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23 August, 2004

A visit from the Swedish Air Force

Drilling was suspended early this morning due to hazardous ice conditions. The ship is doing a lot of "heeling", rocking side to side to free the ice. It is also doing some stopping and starting as well; this is so the ship can "crash" into some ice then back up to attack it again. At the same time it is releasing water from outlets on the bow to lubricate its way through the ice. This makes for a rough ride right now.

There is still a lot happening aboard the Oden even as we wait for the drilling to resume. There are sediment and water samples in the Main Lab to process and analyze. There is also a lot of discussion among the scientists as to what their observations actually mean. As the individual micropaleontologists identify their parcticular microfossils in the sediments, they use certain "index species" to date the sediment sample. Some species come onto the evolutionary scene at a parcticular point in time, or become extinct at a parcticular time. This information allows the scientists to assign a geological age to the sediments. It is not as simple as I have stated it, there are conflicting ideas and past research papers to consult. The collaboration and discussion among the scientists is wonderful to observe. The information they are working with here on the Oden has never been available to scientists before and so there is still a lot of "we really don't know" going on here. It is refreshing to me to see this kind of exploratory research first hand. I want my students to understand this idea that there is still a lot of scientific frontier yet to be discovered and that there is a place for them as "future scientists" in this world of discovery. One of my goals is to introduce these ACEX scientists that I am meeting on this cruise, and their research, to my students in some manner.

The scientific discussion continues later in the day in a "Science Meeting" in the Conference Room where the individual scientists get a chance to explain what they have found in a slightly more formal way. Maybe "formal" is not the word, because it is a very relaxed and casual-looking group sitting around the conference table, getting up to write on the board to illustrate their ideas. I cannot write my notes fast enough to keep up so I give up that idea and just sit and take it in. The meeting is cut short because we hear that drilling might resume soon and the next shift must get ready.

The rest of us grab our cameras and get ready for an event we've been waiting several days for. A Swedish Air Force Hercules C-130 is coming to pay us a visit. It is coming to deliver some spare drilling parts as well as some grocery supplies and newspapers - word from the world outside the Arctic! The jet is traveling here from Sweden by way of a base in Greenland; it will fly north over the North Pole and then back down to where we are. Mostly we just want to take pictures of it. People are out on the decks of all 3 ships waiting with cameras of all sizes and types - we are a sight to see, I'm sure. The Hercules flies right by us!! Those few who came out without cameras were lucky enough to see the folks in the plane wave to us. The rest of us were too busy snapping away to actually experience the moment. After going out and around, it flies back towards us again nearer the Soyuz and then flies a bit away to drop its cargo on the ice. Later the helicopters will go and pick it up. One last exciting fly-by right between the Oden and Vidar Viking and its gone! Now to see who got some great pictures.

Waiting on the helideck for the Swedish Air Force C-130

Waiting for a photo-op of the C-130

The C-130 making its fly-by approach (photo by Dave McInroy)

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