10 June, 1998
Sand Dollars for everybody!!!! That was what it looked like as the trawl net came up last night at about 11:30 PM. The entire net and frame was overflowing with them as it pulled out of the water and the J frame swung the net onto the deck. There was also kelp, basket stars, brittle stars, and even a few hermit crabs. Now the critter identification group has material to work with and they are happy as clams! (har har) The group will identify the specimens as much as possible on board using taxonomic keys, take photos of the specimens, preserve some tissue for further identification, and freeze the rest for DNA/metabolite analysis back in their research labs.
One of the areas of interest for the critter ID group is to determine the chemical make-up of the secondary metabolites produced by the benthic community. Secondary metabolites are substances that the sessile (non moving) animals produce for defense purposes. It is thought that since these animals are not equipped with parts for rapid movement they must have some other mechanisms to ward off predators. Much work has been done in the tropical waters on this and some of the identified substances have shown promise as anti-cancer agents. This has led to a greater interest in identifying exactly what the species are that reside in the polar waters and what chemical substances they are producing.
After a few hours in the sack it was time to be up and moving and the rest of the day almost raced by due to the level of busy. The ship parked, bow first into thick ice so the fantail (rear end) and the port side casting deck were ice free. As science station work began I was asked to accompany the helo crew to Barrow to pick up the ROV parts. Since I live there and am familiar with people and places it was thought I might be able to help out should the need arise. So it was a quick jump into the mustang (flotation survival suit), strap into the jump seat, and away we went! Both choppers went in because there are three new "Coasties" waiting in Barrow to report aboard Polar Sea.
The AVDET (aviation detachment) assigned to AWS 98 come from Mobile, Alabama which is the location of the Coast Guard Air Station that specializes in Polar Operations. A group of about 12 personnel comprised of 4 pilots, 4 crew chiefs, and 4 mechanics accompany the two choppers as they are assigned to different ships and stations. The helicopters are able to carry 3 crew, 3 passengers, and assorted gear and baggage. With that size of load the range is about 150 miles one way which dramatically increases the area which we can sample and observe.
The trip to Barrow went well, we picked up the ROV part, got a few recent newspapers, found the new guys, and headed back to the ship. It was nice to be back in Barrow and check in at home base. The snow is melting away and the tundra is taking on that soft velvet like appearance. It was a gorgeous day to be out, blue sky and sunshine the whole way! As we were flying back the seals were everywhere basking in the sun near their escape holes. We spotted two polar bears out looking for seal meals and snapped a few good photos of "nanook" (Inupiaq for polar bear).
The highlight of the evening was the ROV skimming along the bottom, sending back footage of the benthic fauna. Once again the day ended as it had began in the wee hours with sand dollars everywhere. They were so thick on the bottom that they were stacked on top of one another in some places. The brittle stars were waving their arms and 3 species of crab were seen skittering along the sandy bottom. The ROV worked perfectly and we can now begin to experiment with various ways to use it for data collection. It has already been rigged with a pump and suction hose to collect ice algae from the bottom surface of the ice. The initial run allowed Lance , the operator, to get all the controls dialed in and the on board video monitors de-bugged.
The bottom of the Chukchi Sea., what a sight!!!
Contact the TEA in the field at .
If you cannot connect through your browser, copy the TEA's e-mail address in the "To:" line of your favorite e-mail package.