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10 July, 2001

Ice Coring and Collection

Tuesday, 10 July 2001

Valkommen! (Welcome!)

Life on Board

Our flock of marine birds is still with us. I have discovered by observation that when we are traveling through open water they dive into the churned-up waters behind the boat. When we are sitting in open water, they usually hang around in a flock near the front or side of the boat where the thruster engines, which are used to keep our position stable, shoot water out. Perhaps this water is a little warmer or perhaps they just churn up some food. When we are going through ice, the ship crunches up and turns over chunks of ice that have brown algae on the bottom. Small polar cod become caught in this algae and the birds have a nice fish dinner. When we are sitting at an ice station, they sit around disconsolately in groups on the ice, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot. One of the scientists onboard, who is also a member of the Swedish Ornithological Society, brought his birdwatching scope. With his help, we identified the species of birds in our resident flock. Black-legged kittiwakes, skua, Glaucus gulls, and what he translated as Laughing gulls, all wheel and skim the surface then dive repeatedly into the frigid water in search of sustenance. I wonder if they will accompany us all the way to the North Pole?

Where Are We Now?

I woke up to snow this morning! We are still at the same Marginal Ice Station because the biogeochemical group is collecting snow and ice samples but this afternoon we will leave for an open water station. There is no wind so the kite team can't launch and it is too foggy to fly the helicopter, so the atmospheric chemistry group can't really collect data. In the Arctic, weather conditions are extremely variable and all of the science is dependent upon conditions favorable to each parcticular experiment, so sometimes you sit and wait (but there is always something to do).

Scientists at Work

I got to go out on the ice again, this time to help collect ice cores. They use a small hand-held, gasoline-powered engine mounted on top of a coring tube, which is approximately 1 meter high. Two people hold on to the engine's handles and guide the corer into the ice. Once it is flush with the ice surface, you give it a sharp tug that triggers some latches on the bottom to close, capturing the ice inside the tube. You then lift up the whole thing and dump the core into a U-shaped ice core holder with centimeter marks on the side. One person measures the entire length while the other begins to cut the core into pieces with a saw. They are most interested in the bottom 20 cm. The lowest 5 cm is where most of the organisms collect and then the rest is analyzed for salinity (how much salt is in the water), and other nutrients. The salts collect at the bottom of the ice because as the ice sits around, over time the seawater is flushed down to the bottom by melting and rain or snow. This salt-concentrated water is now called brine and the organisms that live there have developed special techniques for dealing with the high salinity. The scientists take the pieces of core and melt them so that they can determine the species of the organisms living in this unique environment.

Vi ses! (See you later!)

From Deck 4 on the Icebreaker Oden, somewhere northeast of Spitzbergen, Dena Rosenberger

Finnish scientist Tuomo Roine and I, measuring and cutting an ice core. The corer tube is in the background.

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