone off to bed or for a drink at the bar around 10 o’clock in the evening, while Andreas handled the winch and I monitored the CTD-recordings on the computer screen. Humfrey was also still dedicated to the science being done, but after being satisfied that the depth recordings of the bridge went well around 3 am, he went to bed as well. Although the deep stations were a bit boring to perform (looking at a wire unrolling for 20 min, and then rolling up for 20 min), the data was very exciting and we spent the time in between stations plotting the data, discussing, and going back and forth between the processed data and the rough profiles to see what features were real and which ones may be an artificial side effect of the plotting procedure used. When the last station was finally completed and we finished moving equipment into the container, it was 5 o’clock in the morning (slightly later than the scheduled end time). I decided skipping breakfast in the morning would be an excellent idea and went to bed for a good morning of sleep.

CTD section across the fjord in 2009, prior to the two major calving events. The data is plotted as if you are looking into the fjord, with the northeast side of the fjord on the left.

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First sight of the Petermann ice island

9 August

Ever since a large piece of the glacier tongue of Petermann Glacier broke off on the 22nd of July (now commonly referred to as ‘the ice island’), we have been anxiously monitoring the movement of this island. The event gives us both opportunities and threats: We are studying the ocean circulation (and its effect on glacial melting) in this fjord. This piece of the glacier breaking off may give us the opportunity to take measurements in a previously covered and therefore inaccessible area. The last time a ship went here to take measurements was in 2009, and incidentally two large calving events have taken place since then (the first one being in August 2010), so really a large part of the fjord that was previously covered under ice is now accessible by ship. On the other hand, the island can block the entrance to the fjord altogether and we may not be able to get in at all.

We are close to the ice island now and are very curious to see it. The news of the piece breaking off made the TV news all over the world, but we are probably the first people to see the island in real life. The captain announces this long awaited moment by: “All ship personnel, all ship personnel; there is a little piece of ice next to the ship if you’re interested”. The bow quickly crowded with people with cameras taking lots of pictures. By the time this ice island will reach the more inhabited part of the world (say Newfoundland) it will have been broken into smaller pieces and not be so gigantic anymore.

This ice island breaking off of the ice tongue of Petermann Glacier is not necessarily a dramatic and life changing event. This glacier tongue loses 80 to 90% of its ice through melting from below, because the ocean water is relatively very warm (don’t get too excited now, it is only about 0.2 degrees Celsius so not particularly hot-tub temperatures). Calving of ice from the edge is only responsible for a tiny fraction of the total ice loss. That being said, if the glacier continues to calve off ice, this may be different in the future.

After the ice-island sight-seeing moment it was time for dinner (or ‘supper’ as it is called on the ship). Supper time is quite early, from 16.30 h to 17.30 h. Chief scientist Humfrey decided on a night-time CTD section (up to about midnight) in the alongside direction of the fjord, away from the ice island and away from the fjord. Tomorrow we will see whether we can go into the fjord and do the rest of this section and another one. Things don’t look good though: the ice island is completely blocking the northeast side of the entrance, while the southwest side is stuffed with thick multi-year ice. But first to bed, and we will see what happens in the morning.

The entrance to Petermann Fjord (taken in 2009).

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An Arctic hike

9 August 2012

When I woke up this morning, the wind had not settled down. Quite the opposite to be honest: For the first time since we left Thule the boat was significantly moving in other directions than forward. Taking the helicopter to Cape Baird was absolutely out of the question, and the usual 8-o’clock science meeting was cancelled because it did not seem we would be able to do anything in this weather.

