Dispatch 02 - July 16, 2002
By C.A. Linder
Weather conditions: overcast skies, light and variable winds, calm seas, air
temperature 50° F
Wheres My Room Again?
Our first night was a whirlwind. It still seems unreal to me that we are actually at sea on a 400-foot-long icebreaker steaming toward the Arctic Ocean. (It certainly helps that the seas are calm, so the ship hardly seems like its moving).
As soon as we arrived onboard last night, we were whisked around the ship by our gracious hosts and given an orientation lecture. I knew the Polar Star was a big ship, but I certainly wasnt prepared for the confusing warren of passageways and flow of people.
You will get lost, warned Marine Science Officer Paul Rodriguez. And, sure enough, I did. There was, however, always a friendly face to turn me in the right direction. In fact, there are 164 friendly faces on the Polar Star, and its quite likely that I wont meet or even see everyone before the cruise is done. The science party interacts mainly with the staff of the Marine Science Department, the experts in operating the shipboard scientific equipment safely and efficiently. But there are a whole host of other people who keep the ships engines finely tuned, who maneuver this massive vessel, and who prepare three hot meals a day for the crew.
In the course of getting lost several times, I stumbled upon some really fascinating parts of the ship. The Polar Stars two HH-65 Dolphin helicopters are stored in a hangar near the rear. They are the ships eyes, used to scout the ice in advance of the vessel to find open leads. Around other corners I found a substantial weight room and sauna, a small movie theater, a barber shop, an infirmary, and even the Polar Starbucks, which serves up tasty hot beverages.
While getting acquainted with the layout of the ship, we
also have been hurriedly unpacking and testing the hundred of thousands
of dollars worth of scientific equipment. At sea, time is precious.
Losing a few days to bad weather or an equipment malfunction can mean
the difference between success and failure for the expedition. You
cant run to the hardware store to pick up something you have
forgotten, and you wont get a few extra days of ship time.
We have to make sure that when we arrive on station
- at the various sites where experiments will be conducted -- no time
is wasted. Thats why we have packed spares of almost everything,
from lead weights to instrument parts to batteries for my digital
If you want to collect useful data, it is essential to properly calibrate the instruments. So tomorrow will be an important day: we will test one of our primary sensor packages, the CTD. Mooring technicians will also ready their gear for the first mooring deployment in the central Chukchi Sea, which could happen in the next few days.
We look forward to your questions, which you can email to email@example.com.
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