23 August, 2001
Thursday, 23 August 2001
Life off Board
Expedition leaders have arranged a meeting with 2 other ships for social and economic reasons and everyone is totally excited about it, including me. The two ships are the U.S. icebreaker USCGC Healy and the German ice-reinforced research vessel RV Polarstern. They are doing a joint research project called the Arctic Mid Ocean Ridge Expedition, or AMORE, to study the rocks and sediments along the Gakkel Ridge. The economic part of the rendezvous is to sell the Polarstern our extra fuel. They don't actually need the fuel but they want to use it as ballast in their tanks to make the ship more stable. They could use seawater but then they would have to clean the tanks before they could take on more fuel in the future. The social part of this meeting will be an historic event where 3 Arctic ships from 3 different countries came together and had open house with 250 people representing 17 nations in the pack ice above the Arctic Circle. We have already set up a soccer team, a tug-of-war-team, and a volleyball team in anticipation of the event.
We backed up to the Polarstern to transfer fuel and the huge Healy anchored nearby. They have been out about 3 weeks and neither ship had yet anchored to an ice floe or put down their gangway. They have been going back and forth over the Gakkel Ridge collecting geological and geophysical information at this mid-ocean spreading center between two continental plates. They dredge and take core samples to bring up rocks and mud from the ocean floor. These samples are rinsed, sorted, and catalogued. They will be in the Arctic for 2 months. The Polarstern had met with the Oden before in 1991 and in 1996, when they were the first non-nuclear ships to reach the North Pole, so it was sort of a 5 and 10-year reunion.
The reason I was so excited about this rendezvous is because there is an American teacher on the Healy from the same NSF-sponsored program that I am a part of called Teachers Experiencing Antarctica and the Arctic. Michelle Adams and I met last August at the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab in New Hampshire for our orientation. At that time, none of us knew where we would be placed. This was an historic occasion for the TEA program, as well. Two teachers meeting at 85 degrees north. She is awesome and teaches science at Musselman Middle School in Bunker Hill, West Virginia. If you want to know more about what is going on with the AMORE program and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy, look on her website:
As soon as our gangways were down, everybody was on the ice. We walked over and met with the Germans while the Healy was busy maneuvering (What a tall ship!). When their gangway was in place, they came down and we went up. Anyone could walk around anywhere on any of the ships or corral somebody for a tour. It was incredible. What differences between the ships! The Polarstern is very large with wonderful labs and containers inside for rock storage. The Healy is enormous and sits very high in the water. Our type of sampling from the decks of the Oden would not be possible on either of these ships. The Oden sits low in the water to facilitate operations like this.
At about 4 pm, everybody met in Healy's helicopter hangar (yes, they have a large 2-car garage for their helicopters) for a good old-fashioned American-style BBQ. The Americans from the Oden were drooling as we saw people eating barbequed chicken and steak, corn muffins, mac and cheese, baked apples, baked beans, cookies, and pies, and two whole roasted pigs. We also visited their ship shop and purchased microwave popcorn and other goodies. There is a rumor that two large jars of Skippy peanut butter were acquired from the cook through bartering.
The soccer match was interesting with unusual obstacles on the field. The Germans won the day with 2 games won, 0 lost. Oden (the Swedes) came in second with one game won and one lost and the Americans had a record of 0 and 2. For the tug-of-war, the Americans had been recalled to the Healy so the Germans and the Swedes duked it out. I think they were so jealous of our matching parkas that they lost their concentration and ended up losing both tugs.
We all said goodbye in the Arctic light at 10 pm, us heading south and them heading north. It actually felt kind of good to get back on our comfortable and bright Oden, looking towards home. Adjo! (Goodbye in Swedish)
Where Are We Now?
Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate. Yesterday was beautiful and sunny all day. Today, it was cloudy and below freezing with a strong wind. I was awakened this morning by the curtains in my cabin blowing straight in horizontally, and my feet frozen into solid blocks of ice. The actual meeting of the ships took place at 85o North and 15o East, on a large ice floe with many melt ponds and open leads (I think some of our scientists wanted to get samples). Not the best choice for a soccer game and the tug-of-war could have serious consequences. Volleyball would have been a disaster.
Scientists at Play
See photos below
Vi ses! (See you later!)
From Deck 4 on the Icebreaker Oden, at the rendezvous point,
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