I took a cup of coffee to my cabin and wrote a bit on this blog. After finishing I decided to go up to the bridge to get the latest info on the state of affairs. At the bridge it turned out that the idea to take the FRC to shore and climb up the cliff was being considered more seriously. Apparently, something that is considered impossible one day is suddenly not such a bad idea the next one out here. I was asked to come along and immediately agreed! I knew it would be a tough climb and a windy exercise on the plateau, but this unique opportunity to walk up a glacial outlet and be part of this, admittedly, somewhat absurd plan, I did not want to miss for the world. The carefully-put-together list of absolute essentials to dismantle a weather station was, figuratively speaking, thrown overboard and replaced by a light-weights-only list, as we would have to carry everything up the hill. The magnitude of the team was now determined by the number of people required to carry tools up the hill and tools and a dismantled weather station down the hill. The science team was therefore expanded to four (Humfrey, Dave, Andreas and me) and a crew member with a shotgun (Melvin) was added to the team in case of a polar bear attack. Chief officer Brian, aided by seaman Derick, skillfully maneuvered the FRC from the ship to the beach below the cliffs (while making sure we all got absolutely soaked were it not for our waterproof floater suits),  where we jumped out of the boat onto the beach with our backpacks.

From the beach the least steep route (but still steep) to the plateau where the weather station was situated was through a dry glacial valley. The ground was covered in loose gravel and stones, which made the climb up not an easy hike. In some less covered spots small mosses and tiny plants had been able to find a habitat to flourish, really amazing! I am not a biologist and know little about plants, but this surely is not an easy environment for most life I know. Humfrey later explained that some of the plants we had seen were actually even tiny trees. While sliding backwards we made progress upwards (being Dutch I am not really used to steep slopes anyway) and finally the weather station came into sight. The wind conditions up here were far from ideal to do anything at all! Wind gusts down at the ship reached well over 30 knots, up here they were a lot more severe. We had to strongly lean into the wind and secure everything we laid on the ground with heavy rocks to prevent them from being blown away. Some of the dismantling had already been done for us by local animals (one of the damaged items was definitely the work of a polar bear; cut wires could have been done by other animals). We wrapped the sensors in bubble wrap and put them in my backpack. The tools went back into other backpacks and the battery box and the solar panel had to be carried down while holding them in our hands. Humfrey decided we would take the short way back, which meant sliding down the steep side of the hill straight to the beach. Being only a little over sixty kilos, and very aware of the insanely expensive equipment on my back, the combination of this route and the wind made me go down very slowly. We all made it down to the beach safely, and quickly afterwards Brian and Derick came to pick us up. With a tail wind the ride back to the ship was a lot more comfortable than the way out. Time for a shower and some laundry…

 

A met station in action after servicing in 2009.


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…and water sample collection

During some of the CTD profiles we also take water samples. As I am in the ‘CTD command centre’ almost full time during the sections, I asked Pat Ryan to write something about the water sampling. Here is her story:

Water Sample Collection, by Pat Ryan, University of Delaware

One of the ways oceanographers study the sea is through the collection of water samples.  Chemical oceanographers evaluate the characteristics of water to provide information on the source of the water, contaminants and conditions of the sea to sustain life among other things.

The collection of water aboard the Larsen is done in a contraption we call a rosette.  It’s comprised of a number of Niskin bottles (large cylindrical plastic bottles), in our case 12, held upright in a large round metal frame.  Our rosette is about as tall as I am (170 cm).  As the device is lowered into the ocean, all of the bottles are open at both the top and the bottom so that there are more cylinders than bottles. As the rosette is lowered, water flows freely through the open bottles as if they were pipes… stoppers at each end are connected to a tension-based triggering device that can close both ends instantaneously – thereby capturing the seawater residing at the depth of the rosette at the time of firing.  On the deck, connected via wire to the rosette, is a computer that sends a signal to each of the bottles when the operator wants to capture water. 

The CTD rosette on its way down, bottles open, in Nares Strait 2009.

Our rosette is typically lowered at a controlled rate to the bottom of Nares Strait collecting samples on its descent and then quickly brought back up.  Attached to the rosette is also a CTD device that continuously provides salinity, temperature and depth information to the operator.  Physical oceanographers use these data to analyze aspects of the sea and for the water collection purpose this information is vital to collect samples (that is to trigger the closure of bottles) at specific depths.

All of the heavy work of wrangling the rosette off and then back onto the deck of the ship is done by the deck crew of the Henry Larsen.  Garbed in bright orange jumpsuits and hard hats, the crew pilot the heavy and cumbersome rosette to a gentle landing after each cast.  They are a great group of guys who regale us with tales of the sea, and places back home (Newfoundland for most of them) and make us laugh to the point that we sometimes even forget how cold our hands are!

