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Dispatch 18: Collaboration: IT Aboard & Instruments Returned to the Sea

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Peter Lourie

October 8, 2016

Edmand Fok from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in British Columbia is the IT professional aboard with many roles to help scientists succeed in data collection.  He has been on the majority of the JOIS trips to the Beaufort.  His job is to make sure all of the computers are working and are linked to the main server.  The many sensors from the different instruments that various scientists are using for their data collection are attached to different computers around the ship.  Edmand’s job is to collect and feed all that data to the main server that then can be accessed by everyone.  It makes it easier, Edmand says, when the information is amassed on a single server and each scientist can walk away with all the data on a USB flash drive when they leave the ship.

Edmand loves being on an icebreaker and has the time and will to be out here a month a year.  Not too many people can afford to take four weeks to go to the Arctic, so Edmand is the man for the job. He loves the way the icebreaker makes random patterns of broken ice as it plows its passage forward.  “You never know how the cracks will go. I love the patterns,” he says.  Although we’re seeing less and less ice, he intends to keep on coming on these journeys to help with the science.  It’s valuable work.

Once he sets up the computers, usually things run smoothly, though it can be quite stressful without the Internet and other resources out here when he has to solve problems.  Recently the depth sounder malfunctioned probably because different scientists use it in different situations, and connections aren’t always made when the device is reattached.  Software can also be a problem.  A few years ago the whole server suddenly didn’t work.  There was no spare hard disk onboard.  So he opened up the server and found that the battery connection on the disk controller had bent and expanded and was cut, so he took the battery out, did some repairs, and put it back in.  The server started right up, and that felt darn good to accomplish this way up here in the Arctic without all the fancy stuff he has at home.

When the computers and server are running well, he also helps the scientists with the rosette casts.  He works out in the control room with the computers that trip the bottles at the right depths. On his shift (the Day crew) when he walks into the hut, he first starts up the computer and makes sure the software is talking to the rosette.  He turns the pump on and watches the computer screen very carefully as the rosette descends to the bottom of the sea in order to trip the bottles only when the salinity content is just right. This requires concentration on the computer screen.

Edmand also helps with sampling when the bottles are full after a cast, then goes into the lab to work on chlorophyll filtration for later analysis back at the lab in British Columbia.

I find it heartening that after 18 days at sea, people like Edmand are still delighted to be aboard and doing this important work.

Instruments Going Down

Yesterday we redeployed mooring #2 (one more to go) with Michiyo’s bottles emptied and cleansed, and with an added instrument of Cory’s from the University of Montana. The sun was out and the sea calm, not a piece of ice in sight.  The heavy grey cloudbanks to the west looked like land with a few squalls shaping up here and there. I asked Leo who, before joining the Canadian Coast Guard, fished most of his life both on Newfoundland and even down in the states for 13 years, if he ever had seen the sun up here at this time of year and he said no. 

But to me the sun felt like a blessing for Michiyo’s and Cory’s instruments that would stay down for another year until next season’s JOIS cruise.  Michiyo waved goodbye tentatively hoping to see her baby RAS again.  The water samples from yesterday won’t be fully analyzed until she is back in Tokyo.  One interesting thing she found out so far, and reported in today’s science meeting before lunch, is that the chlorophyll levels seem to have spiked in March.

To learn more about Peter Lourie click here.

Last updated: October 7, 2019

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