22 July, 2002
The around the clock nature of science at sea continues to amaze me. There is someone in one of the labs, at their computer, or on deck sampling at any hour of the day or night. Many of the samples that are taken must be processed immediately. Others will be preserved for transportation to a lab where the work will be done once the cruise is ended. The actual analysis will take several months in most cases and could easily take much longer.
Do you remember the picture of the hard hat from yesterday? It was the one named Bering Gifts. I thought you might be interested to know how Bering Strait got its name. In 1648 Semyon Dezhnez became the first person to sail around the northeast corner of Asia from the Pacific into the Arctic Ocean. The credit for discovery however, went to a Danish officer in the Russian navy. Vitus Bering “rediscovered” the strait in 1728. Bering was later sent on a scientific survey of the area and he succeeded in discovering Alaska in 1741 only to die in a ship wreck during his return voyage. Although someone else had actually been there first, Vitus Bering was given credit for the discovery, and Bering Strait was named for him.
Today has been foggy and cold. The beautiful sun you saw in the pictures from the first two days is gone and it’s much tougher to stay warm during outdoor stations. Most people have changed to mustang suits (a full-body, bright orange, immersion survival suit) for warmth and protection. Check it out below; personally I think it’s a real fashion statement! Today’s station began even as we were processing our mud from the last station. After dinner we went out to take our grab samples and do the multi-Haps core. As you can imagine, any kind of coring device goes to the bottom to take a core out of the sediments. (Think of coring an apple.) The haps core was invented by a Danish scientist, and it typically takes one sample at a time. Jackie Grebmeier actually designed the one you see in the picture. I think you can tell that it is far more efficient; it takes four core samples each time it is sent down. Once the samples are brought to the surface, Jackie takes two for her work with respiration (I’ll explain that more later on). She then checks the others to see which will be best to section (take certain size slices) to preserve the mud. The sections are placed into cans, labeled and sealed. Later they will be analyzed for various “tracers” which will track organic carbon. She will analyze cesium, thorium-234, lead-210, beryllium-7 and other tracers in order to figure out where the carbon came from and how long it has been in the sediments.
Once again, the station lasted much longer than originally planned. I’m starting to realize that this not at all uncommon. Last night it was the up and down of the helicopters that stopped us once again. After the helicopters were finally back in their hanger for the night, we took a bottom grab and realized we had drifted substantially off station. We packed up once again and headed back to the correct position. Each time we came in off deck, we had to remove our mustang suits, gloves, hats, and steel-toed boots. A half hour later we would put it all back on and go out again. At that time of the night/morning there is not much to do during “breaks” so people head to the mess for coffee and snacks. The cooks even provide mid-rats (midnight rations), served from 11 – midnight, for those who miss dinner because they cannot interrupt their work. The food is great, but it seems to be the coffee that keeps people going. During most times of the day, people with coffee mugs in their hands are a common sight.
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