Caroline Singler, September 1-2, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler
Ship: USCGC Healy

Mission: Extended Continental Shelf Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Arctic Ocean

Date of Post: 2 September 2010

Pizza Operations – Saturday 28 August 2010

Crew of Cutter Healy
Crew of Cutter Healy
Location and Weather Data from the Bridge
Date: 1 September 2010
Time of Day: 20:15 (8:15 p.m. local time); 03:15 UTC
Latitude: 75º 12.98’ N
Longitude: 131º 29.0’ W
Ship Speed: 8.2 knots Heading: 6.9º (NNE)
Air Temperature: 1.36ºC / 34.45ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1010.0 mb Humidity: 86.5 %
Winds: 9.6 knots NNW
Wind Chill: -4.93ºC / 23.16ºF
Sea Temperature: -1.3ºC Salinity: 27.55 PSU
Water Depth:2503.9 m

Date:2 September 2010

Time of Day: 22:15 (10:15 p.m. local time); 05:15 UTC
Latitude: 76º 36.2’ N
Longitude: 129º 42.1’ W
Ship Speed: 3.9 knots Heading: 270 (W)
Air Temperature: -1.08ºC / 30.05ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1017.3 mb Humidity: 99.1 %
Winds: 9.3 knots N
Wind Chill: -6.53ºC / 20.15ºF
Sea Temperature: -1.4ºC Salinity: 27.52 PSU
Water Depth: 2492.8 m

When you are at sea for as long as the Coast Guard crew of the Healy, it’s important to build some things into the schedule that break up the monotony. Days pass without much sense of what day of the week it is, often with little difference between day and night. TheHealy Morale Committee is responsible for planning activities for the crew, and I have enjoyed attending their meetings as a science team point of contact (POC) during this cruise. Saturday nights are big nights on Healy. They start with the Morale Dinner, where the regular galley staff gets the night off and a different group prepares the meal. Then there is bingo in the mess, followed by a movie shown on the big screen in the helicopter hangar.

Last Saturday was the science team’s turn to try our hands at preparing dinner for the crew. We chose to make pizza, figuring it is usually a crowd pleaser and a complete break from the normal menu. Under the watchful eye of FS3 Melissa Gomes, we spent Saturday afternoon chopping and cooking toppings, pre-cooking the crusts, and baking a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting for dessert – that was my idea; this late in the trip, it seemed like everyone could use a good dose of chocolate. Note that in the galley, everyone must where a cover (hat), but hats are not permitted elsewhere in the Mess.

Canadian Coast Guard Ice Analyst Erin Clark, USCG FS3 Melissa Gomes, USGS Scientists Helen Gibbons and Brian Edwards (in the scullery)
Canadian Coast Guard Ice Analyst Erin Clark, USCG FS3 Melissa Gomes, USGS Scientists Helen Gibbons and Brian Edwards (in the scullery)
Jerry Hyman (National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency) and Canadian Coast Guard Captain Michel Bourdeau – yes, we used premade pizza crusts; we are in the Arctic Ocean not a New York pizza parlor!
Jerry Hyman (National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency) and Canadian Coast Guard Captain Michel Bourdeau – yes, we used premade pizza crusts; we are in the Arctic Ocean not a New York pizza parlor!
Me making a cake
Me making a cake. Photo courtesy of Sherwood Liu

Here I am trying to figure out how to use the mixer – for this cake, the mix came in a can and the frosting mix was in a box. My watch stander partner Peter Triezenberg helped me frost the cakes, but no one was around to take our photo! Photo courtesy of Sherwood Liu.
USGS geologist Andy Stevenson shows that he can cut a cake with the same precision that he uses to cut core samples. Photo courtesy of Sherwood Liu
USGS geologist Andy Stevenson shows that he can cut a cake with the same precision that he uses to cut core samples. Photo courtesy of Sherwood Liu
Erin Clark, USGS engineering technicians Jenny White and Pete dalFerro, and USGS geochemist Chris Dufore (pictured from right to left) put their skills to the test with an efficient assembly line, combining toppings for a diverse array of pizza choices. Photo courtesy of Helen Gibbons.
Erin Clark, USGS engineering technicians Jenny White and Pete dalFerro, and USGS geochemist Chris Dufore (pictured from right to left) put their skills to the test with an efficient assembly line, combining toppings for a diverse array of pizza choices. Photo courtesy of Helen Gibbons.
Captain Michel Bourdeau and Jerry manned the pizza ovens with great style and flair, earning the self-proclaimed designation “SPT” or Ship’s Pizza Technicians.
Captain Michel Bourdeau and Jerry manned the pizza ovens with great style and flair, earning the self-proclaimed designation “SPT” or Ship’s Pizza Technicians.
Sherwood Liu of the University of South Florida showed that he can cut pizza with the same good cheer and dedication that he applies to analyzing water samples.
Sherwood Liu of the University of South Florida showed that he can cut pizza with the same good cheer and dedication that he applies to analyzing water samples.
 PolarTREC teacher Bill Schmoker, Marine Mammal Observer Sarah Ashworth, and Andy Stevenson (pictured from right to left) greeted the hungry Coasties and served up hot pizza, mozzarella sticks and jalapeno poppers. (Pete dalFerro and Jenny White work the deep fryer in back, with Erin Clark lending moral support.)
PolarTREC teacher Bill Schmoker, Marine Mammal Observer Sarah Ashworth, and Andy Stevenson (pictured from right to left) greeted the hungry Coasties and served up hot pizza, mozzarella sticks and jalapeno poppers. (Pete dalFerro and Jenny White work the deep fryer in back, with Erin Clark lending moral support.)
Our rewards for our efforts were the smiling, satisfied faces we saw leaving the Mess that evening, which made the job of washing dishes, cleaning tables and swabbing the decks that much easier. Somehow no one remembered to take pictures of the cleaning crew, which included many of those already named as well as Mark Patsavas (University of South Florida), Justin Pudenz (Marine Mammal Observer), and David Street (Canadian Hydrographic Service). It was a great night. We had a lot of fun and showed that we can work as a team in the kitchen as well as in the lab and on the decks.

Mission Status: We are in the home stretch now, leading Louis on what will probably be the last transect through ice. Sometime soon we will break away and start heading for Barrow to start the journey home. I am spending a good part of each day out on the decks, taking photos and enjoying my last look at Arctic ice. Yesterday’s snow added a new element to the scene.

Snow On Deck
Snow On Deck
Snow on bow
Snow on bow
Morning After Snow
Morning After Snow
Sarah Finds Her Polar Bear
Sarah Finds Her Polar Bear

We’ve also had a couple of polar bear sightings, though none were close enough to get good pictures with my camera, but here’s my roommate, Sarah, right after she spotted Wednesday’s bear.Caroline

Caroline Singler, August 31, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler
Ship: USCGC Healy
Mission: Extended Continental Shelf Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Arctic Ocean
Date of Post: 31 August 2010

Back to School – Tuesday 31 August 2010

Midnight in the Arctic Ocean
Midnight in the Arctic Ocean
Location and Weather Data from the Bridge
Date: 31 August 2010 Time of Day: 00:00 (12:00 a.m. local time); 07: UTC
Latitude: 76 º 37.6 ‘ N Longitude: 138 º 31.2 ‘ W
Ship Speed: 8.7 knots Heading: 197 º (SSW)
Air Temperature: 0.19 ºC/ 32.3 ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1009.0 mb
Humidity: 98.8 %
Winds: 6.3 knots W Wind Chill: -5.3 ºC/ 22.4 ºF
Sea Temperature: -0.3 ºC Salinity: 25.32 PSU
Water Depth: 3666.9 m
This is a special message for my new Earth Science students, members of the class of 2014 who are participating in 9th Grade Orientation at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School today. I am sorry that I cannot be there with you. I am excited to be your teacher this year – you are important to me, and I look forward to getting to know you when I return. You are in the caring and capable hands of Mrs. Iskandar during my absence. Please be respectful of her and thank her for agreeing to cover my classes for the next week in addition to her normal responsibilities in the Science Department.
As you can see, I am a bit too far north to get there on time. I am currently in the Arctic Ocean on board the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy. The ship icon on the map below shows where I was at midnight on 31 August, which was 3 a.m. in Massachusetts. The red lines on the map show different places that we have been during the last month.
Map of Locations
Map of Locations

We left Dutch Harbor, Alaska (pictured on the right) on Monday 2 August, cruised North through the Bering Sea, and have been in the region of the Arctic known as the Beaufort Sea and the Canada Basin for the last four weeks. I am here participating in an oceanography research expedition as a representative of the NOAA Teacher at Sea program. The research mission is called the Extended Continental Shelf Project. It is an international, multiyear effort between the United States and Canada to map the seafloor and the subsurface in the Arctic Ocean off the coasts of the two countries. Healy (pictured on right) and the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St. Laurentare both icebreaker ships designed specifically for scientific expeditions in the polar regions. We made it as far north as 82.5º North and are now moving south again. There is still ice around us now, but not as much as we saw just a few days ago. I have been taking a lot of pictures, and I can’t wait to share them with you. Here are just a few from the last couple of days.

