October 15, 2016
Outside it was snowing and the water was kicking up. Someone in the shack said,
And it was over, just like that. The day shift went down to a late dinner.
Those who hadn’t slept because of the multiple all-night rosette casts over the past few days are catching up on some much-needed sleep before the party tonight at 8 PM. Many had begun to look a bit haggard but smiling nevertheless and happy to have collected so much data over the past month. A very successful trip.
At dinner I wondered out loud what the importance this data holds about the changing chemistry and physical properties of the Beaufort Gyre. I mean let’s say in the fifteen years or so of collecting information on this Project it seems that there is more and more fresh water mixing into the Beaufort and let’s say the chemistry is changing seemingly pretty fast as there is less and less ice, and the ice is forming later and later in the year, and let’s say one can connect this to global climate change in concrete and measurable ways, then the question is what can this knowledge do for the world? How do you take knowledge and turn it into public policy that can help mitigate whatever humans are doing to the planet?
I think the answer has something to do with the value of accumulated knowledge. As we come to understand what’s happening in the Arctic, we add to the world’s dawning comprehension of how things actually work and that in itself can make a difference. Apparently there are citizen scientists in Canada who are keeping track of when outdoor rinks are freezing, the actual dates, which seem to be later and later each year. This is a kind of data too, that can contribute to our overall knowledge. But nothing comes close to the detailed data from the JOIS trips in the Beaufort.
For decades the Arctic was pictured as a cold, immutable place; all through the 40s and 50s and 60s everyone just assumed nothing much was changing up here. Then projects like the Beaufort Gyre Project started finding out stuff, and the more stuff we find out over time, the more we can understand the complex processes going on here, and maybe even find out how to change human behavior as a result. But first we need to know the inner workings of places like the Beaufort.
There’s a feeling of release as we move at 15 knots through the night toward our final port. And the party begins.
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