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Dispatch 9: The Sounds of the Ice against the Louis

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Peter Lourie

September 28, 2016

We started breaking some slightly more substantial ice last night moving north to find a good solid place for buoy deployment today.  I fell asleep early while poker started up in the lounge and I woke to the jerk/shaking of the hull with intermittent sounds of scraping somewhere below.  “We weren’t breaking big ice,” Logistics Officer Nathan Whiffen said, “maybe using only two of the Louis’ five motors.”

The stuttering hiss of the ice against of the hull occasionally was punctuated by a full-boat crack to one side like a metal splashing sound.  This might not be like breaking big ice with all five motors shoving the boat back and forth to find a path forward, but the ship shuddered anyway.  No more of that easy womb-like rocking on big open water but rather a nervous kind of shaking.  As if the boat had the DTs.  Difficult to describe really.

I found myself working on trust, trust in a 47-year-old veteran who’s seen plenty of action before and is taking one big nonchalant icebreaker yawn, like she could give a damn about this easy ice.

I just realized the sound I’m hearing is similar to the de-icing nozzle against an airplane fuselage.  But also like a wind undulating over breakers at the seashore.  And also, maybe a deeper and yet more persistent scraping of bushes, or heavy branches even against the sides of your off-road vehicle along a thickly overgrown track.  Okay enough with analogies.  It is what it is.  Unique.  And it’s odd how fast one gets used to it.

Onto Thin Ice

4 AM. No stopping for CTD rosettes last night. There’s one mission alone – keep moving toward better ice, north, and after breakfast, there’s another helicopter recon flight to find solid ice.  In the lounge, Steward Chad Hedderson, looking outside at the broken ice says, “Not much ice anymore.  Less and less.  We have more ice in Newfoundland in the spring than what we have here now.”

9 AM.  Polar bear tracks are spotted, and the helicopter finds ice for buoy deployment.  It’ll be a long day for the buoy crew – Rick Krishfield, Jeff O’Brien, Cory Beatty, Will Ostrom, and Chris Basque.  They plan a “four-hour” buoy launch and then two, two-hour buoys and will probably work until twilight.

A total of fifteen are headed onto the ice now.  Jeff O’Brien reports that two of the recon people, when they got out to scout the location, actually broke through and got their feet into water.  So it’s a life-jacket day.  Everyone will either wear life jackets or floatation suits called Mustangs.

I have to admit I’m a bit nervous.  But when I see the first helicopter take over the initial group of people, I am comforted by the fact that they land in a place that is visible from the flight deck.  It’s not ten miles away.  Heck, we could swim back to the ship if we fall in. Or could we?

I’m in the second shuttle along with two cadets and the other ice observation expert, Seita Hoshino.  After us there will be four or five trips of the helicopter slinging gear onto the ice for buoy deployment.  Then another few shuttles of people to help Alek Petty and Seita with their coring and transects: Arthi Ramachandran, Mathura Mahaan, Jean Mensa, Chris Clark, Adam Monier, and Mike Dempsey.

Work begins immediately once everyone is over and the helicopter returns to the ship. Newfoundlander and Seaman Leo Rose is our bear guard.  Looking out around the perimeter, he stands with rifle resting on his forearm, and says he’s a moose hunter.  One cadet is spray-painting orange lines in the snow for people to avoid the cracks in the ice.  In the next four or five hours a number of boots and even legs to mid thigh go through the snow into the water.  It’s not that cold to begin with but after four hours of filming, mostly with bare hands, I get a bit chilled.  I have more layers in a bag I’ve brought, but I’m too lazy to put them on.  I return before the buoy guys have finished their work.  Except for the core buoy group, the rest of us head to supper.  Not sure about the others, but I’m asleep by 8.

To learn more about Peter Lourie click here.

Last updated: October 7, 2019

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