USCGS Cutter Healy
USCGS Cutter Healy
Arctic ocean at night
Arctic ocean at night
Louis at Sunset
Louis at Sunset

A week from now, on Monday, 6 September, we will leave the Healy by helicopter at Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost town in the United States. I expect to be back at school on Friday, 10 September.

Ice
Ice
Breaking Ice
Breaking Ice

Before then, I hope you will take some time to look through my blog and read about some of the things I have seen and done. Then, I would appreciate it if you would send me a short email at this address: caroline.singler@healy.polarscience.net Introduce yourself to me and then either make a comment or ask a question about the Arctic, either based on something you read in my blog or just something you wonder about and would like to know. I will do my best to answer all your questions, and I will give you an extra credit homework grade for your effort.

Enjoy your first week of high school. Don’t get too overwhelmed by the size of the building or the crazy way the class schedule works. You will get used to it in no time. Have fun.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you. I will see you soon.
Miss Singler

Caroline Singler, August 29-31, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler
Ship: USCGC Healy

Mission: Extended Continental Shelf Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Arctic Ocean
Date of Post: 31 August 2010

Under the Seafloor

Location and Weather Data from the Bridge
Date: 29 August 2010
Time of Day: 23:15 (11:15 p.m. local time); 06:15 UTC
Latitude: 79º 40.2’ N Longitude: 130º 26.2’ W
Ship Speed: 9.4 knots Heading: 254º (SW)
Air Temperature: 0.6ºC / 33.0ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1008.2 mb Humidity: 92.8 %
Winds: 10.1 knots SSW Wind Chill: -6.3ºC/20.8ºF
Sea Temperature: -1.4ºC Salinity: 27.78 PSU
Water Depth: 3505.8 m
Date: 30 August 2010 Time of Day: 22:00 (10:00 p.m. local time); 05:00 UTC
Latitude: 76º 52.8’ N Longitude: 137º 35.8’ W
Ship Speed: 9.8 knots Heading: 200.9º (SW)
Air Temperature: -0.3ºC
Barometric Pressure: 1008.5 mb Humidity: 99%
Winds: 3.2 knots W
Sea Temperature: -0.5ºC Salinity: 25.8 PSU
Water Depth:3675 mDate: 31 August 2010 Time of Day: 22:25 (10:25 p.m. local time); 05:25 UTC
Latitude: 74º 43.9’ N Longitude: 137º 26.1’ W
Ship Speed: 8.5 knots Heading: 124.8º (SE)
Air Temperature: 1.35ºC / 34.42ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1009.2 mb Humidity: 91.7%
Winds: 10.8 knots NNW Wind Chill: -4.1ºC/25.1ºF
Sea Temperature: -0.5ºC Salinity: 24.33 PSU
Water Depth:3418.4 m
Me on the deck
Me on the deck

Science and Technology Log
Most of the geology on this cruise is geophysics – we employ remote sensing techniques to generate computer images of the seafloor without direct observation. Bathymetric tools like the multibeam sonar system are valuable for oceanographers because it removes the veneer of the ocean water and reveals the shape of the underlying seafloor. It also makes a seafloor map look like a game of Candy Land – except when we are mapping in ice and it looks more like Pick Up Sticks. (One night on watch, my partner and I talked about how after a while you start to think of the seafloor as if it were colored like a rainbow!) Subbottom seismic profiles go even deeper and provide clues about the sediment and rock below the seafloor, and a trained geophysicist can read the signature reflections of different materials and make strong inferences about the subsurface. But for geologists like me, the highlight is sampling — bringing pieces of the seafloor above sea level and directly observing what is there. One reason that I was excited to join this cruise was because I visited the core library at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) with the Lincoln-Sudbury NOSB team two years ago. The realization of how important such samples are to our understanding of the geological and climatological history of the earth made me eager to be present when a core was taken from the seafloor.

On a bathymetric survey expedition like this, opportunities to stop the ship for an extended period of time are few and far between, but we have had a few windows of opportunity for seafloor sampling. USGS geologists Brian Edwards and Andy Stevenson, armed with bathymetric maps and subbottom profiles from previous surveys, came on the cruise with several potential sampling targets in mind. USGS engineering technicians Jenny White and Pete dal Ferro are ready at a moment’s notice to get to work assisted by Healy’s team of marine science technicians (MSTs).

Coring the seafloor is a lot different from coring on land. The work site is the fantail (stern) of ship in the Arctic Ocean. The target is a point on the seafloor thousands of meters below, guided only by bathymetry and the ship’s navigation system. It takes more than an hour on average to lower the coring equipment on cables to the seafloor, and the water around us is moving with the current, requiring great skill on the part of the Coast Guard crew to hold station – keep the ship in a steady position – for many hours during sampling operations. Add in some wind, cold temperatures, and sometimes ice floes moving around the ship, and it’s easy to see why everyone’s energy level is cranked up a notch when coring operations are the plan of the day.

Coring Equipment
Coring Equipment

So far, we have collected core samples at three locations. A core is a long cylindrical section of seafloor. A core provides a relatively undisturbed sample of a vertical section of seafloor, preserving sediments in their natural layers with internal structures more or less intact. This provides a vertical timeline of deposition on the seafloor – the sediment at the bottom of the core represents the oldest material and the sediment at the top is the youngest. Core samples provide “ground truth” that supports the findings of remote sensing techniques like subbottom profiling. They allow scientists to “read” the history of the area. Geologists analyze the size and composition of sediment and infer depositional processes and possible sediment sources. Oceanographers and climatologists use information from the sediment and the microfossils they may contain to learn how the ocean and atmosphere has changed over time with respect to physical parameters such as water temperature and salinity.

Gravity Core on the deck
Gravity Core on the deck

We have employed two coring techniques on this core – gravity coring and piston coring. A gravity core uses a 2,000 pound weight attached to a 10-foot section of pipe. The pipe is lowered by cables and winches to the seafloor and uses the force of gravity pulling on the weight to drive it into the subsurface. A piston core is a variation on the gravity core that allows for deeper sampling by stringing together multiple sections of pipe. The main core barrel is fitted with a retractable piston in the top of the tube and the same 2,000 pound weight attached. A separate smaller coring apparatus is connected to the top of the piston core barrel by cables and a trigger arm. It hangs beside the piston core barrel, and the entireapparatus is lowered together to the seafloor. The trigger core reaches the bottom first and penetrates the surface sediments. As it falls, it triggers the mechanism at the top of the piston core which freefalls into the sediment. As the piston retracts inside the core barrel, it creates suction inside the barrel that helps pull the sediment into the core barrel and allows for collection of a longer, deeper, and potentially less disturbed sample than a gravity core.

Piston Core Apparatus
Piston Core Apparatus
Attaching Trigger Core
Attaching Trigger Core
The steel pipes used for coring are lined with plastic liners. At the end of the core barrel is a core cutter and a core catcher with metal teeth that fits into the bottom of the core barrel and holds the core in the barrel. When the core is retrieved, grab samples are collected from the core cutter and core catcher. (In the photo on the right, USGS scientists Brian Edwards and Andy Stevenson collect samples from a gravity core.) The outside of the core barrel is scraped to provide a sample that can be examined for microfauna (remains of microscopic organisms) in the sediment. The plastic liner is removed from the core barrel, starting at the bottom of the core, and is cut into sections. In this case, the preferred section length is 150 centimeters because that is the size of the containers in which the core will be stored back in the laboratory. Each section is measured, capped, sealed, and carefully labeled to indicate the top of the section and the core location. (In the photo on the bottom right, USGS scientists Brian Edwards, Andy Stevenson, and Helen Gibbons measure and cut the core sleeve from a piston core.) All information is recorded on a log in the field. The core sections are then stored horizontally in a specially built box that is kept in a refrigerator on the ship. The cores will be transported back to the USGS laboratory in California after the cruise where they will be cut, examined and logged, and then carefully stored for future reference.
Gravity Core Sample
Core Catcher and Cutter
Core Catcher and Cutter
Measuring cutting core
Measuring cutting core

Sometimes a core contains a real surprise. When the piston core from our first locationcame up on deck, we saw a white crystalline substance in the core cutter and catcher. It was gas hydrate. (Photo courtesy of Helen Gibbons, USGS Scientist.) Water molecules under high pressure may start to solidify at temperatures above the normal freezing point of water, crystallizing into a solid form of water with an internal structure that contains larger open spaces than typical ice crystals. Normally, these crystals are very unstable and will continue to cool and form the more stable molecule we know as ice. However, gases present in the environment may become incorporated into the open spaces within the solid water molecules and form a gas hydrate. This is a physical combination – there is no chemical bonding between the two – but it allows the solid to remain stable as long as it remains in a high pressure and low temperature environment. Seafloor sediments on deep continental margins and buried continental sediments in polar regions (i.e. permafrost regions) are common places where these compounds form. They contain abundant organic matter. Over time, biogenic processes (bacterial action) or thermogenic processes (high pressure and temperature) act on the organic material and produce gases, most commonly methane. These may become trapped in the solid water and form gas hydrates.

