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2012 Dispatches

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1: Welcome aboard
After many miles of travel the science crew for the 2012 Joint Ocean Ice Studies (JOIS) project converged on the little air field in Kugluktuk, Nunavut. Upon arrival we were greeted by beautiful blue skies and warm weather which made the helicopter ride out the ship even more enjoyable.
2: Settling in
Now that all the scientists are aboard the group begins preparations for the work ahead. At the moment the LSL is standing off Kugluktuk giving the new members of the ship’s crew time to get acquainted with their new surroundings. Both groups are taking the opportunity to settle in, organize, and plan for the next five weeks.
3: Underway
The weather is not so good today with the wind exceeding 40 knots, the temperature has fallen more than ten degrees, and it has begun to rain. No more shorts and tee shirts for the group!
4: Smooth sailing
The good weather has returned and we woke today to find that the wind has backed and the seas are calm. We arrived on station this morning and began taking measurements.
5: Life at sea
In many ways, living and working aboard ship is much the same as living and working on land. We get up, have breakfast, go to work, check email, chat with co-workers, go over tasks for the day, maybe have time to hit the gym, watch a movie, read a book, listen to or even play some music, and so on. There are many, many differences, however, when doing these things on a ship.
6: Ice!
We encountered our first small patch of ice last night then went through a bit this morning at about 0400. This is just stray ice and we expect open water for the next day or two. The edge of the ice pack is still quite a bit further north.
7: Busy as bees
We started today with just little patches of ice but now we see more ice than water. The science crew now has a good handle on things and equipment is pretty much all set up and working well. The ship's crew seems to be doing just fine as the experienced members help the newer folks with what to expect. With several days of equipment setup and sampling behind us the ship is quite busy with work now.
8: The CTD
One of the oldest and most reliable ways of measuring ocean dynamics is by sampling the water at different depths. First used by early Trans-Atlantic mariners as a navigation aid, water sampling can tell us much about the ocean. By taking samples at different depths we can see how the water has changed with respect to location, time, and depth.
9: Mooring recovery
The ship arrived on station this morning and began preparations for recovering a mooring that was deployed last year. The water depth here is nearly 4 km and the mooring is designed to sample pretty much the entire water column. The mooring consists of a large anchor (made up of two old train wheels), an acoustically actuated release mechanism, several lengths of wire, floatation, and a full complement of instruments.
10: Mooring work
We arrived on station and ready to go after all the preparations made yesterday. The group started working on the forward deck just after breakfast pulling in the 3800 meter long mooring.
11: The mooring deployment
After the long day of recovering the mooring deployed in the summer of 2011, the crew is now ready to replace it for the following year.
12: The bridge
Navigating a ship the size of the Louis S. St. Laurent takes a team of trained professionals working round the clock and the LSSL is staffed by the best. Nearly 400 feet long and 80 feet at the beam, the LSSL hosts a full array of computer controlled navigation systems to help the officers and crew guide her safely through the waters of the north.
13: A sampling we will go
The ship is headed toward land now en route to Tuktoyaktuk. Along the way the science team works round the clock taking and analyzing samples with the CTD, turbulence measurements with the microstructure profiler, more measurements with the underway CTD, biological samples with the nets, and so on.
14: Land!
After many hours of steaming we have arrived within sight of land near Tuktoyaktuk. Off in the distance we can see several pingos (aka hydrolaccoliths). These are small hills that actually grow as water intrudes, is pushed upward, and freezes. Just before supper Chief Officer Don Whitty and crew set anchor in the waters of the Mackenzie River. Helicopter Pilot Chris Swannell has made a couple of flights to Tuk and beyond for ship's needs.
15: Where's the ice?
Where's the ice? My research project depends upon finding an ice pack that will survive for at least 1-2 years. Our CO2 sensors will be deployed on the Woods Hole Ice Tethered Profilers, or ITPs, which are autonomous drifting measurement systems.
16: There and back again
Several days ago we headed south toward Tuktoyaktuk to pick up parts and supplies. We then skirted the coast toward Prudhoe, Alaska, to retrieve other needed items. As we were heading back north toward our work area to recover another mooring the LSSL was called to assist with a search and rescue mission back at Tuk.
17: Leisure time aboard
It's the weekend! Well aboard that doesn't mean much since we are scheduled to work nearly every day, but this weekend in particular has been pretty slow as far as science is concerned.
18: Sunday dinner
It was a beautiful day near Tuktoyaktuk and I was invited to dinner with Captain McNeill. After a relaxing Sunday enjoying the warm weather and sunshine I met up with our host and my fellow guests for a great dinner.
19: Examining sea ice
