20 July, 2002
My day started with the station at midnight. Because I need to help collect water from the service cast right at the beginning and I am collecting mud at the end, I was there for the entire time. Since this was a short station, we were done by 4:30 AM. The 24 hour daylight makes it easier to work, but it is difficult to keep track of time and, since we do stations at odd hours, it is even tough to remember what day it is! Our sampling procedure was basically the same as the previous station. If you think about it, itís easy to see why the mud sampling is at the end of the station. All those people taking measurements in the water donít want it filled with our mud. One thing made this station even more interesting; we saw ice for the first time. In the morning, it was in large chunks floating by in the distance. By evening the ship was hitting ice regularly and we could feel the vibrations.
I am so lucky to be a part of this major project called the Shelf-Basin Initiative (for a description, see my part of the TEA web page). Not only do I get to work with one parcticular project, I get to see all the other work going on around me. Itís a wonderful opportunity for me to brush up on my science in areas other than biology. Although each project has its own specific goals, each one contributes to the overall goals of the SBI project. Today Iím going to tell you about Cindy Mooreís work.
Cindy is a chemist who works with Dennis Hansell from the University of Miami. Each time I go out to collect water for oxygen-18 analysis, Cindy collects water right behind me. (Remember that there is a specific order we have to follow so everyone gets the water they need at the right time.) She wants to know the balance of inorganic (from non-living sources) and organic (from living things) nitrogen in the water. Nitrogen is an important part of the food chain (who eats what) and her water analysis will allow her to understand the chemistry of the water and the environment the animals are living in. After she filters the water she ďburnsĒ it (oxidizes it) by shooting the water into a 900 degree Celsius furnace to change it to a form that her instrument can detect. Although she has been collecting samples and working right from the beginning, her detector is not yet functioning. She had problems setting it up, and it seems to stop working at the same point in each experiment. While she continues to try to fix the problem, she is freezing her samples to preserve in case she needs to analyze them once she is back at the University of Miami. If she has to do all the samples at home, she will have to work an additional month to get them done. Sheís really hoping to finish them while we are on board! When you are out in the ocean, it is tough to get spare parts or someone to repair equipment that doesnít work!
Saturday is morale day on the Healy. The crew is on board for long periods of time with very little time to themselves. For example, the ship left its home port in Seattle, Washington on April 27th, and they wonít return to Seattle until mid October. Thatís why things like a pudding eating contest (who could come closest to finishing a 7 pound can of pudding in 15 minutes) and a barbeque on the helicopter deck are a great way to break the routine for these hard working men and women. Our evening station, the first in Barrow Canyon, was postponed until after dinner, so we were all able to enjoy the on deck barbeque!
Some people on board saw walruses swimming by this morning, but I was wrapping up the work for our station and I missed them. This afternoon, however, someone spotted a polar bear finishing a seal meal on a small ice flow near the ship. Needless to say it ran off, jumped into the water, and swam away. I got there in time to see it swim off. I was much luckier later in the day. When a polar bear is spotted, it is announced over the shipís intercom. We heard the announcement that a polar bear was on the starboard side near the bow. We all watched as the bear ran across the ice, periodically looking over to check us out! He/she provided entertainment for well over half an hour.
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