Core in reefer
Core in reefer
Methane Hydrate
Methane Hydrate

There is a lot of scientific interest in gas hydrates. Some estimates suggest that methane hydrates in permafrost and marine sediments contain more organic carbon than all other known naturally occurring fossil fuel deposits combined. Thus, gas hydrates are considered to be a potential energy source. However, one concern is that hydrates are very unstable at conditions other than those under which they form – the solid water crystals dissociate (i.e. melt) and the gases escape. We saw this with the sample we brought up in the core which began fizzing and off-gassing as soon as it was exposed at the surface. Potential environmental changes that might destabilize naturally occurring hydrates could potentially result in the release of large quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas, to the atmosphere.

We have sampled at four locations to date, shown on the map below. One location was near the top of a small seamount that was first mapped during last year’s expedition. Another sample was from a submarine fan complex. All locations were selected based on some prior data followed by good inferences, a little luck and a lot of skill.

Coring Locations on map
Coring Locations on map

All coring attempts have been successful, with good core recovery each time. It is difficult to predict what we will get when aiming for a target that is so far beneath us. There is only so much that the monitors on the ship that track wire depth and tension can tell us. Given time constraints, there are no “do overs”, so we are happy whenever the core barrel comes up with something inside – it represents more information than we had before we sent it to the bottom. The moments before the barrel is back on deck are full of tense expectation, and one can tell from the look of satisfaction on a scientist’s face when there is a good sample inside. One person’s mud is another person’s treasure! Although I will not get to examine the cores myself, I look forward to hearing what they find when they cut and log the cores back in California. And I have a little bit of ocean floor mud of my own to take home as a souvenir.

Core Sample
Core Sample

Sources
National Energy Technology Laboratory: The National Methane Hydrates R&D Program – All about Hydrates
TDI-Brooks International: Piston Coring for Surface Geochemical Exploration.
USGS Fact Sheet: Gas (Methane) Hydrates – A New Frontier. 1992.
USGS Woods Hole Science Center
Woods Hole Ocean Instruments

Personal Log
This is the last week of the trip. After all the preparation that it took to get here, the time has passed rather quickly – even while I did not have a very clear perception of the passage of time. If I were home, I would have met my classes for the first time yesterday and today. I am sorry to miss school, but I am grateful to be among a relatively small group of people who have the opportunity to experience this part of the world. I am fortunate to have a strong support network of colleagues at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School who encouraged me to take advantage of this opportunity and did their best to assuage my feelings of guilt about not being at work. I am fortunate to have such caring friends and colleagues. Thank you, everyone who helped me prepare for the trip and to all those who are keeping things going for me while I am away. You gave me the peace of mind to do this.

The Arctic is a wilderness unlike any other. Whether in the icy desert at latitudes above 80ºN; in thin, patchy ice in the southern and western part of the basin; or in the open waters off the coast of Alaska, each day is something special. I look forward to my first trip out on deck each morning to enjoy the day’s views, and I have not been disappointed. And here in the last week of the trip, as the amount of darkness increases while the latitude decreases, it is actually snowing – enough to make a little snowman on the bow.

Snowman
Snowman
Midnight on the ship
Midnight on the ship

 

Caroline Singler, August 25, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler
Ship: USCGC Healy


Mission: Extended Continental Shelf Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Arctic Ocean

Date of Post: 27 August 2010

Farthest North – 26 August 2010

Farthest North
Farthest North
Location and Weather Data from the Bridge
Date: 25 August 2010 Time of Day: 2300 (11:00 p.m. local time); 06:00 UTC
Latitude: 82º 29’ N Longitude: 138º 50.4’ W
Ship Speed: 4.5 knots Heading: 291º (NW)
Air Temperature: -0.5ºC / 31.1ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1010.7 mb Humidity: 97%
Winds: 9 knots SW
Sea Temperature: -1.2ºC Salinity: 28.2 PSU
Water Depth: 3400 mDate: 26 August 2010 Time of Day: 2230 (10:30 p.m. local time); 0530 UTC
Latitude: 82º 0.5’ N Longitude: 132º 5.5’ W
Ship Speed: 4.3 knots Heading: 163º (SE)
Air Temperature: -1.25ºC / 29.7ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1012.6 mb Humidity: 100%
Winds: 20.4 knots SW Wind Chill: -8.9ºC/15.9ºF
Sea Temperature: -1.35ºC Salinity: 28.47 PSU
Water Depth: 3643 m
We reached our farthest northern location in the early morning hours on Friday 26 August. We stopped a little before midnight local time on 8/25 (07:00 8/26 UTC) for a water sampling event and I captured this map that showed our location at latitude 80º31.85’.
Farthest Northern point on a map
Farthest Northern point on a map
 Here is what the Arctic looks like at 82º31.5’N 139º15’W from the bow of the Healy.
Here is what the Arctic looks like at 82º31.5’N 139º15’W from the bow of the Healy.
I took the picture at the beginning of this post myself, at about the same time as the map shows!
Morning Sky With Louis
Morning Sky With Louis
We ended up a little farther north in the early morning as we maneuvered to get back in line withLouis, who rejoined us after some downtime for repairs.

Our official FARTHEST NORTH point was at latitude 82º32’. The original plan called for 85ºN, but the ice is thick and progress is slow, and we have had several delays. Now we are eastward bound, on a line that heads towards but ends before the Queen Elizabeth Islands of Canada. Healyspends a lot of time backing and ramming. There are numerous ridges in the ice formed when ice floes drift with the wind and currents and collide with other flows, and these present big obstacles. First they drive the ship into the ridge, then back up, leaving the impression of the ship’s bow like a snow angel.

Healy Snow Angel
Healy Snow Angel
There is an eerie silence when the ship is backing, and I expected it to be followed by a burst of speed (hence the backing and “ramming”), but the ship just drives forward again over the same track. It can take two or three times to break through a large ridge. Even then, it can be difficult for Louis to proceed with her towed gear even – often the pressure causes ice to drift back into the track before Louis can pass through. On numerous occasions Healy has had to double back to relieve the pressure on Louis by coming around and passing to the side of the ship, trying to give the ice a different way to drift. Sections of Healy’s track line look as if we are doing figure eights around Louis.
Louis in ice
Louis in ice
Since Sunday, we have been at latitudes where the sun does not set. I get off watch at midnight local time, but true midnight is usually an hour or two after that. Here are some views of the sky that I see when I leave the computer lab at night.
Midnight
Midnight 8_23_10
Midnight- 23 August 2010
Midnight 8_24_10
Midnight 8_24_10
Midnight- 24 August 2010
Midnight_8_25_10
Midnight_8_25_10
Midnight- 25 August 2010
Midnight 8_27_10
Midnight 8_27_10
Midnight- 27 August 2010

I can’t always see the sun, but it’s still pretty and peaceful, even when we are banging through ice.

Caroline

Caroline Singler, August 22-23, 2010

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

View from the Helo
View from the Helo
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
Personal Log
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.
Morning Sun over ice
Morning Sun over ice
Grease Ice Patterns
Grease Ice Patterns

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:
Suiting Up
Suiting Up
Canadian Ice Services Specialist Erin Clark briefs us about safety issues before our flight on the Canadian Coast Guard helicopter.
From left: USCG ENS Holly McNair; USCG CDR John Reeves, Erin Clark, Bill Schmoker, and me.
From left: USCG ENS Holly McNair; USCG CDR John Reeves, Erin Clark, Bill Schmoker, and me.
Ready to fly
Ready to fly
Helo on deck
Helo on deck
Boarding Helo
Boarding Helo
Buckled In (photo by USCG IT1 Miguel Uribarri)
Buckled In
(photo by USCG IT1 Miguel Uribarri)
Lift Off
Lift Off
Helo in flight
Helo in flight
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 HealyHealycame 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.
Photo of USCGS Healy from USCGS Lewis
Photo of USCGS Healy from USCGS Louis
Me on USCGS Louis
Me on USCGS Louis

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.

Caroline Singler, August 16-20 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler
Ship: USCGC Healy

Mission: Extended Continental Shelf Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Arctic Ocean
Date of Post: 20 August 2010

