Dispatch 14 - July 28, 2002
By C.A. Linder
Weather conditions: heavy fog, calm winds and seas, air temperature 32° F.
Ups and Downs
Last night was a rough one. Shortly after midnight, the ice closed in thick around us like a clenching fist. Two scheduled CTD casts were aborted because suitable open water ponds could not be found. When the watch team decided to instead try an expendable CTD -- which is only a small probe and thus does not require open water -- the computer system malfunctioned. Either the intense vibrations, caused by heavy icebreaking, or one of the power outages has damaged the XCTD computer system. For the moment, this instrument, one of our failsafe backups, is out of commission.
This morning, we managed to find a sizable pocket of open water, and the CTD was hurriedly deployed. But just as the package was nearing the bottom, a Volkswagen-sized chunk of ice drifted in and snagged the CTD line. Its momentum carried the cable, 10 feet, then 20 feet, then 30 feet away from the ship. The ships Marine Science Technicians desperately tried to free the line with a boat hook, and were finally successful when the bridge gave the ship a quick burst of power and caught up to the runaway floe. That was a bit too close - the CTD could have been lost. Our hopes, along with our brilliant clear morning, faded into a thick, bitingly cold fog.
These werent the best conditions to deploy a mooring, but we just didnt have any more time to wait for the perfect ice. The mooring was going in regardless! This is the deepest of the eight that WHOI will put in on the Beaufort slope. Over 1400 meters (4600 ft) of line and instruments were going in the water! John Kemp, the WHOI mooring expert, supervised the operation. After completing a short survey to assess the surrounding bathymetry, we put the 4000 lb. anchor over the side and started attaching the instruments and lines.
Its a slow process putting in a mooring of this size, and for the twenty people involved, a tiring and cold one too. The frigid arctic mist insidiously invaded the thickest of jackets, chilling us to the core. The ice repeatedly threatened to snag the mooring line, but each time the deck crew fended it off with long poles and clever shiphandling. Three hours later, the final buoy was bobbing in the water, waiting for the release. When we had drifted into position, Bob Pickart gave the OK, and the mooring was off to the bottom to collect data for 13 months. Given the setbacks we had suffered earlier, the successful mooring was a great victory. Seven more to go!
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