Examining sea ice is an important component of the JOIS 2012 cruise. There are two portions to their scientific program: ship based and on ice. So far the team has had little chance to examine sea ice, but hopefully in the next few weeks the concentration of sea ice will be higher and healthier to enable on-ice surveys.
20: Mooring D recovery
With a side trip down to the coast complete, we are steaming now headed north to recover another mooring. This unit is much the same as the first mooring, so recovery and redeployment should be similar. I have been working on the instruments for the deployment scheduled for Wednesday while other members of the science team take the opportunity to perform required equipment maintenance.
21: Mooring D deployment
A beautiful sunrise greeted us this cool morning as we began setting up the deck for our day of work. As part of an on-going monitoring project we will re-deploy a mooring at this location. It's a long day of work but fortunately the weather is in our favor and everyone is in good spirits.
22: Meet our Health Officer
Margaret Lamontagne is the medical officer aboard the LSSL and this morning she gave me a tour of the sick bay on the ship. The LSSL was originally a hospital ship designed to bring medical aid to the most isolated communities in northern Canada.
23: Mooring B recovery
Our northernmost mooring, unit B is located at about 78 degrees north. We will spend most of Friday recovering this mooring and Friday evening turning over the instruments and preparing for deployment the next day.
24: Steaming North!
After a meeting of the scientists and officers it has been decided to head north to look for ice. We are hoping to find a nice large, thick floe to deploy a set of instruments. Since we are not yet at the ice minimum for the year the larger the floe the better as some melting is expected in the coming weeks.
25: Ice work
After steaming north all night we are now about 600 miles from the North Pole. The science team has been anticipating getting out on the ice to take samples, conduct surveys, and deploy at least half dozen instruments but as we were steaming north the ice didn't look very encouraging.
26: Ice work Part II
After a successful day out on the ice yesterday and with the limited time left for us to work it was decided to do it all over again. Same people, similar work, but entirely different conditions.
27: ITP deployment
With two days of ice work behind us we decided to deploy another ITP. The Ice-Tethered Profiler is a system that consists of a sub-surface unit that climbs up and down the wire and a surface unit that contains a GPS, modem, antennas, and batteries; the modem calls to a satellite several times per day to transmit data.
29: TUMSAT moorings
The Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology also had two moorings to deploy during this cruise and Daisuke Hirano from TUMSAT has joined us for that part of the trip. The moorings were designed and constructed at WHOI and deployed by personnel from both TUMSAT and WHOI along with help from crew members of the LSSL.
28: Science program overview
Overall, the purpose of our science program is to monitor changes in the Beaufort Gyre of the Arctic Ocean. The Beaufort Gyre is a clockwise spinning oceanic gyre that is forced by clockwise wind and sea-ice motion rubbing against the ocean's surface.
30: The Ocean as a garden
It's all about finding out where the water mass is coming from and going to and studying dissolved nutrients helps to unravel some of the mystery.
31: JAMSTEC mooring recovery
The Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) deployed a mooring at about 76 degrees north that was due for recovery and so today set to work with Jonaotaro Onadera and Hirokatsu Uno.
32: Fishin' for a mooring
The Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), like many marine science groups, has deployed many moorings over the years. The mooring itself is usually pretty stable but keep in mind that by the time deployment day comes the equipment may have been shipped all over the globe, stored on a ship or in a warehouse or both, been dropped, damaged, frozen or baked in the blazing summer sun. And sometimes, once in a while, a mooring is lost.
33: Only 5 shopping days left!
This morning Hugh MacLean and I were getting ready to deploy another buoy - this is just one of several small drifting buoys that are released over the side.
34: Last ITP deployment
This morning was the last instrument deployment day for the WHOI group. ITP 62 was the second over-the-side deployment of this cruise, and two up-tempo buoys were also deployed today.
35: The Bens from Bangor
We are the only UK representatives on the cruise and are here to measure turbulence in the upper ocean. We have shipped our turbulence profiler over the Atlantic to St Johns to work on the Louis for our first experience of the Canadian Arctic.
36: The engine room
This evening Senior Engineer Kevin Baker gave me a tour of the engineering spaces on the ship. We went through the main engine room, the welding shop, machine shop, control room, and all the other places we don't normally see. On a ship the size of the Louis, there is quite a lot going on at all times.
37: Photo highlights
It's the end of the cruise and all the science work is complete. Now the scientists have to finish packing all of their gear and getting it ready to ship home.
38: Kugluktuk
Well we made it. After a month at sea we are now back at port and back where we began. The gang will be departing the ship today and then head for home.

Last updated: October 7, 2019

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