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11 July, 2001

Liquid Argon

Wednesday, 11 July 2001

Valkommen! (Welcome!)

Life on Board

Every other day at 1600 hours (That is ship time for 4:00 in the afternoon. We use 24-hr clocks because it is difficult to tell if it is day or night otherwise), one of the scientists from the Physical Oceanography group, Johan Soderkvist from Sweden, instructs an aerobics class in the small Rekreationsrum (Recreation Room), which lasts an hour. It is similar to aerobics in the U.S. with music and cardio workout interspersed with sit-ups and push-ups, and he really makes you sweat. Interestingly, there are usually as many men doing the workout as women, and so far, we have had between 4 and 10 people every time. On the days in between aerobics classes, if I have time I try to make use of the treadmill to run a few kilometers or the stationary bike. In the same room, there is also a rowing machine, some weights, and a ping-pong table. If the water is rough, it makes any workout interesting. Our instructor wears a shirt from the Aerobics Instructor school that has "Friskis & Swetis" written on the front. This translates to "Healthy and Sweaty."

Where Are We Now?

We are actually at another Marginal Ice Zone station today and tomorrow at 81o17N/24o53E. Tomorrow afternoon we should be leaving for our next station, which will be an open water station to the northwest of Svalbard.

Scientists at Work

I have a new job! One of the compounds that many of the science groups are very interested in is dimethylsulfide, or DMS, which they can extract from seawater to give them an idea of how many plankton are present in a given area at a given depth. The extraction technique is quite involved and the DMS ends up "trapped" in U-shaped tubes which must be kept very cold until they can be put through another instrument called a Gas Chromatograph (GC). The GC then tells the scientists the amount of DMS in the sample. The U-shaped tubes are stored in a freezer in small thermoses called Dewar flasks filled with liquid argon, which has a temperature of about 185 oC and is normally a gas at earth temperatures. It is kept in a larger Dewar flask which is filled from a tank. Because the liquid argon also has a very low boiling point, the temperature at which it turns into a gas, it is constantly boiling away. So, every three hours, around the clock, the small Dewar flasks must be filled up with the liquid argon. The main group that I work with consists of two other people, Dr. Patricia Matrai and Brian Thompson, both from Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. Brian and I have split up the liquid Argon duties: He fills at 6 and 9 am, and 9 pm and midnight. I fill at noon, 3 and 6 pm, then 3 in the morning. You must remember to fill the argon or else the samples will be ruined so I set two alarms for 3 am, just in case.

Vi ses! (See you later!)

From Deck 4 on the Icebreaker Oden, somewhere north of Spitzbergen, Dena Rosenberger


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