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°
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."
| Barrow air traffic
controller Fred Kline guides the helicopters onto the runway.
||Science party members
wait their turn to get on the helicopter.
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.
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
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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