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Dispatch 20: The Night Watch & Shallower Casts Over the Shelf

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Peter Lourie

October 10, 2016

My sleeping hours have gotten all turned around during this cruise, so I often wake early and go to the mess hall for a snack and there the Night Watch can be found laughing and chowing down on last night’s leftovers, onion rings and home fries. In the middle of every night, seven days a week, four of the science crew roam a nearly empty ship.

Steve Page says, “On the JOIS expedition, science operations run around the clock. Some tasks such as mooring and buoy deployment can only be accomplished during daylight hours, while much of the scientific sampling can happen at any time of day.  The science crew responsible for the biological and chemical oceanographic sampling operate on two twelve-hour shifts: noon to midnight and midnight to noon.  Along with leader and JOIS-cruise veteran Mike Dempsey, Mathura Mahaan, Jean Mensa, and I are on what we affectionately call the Night Watch. The first few shifts were the hardest, as your body and mind adjust to the nocturnal lifestyle and new time zone (I came from Pacific time; we started the cruise on Eastern time and have since changed four hours to Alaskan time).”

Jean says: “Early on, the nights were like a space odyssey: everything seemed to be running on automatic and outside it was freezing! It felt like some people were being stored somewhere cryogenetically, like Hans Solo.”

Steve: “First few days were really hard because your body wants to go to bed. But once you get past that, it gets easier.  For long hours we don’t see anyone and we miss a lot of social activities.”

Mathura: “You go to bed when it’s light and you wake when it’s dark.”

When they’re done with their shift at noon, others are awake and active, and the Night Watch often gets a burst of new energy.  “The other cool thing,” says Steve, “is at night you get a light show.”  He loves the powerful Louis spotlight beaming on the ice when they make their casts.

What strikes me about the Night Watch is they seem to have formed a great team; they often stick together during the morning hours, and laugh a ton.

Shallow Casts

The weather has kicked up and we’re rolling a lot more than at any previous time on the trip.  Mike who has decades of experience working in the Arctic reminds us to be careful with all outside doors, and make sure they are latched in heavy seas. If not, they can swing open suddenly and do some serious damage.

We’re now heading down a longitude line leading toward the Barrow, Alaska area along the shelf and the rosette casts are more frequent and much shallower. With all the runoff from the land, the water over the shelf has a different chemical and biological content.  Collecting data here makes these casts important markers for what is happening in the Beaufort Gyre.

In a few days the WHOI team will recover and redeploy their last of three moorings, after which we’ll move to the shallower shelf area off the Mackenzie River where there will be another set of continuous shallow rosette casts and water sampling. After the Mackenzie, we’ll steam toward Kugluktuk and our last night aboard will be the 17th, a week from today.

To learn more about Peter Lourie click here.

Last updated: October 7, 2019

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