24 July, 2002
I know Iíve mentioned the perils of science at sea more than once, but Iím going to do it again. Throughout the day today we saw one example after another of how difficult it can be to do science at sea, parcticularly in the Arctic. Once again I started my day at midnight when we got ready to send down the van Veen grabs. Four of the five went well, but one came up with the winch wire wrapped around the buckets and we had to send it down again. Ordinarily that takes only a matter of minutes, but we were in Barrow Canyon at 450 meters (remember that a meter is a little more than a yard), and each time we put down the van Veen we had to wait at least a half hour for it to go down and back. As we get even deeper, the times will increase substantially. The grab probably got twisted because we were on the steep slope of the canyon. That same steep slope was most likely the cause of the nearly upside down Haps core that came up. (Check out the picture below.) It too had become twisted in the wire. Although it contained four sediment cores, they were unusable since it is critical that a sediment core provide an accurate sample of the layers at the bottom and mixing had occurred when it got twisted. The second core provided excellent results, and we were able to complete our work just in time for breakfast at 7 AM. It was a cold night and we had a light drizzle for most of our time on deck. We came inside every chance we had to try to get warm and to catch some sleep. You can see how easily Jackie fell asleep in the picture below.
By the time we finished our work, we were nearly to the next station. Thatís when the real problems started. When we are in open water or even in full ice, itís always easier to send down equipment. Today the ice was in huge blocks all around us. The groups studying zooplankton were able to put their MOCNESS (see my journal of July 18 for a picture and description) into the water as the MST (marine science technician) used a long pole to push the ice away. The problems came when they were towing it and it got trapped under the ice. After 45 tension-filled minutes, the MOCNESS was safely back on board. Itís a very valuable piece of equipment, and it could easily have been seriously damaged or even lost.
Problems started again soon after the recovery of the MOCNESS. You might remember that, at the beginning of each station, the team of science technicians sends down a service cast to collect water. Like the MOCNESS this rosette of 12 Niskin bottles and the CTD is a delicate and valuable piece of equipment. Despite all their best efforts, they simply could not move the ice enough to get the rosette of bottles into the water. At that point, the chief scientist made the decision to abandon this site. He felt that we were simply not going to be able to safely complete the work the scientists needed to do. During the spring SBI cruise, they were unable to complete some stations due to the heavy ice pack. The Healy is designed for work in the Arctic, but even its advanced technology and capability to work in ice are not always enough when Mother Nature decides to step in!
After dinner each science team reported on their current work and the results they had obtained during the 40 day spring cruise. Itís fascinating to hear about each individual project, but itís also interesting to see how they all fit together. Chemistry, physics, biology, geology and ice dynamics (from the spring cruise) are all a part of this huge, multi-year project. Historically there has not been extensive research done in the Arctic Ocean. When all the data from this project are analyzed and all the pieces are put together, the SBI project will provide a picture of what is happening throughout the western Arctic Ocean. Hopefully it will also provide a better understanding of global climate change and its potential impact.
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