13 June, 1998
What a day! To say things went like a whirlwind from sunup to sundown would not be correct in at least a couple of ways but if the sun had gone down the day would have still been twice that busy. We got underway at about 3:00 AM and made pretty good time for most the morning. The ice is still well over a meter thick but there are more polynyas which indicate a decrease in pressure and gives the displaced ice a place to go as the ship crashes through the floes.
A polar bear sow and yearling cub were spotted off the bow this morning and they paralleled the ships course for about two miles. They remained about 200 yards off and offered plenty of good viewing to most of the crew that turned out for their first good bear sighting. The ship had apparently bothered them during a meal because their muzzles were bloody and several people said they saw the cub with something in it's mouth for several hundred yards. They were an awesome sight as they climbed over the ridges and seemed to effortlessly move across the ice with that pigeon toed gait common to these great beasts of the arctic.
Chlorophyll's to run, lab gear to clean up, journals to catch up on, and general busy work kept both Aaron and I occupied for most the morning. Just as lunch was finishing up we parked the ship and station #7 got rolling with little wasted motion. We came to rest with a 1st year ice floe holding us fast on the starboard side and a small floe of very dirty ice surrounded by clean white snow just off the port side.
The flourometer was in the water before the ice crew had cleared the side of the ship as the crane got us onto the dirty floe. The ROV went down for a look at the bottom as soon as the fluorometer was back aboard and found enough activity that a box core was put on the schedule for an end of station activity. We began punching cores from both dirty and clean ice, as the helicopter took off for an ice reconnaissance flight. The CTD rosette went down to collect water samples and as soon as it surfaced the divers and ROV made ready for a plunge.
We were once again attempting to set up an above and below the ice measurement and communication system. This was an especially challenging activity at this station due to the fact that the dirty ice floe we were working on was well over 2 meters thick with a very rough and irregular bottom surface. This required the ROV to do a lot more looking up rather than forward and the divers were able to assist by making sure the ROV was on the right course as it tried to get from the dirty floe to the clean one. We tried to lower small strobe lights through the core holes but they came to rest on little ledges beneath the ice which did not allow them to get all the way below the floe.
As it turned out this dirty floe had an abundance of shells and egg sacs lying on the surface and we even found a dead isopod (a little horseshoe crab looking critter) in one of the melt ponds. Pete and Aaron scoured the surface for as many animal parts as they could find while we continued to bob the strobes and push our stakes down the holes. We were out on the ice for over five hours and though it wasn't terribly cold, the wind did a very good job of sucking the heat right out of me and I had a good chill going by the time we got back aboard.
The dry lab was the center of activity as samples were being organized, logs brought up to date, and mustangs and boots being traded out for warm, on board attire. The MST's readied the box core for a drop as the benthic group suited up for a chilly evening of work. There appeared to be some problems with the brake on the winch that lowers the box so repairs looked to be tops on the list.
Overall it had been a very productive day for the science group aboard Polar Sea. As I observed all the activities taking place both on and off the ship it once again made me feel very lucky to be part of the entire evolution. Women and men, civilian and military, young and old, experienced and rookies, all working together to further our understanding of the arctic. Way cool!!
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