Edge of the Arctic Shelf
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Daily Update

Dispatch 02 - September 11, 2003
By C. A. Linder

Weather conditions: Intermittent blowing snow, partly cloudy to overcast skies, 15 kt winds, 2-3 ft seas, air temperature 35° F

Mass Transit
The day dawned cold and blustery in Barrow. A damp wind was blowing out of the west, carrying with it the tangy salt smell of the Arctic Ocean. Although we were skeptical about the poor weather conditions, we loaded all of our luggage into the vans by 7:30AM. Minutes later, right on cue, we got the word: "the helicopters are going to fly today - let's get to the flight line."

Fred Kline Helo
Barrow air traffic controller Fred Kline guides the helicopters onto the runway. Science party members wait their turn to get on the helicopter.
Click to enlarge Click to enlarge

Off we went in the vans, bouncing along over the rutted dirt track to the Barrow airport. Everyone was smiling with anticipation - our days of grueling traveling would finally be over and we could get settled into our bunks on the USCGC Healy.

A storm squall graces the horizon above Healy's wake.
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Getting 20 scientists and 6,000 pounds of equipment onto an icebreaker waiting 3 miles offshore is no easy task. When you add 6,000 more pounds of food and five more crew members, the equation gets even more complicated! Fortunately, the Healy is equipped with a talented aviation division - this is the team on the ship responsible for the care, feeding, and flying of the ship's two HH-65A Dolphin helicopters. The aviators were also offloading several crew members and the previous science party, so every trip back and forth from the ship would be a full one.

At 8:30AM the first helicopter zipped around Barrow's flight control tower and landed on the runway. Air traffic controller Fred Kline kept us entertained with stories about a recent polar bear visitation of the airport (last Sunday!) while the first four passengers suited up in exposure suits and loaded into the waiting Dolphin. And so the morning passed into afternoon, the helicopters running continuously back and forth from ship to shore.

By midafternoon, our entire science party was on the Healy enjoying our first lunch. After getting refueled we began to attack the stack of waiting cargo boxes. Science operations are due to commence as early as tomorrow, so the science labs were a flurry of activity today -- unpacking boxes, setting up and securing computers, testing instruments. When you're at sea every minute is priceless, and we are determined to make the most of every moment we have in the Arctic Ocean.

To see more photos from our first day at sea, visit the Digital Dispatch Image Gallery, which I will be updating from the ship as time allows.

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