16 July, 2003
Let's have Jim Swift do the talking for today:
Chief Scientist's Report #2
R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer SBI Survey Cruise
16 July 2003
James H. Swift
16 July 2003, ca. 1:00 pm Alaska time - from R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer in the Beaufort Sea
We have been busy with the routine business of carrying out a survey at sea. We arrived off Nome two and one half days after leaving Dutch Harbor, and spent much of one day with business regarding the helicopter, which was based in Nome. The pilot did practice landings, and then flew out spare parts. We headed to Bering Strait where we started our science work and picked up Chuck Menadelook, an Alaskan native who lives on Little Diomede island. The weather was below flying minimum so some of Chuck's friends brought him out to the Palmer in a small boat. Chuck is very interested in everything going on and is both having a good time and contributing solidly to our work, having joined the midnight-to-noon watch. We were supposed to set him off at Barrow after five days but it wasn't convenient to do so at the time and thus he is still aboard.
On our trek north we stopped for some stations but generally steamed. On July 12th we started our first section of measurements northeast of Barrow, across the Alaskan continental slope and into the Arctic Ocean interior. Yesterday afternoon we finished our 37th station, completing that section. Our stations were only 3 miles apart for much of the section, which provides a finely detailed, coherent view of the variations across the shelf and continental slope. The preliminary data look to be interesting for the goals of the program.
The three graduate students we have along are very helpful. They picked up on the CTD operations right away and, along with Eric Johnson (the LADCP specialist), do an excellent job of running the stations.
All in the science team are doing well and working well together. There are only the usual little problems with the equipment. Data quality has been excellent. As I thought before the cruise, the station work comes too quickly for the analysts to keep up so we take a few hours off from casts every day. This 'time off' was built into the plan.
We saw evidence of 'spring' biological activity over the edge of the continental shelf, but the deep basin appears to be a biological desert, with very little algae on the underside of the ice, for example. (We get a good view of the underside of the ice as it is turned over during icebreaking.) Ice conditions are much lighter than initially forecast (the forecasts were based on data from years ago). Captain Joe and his officers are having no parcticular problems taking the Palmer through the ice.
We have seen several polar bears, though usually at quite a distance. On the way north we saw many walruses, and we see seals frequently. The marine mammal group has had only one science to date because of fog and icing conditions.
Weather and sea conditions have been calm. The air temperature dropped below zero as we headed northward across the continental shelf slope. The ice cover is loose and mostly rotten first year ice with remnants of small ridges. Life and science on board goes well.
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