NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler Ship: USCGC Healy
Mission: Extended Continental Shelf Survey Geographical area of cruise: Canada Basin in Arctic Ocean Date of Post: 23 August 2010
A Great Day for Flying – 22 August 2010
Location and Weather Data from the Bridge
Date: 22 August 2010 Time of Day: 2200 (10:00 p.m.) local time; 05:00 UTC Latitude: 78º31.9’N Longitude: 149º21.3’W Ship Speed: 4.2 knots Heading: 63.8º (northeast) Air Temperature: 3.98ºC/38.10ºF Barometric Pressure: 1024.6 mb Humidity: 67.5% Winds: 7.4 knots NE Wind Chill: -0.4ºC/31.2ºF Sea Temperature: -1.3ºC Salinity: 27.64 PSU Water Depth: 3829.9 m
Date: 23 August 2010 Time of Day: 2310 (11:10 p.m.) local time; 06:10 UTC Latitude: 78º31.9’N Longitude: 149º21.3’W Ship Speed: 4.9 knots Heading: 4.3º (NNE) Air Temperature: -1.74ºC/28.87ºF Barometric Pressure: 1026.8 mb Humidity: 93.7% Winds: 8.4 knots NW Wind Chill: -8.05ºC/17.5ºF Sea Temperature: -1.4ºC Salinity: 27.25 PSU Water Depth: 3773.9 m
Sunday wasn’t an ordinary day right from the start. As always, I checked the Almanac data on the ship tracker map when I woke up in the morning, and I noticed that there were no sunrise and sunset times listed, only local noon – 8/22 22:06Z, which is 3:06 p.m. here – and local midnight – 8/23 10:05Z, or 3:05 a.m. here. Sometime on Saturday night, we ventured into latitudes that are far enough north to still receive 24 hours of daylight at this time of year. The weather was perfect – high pressure, clear skies, a few high wispy cirrus clouds, light wind, and temperature just above freezing. The sea ice coverage was between 6 and 8 tenths – more than we had seen recently. Where previously there was open water between ice floes, now there was grease ice – a thin icy surface that shimmered in the morning sun and formed intricate patterns when pushed aside by larger pieces broken by Healy.
Just when it seemed that a day couldn’t get much better, my pager went off, which always catches me by surprise. Chief Scientist Brian Edwards informed me that PolarTREC teacher Bill Schmoker and I would be visiting the Louis after lunch along with two Healycrew members. Suddenly the teachers at sea became “Teachers Aloft”, a catchy phrase courtesy of USGS scientist Helen Gibbons.
Helicopter operations (“flight ops”) on Healy are serious business. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to ensure the safe transfer of personnel between the two ships. I thought I would be more nervous than I was, but there wasn’t much time to be nervous. I just did what I was told and before I knew it we were on our way. Here are some photos taken before the flight. (Photos taken by USGS scientist Helen Gibbons unless otherwise noted.)
Suiting up in a Mustang floatation suit:
Canadian Ice Services Specialist Erin Clark briefs us about safety issues before our flight on the Canadian Coast Guard helicopter.
Walli Rainey of Natural Resources Canada gave us a tour of the living and working spaces on Louis, which are set up differently from Healy’s – Healy feels more like a working vessel with a distinct military style; Louis is designed a bit more for comfort, with drop ceilings covering the pipes, ducts and wires that are exposed on Healy and curtains on the windows, many of which are large square windows not portholes. While visiting the bridge, I noticed that we were surrounded by ice, which puzzled me because Healy was breaking ice for Louis, but pressure on the ice had caused it to move back into the track cleared by Healy. Healycame around to starboard to try to help free Louis from the ice, giving us an opportunity for a good look at and photo opportunity of our “home” ship.
Eventually, the captain determined that Louis could not get free without pulling the seismic gear. Less than an hour later, we were on our way back to Healy with a great new experience to share.