Edge of the Arctic Shelf
Daily Update
Images and Maps

Jim Johnson celebrates successfully redeploying the two University of Washington moorings.
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Snowy bow
Snow collects on the foc'sle as the Healy steams northward.
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Boatswain's mate Darrell Bresnahan guides the crane hook up after the mooring deployment.
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Daily Update

Dispatch 08 - September 17, 2003
By C. A. Linder

Weather conditions: Overcast skies, snow flurries, 15 kt winds, 1-2 ft seas, air temperature 30°F

Farthest North
Our bow is pointed to the northeast, and we're headed to our farthest north position on the cruise, roughly 74.5°N. Even though it seems like we're on the edge of the earth, that's still over 1,000 miles from the North Pole. Snow has been falling intermittently all day today, and ice has been building up on the metal railings. That didn't stop our mooring team from putting in an impressive performance, though. Jim Johnson's second mooring released immediately when he sent the command, to everyone's relief. By midafternoon Jim had also supervised the redeployment of both of the University of Washington moorings. Now he's working hard on getting a year's worth of data off of the instruments he has pulled out of the frigid depths.

I'm getting lots of excellent questions from our junior Arctic explorers! In the coming dispatches I will be grouping related questions together, so don't worry if I don't answer your question right away - I may be saving it for later. These questions come from Mrs. Cadwell's 5th grade class at Varnum Brook Elementary School.

Question from Josh: Here in Pepperell we see 12 hours and 23 minutes of daylight; losing about 4 minutes per day as the seasons change. What is the sun doing up there?
Answer: Josh, I haven't seen the sun since this cruise started! By my calculations, though, sunrise is at 8:16AM and sunset is at 9:38PM. That's 13 hours and 22 minutes of daylight, just a little more than what you have there in Pepperell. Since we are so far north, daylight is slipping away at a much faster rate -- 11 minutes a day compared to your 4 minutes. On December 21st (also known as the Winter Solstice), if you are standing on or north of the Arctic Circle (66.5°N), the sun will not rise for the entire day. At the North Pole, the situation is even more bizarre - essentially there is only one "day" the entire year. The sun sets on December 21st and rises on June 21st. During the winter months the sun never breaks the horizon, and during the summer months the sun never sets. That's where the expression "Land of the Midnight Sun" comes from.

A related question from Taylor: If the circumference of the earth is smaller where you are, is a day still 24 hours or does time travel faster or what?
Answer: The circumference of the earth is indeed smaller at our extreme latitude, but it still takes the same amount of time for the earth to complete one revolution, regardless of your distance from the equator. Time doesn't pass any faster here in the Arctic; in fact it feels like it passes very slowly when you're at sea!

Here are a couple of questions about staying warm - both outside the ship and inside.

Tim from Varnum Brook Elementary asks this question: What do you wear? From the pictures everyone seems pretty bundled.
Answer: The bulky orange suits that you see people wearing are called "Mustang suits". They keep us toasty warm even when the snow is coming down and the wind is blowing hard. The most important reason we wear them, though, is in case someone is knocked overboard while working on deck. The water is so cold that you can go into shock almost immediately after falling in. The mustang suit provides flotation that will keep your head above water in the event you are unconscious. The bright orange color also ensures that you will be seen and rescued quickly.

Jorden from Morse Pond School asks: Does the boat have heat?
Answer: Yes, Jorden, the ship is heated on the inside to a comfortable 70°F. Of course it feels even warmer if you're wearing your mustang suit!

Here are some additional questions from Mrs. Werner's 6th grade class:

Alessio asks: Approximately how long will it take to get to your final destination?
Answer: We plan on arriving in Nome, Alaska, on October 19th. Since Nome, like Barrow, does not have a pier that the Healy can dock at, we will be shuttled from the icebreaker to the airport via helicopter.

Matt wants to know: About the jelly fish - how much did it weigh?
I decided to ask Christina Courcier about the jellyfish since she actually held it in her hands - here's what she told me:

"Hi Matt - the jellyfish weighed about 2-3 pounds. The photo you saw only shows some of it, the tentacles were darker in color (brick-red) and stuck on our water sampling bottles. They seemed as though they could have been almost ten feet long before they became tangled on our instrument. The center of the jellyfish I was holding was very firm, but also soft, sort of like tough jello.
PS- I went to Morse Pond School in 1976!"

Late tonight we will begin a long line of CTD casts heading south from our farthest north point. Principal Investigators Rebecca Woodgate and Bob Pickart have already begun to analyze the CTD data that we have collected in Barrow Canyon and were struck by how different the water conditions are compared to last year's cruise. They will be working hard over the course of the cruise to formulate some ideas about what has caused these changes.

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