Out in the Canada Basin — 16-20 August 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler
Ship: USCGC Healy
Mission: Extended Continental Shelf Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Arctic Ocean
Date of Post: 20 August 2010Location and Weather Data from the Bridge
Date: 16 August 2010
Time of Day: 2240 (10:40 p.m. local time); 05:40 UTC
Latitude: 71º 34.5’ N
Longitude: 156º 42.2’ W
Ship Speed: 16.5 knots Heading: 19.2º (NE)
Air Temperature: 8.2ºC/46.7ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1006.3 mb Humidity: 92.6%
Winds: 16.6 knots NE
Wind Chill: 2.5ºC/36.7ºF
Sea Temperature: 6.3ºC Salinity: 30.96 PSU
Water Depth:124.7 m (on continental shelf near Barrow AK)Date: 17 August 2010 Time of Day: 2120 (9:20 p.m. local time); 04:20 UTC
Latitude: 74º 6.1’ N Longitude: 150º 26.4’ W
Ship Speed: 4.2 knots Heading: 14.8º (NNE)
Air Temperature: 1.5ºC/34.7ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1003.7 mb Humidity: 91.5%
Winds: 22.9 knots E
Wind Chill: -5.7ºC /21.7ºF
Sea Temperature: -0.7ºC Salinity: 25.00 PSU
Water Depth:3729.1 mDate: 18 August 2010
Time of Day: 2320 (11:20 p.m. local time); 06:20 UTC
Latitude: 75º 25.1’ N Longitude: 153º 16.9’ W
Ship Speed: 4.7 knots Heading: 311.1º (NW)
Air Temperature: 0.45ºC/32.8ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1010.1 mb Humidity: 95.3%
Winds: 20.7 knots SE
Wind Chill: -5.8ºC /21.5ºF
Sea Temperature: -1.0ºC Salinity: 24.87 PSU
Water Depth:3848.4 mDate: 19 August 2010
Time of Day: 2230 (10:30 p.m. local time); 05:30 UTC
Latitude: 76º 11.8’ N Longitude: 155º 14.3’ W
Ship Speed: 4.4 knots Heading: 83.1º (NE)
Air Temperature: -0.47ºC/31.1ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1013.9 mb Humidity: 100%
Winds: 7 knots SE
Sea Temperature: -0.76ºC
Salinity: 24.7 PSU
Water Depth:~2100 mDate: 20 August 2010
Time of Day: 2200 (10:00 p.m. local time); 05:00 UTC
Latitude: 76º 28.4’ N
Longitude: 149º 5.3’ W
Ship Speed: 4.9 knots Heading: 80.1º (NE)
Air Temperature: -0.23ºC/31.6ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1020.9 mb Humidity: 98.2%
Winds: 5.7 knots WNW Wind Chill: -0.23ºC /31.6ºF
Sea Temperature: -1.2ºC Salinity: 25.99 PSU
Water Depth:3824.4 mScience and Technology Log
I have fallen behind on my writing this week, and I am trying to get back on track. I have a couple of logs in progress, but none are finished yet. So I thought I would give a quick update on where we are and what we are doing.

Small Boat to Barrow
Small Boat to Barrow

We started the week with a quick trip to Barrow, Alaska to pick up a crew member and some equipment for Louis. It was a beautiful day. Healycannot dock in Barrow, so we waited a couple of miles offshore while a small boat went in to shore.
We had a great view of the coastline. The air smelled different that close to land; there were lots of birds flying around, and some people evenspotted whales. Late Monday we started our trip back into the Canada Basin and met up with Louisearly Tuesday morning.

Noon Sky Over Barrow
Noon Sky Over Barrow

We are now fully involved in the two-ship partnership with the Louis. We have been traveling together for four days. Most of the time, Healyleads Louis, though once yesterday the two ships switched positions, and Louis broke ice for Healywhile they made repairs to their seismic equipment. My personal theme for the mission is “If we’re moving, we’re mapping” which means that the multibeam and subbottom profiler are always collecting data. Sometimes in ice we don’t get perfect data, but all data are useful data, and each line we follow unveils a little more information about the Arctic seafloor. Sometimes we cross areas that were mapped on previous trips by Healy or other vessels, filling in gaps in the bathymetry and giving Louis the opportunity to collect deeper subsurface data. My favorite times are when we cross areas that have never been mapped before.Most of the time, we have been out on the abyssal plain of the Canada Basin. The abyssal plain is FLAT – flatter, I am told, than a pool table. Yesterday we crossed the eastern side of a feature called the Northwind Ridge which separates the Canada abyssal plain from the Chukchi plateau and abyssal plain. It was a nice change to see some different depths on the multibeam. Different depths show up as different colors on the screen display – yellows, greens and light blues instead of just the deep blue and purple that represent depths over 3000 meters. As a watch stander, there is more to watch when we are crossing an area changing depths, and we have to make frequent adjustments of the depth limits for the instruments. Sometimes in the lab at night, I look at the display screen and forget that what I see on the bathymetric map is the seafloor, not what is out my window. I look at the camera that shows the water in front of and behind the ship, and I see flat water or ice, but underneath, there are ridges, slopes, and plains. It is incredible that we can use sound to remove the cover of the water and see what lies beneath.

Personal Log
I still find it surprising when I go out on one of the aft decks and see another ship behind us. I wonder how it would look to someone flying over us – way out in the ocean, no other boats around, but there are two ships following the same course about a mile apart. It takes a lot of coordination for two ships to work together like this. The chief scientists and captains consult frequently about the planned course. When I am on watch, I enjoy listening to the chatter between the bridges of the two ships, sharing information about ice conditions, checking speeds, confirming how well the track cleared by Healy is staying clear for Louis. That is not as easy as it might sound. The ice is drifting, and Healy’s crew must take that into account and determine where the ice might be when Louis reaches it.

I am fascinated not only by the sea and ice but also by the constantly changing Arctic sky. Every day, the sky is a new canvas for interesting cloud formations, sun shining through fog, and the sometimes subtle and sometimes spectacular colors of Arctic sunsets, which for a while (when we were in the southern part of the basin) coincided with the end of my nightly watch stander shift. Now that we are north of 75º, the sun sets between 1 and 2 a.m. local time and rises again around 4 a.m., so it is usually still quite bright when I leave the computer lab. Perhaps one night before we head south, I will stay up all night and get a sense of how dark it really gets between sunset and sunrise – my impression is that it is not fully dark – there always seems to be at least some light coming through the porthole when I wake up during the night. Here are some of my favorite sky-shots from the last week.

Sky Past Midnight
Sky Past Midnight
Clouds over water near Barrow 8/16/10
Clouds over water near Barrow 8/16/10
High wispy clouds 8/16/2010
High wispy clouds 8/16/2010
Sky at Midnight 8/17/2010
Sky at Midnight 8/17/2010
Clouds over Ice 8/17/2010
Clouds over Ice 8/17/2010
Fog Bow 8/20/2010
Fog Bow 8/20/2010
Bottom of the Arctic on a map
Bottom Relief of the Arctic on a map

Sometimes when I’m in the Science conference room, I like to look at the map of “Bottom Relief of the Arctic Ocean”. The other night, I noticed a picture in the picture. What do you see?FYI…

I got an email from a colleague (thanks, Mark) who asked me how far from land we were when we saw the polar bear that I photographed on August 9th. The map below shows where we were relative to the coastline of Alaska. We were stopped at the station labeled “001” at the time, which is approximately 172 nautical miles (319 kilometers) north of the town of Gordon, Alaska. (The dotted red line connects the two points.) Gordon is just west of the U.S./Canada border. As of today, that is still the only polar bear that I have seen. There have been at least six sightings from Healy and several more from Louis.
Polar Bear Map
Polar Bear Map

Caroline

Caroline Singler, August 13-15 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler
Ship: USCGS Healy 

Mission: Extended Continental Shelf Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Arctic Ocean north of Alaska in the Canada Basin
Date of Post: 16 August 2010

Follow the Leader – 13 – 15 August 2010

Location and Weather Data from the Bridge
Date: 13 August 2010 Time of Day: 2100 (9:00 p.m.) local time; 04:00 UTC
Latitude: 73º0’N

Longitude: 145º3’W
Ship Speed: 3.9 knots
Heading: 1.8º (north)
Air Temperature: 2.0ºC/35ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1018.9 millibars (mb) Humidity: 100%
Winds: 3-5 Knots SW
Sea Temperature: -0.4ºC Salinity: 25.37 PSU
Water Depth:~3600 m

Ice with Ridges
Ice with Ridges

Date: 14 August 2010

Time of Day: 2105 (9:05 p.m.)
local time; 04:05 UTC
Latitude: 73º36.4’N Longitude: 146º19.21’W
Ship Speed: 4.7 knots Heading: 223º (southwest)
Air Temperature: 2.15ºC/35.88ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1022.3 mb Humidity: 92.1%
Winds: 12.2 knots SE Wind Chill: -3.1ºC/26.5ºF
Sea Temperature: -0.7 ºC Salinity: 24.84 PSU
Water Depth: 3708.6 m
Open Water and Beautiful Sky
Open Water and Beautiful Sky
Date: 15 August 2010
Time of Day: 1500 (3:00 p.m.)
local time; 22:00 UTC
Latitude: 72º56.4’N
Longitude: 150º9.0’W
Ship speed: 11.8 knots
Heading: 220º (southwest)
Air Temperature: 5.6ºC/42.2ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1015.6 mb
Humidity: 98.1%
Winds: 17.7 knots E
Wind Chill: 1.7ºC/35.1ºF
Sea Temperature: 3.9ºC
Salinity: 24.5 PSU
Water Depth:3691.1 mScience and Technology Log

