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Dispatch 10: Busy Engine Room Below, Science Reports & Continued Water Sampling Above

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Peter Lourie

September 29, 2016

O man, o man, today Chief Engineer, Danny Parmiter showed me the engine room.  We put on ear protectors and went below the water line to a world filled with machines, engines, desalinators, computers and computer screens, a noisy child’s dream of pipes and metal, all the spaces amazingly clean and tidy for a 47-year-old ship.  Danny showed me the Louis’ combination of new technology and old.  Many of the original parts of the Louis still operate and are in great condition.  I got it on video, and it’ll be fun to link the edited video to this page after I get home.  I’ll store all the finished videos on my account at Vimeo and link them to these dispatches, so when you hit a link here, you’ll see the tour Danny gave me.  Stay tuned on that!!

One thing that struck me was the colored lights on the ceilings in most of the rooms so that when one is flashing, an oiler or engineer will know someone is trying to contact him.  It’s far too noisy to hear the intercom.  Danny also showed me how there are ways to steer the ship from the engine room if the Bridge loses control of the ship.  There are back-up systems to every operation, and back-up systems to back-up systems, and these are tested in regular drills.  Danny said he enjoys giving tours like this because it gets him down here.  Which he loves.  Often as Chief he’s not in the engine room like he used to be when he was working up the ranks. 

Studying Water Samples

Michiyo Yamamoto-Kawai, an oceanographer at TUMSAT (Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology) in Japan, who formerlyworked at the Institute of Ocean Sciences, IOS, with the British Columbia team, is studying acidification in the Arctic Ocean.  She studies water samples taken from the rosette to determine where the fresh water in the Beaufort is coming from, from rivers or from melting sea ice.  She says every river has different characteristics in chemistry and her analysis is detailed enough to determine what river a particular sample is from!! Just think of that! This little vial of water came from the Mackenzie River or that one came from one of the hundreds of rivers feeding the Arctic in Siberia, all based on its levels of alkalinity or acidification.  I find it amazing how this data coming from 14 years of work conducted by the Beaufort Gyre Project can tell us so much detail.  Michiyo is working with two graduate students (Mika Hasegawa and Zhabng Yuyanxin) in a tiny lab just around the corner from Marty’s lab (analyzing Dissolved Inorganic Carbon or DIC) and the Nurse’s station (where Amelie Francoeur has interviewed us all privately to make sure she has an up-to-date profile on our medical history).

Sometimes moving through ice on the Louis feels like hitting multiple air pockets in a descending jet.  It’s a kind of prolonged yet muffled rattling of the whole body.  Why do I keep trying to describe the motion?  Perhaps because it’s like nothing I’ve felt before, but also because I still can’t believe we’re here in the middle of an icy ocean.  And we’re moving at quite a clip through it all.  Seems impossible!


In the science meeting today, Sarah reported that the buoy crew is happy they were able to deploy all three buoys in record time, and tests show they seem to be working fine.  Alek and Seita got eight cores though it wasn’t the best of conditions for spreading out in a wider area for proper transects.  To do a transect, one paces out ten meters, then drills a hole, drops a wire down with a toggle at the end that opens up and pulls it taught in order to measure the thickness of the ice. With a little flick, the toggle closes up and is pulled up for the next drilled hole ten meters away. Yesterday they also measured the snow depth with a meter ruler (and found half a meter in places), then measured the freeboard, the height of the ice above sea level.

For safety he and others had to stay within a pretty small area, so the bad ice made for much more cramped operations than Alek is used to.  There were no football games or goofing around yesterday.

Ice images show that the ice we had yesterday might be the best ice on the whole trip, that there possibly will not be another ice station at all.  Which is disheartening, especially to those who want to get out on ice on this trip but haven’t had a chance yet.  Without ice some of the buoys might have to be launched in open water.  Sarah says that on the 150 longitude line at 80 degrees North we might find some good ice, so we’re headed there after recovery of a buoy tomorrow.  With any luck there’ll be an ice station possibly in two days.  Then a mooring recovery.

Sarah reports that the CTD data is coming in nicely.  I look forward to filming the whole process of these many, ongoing casts – from the time the Louis comes to a standstill and the rosette comes out of its shack and gets lowered into the water, to when it comes up 90 minutes or so later, taking water samples along the way.  Also I want to see Steve Page in the control room and Mark Belton in his nearby lab analyzing oxygen in the water.  Stay tuned.  (I hear we’ll be dropping the rosette to just above the sea floor, 3773 meters down!! Which is the deepest yet.  That’s 2.34 miles.)

Imagine that! Yesterday we were standing on 19 inches of not exactly solid ice, over 2.3 miles of water below us!!

But before we can head north, today we’re heading sixty miles south through the night to recover a buoy tomorrow.  We’ll do a rosette cast in the morning then in the afternoon find the ITP and bring it onboard.

What’s an ITP buoy?  From the Methods section of this website:

Ice-Tethered Profiler (ITP)

The Ice-Tethered Profiler (ITP) consists of a small yellow surface capsule, an 800 meter line, a specially modified moored profiler, and small anchor. The profiler has been modified so that it can fit through a 10" hole that is cut into an ice floe using an auger. The moored profiler makes daily measurements of the water pressure, temperature, and salinity and downloads these measurements (as well as its GPS location) to a controller inside the yellow float. The controller then uses a modem and satellite phone connection to send the data back to computers at WHOI. The ITP has enough battery power to last for three years in the ice, provided that its host floe remains intact.

Murder game planned for Sunday, need to sign in at canteen.  Murder?  Yikes!

To learn more about Peter Lourie click here.

Last updated: October 7, 2019

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