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13 August, 2004

Ice, ice and more ice!

It is hard to believe we were taking photos of small ice floes a couple of days ago. Now we are in much thicker ice and the icebreakers are hard at work. The Sovetskiy leads the way, breaking the heavier ice and we follow behind on the Oden, following in the path of the Russian ship except where blocks of ice must be broken and crushed further. The Viking trails close behind us. When we have better weather for the helicopters to fly ice reconnaissance there will be some wonderful photos, I'm sure, of the 3 ships in a line. For now we are experiencing the typical Arctic fog. The ice is hardest to break through when we try to cross through an ice pressure ridge; these ridges are formed when wind pushes two ice floes together, actually pushing the ice up into a raised ridge. From a distance some of these pressure ridges look like ice "dunes". At times one of the ships will get slightly stuck and will have to do some maneuvering to break free. The Oden will release powerful jets of water out of the bow and side hulls to lubricate the hull and make it easier to slide past the ice. Other times we rock gently back and forth to release the ship. There are some very weird and eerie noises as we scrape past larger pieces of ice and I try to record these sounds on audio tape. As interesting as they are to listen to in the daytime, they are quite a different thing when you are trying to sleep at night.

I have a lesson in measuring ice thickness from Roger Pilkington of the Ice Management Team on the bridge. There is a rod suspended perpendicular from the side of the ship that is calibrated in 20cm increments. If you look down upon the rod from above, say from the bridge, you can watch as a piece of ice rolls over on its side from the force of icebreaking. By taking a photo of the ice passing under this rod, you can determine its depth. I use this method and determine the ice to be about 2.2 meters thick.

The Weather Team is also operating on the bridge. Lately I am gathering location information (latitude/longitude) as well as weather data each day so that I can use it in lessons when I return to the Narragansett Pier Middle School. Meteorologist Sandy Olsson has shown me how the data is gathered from the various meteorological instruments and then entered onto a log sheet. Today he allows me to fill in the official Oden Weather Log - I am the recording meteorologist for this watch!

I get a call on my official mobile phone from Henk Brinkhuis, a micropaleontologist, asking if I'd like to come down to the main lab to see what's happening. Moving down from the 6th deck to the first, I visit the lab where the microbiologist and micropaleontologists are setting up their lab equipment. The Oden had stopped for a short time, most likely for a helicopter transfer, and some of the scientists scooped up some surface ice to examine for microorganisms. After melting the ice, and sieving it through a 20 micron filter, they are examining the slides under the microscope. How exciting to be looking at diatoms direct from arctic sea ice. I am talking with the Japanese micropaleontologists, who are making prepared slides and I'm hopeful that maybe I can bring back some slides of these ice algae from 870 N.

Sea ice with algae from 87 degrees North

Measuring sea ice from the bridge of the Oden

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