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Dispatch 10: The Whirly-Bird

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Fred Marin

September 21, 2019

Location: 79° 31’ N 145° 14’ W

Sea Conditions: 3783m water depth; nearly complete Ice coverage, large leads present.

We need to be flexible in this world of rigid ice.  Today we were unable to make another Ice Tethered Profiler (ITP) deployment as planned. This was due to the slower progress we made steaming between stations as a result of heavy ice conditions.  We really need to be at least 60 nautical miles from our last station, so we have to be patient and wait until tomorrow to make our deployment.

What was the cause to our delay? After the second ice station, our course changed from a northern direction to a western direction, and the going got to be a lot tougher.  Why is that? Looking at the ice from the bridge and decks of the ship gives a great vantage point to view the ice, but it is only one perspective.  From the ship, you can see a few miles depending on the atmospheric conditions, and the radar paints a detailed picture for several miles in radius.   Using a satellite offers a vastly different assessment.  Looking down over a large area, the ice no longer looks like a flat sheet of white with intermittent patches of water and low rising ridges.  It is an intense mosaic of different size ice floes with their fractures running across the sea, bending and turning like the grain of a knotted slice of timber.  When we were heading north, we were following the grain and able to traverse the “leads” longitudinally which drastically minimized our efforts of breaking through the ice.  Once we turned west, we were moving against that grain, and had to break through section after section of heavy sheets, and rafted ice.

I mentioned the term “leads”, and you are probably wondering what that means.  Nautical terms are often old, strange, and proprietary, and nautical terms for ice covered seas are no exception.  “Leads” are simply sections of open water between ice floes.  They can range in size from less than a meter, to many meters, to kilometers in size.  At which point a “lead” simply becomes open water, I do not know.

To take a detailed view of the ice that offers a perspective between what we can see from the bridge and satellite.  The vessels ice observer Guillaume Paradis (CCG) and a group of scientists went up in the helicopter to collect information on the ice floes to assess the spatial coverage, type, and general conditions of the ice.  Stephen Lloyd (CCG) is the helicopter engineer; Peer Klattenhoff (CCG) is the pilot aboard the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent.  The helicopter is a critical piece of equipment to a heavy icebreaker, and is kept in amazingly pristine condition by helicopter engineer, Stephen Lloyd.  One can’t help but feel a sense of pride when watching the helicopter in action. 

Thank you for joining us again today in the Arctic! Stay tuned for our ITP deployment scheduled for tomorrow.

Last updated: September 30, 2019

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