15 July, 2002
Early this morning, Dr. Lee Cooper and I met with the reporter for the Nome Nugget, the local newspaper. Dr. Cooper is the co-chief scientist for the cruise along with Dr. Jackie Grebmeier with whom I will be working. The reporter was interested in Dr. Cooper’s work and in the overall goals of the SBI project. (For a description of the project goals, see my home page on the TEA site.) Dr. Cooper is working primarily with two isotopes of oxygen, oxygen-16 and oxygen-18. An isotope is a different form of an element. It’s different because it has more neutrons, one of the parcticles that make up the atoms of the element, but different isotopes otherwise behave the same way chemically. During the cruise, he will collect water samples from various stations (where the ship will stop for several hours while scientists collect samples) in order to analyze it for these isotopes. The ratio of the isotopes varies in relation to the salinity (the concentration of salt) in the water. For example, sea ice adds salt to the water underneath it, so that water would be more saline. (When salt water freezes, it takes up only a tiny amount of the salt in the water and, as a result, is only about 1/10th as salty as sea water.) By knowing the concentrations of the oxygen isotopes, Dr. Cooper can trace where the water came from; in other words, he can get a “history” of that water. Each of the 14 different projects that are a part of the cruise will contribute data to the overall “big picture.”
After breakfast, the order of the day for the rest of the morning was hurry up and wait. Any large operation such as this is logistically complicated. Most of the scientists got up early hoping for an early departure to the Healy. It actually took most of the morning to transport personal gear and personnel to the small boat dock and from there by launch to the Healy. Although it seems that there is an abundance of gear in the picture of the dock below, what you see is only personal gear and clothing. The vast amount of scientific equipment necessary to run the experiments on board was shipped months in advance. The two huge holds beneath the science lab were packed ceiling high with crates, boxes and other containers. Once people were assigned to their rooms to drop off personal gear, everyone spent the remainder of the day unpacking and setting up their own lab stations. As you might imagine, space is at a premium, and trying to fit all the needed equipment into such a limited area is a great exercise in organization.
Once in place, all equipment must be secured to prevent shifting (or even falling off the lab table) once the ship is in motion. Microscopes, drying ovens, filtering set-ups, centrifuges, and furnaces are just a few of the valuable pieces of equipment that must be transported, set up, and secured. Science at sea is not an easy venture!
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