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Dispatch 9: A Fairly Normal Day

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Joey Wenig

September 29, 2014

First, an addendum to yesterday’s dispatch. I forgot to mention the ceremony that took place yesterday evening in the front lounge, where Captain Marc Rothwell bestowed certificates of achievement on all us Arctic Greenhorns. Apparently these certificates are important, like passports to the Beaufort Sea: if and when we return, we were told to make sure we bring the certificate to prove our experienced status and avoid repeating the trials and tribulations (e.g., participating in a talent show) that we have just survived. This will be difficult for me, as I’ve already made plans to frame my certificate and give it a place of honor on my bedroom wall.

On the science front, today was, like yesterday, uneventful. We’re back in the ice and heading north, with BGOS-A (where a mooring recovery/redeployment will take place) as our ultimate destination, but also stopping at a couple of stations along the way for CTD/rosette casts.

Most of the observational action happens when we’re ‘on station’ and not moving, but there is still stuff going on while we’re en route from station to station. For example, Seita Hoshino and Yasuhiro Tanaka, both from the Kitami Institute of Technology in Hokkaido, along with Alek Petty and Sam Thomas (mentioned in an earlier dispatch), have been doing XCTD casts while the ship is underway. Data obtained this way is useful in filling gaps between official stations. Now, if you’re like me, then you might feel disappointed when I tell you that the ‘X’ in XCTD refers to the expendability of the instruments, and not to the epic danger of using them. Yes, unfortunately, they’re fairly simple to deploy. From the stern deck of the ship, the XCTD is fired, like a really slow bullet attached to a string, out of a cylinder that plugs into a pistol-shaped release unit. It plops into the wake and begins to spool out on a copper wire that connects the data sensors on the instrument to a computer onboard ship. The XCTD sends a probe vertically down into the water to a predetermined maximum depth, measuring salinity and temperature along the way. The wire tether is fragile and will break if hit by a chunk of ice, but as long as that doesn’t happen, the wire is cut onboard ship as soon as the probe reaches maximum depth, leaving the XCTD, its purpose achieved, behind in the trail of open water and ice rubble created by the Louis.

As I was in my cabin getting ready for bed this evening, it occurred to me that being on one of the lower decks of the Louis while we’re breaking ice is probably similar, in terms of the creaking, groaning, rushing, and roaring sounds and the shuddering, shaking and vibrating of the walls and floor around you, to being in a sturdy hut on a mountainside during an enormous avalanche. I’m getting used to it.

Last updated: October 7, 2019

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