The Extended Continental Shelf Project is a multi-year effort between the United States and Canada. The two countries share knowledge, resources, and information to allow greater coverage of the region and more cost effective achievement of the mission objectives. For this mission, the USCGC Healy is working in tandem with the Canadian Coast Guard ice breaker Louis S. St. Laurent, called Louis(pronounced “Louie”) for short. Healy is responsible for collecting bathymetric data and shallow subsurface imaging while Louis performs deeper subsurface imaging with her air-gun array. The instrumentation on Louis is towed behind the ship and requires a clear path through the ice; therefore, Healy’s primary responsibility when the ships are in ice is to lead and break ice for Louis. Healy opens a path and Louis follows, typically about one to two miles behind depending on ice and visibility conditions. It was foggy for most of the day on Friday as we led the way north along the first track line. The only way I knew that Louis was behind us was by watching the ship tracking chart and listening to occasional radio chatter between the two boats as the crews communicated about ice conditions. Skies cleared as we moved farther north and deeper into the ice on Saturday. Near midday, the fog lifted and there was Louis, first emerging like a ghostly image out of the fog and then, as we made the turn onto a new transect line, she was in full view. By Sunday afternoon we were heading south in open water, so Healy moved away fromLouis to conduct other business while our ice breaking services were not needed.
USCGS Healy Leading USCGS Lewis
USCGC Healy Leading CCGS Louis
USCGS Louis on Ice
CCGS Louis on Ice
While multibeam sonar allows us to “see the bottom”, subbottom profiling uses a different sound-producing system to see what is under the bottom. Geologists use the subbottom data both from Healy andLouis to estimate sediment thickness and make inferences about sediment types and structures beneath the seafloor. It makes me think of Superman’s x-ray vision! Like multibeam sonar, subbottom profilers are echosounding devices. They are active sonar systems – sound signals are transmitted and received by the instrument.
Healy’s profiler is a “chirp” system mounted inside the bottom of the ship’s hull – so called because it sounds like a bird chirping, a sound that one hears in the background throughout the ship. It releases high frequency pulses of acoustic energy that travel through the water column and (in theory) hit the seafloor and penetrate into subsurface materials to depths of tens of meters. Signals are reflected at the seafloor and at interfaces between different subsurface layers within the seafloor. The reflection of acoustic energy depends on the “acoustic impedance” of the material encountered. Acoustic impedance is related to the density of the material and the velocity of sound in that medium. Different materials have different acoustic impedance and therefore different reflectivity. The concept is similar to that of albedo when one considers the reflection of solar energy from different surfaces. A smooth, light-colored surface like a field of snow reflects a high percentage of incoming solar rays and therefore has a high albedo– hence the glare that hurts your eyes on a sunny day. Dark-colored surfaces reflect much lower percentages of incident light and therefore have low albedo. (They also absorb more energy which is why they get hotter on a sunny day.)
With subbottom profiling, sands typically reflect sound differently than mud, and layers or other structures in the subsurface result in different signal strengths returning to the receivers on the ship. The picture on the right shows an image of the raw chirp data displayed on the computer screen at the watch stander station. It does not show a lot in this state, but after processing the data will provide important information about the subsurface in the Arctic Ocean.
Chirp Display
Chirp Display

Subbottom surveying on Louis is performed with a multi-channel air gun system that is towed behind the ship. Three air guns, powered by air compressors on the ship’s deck, provide the acoustic energy source. A streamer with an array of 16 hydrophones trails behind the air guns; the hydrophones receive the return signals reflected by the seafloor and subsurface sediments. In open water, the air guns are attached to a float and hang about three to five meters below the surface, at a distance of about 100 meters behind the ship. In ice, the air guns are attached to a metal sled (depressor) that hangs below the sea surface (and hence the ice) to a depth of about 10 meters and at a distance of about 10 meters behind the ship. When fired, the air guns simultaneously emit large air bubbles into the water column. As the bubbles collapse, an acoustic pulse is produced that moves through the water. It is similar to what happens in the atmosphere when air rapidly expands and contracts as a lightning bolt passes through, creating the sound we know as thunder. The air guns generate sound at a lower frequency than the chirp system; sound at these lower frequencies penetrates deeper into the subsurface but produces lower resolution than the higher frequency chirp system. Such air gun systems can provide images to depths of several kilometers below the seafloor.

WHOI Subbottom Profiling Diagram
WHOI Subbottom Profiling Diagram

Image source: USGS Woods Hole Science CenterReferences:
USGS Woods Hole Science Centerhttp://woodshole.er.usgs.gov/operations/sfmapping/seismic.htm
NOAA Coastal Services Centerhttp://www.csc.noaa.gov/benthic/mapping/techniques/sensors/subbottom.htm

Personal Log
Saturdays are “Field Days” on Healy. No, we did not all get into boats and take a trip away from the ship or get out onto the ice. Field Day is a fancy way of saying that it is time for cleanup and inspection of common areas and personal berthing areas. All personnel on board are responsible for trash removal and cleaning of staterooms, restrooms and common living and working spaces. Anyone who is not on duty pitches in to clean the Science lounge and labs – vacuuming, sweeping, washing floors and generally putting things in order. The “trash vans” are open twice a week; everyone brings trash and recycling to two large blue bins on the port side of the 02 deck (the same deck as the science staterooms). Coast Guard volunteers work the trash vans. Healy will be at sea for another long mission after this one, so efficient trash removal and storage is critical. Healy personnel are dedicated to recycling and have an award winning recycling program on board – no small feat when it is necessary to haul it all around for months at sea. Think about that when you are tempted to complain about separating recyclables from trash at home or at school.

Since everything was neat and tidy, I decided it was a good time to show you my living space on Healy. Science staterooms are set up for three occupants, but on this trip we have two people per room. I share a room with Sarah Ashworth, a marine mammal observer; she is currently on Louis, so for now I have my own room. The room is more spacious than I expected on a ship, similar in size to a lot of college dorm rooms.

My Rack
My Rack

Space is used very efficiently. There are bunk beds; Sarah has more experience at sea than I, so she has the top bunk or “rack”.

Bunks
Bunks
Each person has a good sized locker for clothes and since there are only two of us, we each have a desk and filing cabinet, so there is plenty of storage space – more than we need for our personal belongings.
Sink and Locker
Sink and Locker
Desk Area
Desk Area

There’s nothing like a room with a view, even if they left the tape on the window the last time they painted the ship.

Sun on Water Through Porthole
Sun on Water Through Porthole

Each room has its own sink, and shares a bathroom with the adjoining room. Okay, they call it a “head” on a ship; don’t ask me why! The bathroom is small, but one does not linger when taking a “sea shower”, and there is always plenty of hot water. In case you ever wondered what a marine toilet looked like, here it is.

Shower
Shower
Marine Toilet
Marine Toilet

We headed towards Barrow on Sunday to pick up a crew member and some supplies for the Louis. There was a steady wind from the east for most of the afternoon, and the boat was rolling a little, but I was more prepared for it this time than I was the first time it happened, but I still stumble when I walk down the hall.

We have had beautiful views of ice, sea, and sky for the last few days.

Ice with cool clouds
Ice with cool clouds
Waves and sky
Waves and sky

Caroline Singler, August 11-12 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler
Ship: USCGC Healy

Mission: Extended Continental Shelf Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean
Date of Post: 13 August 2010

Maneuvering in Ice – 7-10 August 2010

Location and Weather Data from Bridge
Date: 11 August 2010

Time of Day: 1015 (10:15 local time); 17:15 UTC
Latitude: 71º 23.2’ N
Longitude: 144º 43.2’ W
Ship Speed: 9.7 knots
Heading: 106.6º (ESE)
Air Temperature: 5.1ºC /41.2ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1010.6 millibars
Humidity: 100%
Winds: 30.6 knots ENE
Wind Chill: -2.2ºC /28.14ºF
Sea Temperature: 4.8ºC
Salinity: 23.70 PSU
Water Depth:2952.9 mDate: 12 August 2010
Time of Day: 1900 (7:00 local time); 02:00 UTC
Latitude: 71º 10.94’ N
Longitude: 144º 40.28’ W
Ship Speed: 11.9 knots
Heading: 265.3º (WSW)
Air Temperature: 6.73ºC /44.12ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1016.7 millibars
Humidity: 97.9%
Winds: 18.8 knots ESE Wind Chill: 3.96ºC /39.12ºF
Sea Temperature: 6.0ºC Salinity: 24.32 PSU
Water Depth:2496.0 mScience and Technology Log
I want to give you a sense of how ice can affect the progress of the ship. It was not something that I could imagine before coming on the Healy. When we first encountered ice, I was captivated by its beauty – it is a wilderness of an entirely different sort than I have ever experienced. I knew the ice would slow our progress, and I knew from talking to the scientists that it could complicate the mapping with the multibeam system. I did not realize all the ways in which it would challenge everyone involved in the mission, for example:

  • the chief scientist and the rest of the science team have to decide how to alter the ship’s track without sacrificing the mission objectives;
  • the ice analysts use satellite imagery and ice buoy data and try to predict where the ice may be and advise the Chief Scientist and the ship’s crew regarding possible changes in course;
  • the Coast Guard officers and crew who try to keep us as close to our planned course as possible, keeping in constant communication with the Chief Scientist and with the watch standers in the geophysics lab to be sure that we are able to collect good data;
  • the computer specialists have to figure out how to get the best ultibeam data, even when ice clogs the seawater intake that provides data for the sound speed profile and when sound beams transmitted from the surface bounce in all directions and cannot find bottom;
  • geophysics watch standers like me have to watch for tiny clues from the instruments that the ice might be interfering with the transmission of the sound signals and the acquisition of reliable data.

Everything about working in the Arctic is a lesson in patience and flexibility; one must learn to “go with the floe”.

