6 June, 1998
The ship is still in some very heavy first year ice and progress is very slow. We are having to do a lot of backing and ramming which is time consuming and makes for a bit of a rough ride. The weather has turned absolutely gorgeous and the sun is shining everywhere all the time. The temperatures are above freezing and there is very little wind today. All in all, a beautiful day in the arctic!
We are trying to make way to a large polynya that lies between Cape Lisburne and Pt. Franklin off the NW coast of Alaska. Once there we hope to steam to within helicopter range of Barrow and then stop and do an open water station while the chopper goes to Barrow to get a part for the ROV. It is taking longer than expected to get to the chopper take off position because of the heavy ice we are currently experiencing but it appears that the ice concentration might actually decrease in some areas north of here.
Aaron, Terry, and myself went out in the chopper today to collect ice cores and sediment samples. There is a tremendous amount of "dirty" ice around and that is the stuff that interests the CRREL group. We flew to two separate locations and took two cores from each site. Plenty of sediment to collect and a couple items not usually seen on the surface of pack ice. We found several bi-valve (clam) shells, a snail shell, a couple of leaves, and a small spider actually crawled across the jar in which Aaron was collecting sediment. It made for lots of conversation about the mechanisms by which these items might have come to be here. Birds were one possibility for the shells and the leaves could certainly have been transported by water and wind. We are only about 30 miles off the coast so the interaction between land and sea would be much greater here than at some location farther out.
Aaron got a lesson on how to run the Jiffy motor and take an ice core. When the machinery runs well it is a real piece of cake but things don't always go so well. During AWS 96 we stuck the barrel in the ice and had to work for several hours with ice axes and chipping bars to remove it. The barrels are quite expensive and well worth a few hours of time to recover.
As we were out working on the ice the ship was visible several miles to the south of us. During this time the ship hit a pocket of thinner ice and it was quite a sight to see the vessel steadily moving through the ice. From our vantage point, and certainly from our experiences the ice is very solid and for all practical foot powered purposes very much like land. To see the vessel move through this solid whit landscape is a very impressive sight and one that I will not soon forget.
Once back aboard and with a belly full of pizza (Saturday night is pizza night!) it was time for Aaron and I to do the chlorophyll tests on the ice core that we took two days ago. This involves filtering the melted ice sections which allows all the photosynthetic pigments to be trapped on the filter paper. The filter paper is then put into a solvent which allows the pigments to go back into solution and portions of that solution are measured for amount and type of chlorophyll..
The piece of equipment that is used to test for the presence and quantity of chlorophyll is called a fluorometer . It works by shining an ultra-violet light of a specific wave length at the sample. The wave length is such that it will excite the photosynthetic pigments and cause little sub-atomic parcticles called photons to be shot out of the atoms in the sample. A detector in the machine "reads" the number of photons emitted which is then used as a basis for determining how much pigment is in the sample. The more photons detected, the more chlorophyll in the sample. Sometimes there is so much chlorophyll in the sample that the detector goes off the scale. In these cases the sample must be diluted by half and run through again. If the amount of chlorophyll is very high it must be diluted several times before the reading is such that it stays on the scale.
Given that ice algae is one of the factors that almost all the researchers are looking at on this trip the data that is provided by the fluorometer is of importance to everybody. The ice people are finding large concentrations of algae in the bottom layer of ice and the mud people are finding large amounts in the upper layers of bottom samples. The water people are looking at what effects the algae has on the water as it sinks from the surface to the bottom.
As the day draws to a close the ship is making much better headway than earlier in the day. The ice seems to be under less pressure and the ridges are fewer in number than this morning. The Alaska coast is visible off the starboard side and I feel like I am back in my neighborhood.
What a great day in the arctic!
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