25 September, 2001
A Wild and Crazy Day
Rumor has it around here that the first and last dredges are "bad luck dredges". If you have been following along for the past 2 months, you know that our first dredge was lost and is on the ocean floor. So did the rumor hold true for our last dredge? It certainly did, and that's only the beginning.
The last 24 hours have been a roller coaster. Yesterday afternoon, the weather was gorgeous as we completed our 100th dredge! We celebrated this centennial dredge with photos and high spirits. Shortly after this occurred, however, the weather drastically changed. Within a few hours, we were in winds over 40 mph and the temperature (with the wind chill) was 15 degrees below zero Fahrenheit!
Despite the conditions, the last efforts to collect data from Gakkel Ridge continued into the night. Dredge #101 was attempted, but we drifted off course and it came up with no rocks. Then a CDT cast was attempted (collection of water samples to find evidence of hydrothermal plumes). Problems arose with this effort, too. When the CTD was in the water, the wire it was attached to was forced under the ship due to the strong drift. It was rubbing against the hull, which created a dangerous scenario. The decision was made to halt the process and bring the CTD to the deck, but the winch that pulls in the wire quit working, and the CTD stuck in the water for several hours. When it finally arrived on deck, it was instantly covered with ice! At least some water was collected and will be usable for analysis.
When I awoke early this morning and opened my porthole, all I saw was whiteness. The weather conditions were worsening. The temperature had dropped to 25 degrees below zero, the winds had increased, and the decks were covered with snow and ice. I arrived for my shift to find that we planned one more dredge-- #102. After spending several hours fighting the conditions, the final dredge was canceled. Soon afterwards the call was made to secure all decks and no one was permitted outside for the remainder of the day.
Our time for dredging officially ended at noon today, and we began our transit to meet with our partner the Polarstern and begin our journey home. Soon after we began our travel to the rendezvous point, the call came that they were stuck in the ice and needed rescued! However, the visibility was so poor and the conditions were so questionable that the decision was made to drift together and re-evaluate the situation. It is now evening and we are still drifting. Tune in tomorrow...
If there is one thing I have learned today, it is that the unpredictable Arctic gets the last say.
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