11 June, 1998
We have pointed our bow to the north and crunched through the ice all night long. The going has been slow but we are now above 70ƒ N latitude. The plan seems to be to head to the Hanna Shoal located NW of Barrow, then E to Barrow Canyon, and then SW back to the Bering Strait. As with all things arctic, one must be flexible, ready to go on a moments notice, and at all times make the most out of the immediate situation. Not a bad set of guidelines even when not cruising around in the arctic!
Now that the ROV is up and running we need to work out some way to determine its' exact location under the ice while we are on top of the ice. Ideally we would like to use the ROV to locate the areas of heavy ice algae on the bottom of the ice so we can then punch cores from above and be assured that we will get good algal content in the bottom of the core. The plan we are attempting to put into place will have the ice crew go out and use augers to drill a line of holes through the ice. We then will put stakes into the holes that have been painted bright orange and numbered on the bottom. The ROV will go under the ice and we will be able to track it by having the operator back aboard the ship, communicate with the ice crew by way of radio, which stake it is near since it will be sending real time video images back to the ship. As it explores the area around a stake we will determine whether or not algae is present and where, if at all we should take a core. Without a doubt this will not pull off without a hitch, but this is pretty new stuff and we will probably get several bugs worked out during this first attempt.
Right now a big hurdle is getting the ship parked such that we can launch the ROV off the port side casting deck yet have ice close enough on the port side to allow the crane to off load the ice crew. The choppers are another means of getting out to the ice if need be but we try the route with the fewest variables first.
What a great day/night for arctic research!! The entire operation with the ROV came to pass with a few minor problems but all in all, a tremendously successful afternoon/evening! Parking the ship turned out to be a big trick and took almost 6 hours. We tried several times to pull into just the right spot but between wind, current, and ice/ship rebound, either the ship would drift too far from the ice or the ice would fill in under the casting deck. We finally pulled into a crack and let the wind and current work to wedge the ship fast into the ice. The ice crew off loaded with the crane and got set up with a line and stakes through the ice on the starboard side. The MST's still had to work to keep the port side cast deck area clear but eventually the ROV was underway and maneuvered across what had become a 70 meter body of ice and water and putted right up to the ice edge. It was an amazing sight to witness as Terry radioed to the driver, Lance, to submerge and look for stake #19. The ROV remained on the surface for a couple more seconds and suddenly with a burst of water from the down thrusters, submerged, and went right beneath the ice floe. Stake 19 was located by the forward looking camera as ice surface images were being captured with the upward looking camera. It took a good hour for the ROV to maneuver the whole line of stakes and do a brief reconnaissance around each stake. We could hear the motors on the machine as it passed under the ice and every now and then a stake would take to jiggling as the ROV knocked it or drug the umbilical across it. Much radio communication took place as we tried to tell the driver what was above and he tried to advise us of what was below. Over the course of 2 hours information was passed back and forth as everybody on the ice was scratching down notes and trying to keep up with the roving ROV.
We eventually got the go ahead to drill and set right to work. Over the next hour we took 9 cores from the 50 meter line which we will sample for structure, nutrients, and chlorophyll. We saw some ice algae on the bottom surface of the cores and in a couple cores we actually saw incorporation of some algae within the ice itself. Overall this was not a rich floe for ice algae, but just the fact that we were able to get the ROV to our location and then have it send back information about a specific site made the entire evening a great success!
Over the several hours of time that we were on the ice the ship/ice drift led to a separation of about 400 meters between the ice crew and the vessel. The ice was pretty spotty between the ship and us and the decision was taken to have one of the choppers come out and collect us. We had two sleds full of several hundred pounds of ice so it required 3 trips by the helo to collect the ice crew. bear watch , and sleds.
Just as we got back aboard the ROV was on the bottom and once again the wet lab was full of people in awe of what they were observing. The bottom was covered with brittle stars! The ends of their arms just touching, none overlapping, absolutely everywhere in the camera's view. Soft corals and anemones were briefly passing by the lenses but the entire scene was dominated by the brittle stars of about 10cm radius.
We had spent the better part of 6 hours on the ice and while we were doing our thing the water group had successfully done casts with both the rosette and fluorometer . The boxcore was being readied for a drop as I unpacked gear in the lab and everybody was feeling some measure of success about this station. The time on the ice had been fruitful and pleasant both in company and weather. The temperature was in the high 40's (Fƒ), the sun was bright, and once again it was a wonderful blue sky day aboard Polar Sea!
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