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Dispatch 5: Ice and a Polar Bear in One Day!

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Mengnan Zhao

September 22, 2015

We had been sailing for three days, and except for the chilly winds to remind me where I was, we hadn’t had the chance to experience two unique traits of the Arctic – ice and polar bears. We were lucky to see both of them today!

As I wrote in yesterday’s dispatch, this is a relatively low ice year. The National Snow and Ice Data Center ( declared that on September 11, ice extent reached its minimum for the year, the 4th lowest in the satellite record. Now the first-year ice is beginning to form in open water areas. When I went out on the deck to enjoy the beautiful sunrise this morning, I was excited to see a thin layer of ice on the water surface. We were heading to the northeast with a higher concentration of multi-year ice this year, so I was expecting my first view of thicker floes at any time. We soon arrived in a region with fragmented thicker ice. The floes moved with winds and ocean currents, cracking and merging, forming different shapes and surfaces. As our winchman Bernard Noseworthy said, he would never get tired of the views in the Arctic Ocean.

During the science meeting, the broadcast over the Louis announced the spotting of our first polar bear! Seemingly more rapid than in the emergency drill, we all grabbed our cameras and fled to the side of the ship. This polar bear was staying on one small ice chunk at some distance, and seemed to be sniffing for food. At one point he even stood up looking in our direction.

Today ended on a busy schedule – we completed two CTD/rosette stations and sampling. I was happy to gradually become familiar with the operations and our measurements went smoothly. There were also exciting properties in the upper 50 m with temperature “warm spikes” coinciding with high Chlorophyll concentration. Chief scientist Bill Williams and Sarah Zimmermann were excited and thought it might indicate intrusions from the shelf regions to the interior basin.

Last updated: October 7, 2019

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