Bow of the USCGS Healy
Bow of the USCGS Healy
View of Ice Breaking from the Bridge
View of Ice Breaking from the Bridge

Since our primary objective is to collect bathymetric data, the locations of transect lines were determined before the mission to best meet the objective. Some lines provide data about previously unmapped areas; others fill in gaps between existing data tracks. We are able to follow the plan when we are in open water, but once we are in the ice, sometimes plans change. This became immediately apparent when I went on watch on the night of 7 August. We were heading north in the Beaufort Sea into thicker ice. There was a flurry of activity in the geophysics computer lab. The scientists were studying the ship’s track and the latest satellite images of the ice. We were on course to encounter some very large floes. I was about to get my first real taste of what an ice breaker does.

An ice breaker is designed differently from other ships. It is double-hulled with extra thick steel at the bow, stern and water line. It has a flat hull with a rounded bow that slopes gradually upward to allow it to ride up over the ice. (I am told that same feature makes it roll considerably in rough seas, though thankfully the Healy’s design is somewhat modified from the earlier Coast Guard ice breakers, so it does not roll as much as it could!) There are numerous mechanical modifications that allow ice breakers to work in an environment that would crush other ships. (See Cool Antarctica for a good summary of the characteristics of ice breakers.) The ship weighs over 11 tons, and the basic principle of ice breaking is to ride up over the ice and allow gravity to do the work, using the ship’s weight to fracture the ice. Healy’s typical cruising speed is 12 knots, with a maximum of 17 knots; depending on ice conditions, Healy’s speed typically decreases to 7 knots, and it is often necessary to go even slower through large floes, particularly if the multibeam is not recording good data. In the thickest ice, the ship uses a technique called “backing and ramming” which is pretty much exactly as it sounds – the ship is driven on the ice, then backed up and driven back onto the ice again. But while Healy is a powerful ship, a large tabular floe of multiyear ice has a lot of inertia, and it takes an incredible force to move it. More often than not, it is a better idea to try to find a way around the large floes instead of breaking through them.

The next few photos show what happens when Healy breaks through ice. Cracks radiate out in all directions as the weight of the ship is forced into the floe. The deep blue color indicates that much of the ice is “multiyear ice” – ice that has lasted through at least one summer melting season.
Close up of USCGS Healy breaking ice
Close up of USCGS Healy breaking ice
The following maps show how one large floe affected our progress in the early morning hours of 8 August 2010. I came on watch at 8:00 p.m. local time (04:00 UTC) on 7 August. We were at the point labeled “0” on the first map, travelling through open water and light ice at a speed of approximately 11.7 knots. We reached point “1” at 11:30 p.m. (07:30 UTC) and were beginning to slow down in the ice. In 3.5 hours, we covered a distance of 38.88 nautical miles (nm), at an average speed of 11.1 knots. At 12:57 a.m. (08:57 UTC), we reached point “2”, 7.89 nm from point 1 – that’s an average speed of about 5.3 knots.
Map
Map

Things got tricky after that. Notice the change in scale on the second map, which shows the ship’s progress over the next 3 hours until point “11” at 4:00 a.m. (12:00 UTC) on the 8th. In that time, we covered 15.48 nm and had to deviate off a straight line course and change direction several times to maneuver around ice. Our average speed continued to be about 5 knots, but there were times during that stretch when the speed was a low as 1 or 2 knots. Relative to the original planned straight line course, the distance covered in that period was 6.7 nm.

Map
Map

Map 3 shows the remaining course we followed for that transect (the right hand track line) – note again the different map scale. We covered the remaining distance along the line between points 11 and 12, about 91 nm, over the next 3 hours. The trackline on the left shows our subsequent course, about a day later.

Map
Map

It takes a special ship to do what Healy does, and it takes a crew and science team who are capable, flexible, and cooperative to get the job done.

Personal Log

A lot happened in the last few days. If you pay attention to the location information at the beginning of some posts, you will notice that we have traveled north and south, east and west through the Beaufort Sea between the Mackenzie Delta region on the Canadian coast and the Prudhoe Bay area of the Alaska coast. We had the long-awaited rendezvous with Canadian Coast Guard Cutter Louis S. St. Laurent on Tuesday 10 August. Three members of our science team (two marine mammal observers and one ice analyst) went to the Louis and three members of their team joined us on the Healy. It was exciting to watch the helicopter exchange of personnel. I was not prepared for how fast the helicopter moved, and I was not quick enough to capture any close-ups.
Here’s a look at the helicopter approaching the helo pad aft on Healy and flying back to the Louis.
Here’s a look at the helicopter approaching the helo pad aft on Healy and flying back to the Louis.
Here’s a look at the helicopter approaching the helo pad aft on Healy and flying back to the Louis.
Here’s a look at the helicopter approaching the helo pad aft on Louis and flying back to the Healy.
We took some cores of the seafloor on Wednesday and Thursday – more on that exciting change in routine in another post. We were out of the ice for several days, and I missed it, but we are moving north again now, farther north than we have been so far and we have started the cooperative part of the mission, in which Healy will lead and break ice forLouis.

Tomorrow, it seems, is Saturday. It is extremely hard to keep track of the days at sea, especially when there is not much darkness at night. Saturday is cleaning day, so we have to make sure everything is “ship-shape” in our staterooms and the science work areas. Stay tuned for some photos of my room after it’s neat and tidy!

Did you know?

Distance at sea is typically measured in nautical miles. One nautical mile is equal to approximately 1.15 statute miles or 1.85 kilometers. Speeds are measured in knots. One knot is equal to 1 nautical mile per hour or 1.15 miles per hour.

Caroline

Caroline Singler, August 8, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler
Ship: USCGC Healy

Mission: Extended Continental Shelf Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Arctic Ocean
Date of Post: 8 August 2010

Polar Bear, Polar Bear! – 9 August 2010

Bear in the distance
Bear in the distance

Yes, folks, they are out here. There were a couple of sightings on Sunday 8 August, but I missed them both. However, Monday 9 August 2010 was the day that I saw my first polar bear in the Arctic. The last time I saw a polar bear was in the St. Louis Zoo, and it looked about as unhappy to be in the heat and humidity as I was. This time was a lot different.

Polar Bear in the distance
Polar Bear in the distance

I received a page while working in a lab on one of the lower decks. Before I turned off my pager, Bill came running down to get his camera and told me there was a polar bear off the port side of the ship. We could just barely see a spot on the distant horizon, slightly less white than the surrounding ice. I went up to the Bridge to get a better view, and most of the science team was there. I didn’t have to ask where it was; I just followed the line of everyone’s binoculars and cameras. Once I had a sense of what to look for and where to look, it became easier to spot, and it obliged us by moving closer to the ship. We were holding position at the time for a water sampling event, so we got a good long view as the bear ambled along. It was like watching a nature movie. It stopped every once in a while to sniff the air, and it walked along, stepping or jumping across melt ponds on the ice. We watched for at least a half hour before it moved out of site.Here are some of my best shots.

Polar Bear Walking in the distance
Polar Bear Walking in the distance
Polar Bear near the water
Polar Bear near the water
I hope those images help cool you off for a minute or two!
Caroline

Caroline Singler, August 7-9, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler
Ship: USCGC Healy

Mission: Extended Continental Shelf Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Arctic Ocean 41 miles north of Alaska
Date: 9 August 2010

Seeing the Bottom — 7 August 2010

It’s taken me several days to write and post this entry. I wanted to learn more about the sonar technology that we are using for the bathymetric mapping, then we lost internet early on the morning of 8 August 2010 while heading north in the Beaufort Sea. This happened at about the same time as we started encountering heavy ice, but I do not believe that the two events were related. I am including location and weather data for several days to give you a sense of where we were and where we are heading as well as the physical changes in our environment.Thankfully, email works even when internet does not – it took my non-IT oriented mind a while to wrap itself around that concept. While I am out of range, my dear sister Rosemary has agreed to post for me as long as I can get emails to her. (Thanks, Ro!) You already have her to thank for the polar bear post. Please keep emailing and/or posting comments. I look forward to reading comments when I come home.
Location and Weather Data from the Bridge
Date: 7 August 2010 Time of Day: 1400 (2:00 p.m.) local time; 22:00 UTC
Latitude: 70º47.6’N Longitude: 142º42.3’W
Ship Speed: 15.1 knots Heading: 111º (southeast)
Air Temperature: 5.1ºC /41.6ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1005.3 millibars
Humidity: 87 .9%
Winds: 27.7 Knots NE
Sea Temperature: 2.3ºC
Salinity: 20.22 PSU (practical salinity units)
Water Depth:1270 .8 mDate: 8 August 2010
Time of Day: 1245 (12:45 local time); 20:45 UTC
Latitude: 72º12.72’N
Longitude: 138º28.7’W
Ship Speed: 7.7 knots
Heading: 36.2º (NE)
Air Temperature: 0.5ºC /32.9ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1012.7 millibars Humidity: 86.3%
Winds: 19.3 Knots NE
Wind Chill: -7.48ºC/18.53ºF
Sea Temperature: -1.2ºC Salinity: 25.5 PSU
Water Depth:2547.8 mDate: 9 August 2010
Time of Day: 1530 (3:30 local time); 22:30 UTC
Latitude: 72º 29.8’N
Longitude: 139º 40.9’W
Ship Speed: 6.3 knots
Heading: 183.5º (SSW)
Air Temperature: -0.03ºC /31.94ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1009.7 millibars Humidity: 92.2%
Winds: 17.7 Knots NE
Wind Chill: -6.02ºC /21.17ºF
Sea Temperature: -1.2ºC Salinity: 25.08 PSU
Water Depth:2969.0 mScience and Technology Log
The primary objectives of the science mission are to map the seafloor and image the underlying sediments. Bathymetry is the measurement of depth of water bodies, derived from the Greek bathos meaning deep and metria meaning measure. Early bathymetric surveys used the “lead-lining” method, in which depths are manually recorded using a weighted line. This method is slow and labor intensive, and it is not practical for depths greater than about 100 feet. (Ironically, I spent the summer of 2009 doing just such a survey of a small lake on Long Island, NY working with two other teachers as DOE-ACTSinterns at Brookhaven National Laboratory.) Modern bathymetric surveys use echo sounding, or SONAR (Sound Navigation and Ranging) to determine depth and shape of the seafloor. These systems make it possible to map large areas in extreme detail, leading NOAA to name the 20th Century advancements in hydrographic surveying techniques to its list of Top Ten Breakthroughs during the agency’s first 200 years.SONAR uses sound signals to locate objects beneath the sea surface. Passive systems use receivers such as hydrophones to detect signals transmitted by other sources, such as animals or submarines. Active systems transmit and receive signals. A transmitter mounted on the ship’s hull emits a signal. The signal travels through the water column and bounces off an object in its path. It returns as an echo to a transmitter on the ship that measures the strength of the return signal. The time between transmission and reception is used to determine range, where range equals (speed of sound in seawater) times (travel time divided by 2). When the object that reflects the signal is the seafloor, the range is the water depth.

