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Images: Exploring the Arctic in the Midst of Change

The U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy was the platform for an expedition with 26 researchers aboard to the western Arctic Ocean in late summer of 2010. (Photo by Rachel Fletcher)

A primary mission of the expedition was to study the Western Arctic Boundary Current, which flows eastward along the coast of Alaska’s Beaufort Sea. But scientists from a broad range of sciences joined the cruise to pursue various lines of inquiry. (Map courtesy of NASA)

Scientists and crew joining the expedition flew by helicopter from Barrow, Alaska (which has no harbor), to the ship anchored two miles off shore. (Photo by Rachel Fletcher)

To study the current, scientists set out a mooring consisting of, from bottom to top, of a heavy anchor, an acoustic release, and a long wire held vertically in the water column by 2-ton yellow float (far right) at the upper end. Scientists can attach to the wire a variety of instruments measuring temperature, salinity, and nutrients, as well as smaller buoyant yellow balls. (Photo by Rachel Fletcher)

The mooring has a special device for ice-covered waters called the Arctic winch, mounted on the top float. It contains a small, buoyant package of sensorsthat once a day is allowed to rise on a tether to either the ocean surface or the bottom of the ice pack. If the package comes in contact with ice  the winch withdraws the instrument from harm’s way. (Photo by Rachel Fletcher)

Healy crew member Miguel Uribarri and John Kemp, mooring technician at WHOI, are among the first people on the ice to locate a suitable spot to place a portable meteorological station that automatically reports atmmospheric data to shoreside computers for a year or more. (Rachel Fletcher)

With a heavily armed crew member scouting for polar bear from the flight deck, WHOI technician Frank Bahr brings the meteorological station to life while Healy crew member Daniel Jarrett looks on. (Photo by Rachel Fletcher)

Barely a day later, the meteorological station stopped transmitting. The suspected culprit? Polar bear. (Photo by Rachel Fletcher)

Bob Pickart, a physical oceanographer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, was chief scientist of the expedition. (Photo by Chris Linder)