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Dispatch 6: Drifters, Icebreakers, and Nets

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Peter Lourie

September 25, 2016

Drop drop drop….”  Says Adam and also David.  Which means one person on each side of the ship is dropping one of Jean Mensa’s drifters at the exact same time with evenly timed intervals in between.

Around 9:45 PM, Arthi, David, Adam, Sarah, Alek, and Chris have gathered to record and film Jean’s drift experiment.  He calls these drifters “donuts” with wings (made of biodegradable material).  They are dropped at exact intervals from each side of the stern of the ship which is cruising at 4.4 knots, Jean on the starboard and Chris on the port.  Adam, then David, take turns timing on their wrist watches the intervals between drops.  When it’s time to put them overboard, one of them calls out, “Drop drop drop.”  And after all the drifters with GPS units in them are dropped into the ocean, laughter explodes from the group when Jean says no one here is going to be cited as an author on his paper. Not for just saying “drop drop drop.”  There’s a distinct celebratory mood after it is all done and I can tell that many of this group of scientists are bonding.  A success.  Now Jean will track these donuts from satellites that can read the GPS units inside the center of the donut.

Jean’s drifters measure position and time and from this information he hopes to construct the trajectory of the drifters in order to study upper ocean dispersion.

Desperately seeking Ice. I still can’t believe we’re actually on an icebreaker.  I mean can such a thing really exist?  As we steam north in pursuit, I wonder if this boat can really “break ice.”  And if the ice is getting thinner and thinner and less of it every year, why are some countries like Russia building even more icebreakers. The Arktika, launched this year, is twice the size of the Louis, so two football fields as well as being nuclear powered and over a billion dollars to construct. Russia now has seven icebreakers and two in the works.

I can fully understand how a two-football-field-sized boat breaks ice, but how can a single football-field boat accomplish this feat.  And what thickness of ice will stop the Louis dead in its tracks?  Can any ice stop the Arktika?  Lots of questions for the officers on the bridge I’ll ask soon. 

Marine zooplankton

Kelly Young who studies marine zooplankton is helping to identify the community and life cycle of these tiny creatures.  Now that we’re heading into winter, there seem to be fewer in the nets than perhaps she’d get in the warmer months at a more productive season.

To learn more about Peter Lourie click here.

Last updated: October 7, 2019

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