Christine Hedge, August 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Christine Hedge
Onboard USCGC Healy
August 7 – September 16, 2009 

Mission: U.S.-Canada 2009 Arctic Seafloor Continental Shelf Survey
Location: Beaufort Sea, north of the arctic circle
Date: August 14, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge   
800 3’N 1450 42’W
Temp: 310 F Light, fine snow

Science and Technology Log 

The coastline of Barrow (8/4/09)
The coastline of Barrow (8/4/09)

Some of you have asked what the ice looks like up here. Pull out your maps and I’ll tell you about the changing ice conditions.  When I got to Barrow on 8/4/09 there was no ice visible from shore. But this changes with the winds and currents. Just one day earlier, the coastline was lined with chunks of sea ice but it had blown out to sea by the time I flew in.

As we started sailing north from Barrow into the Chukchi Sea we saw some chunks of ice but mostly dark water. Our track line (the path we follow) took us back and forth, north and south as we tested our equipment and waited to meet up with our partner ship from Canada.  As we went south, there were more patches of open water. Traveling north brought us into more ice.

What looks like dirt is really a layer of algae
What looks like dirt is really a layer of algae

Sometimes there were large patches of open water and sometimes it looked like ice all the way to the horizon. The ice that appears blue has frozen and thawed over a period of time.  When it freezes, the salt is squeezed out leaving behind fresher, bluer water.  The dark lines on the ice are patches of algae that grow at the interface between the ocean water and the sea ice.  The sea ice of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas has retreated as far north as it will go generally by September.  We are traveling during the best open water time for this part of the world.

The Healy breaking through the ice
The Healy breaking through the ice

Now that we are traveling north, breaking a path for the CCGS Louis S. St. Laurent we are seeing less and less open water. Yesterday, (8/13/09) the view from the deck looked like a white jigsaw puzzle spread out on a black table. Each day there is more and more ice.

Today, (8/14/09) when I look out over the ice it looks like a white landscape with black lakes or rivers meandering through.  We passed 800N today and there are more ridges and large expanses of ice. On board ship there are people who are experts in sea ice. Using direct observation and satellite imagery they help the crew know what the ice conditions are going to be. In fact, there is a whole field of study concerning ice. Who knew!  If you would like to learn more, visit the website of the National Ice Center ( I’ll go into this topic in more detail after I learn more.

Personal Log 

More sea ice!
More sea ice!

My goal for next this week is to learn more about how ice is classified.  I found a little book “The Observers Guide to Sea Ice” which will be a good place to start. The many ice experts on board will also be a great resource. We are hearing the sound of ice against the hull of the ship more often now and that is a pretty powerful sound. I can’t imagine what it will be like when we hit thicker ice.

The list of Inupiaq words for snow and ice is long – which makes sense.  To someone from Indiana, (like me) there might appear to be 5 or 6 different consistencies and colors of ice.  There are 76 Inupiaq words to describe ice!  Some refer to its age, composition, position to land and a host of other factors.  For example, the word for thin ice that is too dangerous to walk on is sikuaq.  Slushy ice piled up on the beach is called qaapaaq.

For my students:  Do you have any questions about Ice? 

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