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The morning sun lights up a bank of low clouds.
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Daily Update

Dispatch 11 - September 20, 2003
By C. A. Linder

Weather conditions: Partly cloudy skies, 10 kt winds, calm seas, air temperature 28°F

Sea Canaries
After putting the finishing touches on last night's dispatch, I decided to get a bit of air on the flight deck. When you're out in the middle of the ocean, the night sky is a wonder to behold. There are no city lights to compete with the stars, so they blaze brightly. Unfortunately, the overcast clouds that have plagued us for the duration of the cruise have also prevented us from seeing the night sky. That's why my surprise was complete as my eyes adjusted to the darkness and I noticed faint green streaks splashing across the sky. A hole in the clouds had parted to reveal the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights. By the time I roused the science party from the main lab and returned to the flight deck, the clouds were already closing back in, and the brief display was over. The northern lights are caused by collisions between fast-moving electrons and the oxygen and nitrogen in the upper atmosphere. The oxygen and nitrogen gases become "excited" by the impacts. As they return to their normal state they emit energy in the form of light - the aurora borealis.

This morning as I was working on my computer, Marine Science Technician Senior Chief Glen Hendrickson stopped by with a printout in hand. The image he showed me was of the aurora that we had seen last night, captured by a passing satellite! The Healy receives visible and infrared satellite images to aid in weather and ice forecasting. Glen showed me the sophisticated computer system, known as the Terascan, that he uses to receive the images. Looking at the images from last night the aurora was clearly visible as a set of bright streaks all around our position. Incredible! Since the weather has cleared today, we are all hoping for another auroral display tonight.

Lisa throwing
Lisa Munger throws a sonobuoy off the fantail.
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Lisa Munger was elated today - last night she heard the chirps and whistles of beluga whales on one of her sonobuoys. I asked her to describe what she heard.

"I deployed the sonobuoy around 8pm as we were approaching a CTD station, so that I could listen while the ship sat still on the station. We had seen several walruses that day, so I knew there was life out there! After about 8 minutes, I heard a couple of brief whistles, and quickly hit 'record' on my digital tape recorder. Sure enough, the following hour or so was full of high-pitched whistles and buzzing sounds, as the belugas lived up to their old nickname 'sea canaries.' "

To listen to a brief excerpt of what beluga whale calls sound like, click here. Keep in mind that this 7 seconds of audio is 1.3MB in size, so be patient downloading.

I have received a number of questions about what we're eating on the Healy.

The students from Mrs. Cadwell's class at Varnum Brook Elementary would like to know:
Question: What kinds of "food places" are available on the ship? How do you pay for food?
Answer: Everyone on the ship eats in the same place - the "mess deck". As you can see from the photo, it's probably quite similar to the cafeteria at Varnum Brook! The food is provided by the National Science Foundation as part of the research project.

Jessica from Mrs. Werner's class at the Morse Pond School asks:
Question: How's the food on the ship?
Answer: I think it's great! There are four meals served on the ship every day - breakfast (7-8AM), lunch (11AM-Noon), dinner (5-6PM), and "Midrats" (for the night watchstanders, 11PM-Midnight). I'm always astounded by the fancy desserts that are available for dinner. I'm certainly not losing any weight on this cruise! To get a broader perspective on this question, I also asked Carin Ashjian and Sarah Zimmermann.

Carin's answer: "The food on the Healy is good! There is a wide variety at every meal. There always is a salad bar in addition to two entrees. At lunch, often there is a baked potato, sandwich, or nacho bar where you can make up your own dish. There are so many choices that it's hard to make a decision! We also have a big bowl of fruit out all the time and desserts in the evening. And there is a kettle of soup out for both lunch and dinner, good for cold Arctic days!"

Food Services Specialist Vanessa Agosto puts the finishing touches on tortilla desert cups.
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Sarah's answer: "Variety, desserts, and fresh fruit (still!)- the food is great. There's even a coffee shop called the 'Java Hut' where you can get your double latte. I've been on ships that have run out of basic supplies: bread, coffee, even salt. They ended up making bread with anything similar to flour (pancake mix included) and boiling down seawater to get salt. But how do you replace coffee??"

Katie and Kayla from Mrs. Rodgers' class at Morse Pond School ask:
Question: What are you eating for meals? 6,000 pounds of food sounds like a lot! Do you eat the type of meals you would normally eat?
Answer: Well, you can take a look at this week's menu to see exactly the kind of things that we're eating on the ship. I decided to take a closer look at the 6,000 pounds of food that the helicopters transferred to the ship when we left Barrow. Jonathan Scott gave me a great tour of the freezers and other food storage rooms. As you can imagine, they are huge! He told me that 6,000 pounds will last us roughly for a month. Can you imagine only shopping for food once a month? That takes some serious planning...

Question from Annie, Morse Pond School: How is fresh water provided on the ship? How much water did you need to bring to last the trip?
Answer: Great question, Annie! The Healy makes all of the fresh water that we need on board. Fresh water is made by a process known as reverse osmosis. Essentially, the salt is removed from seawater by squeezing the water through a very fine filter. The water is certainly not in limitless supply, though. We are encouraged to conserve water as much as possible. One way to save water is by taking "sea showers." The goal is to only have the shower running for about two minutes. You turn on the water, get wet, then turn it off and soap up. Then you rinse. One of the first things I do when I get home is take a nice long shower!

CTD operations have continued as we make our way southeast toward the Alaskan coast. We expect to finish the section sometime early tomorrow morning. Then we will turn west to redeploy the Chukchi Sea Central Channel mooring.

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