8 August, 2001
Kites and Balloons
Wednesday, 8 August 2001
Where Are We Now?
Our first sunny morning! What a beautiful day in the Arctic. Very little wind made it wonderful to be outside, working or not. Today, the Atmospheric Chemistry group had lot's of volunteers from other groups to be bear guards since everybody wanted to get off the ship but they aren't allowed to just walk around and visit the different ice camps without a reason (Where were they yesterday when it was foggy and cold?). Our coordinates at 10 this morning were 88o34' N/4o19' E and at 10 pm they were pretty much the same, 88o33' N/4o17' E, so we drifted a little bit south and a little bit west. Ah, ice is so fickle.
Life on Board
It was such a beautiful day, and I didn't have any duties after lunch, so I decided to go skiing for an hour for some exercise. The captain and many others had been out already this morning. The ship has some cross-country skis and boots to borrow but I had brought my own mountaineering skis and boots so I checked out a gun and radio and headed out. The snowmobiles have made tracks and paths to follow all around our ice floe and the bridge keeps constant tabs on everyone and lookouts so I didn't feel nervous at any time. What a great experience! You feel almost alone while swooshing through a wintry landscape of fantastic ice sculptures in various shades of blue and white and brilliant turquoise ponds of melt water. I didn't take my camera because I wanted a workout, but regretted my decision later. Hopefully, we will have another sunny day. I did come across the paw prints of our visitors from yesterday, bigger than my head with claw marks dragged between steps, meandering off into the white jumble of ice.
Our onboard doctor, Krister Ekblad, gave a very informative and useful lecture on hypothermia in the mess hall at 8 pm. Hypothermia is a shutdown of body functions under cold conditions that may result in death. He also showed some interesting pictures of frostbite cases (Right after dinner. Thanks). We learned that most deaths from hypothermia occur under fairly ordinary circumstances, instead of unusual situations like climbing Mt. Everest. We also learned how to slowly warm up a person in the field who shows signs of hypothermia in order to increase their chance of survival.
Scientists at Work
Air Jensen. The Dragon. Michael Jensen from Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), Boulder, Colorado, is an expert in the air. He attaches an instrument package to either a kite line (if the wind is good) or to a balloon cable (if the wind is not so good). The Swedish word for both kite and dragon is "drake" (pronounced dra'ka), so I always hear this word when the kite is flying, hence the code name Dragon. I don't know what the Swedish word for balloon is, but I am pretty sure it wouldn't be as cool for a code name.
The attached instrument package measures temperature, air pressure, humidity, and wind direction and velocity as it rises up through the atmosphere. In addition, the balloon carries another instrument to measure parcticles in the air. It counts how many parcticles there are and their sizes, from 20 nanometers up to 1 micrometer. Using all of these pieces of information, Mike can put together a vertical profile of the atmosphere up to about 2 kilometers above the ice. The other scientists who are measuring specific chemicals in the air can then use this information to try to understand where these chemicals come from, how they are moved through the atmosphere, and where they will end up.
The balloon is amazing. Filled with helium, it is 25 feet long. They inflated it on the helideck from gas tanks then walked it out to the huts on the ice, where a motorized winch reels out the cable (It looked pretty amusing seeing them walk out from the ship, holding a rope with that big balloon on the other end). Data is logged into a data acquisition program in each instrument, then downloaded to a computer in the hut. He reels it out to the desired height then reels in, collecting data the entire time. Each flight takes about an hour, depending on height and length of time he leaves it up. Maybe he will let me fly the kite one of these days.
Go fly a kite!
From Deck 4 on the Icebreaker Oden, drifting in the ice, north of 88, Dena Rosenberger
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