20 March, 2001
Tidbit of History
Today is the first day of spring. The Vernal Equinox is the point at which the apparent path of the sun among the stars (ecliptic) intersects with the equator projected onto the celestial sphere (celestial sphere). The sun is passing from southerly declination to northerly declination, with the North Pole tilting toward the sun, meaning warmer days ahead for us on the Northern Hemisphere. The same event happens in the fall in the opposite direction and is called the Autumnal Equinox.
Last night the sky was crystal clear. I captured the sunset on film. It was truly breathtaking. After the sun went down, the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights could been seen clearly. I was able to see it again this morning. The milky green color was very visible. Before I left home I was hopeful to have this unique opportunity. I also captured the sunrise for comparison. Last night there was little time for sleep due to the fact that there were so many interesting things occurring.
Jim Bartlett, Fish Biologist and Victor Egorov, Ph.D. in Chemical Physics from Russian Academy of Sciences each provided descriptions of the Northern Lights. It has been a nice learning experience for me to get different individuals ideas regarding topics. Jim described the Northern Lights as an excitation of molecules in the earth's ionosphere by the charged parcticles of the solar wind. When the color green is visible, the charged parcticles are giving more energy to the nitrogen atoms. They have to get back to their normal state. When this occurs the green light is released. The same principle holds true for the color red, only oxygen is involved. Victor continued by saying that the solar wind goes from the sun and moves fast in all directions. Part of these parcticles reach the earth. The earth's magnetic field directs them to the poles. The energy of those parcticles is so big that after the collisions with air, molecules of air begin to produce light. The colors are brighter in the Arctic Ocean due to it being further north. The beams are more concentrated near the north and south poles. The impression looks like streams from the top of the sky. I was unable to capture the sky on film and I don't have access to the Internet on the ship. Please connect to the Internet and do a search for Aurora Borealis. Many images should be available for viewing. Once I have access to the Internet, I will include some images on the journal page.
The St. Lawrence Island Polynya Program or S.L.I.P.P. is investigating the steady, long-term decline in the number and weight of the bottom clams and other invertebrates that are used for food by the marine mammals and birds. The van Veen is a sampling device used for measuring these quantitative benthic samples. Five times, the grab is lowered into the ocean for sampling. The first grab is used for surface sediment subsampling. The grain size-subsamples are collected, bagged, and frozen. Two surface sediment samples are collected by syringe, and processed for fluorometric analyses aboard the ship. Another subsample is collected and frozen for land-based analyses. The remaining van Veen sediment collections are sieved for faunal collections. Each sediment sample is placed in a stainless steel screen and sieved using regular seawater. The remaining animals are subsequently preserved in 10% buffered formalin stored in plastic bags, and saved for laboratory analysis.
It is very cold out. Warm clothes are definitely a must. The temperature is 16 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind-chill of minus 3 degrees Fahrenheit. The cold temperatures affected the CTD collection as well as the van Veen grab this morning. For more information about the CTD refer to the March 17 journal. The water froze in several Niskin containers on the CTD immediately upon return to the Baltic room (room where water collection takes place) before we could shut the garage doors. We ran a heater and sprayed the containers down with warm water. That did the trick and we were able to complete our water sampling. The van Veen grab was fun in the freezing cold. The fun thing about the van Veen is the excitement regarding what you might find. Inside the sieve can be clams, brittle stars, worms, and crustaceans. The van Veen seemed to work best today when warm water was continually sprayed on the apparatus and the ropes as it was being lowered into the water. If it froze before hitting the water, the machine mistriggered resulting in no collection.
The deck was very icy today. The ropes on the side of the boat are frozen. We completed two stations today on my shift. This included water sampling using the CTD, sediment collection using the van Veen, and sediment sampling using the HAPS core. For more information about the HAPS core refer to the March 18 journal.
One of the generators went out in the middle of the night. The ship was a little chilly this morning. Holly stationed herself in the Baltic room by the heater. She looked like she was basking on the beach! We have lots of warm clothes and hot beverages so we are staying warm.
I have posted my journal arcticles, newspaper arcticles, and web site information in the passageway outside the wet lab in the hall. This information has been read by many aboard the ship.
I have had the opportunity to work out and enjoy lots of fresh fruits and vegetables available on the serving line. We got our laundry washed and put away yesterday. I checked emails and completed some writing. Getting a few chores completed reminded me of chores at home.
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