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7 July, 2001

Back Into the Open Water - and Bears

Saturday, 7 July 2001

God afton! (Good afternoon!)

Life on Board

Polar bears are amazing. Here is a large mammal that can actually survive in this extreme climate, regularly diving in and out of the Arctic water, requiring great amounts of nutrients to produce the blubber that keeps it alive. Their main food is seals (not sea lions, which don't live this far north) but they will eat anything to survive including beluga whales, narwhals, muskoxen, walrus, hares, lemmings, birds and eggs, berries, seaweed, or the occasional science teacher. Anything already dead is also acceptable food (Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams).

About midnight, we were heading out of the ice to the east for a 30-hour station in the open water since we had been unable to take any data earlier due to the storm. Most people were still awake because, having just left a station, there was much to be done to wrap up the work. One of the crewmen came by and shouted, "Ice bear, starboard side!" We were moving through mostly open water already with intermittent, large floating ice floes. Everyone dropped what they were doing to grab cameras and binoculars. I raced up to the 4th deck to grab my camera and ran outside. There he was, swimming strongly along through the water, glancing back at this huge ship keeping pace alongside (the 2nd Officer was steering at the time and obliged us by slowing down to swimming-bear speed). The white bear didn't seem that bothered, just a little annoyed that we may have interrupted his hunting. He made for an ice floe and hauled out, pausing to shake off water like a dog, then trotted to the far side. He posed for photos for a few moments, testing the wind, then he decided he would continue on and slipped back into the water. We left him then, happy to be given the opportunity to be noticed by such an animal.

Scientists at Work

We arrived at the Open Water (OW) station at approximately 6 am and the sampling rosette was lowered for water samples. The scientists actually refer to this as a CTD cast because, in addition to taking water samples, instruments on the rosette measure Conductivity, Temperature, and Density as it is lowered through the water. From these data, the salinity (salt content) of the water can be calculated and all of these parameters will be used to examine the relationships between these physical attributes of the water column and the flora and fauna collected in the seawater samples at each depth.

One of the subgroups in the atmospheric chemistry group is the meteorological group. They have installed instruments on the helicopter which can measure pressure, temperature, humidity, and an important chemical called dimethylsulfide, or DMS. This is a compound produced by marine algae after they die and start to decay. It gets into the atmosphere where it undergoes some chemical processes and turns into sulfur dioxide (SO2), sulfuric acid (H2SO4), and other acids. The helicopter gathers data as it flies around and the scientists can combine this information with the weather balloon and ship data. The helicopter has been doing 2 flights each day if the weather permits.

Where Are We Now?

This Open Water station position is 78o39' N latitude and 33o01' E longitude. I awoke to a bright, sunny day, completely flat ocean as far as you could see in every direction. All of the Europeans were sitting in the sun on every deck whenever and wherever they could until about 3 pm when the clouds came in.

E-MAIL! I finally can read most of my email but I can't reply to each personally due to the extremely expensive satellite time although I will reply to some using this section of my daily journal. Thanks again to everyone for the good wishes.

Martin Jeffries: Hello to Fairbanks, Alaska. Thanks for the encouragement. Jim, Debby, & Emma Kleck: Love and best wishes sent to Santa Cruz, California and thanks for checking up on me. Michelle Adams, future Teacher in the Arctic: email is a serious problem, especially above 80o North latitude due to the curvature of the earth. Until recently, the only satellite available for communication was the Imarsat. Very new is the Iridium Satellite System, first open for data communication at the end of June this summer. Their voice communication has been available for some time but Internet connection is brand new. The connection is somewhat difficult to maintain and it may take 3-4 minutes to send one email and it has taken me 7-10 minutes to send a picture (all chargeable minutes, of course). Hence, my decision to answer some emails here in my daily journal. You need to have an Iridium phone with special datakit modem for Internet. I don't know how the USCGC Healy is set up but perhaps you will have an easier time.

Vi ses! (See you later!)

From Deck 4 on the Icebreaker Oden, somewhere in the Barents Sea,

Dena Rosenberger

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