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17 August, 2004

The first samples from ACEX arrive in the lab.

Some preliminary sediment arrived in the main lab of the Oden on deck 1 yesterday, although this was not the first real sediment sample from the seabed that all are waiting for. It was very exciting to see everyone spring into action to take a look at what arrived. The paparazzi crowded around anxious to record the moment with digital cameras, still cameras and video cameras. We all had to be patient while the core sample was carefully measured, officially photographed and the physical attributes noted. Then it was time for the scientists to all get their "little piece of the mud" to examine with the microscope. I can only imagine what the scene will be like when the real thing is brought aboard.

It seems as if we'll have to wait for the official sediments because there have been some mechanical problems with the drilling equipment. I keep reminding myself that it is a very technologically sophisticated operation to drop a drill line down into 1100-1200 km of ocean water and then drill 500 meters into the seafloor. And this extent of drilling has never been attempted or accomplished here in the tough Arctic environment with such thick ice, so we must be patient as the operation proceeds.

Drilling is the main concern on the Vidar Viking while here on Oden ice management is the name of the game. It is critical to the operation that we know exactly what the ice conditions are and even more importantly how they might change in order for safe and effective drilling to take place. Erik and I spend a lot of time talking to the ice team; ice management is such a new concept to me and everyday I learn lots of new things. I find it is a nice time to catch up on ice when I go up to the bridge just before breakfast. Even that early in the morning, lots is happening. Ice recon missions are flown anytime of day or night and with 24 hours of daylight, time often seems an illusion. It is not unusual to see the scientists looking over data from a 4 am ice flight. The helicopter pilots must get used to being called out of bed whenever the cloud cover and fog lifts enough for flying.

We had an unusually quiet night last night as the ship was not doing its usual icebreaking. While they work out the drill problems, Vidar and Oden are just drifting with the ice floes but the Soyuz continues to cruise around in crazy convoluted motions, plowing through the ice. On satellite pictures of the ice situation, the Soyuz's tracks look like a big bowl of spaghetti. To continue with the food comparisons, I was surprised to know that ice chart symbols are actually referred to "egg codes"! The data on ice coverage and ice development is coded and displayed in on the charts in small ovals. Reading ice charts, like in many other science disciplines, is a lot like reading another language. I'm surprised at how quickly I pick up the lingo and can easily join in the conversation. I'll have much to teach the Pier School students about ice when I return. Of course I'd better bring lots of photos because we do not get much sea ice in Narragansett Bay unless it's an unusually cold winter. There have been some very beautiful and artistic photographs taken of the ice by many on the expedition and fortunately most photographers are willing to share their images - so even if my own pictures are mediocre I'll have some wonderful pictures to show. I've included one ice picture here that I took on the ice reconnaissance flight a couple days ago.

Erik, Kathy and Arno Keinonen of the Ice Management Team.

Arctic ice as seen from the helicopter on ice reconnaissance flight.

Everyone is excited about the preliminary sediment samples.

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