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18 August, 2003

Chief Scientist's Final Report From Sea

RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer SBI Survey Cruise

James H. Swift

18 August 2003, ca. 9:00 pm Alaska time - from RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer off Barrow, Alaska

Sunday, 17 August, we completed the final CTD and net casts of the SBI survey cruise, after which we steamed to the vicinity of Barrow, Alaska, where the shipboard party is now analyzing final samples, completing data processing, packing, cleaning, and carrying out the many other tasks which take place at the end of a cruise. The CTD/rosette and most other data which are our prime product are being prepared for posting at the SBI website hosted by JOSS so that SBI investigators can soon begin working with what our team has provided.

Our final section, a shelf-slope-basin section east of any yet done for the SBI program held a major surprise. About 75 km offshore of the upper slope boundary current we ran into its twin: a broad, strong westward flow of nearly identical water. When and how did this huge river of water separate from the boundary? Does this represent a major mechanism for moving slope waters en masse into the basin interiors? The never-ending quest continues.

262 stations were planned, an optimistic number which assumed good progress in the ice and few problems with equipment. The final tally was 329 CTD stations and 90 vertical bongo net tows completed evidence partly of the easy ice conditions but mostly of outstanding teamwork and professionalism. All hands, whether from Edison Chouest Offshore, Raytheon Polar Services, or the nine institutions comprising the scientific party, worked together superbly to bring about this achievement. I thank every person on board RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer.

The first steps of the trek home for the scientific party commence from Barrow, which this week is hosting a conference that has completely filled the town. But the same flights which are bringing the conferees to Barrow seem to have plenty of empty seats heading south so we are using the helicopter to fly people ashore with the intent of their flying out the same day. It will be a good deal longer a time until Palmer's officers and crew make their own returns home. We wish them safe and successful voyages.

Finally, I wish to acknowledge and thank the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs, not only for the fiscal and logistics support which made this expedition possible, but equally for the continuing advice and encouragement received from our program managers.

1. The boundary current as seen in the Lowered Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler.

2. Jesse Doren (left) and Emily Constantine retrieve the final cast of the CTD rosette water sampler.

3. Heading to Barrow after the last cast.

4. John Bengtson's photo of the R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer from the ship's helicopter.

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