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Dispatch 10: Zooplankton and a Polar Bear Family

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Mengnan Zhao

September 27, 2015

After waking today, the first thing I did was check the weather conditions – I really couldn’t wait to get onto the ice and we were already at the northernmost stations of our original cruise plan. The seas are almost fully ice covered now. Rick, with his rich experience on ice, was out in the helicopter after breakfast to identify an ice floe sufficiently large and strong to support our thousands of pounds of equipment. Before noon, we were all waiting in the helicopter hangar ready to board.

During our wait, a rosette deployment was taking place and net tows were being done suspended by a winch to 100 and 500 meters depth in the water to collect biological samples for the identification of zooplankton species and DNA analysis. Hugh Maclean (IOS) is responsible for the preservation of these Arctic zooplankton before they are wrapped up for storage to be sent back home. Water samples are rinsed, filtered and preserved in alcohol to break down the pigment for DNA analysis and formalin for species studies. Most of the critters were beautifully transparent like tiny jellyfish, but some pink animals immediately caught my eye and Hugh explained that they were copepods, the major food source of nearly every Arctic organism. I was happy to be able to see one of these creatures that I had just learned about from Deo two days ago.

We were still standing by to fly after lunch as the first ice floe turned out to be not thick enough for our work. Then, the snow began to fall. This impaired visibility for the identification of a more suitable ice floe. The anxious waiting time turned fun when we spotted 3 polar bears on the port side! One big bear was leading two little ones playing around, enjoying their family party time in the falling snow. 

With unsatisfactory ice and weather conditions, we had to again cancel today’s ice station. Rosette stations were continuing, and the original plan was modified since we were heading north in search of good ice. I have high hopes that tomorrow will be a busy day working on thick ice floes.

Last updated: October 7, 2019

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