Please note: You are viewing the unstyled version of this website. Either your browser does not support CSS (cascading style sheets) or it has been disabled. Skip navigation.

Dispatch 3: Stormy Weather, Stormy Seas

   Print Change text to small (default) Change text to medium Change text to large

Alex Kain

September 19, 2009

Inclement weather and 6-foot swells foiled this morning's plan to deploy a Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth monitor (CTD) and plankton nets. The weather rendered the deck too dangerous for a deployment and presented too high a risk of damaging equipment. Captain McNeill and Chief Scientist Sarah Zimmerman decided to wait for better conditions, as the first CTD deployment is always a learning experience for those who have never before deployed the instrument.

Stormy Sea Dan stormy sea

Stormy seas encumber the Louis.

Environmental chemist Dan Carlson of The University of Alaska-Fairbanks stares at an endless view of white-capped swells.

The weather also changed the conditions of daily life aboard the ship. It's become a rocky ride. Since late last night, the ship has been rolling from back to front and side to side, causing our first case of seasickness.

The ship's pendular movement can be attributed to the external forces of the weather, but also to its architecture. As the Louis moves forward through ice-covered seas, its football-shaped hull slides the ship atop sea ice. The ship's mass then crushes the ice to allow for transit, rather than cutting directly through it. Although the design optimizes the ship's ability to move through polar environments, it makes for wobbly sea travel. Imagine a rugby ball in a bathtub with ice cubes coating the surface. The rugby ball will efxfectively push aside all the ice cubes it encounters, but when an external force like wind or waves interrupts its path, the ball will wobble, rotate, and dip from front to back. Now imagine that rugby ball filled with ant scientists and sailors. Imagine how the movement disrupts their daily ant life and ant walking. We are those ants.

While waiting for the weather to calm, scientists continued to prepare for future deployments, recoveries, and sample collections. Individuals who will be leaving the ship via helicopter to perform field work met with the Louis's helicopter pilot for a safety briefing. Fun fact about the chopper: its antenna transmits a signal so forceful that it can burn human skin.

Kristina Jim Rick ITP

Kristina Brown of the University of British Columbia prepares a reagent to react with ammonium in Arctic seawater. OPA, the reagent's active ingredient, binds to the ammonium and fluoresces. The measured intensity of the fluorescence then indicates the concentration of ammonium in the water. Ammonium is deposited in Beaufort seawater principally through organic matter that decays on the floor of the Canadian continental shelf. By determining the path of ammonium throughout the Beaufort Sea, Kristina and her team are contributing to a larger effort to understand how water moves around the Canadian Basin.

Helicopter pilot Jim explains proper helicopter behavior.

WHOI oceanographer Rick Krishfield installs hardware in the surface buoy of an Ice-Tethered Profiler (ITP). Three ITP units will be deployed on this expedition

After waiting for weather to calm, we deployed instruments a few miles west of our intended site in the Amundsen Gulf, AG-5. Though not exact, the new site will still provide data that will help researchers understand Arctic waters.

ITPs Aframe Niskin

Today Rick and his crew moved two ITPs to the deck. For the next week, the ITPs will transmit a signal to the WHOI labs to verify their functionality before deployment.

An industrial-strength A-frame crane is required to lower CTDs and other equipment into the sea.

The CTD rests within a structure called a rosette. The exterior of the rosette holds 23 Niskin bottles, which open at specified intervals as the rosette descends through the water. Once the samples are obtained, scientists immediately test for concentrations of various dissolved gasses before they vaporize. Other tests determine salinity and metal concentrations. CTD and Niskin bottle data help scientists develop a vertical map of the ocean's properties.

ADCP Rosette Rosette2

Crew members prepare an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) to be lowered into the sea. ADCPs use sound waves to determine current patterns throughout a wide underwater area. Though the ACDP was fully prepared to be deployed, sea conditions proved too rough and the mission was aborted.

Due to wind and a rocking boat, the rosette swung through the air as it was winched back to the ship.

The rosette is quite tall.

Crew members and scientists relaxed at night by discussing the next day's deployments and watching the Texas-Texas Tech football game, presumably the first Longhorns football game ever watched in the Beaufort Sea, yet one of the many firsts to be expected on this expedition.

All text and photos property of Alex Kain.

Last updated: October 7, 2019

whoi logo

Copyright ©2007 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, All Rights Reserved, Privacy Policy.
Problems or questions about the site, please contact