While the deck crew is managing the heavy work of the rosette, one of the science team members, Jo, mans the winch, hoisting, lowering and then raising the rosette up as directed by another member of our team, Renske.  She operates the computer, carefully monitoring the graphics which tell her where the rosette is at all times.  It’s Renske who determines when each of the bottles fire.

As soon as the rosette is safely back aboard, the piddlers get to work.  We are members of the science crew assigned to get the samples from each Niskin bottle into the pre-labeled sample bottles.  First, we check that the bottles have fired properly and that there are no signs of leaks that would indicate a sample was compromised.  Then a group of us (3 is a nice number – as it speeds up the process and is not so many that there are traffic jams on the deck) set about the task of filling various glass and plastic vials with very cold ocean water, these will be shipped to a lab for analysis when we port.  The label in each bottle indicates the location and depth at which the sample was collected as well as which type of analysis is to be performed.  On this trip we are sampling for O-18, Barium, Salinity and Nutrients.   Protocols to insure the integrity of the sample for each analysis are followed – some of the samples must be immediately frozen and kept at very cold temperatures.  Others require specialized gaskets to prevent oxygen transfer.  Duplication of some samples provides for quality control check performance.   Every time the rosette is deployed, we typically fill about 50 bottles.  Each of the bottles is rinsed with the sample several times prior to being filled – as we dump this rinse water onto the deck, this process can lead to wet shoes and socks when the wind is blowing hard as it was yesterday. In the Arctic, this water piddling as it is “affectionately” dubbed can be chilly, wet work.  Your hands can feel like you might not get sensation back for days and on a windy day (as we had yesterday) the water can be blowing in sheets to soak you.

That being said, it can also be an enjoyable group endeavor.  Our lead scientist often joins us filling bottles and Renske will lend a hand as time permits.  There is a frenzy of activity when the rosette alights upon the deck that feels like work but the camaraderie of the piddlers and the tendency to easy laughter among the group actually makes it some of the fondest (if perhaps coldest) memories of my Arctic experience.


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CTD sections …

7/8 August 2012:

Two days of CTD sections. We actually need to work on the weather stations as well: there is a weather station on Cape Baird that needs to be dismantled and relocated to Joe Island on the other side of Nares Strait. Access to a weather station, however, requires a helicopter and the weather has changed from its lovely sunny side to a cloudy and windy variety. There is either far too much wind for the helicopter to fly, or it is foggy and then we can’t fly either. The main activities are therefore centered around taking CTD profiles, which, by the lack of other activities and the need for a deck crew for the rosette system, is now a daytime activity. We take one section just south of Petermann Fjord, and one further north in Robeson Channel. The latter section is extra nice because this part of Nares Strait was often too much ice covered to access for taking measurements in previous years.

CTD rosette being deployed in Kennedy Channel in 2009.

In the late afternoon of 8 August the FRC (the small boat) is sent out into Discovery Bay to try and recover a tide gauge pressure mooring that had been there since 2003. In that year, a diver from the American ship ‘Healy’ installed this mooring. In 2006, when the first next ship for scientific purposes came up here, the bay could not be reached because of heavy ice conditions. In 2007, during the expedition thereafter, the science crew flew to the bay by helicopter and successfully talked to the mooring and released it, but it has never come to the surface. In 2009, on the third expedition after deployment, heavy ice conditions again inhibited access to the bay. Now, in 2012, we decided to take the absolute longest of long shots in trying and recover this mooring (if the bay would not be frozen over) using a sinking line and try and ‘catch’ the mooring. As we knew the exact location, it was at least worth trying. So, the FRC was sent into Discovery Bay and came back later that evening, to everyone’s astonishment, with the mooring on board that had been happily recording data for the full nine years it had been there in the water! (In an attempt to be creative I naively inquired whether it would be an option to land the FRC on the beach below Cape Baird and walk to the weather station. Given the steep slope and significant height of the plateau, this idea was quickly discarded.) The success with the Discovery Bay mooring was later celebrated at the bar.


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