Please note: You are viewing the unstyled version of this website. Either your browser does not support CSS (cascading style sheets) or it has been disabled. Skip navigation.

Dispatch 16: Onto the Ice

   Print Change text to small (default) Change text to medium Change text to large

Related Multimedia

October 6 Photos
» View Slideshow

Joey Wenig

October 6, 2014

I actually woke up in time for breakfast this morning for the first time since our first full day on the Louis. (In my defense, my CTD watch ends at midnight and breakfast is served at seven-thirty.) I had a good reason for breaking my civilized routine: today was our first ice station, and I definitely did not want to miss my helicopter flight out onto the ice. 

As it turned out, there would be no flight to miss. A thick fog hanging over the ice was keeping the helicopter in the hangar. We stood by waiting for the fog to lift, drinking coffee, and sweating under thermal layers. Eventually word came down from the bridge that Rick Krishfield, Cory Beatty, Justin Dalley, and Leo Rose had been lowered overboard in the manbasket to investigate the workability of an ice floe we happened to be sitting next to. Normally Rick takes a recon flight first thing in the morning to find a good floe: it has to have enough surface area for all of the different activities to happen concurrently, and it has to be thick—not only because it needs to support all of us, a helicopter, and many thousands of pounds of gear; but also because we want the various buoys deployed on it to stay frozen in for as long as possible. I guess we got lucky today because after drilling a few holes Rick declared the floe workable. Instead of having the helicopter relay all personnel, we would now be able to lower the gangway and stroll off. A mad reshuffling of gear began since most of it could be brought up to the foredeck and lowered down by the crane, only the heaviest gear needing to be slung out by the helicopter. And then it was lunchtime.

Shortly after eating, we finally got the official go-ahead and trooped down onto the ice. (Okay, there was a false start: several of us made it down the gangway before getting called back on after five minutes or so. Apparently we hadn’t followed the established protocol and signed off before disembarking.) Frantic activity began the moment we got off the ship. We all knew that we needed to make up for lost time. People were loosely separated into two groups: half of us were deploying various buoys, while the rest were taking ice and snow measurements or collecting ice cores. We spread out according to our duties and got to work.

There were four buoys going into the ice, like planting seedling acronyms in the snow: one ITP, one Ice Mass Balance Buoy (IMBB), one Ozone Buoy (O-buoy) and one Arctic Ocean Flux Buoy (AOFB). They are referred to collectively as an Ice Based Observatory (IBO). I’ll wait for a later dispatch to talk about the various things being measured by these guys. For now, suffice it to say that they were all installed successfully except for the AOFB, which was unfortunately damaged while being lowered through the ice into the water. The ITP was the last to be set up, with the finishing touches added in near-darkness. (The method for installing the ITP is cool; I’ll get to it in a later dispatch.)

It was a hectic day, but it felt great to be off the ship. The icescape looks a lot different when you’re on it that it does from the decks of the Louis, thirty feet above. The ridges, mounds, and spires are much bigger than I imagined and create real topography—perfect cover for a polar bear sneaking up on us. (Thankfully Justin Dalley from the Louis’ crew was standing watch, armed with a shotgun.) It was around seven thirty when the last of us trooped up the gangway and straight into the galley (which had kindly stayed open long past normal supper time) for a hot dinner. I mean no disrespect to cooks anywhere when I say that there’s nothing like a day spent in the cold and wind to make food taste good. 

Last updated: October 7, 2019

whoi logo

Copyright ©2007 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, All Rights Reserved, Privacy Policy.
Problems or questions about the site, please contact