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11 September, 2001

September 11, 2001

A Foreign Exchange

Over the last few days, scientists aboard the Healy and Polarstern have been trading places. Several scientists aboard each ship have learned about life and science aboard the neighboring icebreaker.

Two scientists from the Healy-Linda Kuhnz and Gad Soffer, spent several days aboard the Polarstern. Although the Germans are mapping and dredging as we are, they are collecting and analyzing data from Gakkel Ridge by other means as well. One piece of equipment they use is called a "TV Grab". This equipment uses a camera to view the ocean floor to facilitate rock collection. As the scientists work on the ship, it gives them "eyes" on the bottom. A second piece of equipment used on the Polarstern is called "OFOS". This system enables scientists to illuminate and videotape the seafloor by moving a camera along the bottom.

With 45 scientists on board the Polarstern, they have projects going on besides the study of rocks. There are studies occurring on weather, ice thickness, and sediment, to name a few. The 2 scientists from the Healy parcticipated in a variety of projects. Gad spent time looking at thin sections of rocks. This is where rocks samples are cut paper thin and viewed under a special microscope called a petrographic microscope. By using polarized light, it exposes the minerals and textures within the rocks. It can reveal information about the rock's "life" by its crystal patterns. Linda was able to fly in a German helicopter and land on the ice to collect samples of organisms. She laid down on the ice and leaned over the side to obtain several species of algae living on the underside. She collected phytoplankton, too. The specimens were preserved and will be taken for close analyzation to the lab where she works in California.

Overall, the American scientists had a wonderful exchange experience aboard the Polarstern (besides the great learning and sharing experience, Gad also enjoyed their swimming pool and sauna).

So what did the German scientists do aboard the Healy? Our visitors were given the opportunity to learn how we run our program. They were involved in every aspect of what happens here on a daily basis from map-making to analyzing rocks. It was truly a learning experience for them to compare and contrast methods and work with our scientists.

The experience of living and working on a foreign vessel provides great opportunities for all involved. The successful exchanges what have occurred in the last few days have certainly been valuable to the scientists, and this will hopefully encourage more such activities during the remainder of our expedition.

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