There are single beam and multibeam sonar systems. Single beam systems measure along a single line beneath the ship and produce a line of depths. Multibeam systems send signals out along a line perpendicular to the ship and generate a “swath” of data for the area beneath the ship. The advantage of this system is that it creates a map that shows depth and shape of the seafloor. The diagram below shows a schematic comparison of three bottom survey methods.

Chart of three survey methods
Chart of three survey methods
Me on watch
Me on watch
Healy is equipped with a hull-mounted multibeam sonar system. It runs continuously whenever Healy is at sea, collecting bathymetric data to add to our knowledge of the seafloor at high latitudes. I serve as one of the watch standers in the geophysics lab each night from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. We keep an eye on several computer monitors that display the data from the different geophysics tools and others that display water quality and geographic position data. The photo on the right shows me with my watch partner, USGS scientist Peter Triezenberg sitting at the watch station.
There are many variables that can influence the quality of the multibeam data. The speed of sound in water is influenced by many different variables, including temperature and salinity. Therefore, seawater samples are collected from the ship’s seawater intake system to generate a thermosalinograph (TSG) profile to keep the speed of sound accurately calibrated. Additionally, expendable probes (XBTs) are launched twice a day to update the sound speed profiles. Other instruments monitor the attitude (pitch, roll and heave) of the ship and feed that data to the multibeam system. Finally, the ship keeps extremely precise track of time of day and geographical position so that the data can be used for accurate bathymetric mapping of the seafloor. My job as a watch stander is basically to be sure that everything is running properly, and to notify one of the specialists if something is not right.
Multibeam monitors:
Multibeam Monitors
Multibeam Monitors
TSG display:

The end result is a detailed map of the seafloor in which different colors represent different depths. The picture below shows an image of the raw multibeam data superimposed on a seafloor map which we can see on the ship’s Map Server display. The red line shows the ship’s track, and the new multibeam data extends perpendicular to that line. Other data on the map are from transects mapped on earlier Healy cruises and other sources.

Map Server Display
Map Server Display
Personal Log

Breaking ice
Breaking ice
We experienced a range of sea and ice conditions over the last several days as we traveled east of Barrow Alaska and headed north into the Beaufort Sea. Our earliest ice encounters were a gentle preview of what was to come – mostly bumps and scrapes with small pieces as we headed eastward parallel to the Alaska coastline. By midday on Saturday, we began to cross larger floes, and at times the ship was really rocking. One science team member said it feels like riding the subway, that’s a pretty good analogy. Sitting in the Mess on the main deck of the ship – which is about one floor above water line – I hear the grinding of ice on steel and it feels like I’m sitting in a big tin can that’s being crushed in a trash compactor. Fortunately, the ship is tougher than the ice. At times we move so much that everything in the room shakes. Because we are on a ship, everything is bolted down, but I still look up to be sure there is no danger of anything falling on my head. Some team members from California say the sensation reminds them of an earthquake.

Late Saturday morning, we crossed out of ice and back into open water. As we approached the last pieces of ice before open water, I saw waves hitting the distant edges of the ice; it looked like waves breaking on the shore. At first, I did not grasp the significance of this observation – I thought it was pretty and snapped some pictures and marveled at how we could be in thick ice and then suddenly in open water.

Waves on ice
Waves on ice

In the next hour, I realized that these were the largest waves we had encountered so far on the trip, and while they looked pretty, they also made the ship roll considerably more than it had before. Over the next few hours, I began to sense the movement more than I had in a few days. By dinner time, I had difficulty walking straight across the mess deck, and I was becoming a little apprehensive. I took a motion sickness pill as a preventative measure, and I took a nap because it was far more pleasant to lie in my rack and be rocked by the ship’s motion than to try to remain vertical. We eventually moved into calmer waters, and soon after that, we were back in heavy ice, which I somehow do not find as unpleasant as the waves. Since then, our movement has been slow and steady along our transects through the ice, with an emphasis on slow.

We don’t get much darkness up here in the Arctic, but we do occasionally get treated to some great sunrises and sunsets, if one is awake to catch them. Here are some photos of the sunset on Saturday 7 August 2010. The first was taken about an hour before sunset from the port side of the ship. I was as captivated by the horsetail clouds as I was by the color of the sky. The second was taken just at sunset, right before my camera battery died!

Sunset
Sunset
Sunset from the port side
Sunset from the port side

Caroline Singler, August 6, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler
Ship: USCGC Healy

Mission: Extended Continental Shelf Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Arctic Ocean

Date of Post: 2 September 2010

 

Ice, Ice, Baby!

Watching my first ice
Watching my first ice

I’ve had that song in my head since we left Dutch Harbor – well actually that’s the only line I know, and we encountered our first sea ice early this morning, Friday 6 August 2010.

We knew it was coming eventually, and a look at a satellite overlay on the ship tracker during last night’s watch revealed that we were getting close to the ice. The white areas to the south of the ship are clouds, but you can see broken white patches north of the ship’s track that are sea ice.

Ice Map
Ice Map

My watch ended at midnight, and we estimated that we’d be in the ice around 4:00 a.m., so I set my alarm for that time. At first I forgot why my alarm was going off, but then I heard a new sound, something I had been told to expect, and I realized it must be the sound of the ship’s hull scraping against the ice. I looked out the porthole to see patches of ice passing by, so I put on some warmer clothes and headed out on deck and then up to the bridge for my first look at sea ice. I’ll have plenty of opportunities to talk more about ice and the work of an ice breaker over the next couple of weeks, but for now, I want to share with you what I saw. I think you’ll understand why I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to be here.
Enjoy!
Caroline

These were my first views from the fore deck. Notice the sky:

View from Fore Deck - 6AM
View from Fore Deck – 6AM
Morning Sky and first ice
Morning Sky and first ice

The bridge provides some of the best views in the house. The fact that the sun chose to make an appearance through the clouds and early morning mist only added to the beauty.

Sun and ice
Sun and ice
Sun Breaking through the sky
Sun Breaking through the sky
Morning sun over ice
Morning sun over ice

 

ice from the bridge
View of ice from the bridge
Throughout the day, the ice came and went. At times, we rammed into large floes with such force that the entire ship rocked and groaned. Other times, the water was almost ice free.
Small iceberg
Small iceberg
Me on the deck
Me on the deck

Here I am in the Arctic Ocean, and I cannot imagine a better way to spend the summer!

