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Dispatch 2: The Unpacking Continues

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Joey Wenig

September 22, 2014

Canadian Vickers Ltd built the C. C. G. S. Louis S. St-Laurent, or the Louis, in 1969. Although she is now used primarily as a platform for Arctic research, this was not always the case. For many years, the Louis patrolled waters in the Arctic Ocean and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, maintaining the shipping lanes there. The biggest of all the Canadian icebreakers at 119.63 meters, she’s had an illustrious career.  On her first voyage, she accompanied the first tanker to ever take the Northwest Passage. More recently, along with a U.S. coast guard icebreaker (the imaginatively named U.S.C.G.C. Polar Sea), the Louis was the first surface vessel to traverse the Arctic Ocean (going from the Atlantic to the Pacific) via the North Pole. This was in 1994, and the Institute of Ocean Science’s Eddy Carmack was the Canadian Science Coordinator on board at the time.  The Louis is also somewhat of a pop culture icon. Not only did she have a part in Hollywood blockbuster The Titanic alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, but also the popular CBC news show The National was broadcast nightly from her hallowed decks in 2006 for a full week. All in all, she’s quite the ship.

After breakfast on this, our second day aboard the Louis, Captain Marc Rothwell asked the science crew to convene in the Forward Lounge for a speech and to be introduced to some of the ship’s crew. Among others, we met Chief Officer Rodney Strowbridge, Chief Engineer Danny Parmiter, and Chief Cook Blair Walsh, who will be organizing a series of tournaments in various pursuits aboard ship, from ping-pong to cribbage. Chief Scientist Bill Williams held the first science meeting of the trip directly afterward (these meetings will be held daily from here on out).

We arrived in Kugluktuk (formerly Coppermine), our original point of departure, sometime last night. One of the ship’s helicopters had an errand to run in Kug, and today we got going just after noon, continuing west towards the Beaufort. We will reach our first ‘station’—a predetermined location at which lots of scientific measurement and data collection happens—at some point in the morning tomorrow, so the day was filled with activity in preparation. When we arrive at the station, we’ll be doing a rosette cast.  This involves sending a bundle of instruments and Niskin bottles (for sampling seawater) just about to the ocean floor, and then hauling it all the way back up. There are a lot of things that can go wrong over the course of a cast, like, for example, if the electric cable connecting the bundle, or ‘rosette’, to the ship starts to collect ice as it spools on the block. But with all the experience on board, and after going over the procedure in detail today, I’m confident that we’ll pull it off. And, with about fifty more such casts over the course of the cruise, we’ve got plenty of practice ahead.

Today wrapped up with a 'meet and greet' in the front lounge, catered by the cook staff. I made the most of the fresh fruit plate, figuring that kind of thing won't be around for long.

Originally published: September 22, 2014

Last updated: October 7, 2019

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