Caroline Singler, August 3-4, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea:Caroline Singler
Ship: U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Healy

Mission: International Continental Shelf Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Bering Sea en route to Arctic Ocean
Date: 4 August 2010

In the Bering Sea – 3 & 4 August 2010

Location and Weather Data from the Bridge
Time of Day: 1600 (4:00 p.m.) local time; 00:00 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time)
Latitude: 65º19’N
Longitude: 168º16’W
Ship Speed: 16.9 knots Heading: 358.1º
Air Temperature: 11.33ºC /52.38ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1009.3 millibars Humidity: 94.9%
Winds: 9.6 Knots SSE
Sea Temperature: 9.9 ºC
Water Depth:53.6 m
Science and Technology Log
Since leaving Dutch Harbor on 2 August 2010, the USCGC Healy has traveled north through the Bering Sea en route to the Arctic Ocean, where we will embark on the third year of an international effort called the Extended Continental Shelf Project. In a few days, we will rendezvous with the Canadian Coast Guard Ship (CCGS) Louis S. St. Laurent in the Arctic Ocean. The objectives of this mission are to perform detailed bathymetric mapping of the seafloor and imaging of the subsurface and to collect physical seafloor samples in the part of the Arctic known as the Beaufort Sea and Canada Basin. I will write more about this over the next few days; in a nutshell, we want to determine the limits of the extended continental shelf in that region. Our primary role on the Healy is to serve as the lead ice breaker for the Louis so that she can collect multichannel seismic reflection data of the subsurface. At the same time, Healy will collect multibeam bathymetric data and high resolution seismic reflection data and obtain seafloor samples using a variety of dredging and coring methods. The extent of our work may be influence by sea ice conditions which can be unpredictable.One of my responsibilities on the cruise is to serve as a “Watchstander” for the geophysical data collection. Watchstanders work in pairs and are responsible for keeping an eye on the computer monitor displays of the data that is continuously collected by the multibeam sonar and “chirp” (seismic reflection) data and to call in the experts if something goes wrong. Water depths are shallow and the seafloor relatively featureless on our traverse through the Bering Sea, but the data will likely become more interesting when we reach out destination. This is the time to learn about the equipment and understand our responsibilities so that we’ll be sharp when our data collection efforts become more critical. Last year’s mission mapped a previously undiscovered seamount! My watch is from 2000 to 0000 (8 p.m. to midnight), which leaves me lots of time during the day to write, research, and wander around learning about the ship. Later in the mission I will be involved in the sampling efforts when I am not on geophysical watch.

Fog Bow
Fog Bow

Personal Log
It has been smooth sailing since leaving Dutch Harbor, and we have moved relatively quickly, slowing occasionally when the fog thickens. Foggy conditions are common in the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean. I went out on deck early yesterday evening to enjoy a brief period when the sun was visible above the fog, and was treated to the sight of a “fog bow”.

Puffin Check!
Puffin Check!

NOSB folks will be happy to know that my puffin is accompanying me on my journey, even when I’m on watch.

I’ve seen both horned puffins and tufted puffins from the ship, and I’m beginning to be able to tell the difference, but nothing beats the show the horned puffins put on for us in Dutch Harbor. If you want to see awesome bird shots, take a look at Bill Schmoker’s journals, which you’ll find linked on the upper right side of my blog page.

Earlier this afternoon, we passed near a small island called King Island in the northern Bering Sea. There was a lot of seabird activity closer to shore, and I was fortunate to be on the Bridge watching when the marine mammal observer saw a gray whale. I got to see it surface and dive once; no time for a photo, just firsthand enjoyment of the experience.


I took a break while writing this log to go back to the Bridge as we passed through the Bering Straits. The view was the same as it was for the rest of the day, but I wanted to have the best view in the house for the experience.

Moving through the Bering Strait
Moving through the Bering Strait

Today is Coast Guard Day which commemorates the formation of the Revenue Cutter Service in 1790. In honor of the occasion, the Coasties roasted a pig out on the helo (helicopter) deck and served a picnic style dinner in the Mess tonight.

Pig Roast
Pig Roast

Did You Know?
I did a search to learn more about Coast Guard Day. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the Treasury Department established the Revenue Cutter Service in 1790 and “authorized the building of a fleet of ten cutters, whose responsibility would be the enforcement of the first tariff laws enacted by Congress under the Constitution.” The name “Coast Guard” was adopted in 1915.
Source: U.S. Department of Defense

Caroline Singler, August 4, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler
Ship: USCGC Healy

Mission: Extended Continental Shelf Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Arctic Ocean

Date of Post: 2 September 2010

Crossing the Arctic Circle

Arctic Circle Crossing Screen View
Arctic Circle Crossing Screen View

On 4 August 2010 at 2017 local time (5 August 2010 04:17 UTC), I crossed the Arctic Circle as a passenger on the USCGC Healy. One of the advantages of being on watch was that I was staring at a computer screen and could photodocument the moment – well, I missed it slightly as I adjusted the camera, but I came close! The map below shows the ship’s position at the time of our crossing. (I can’t figure out how to make it larger, so look for the little red dot!)

Map
Map of ship crossing into the Arctic Circle
The skies have cleared considerably over the last couple of hours. Here are a couple of photos taken from outside the lab, which is located near the stern of the ship.
Looking fore and to port:
View of Arctic sky
View of Arctic sky
Looking aft:

View of Arctic sky
View of Arctic sky

Several people have told me about the recent aurora activity. Unfortunately, between fog and increasing number of daylight hours, we cannot see the displays.
CarolineNew terms
Polar Bear – one who has previously crossed the Arctic Circle at sea and has been initiated.
Blue Nose –one who is making his/her first crossing of the Arctic Circle or has previously crossed and has not been initiated.

Caroline Singler, July,28 – August 1, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler
Ship: USCGC Healy

Mission: Extended Continental Shelf Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Arctic Ocean

Date of Post: 2 September 2010

The Journey Begins – 28 July to 1 August 2010

Approaching Dutch Harbor
Approaching Dutch Harbor

I left home at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday 28 July for what ended up being nearly 20 hours of travel. At the end of the day, I was exhausted but relieved to have successfully reached my destination, Dutch Harbor, Alaska. The trip from Anchorage to Dutch is 790 miles but required 2 refueling stops along the way and took more than 3 hours. It’s never a sure bet that a plane will be able to land, so we were fortunate to make a safe landing in the rain and wind.

View from Unisea Inn
View from Unisea Inn
While in Dutch Harbor, I stayed at the Unisea Inn. It’s not exactly luxury accomodations,and I couldn’t believe there was actually a hotel there when the shuttle driver dropped me off, but it was clean and there was lots of hot water, and my room looked out over the small boat harbor, which was much nicer than the nearby fish processing plants! I spent the last few days wandering around Dutch Harbor and Unalaska. The cool weather was a welcome relief after the hot, humid summer we’ve had back home. I did have to pull out the rain gear, but while it’s often cloudy, it rarely rains for long. The sky is constantly changing, and as the sky changes, everything around looks different as well. It’s been great to just be out walking around since I will be on a ship for the next 5 weeks. Here’s a view of Dutch Harbor from a hill near town.
View of Dutch Harbor
View of Dutch Harbor
Bald Eagles
Bald Eagles
Puffins
Puffins
When I woke up this morning, I realized it was the last time I’d wake up on land for a while. That was a strange feeling. Late this afternoon we boarded the Healy. I unpacked my bags and I’m ready to go, but we don’t leave port until tomorrow afternoon. I’ll post more after I’ve learned more about the ship’s computer system.Caroline

Caroline Singler, August 2, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler
Ship: USCGC Healy

Mission: Extended Continental Shelf Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Arctic Ocean

Date of Post: 2 September 2010

We’re Off! – A look back at Monday 2 August 2010

USCGC Healy
USCGC Healy

We left the port of Dutch Harbor on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy at 1500 on Monday, 2 August 2010. I first saw the Healy from a distance. While walking through Unalaska on Friday morning, I stopped to take some photos looking back towards Dutch Harbor across Iliuliuk Bay and I saw a red and white ship at a distant dock. I couldn’t read the writing on the side, but a local fisherman stopped to talk to me and told me that I was looking at an ice breaker, so I knew it must be Healy. We boarded the ship on Sunday afternoon, and it is much more impressive up close.

USCGC Healy
USCGC Healy

It’s such a huge ship that I hardly noticed a change in sound or movement when they fired up the engines. Standing on one of the weatherdecks looking over the bow of the ship, I was unaware that we were moving until I walked around to the starboard side and realized that the space between us and the dock was increasing. I wandered around taking photos as we made our way towards open water. Dutch Harbor is located on a small island called Amaknak Island – the peak on the right is Mt. Ballyhoo.

Dutch Harbor
Dutch Harbor

As we made our way into more open water, I took a photo of a prominent sea stack which someone told me is Priest Rock, a landmark often referred to on “Deadliest Catch”.

Priest Rock
Priest Rock

I spent the first day learning my way around the ship and attending various briefings. I quickly realized that when I’m inside, I have no sense of direction. My stateroom is on the port side of the 02 deck, right across from Sick Bay (which I hope I will not need) and not far from the Science Conference Room, so I can orient myself if I can find my room. So far, the only sign that we are at sea is a gentle rocking motion and the occasional sound of the fog horn. Here’s the view from my stateroom, taken a few hours after we left port.

View from Porthole
View from Porthole

An important part of the first briefing was learning about what to do during a ship emergency. If we were to ever have to abandon ship, each person on the boat must don a survival suit, affectionately referred to as the Gumby suit. It looked pretty easy when demonstrated by one of the “Coasties”. However, watching and doing are certainly two different things, so anyone who had never tried one on before was required to do so. I cannot explain the eerie feeling of getting into one and zipping it up and realizing that in an emergency, my ability to do that again might mean my survival. It was much more difficult than it looked, and I definitely needed help finding all the straps and attachments. I hope it is the last time I’ll ever have to do that. Here I am in my suit together with Jerry, another member of the team. It’s a stylish look, don’t you think?

In our Gumby Suits
In our Gumby Suits

Now that we are underway, I will begin to learn about the science on our mission and will write about it in my logs. I’m going to switch to the more formal log format recommended by the NOAA Teacher at Sea program. Feel free to comment or email if you have any questions about my log, if you are curious about life at sea, or if you just want to say hello.Caroline