Dispatch 10 - July 24, 2002
By C.A. Linder
Weather conditions: overcast skies & fog, winds 16 knots from the W, calm seas, air temperature 33° F.
The Ice Wins
We arrived at the final UW/UAF Barrow Canyon mooring site around 3AM this morning. The sky had only slightly darkened, and a tinge of pink wreathed the horizon. Much to our dismay the site was clogged with small chunks of ice, resembling a rubble field. Chief Scientist Tom Weingartner, who has been doing fieldwork in the Chukchi Sea for many years, was caught by surprise. Barrow Canyon was supposed to be the one site in our cruise track free of ice. In fact, two weeks ago a visual satellite image showed this area to be clear of ice. Although no one is sure what brought the ice here, it appears likely that northerly winds, aided by a swift current, was the culprit. The problem with such densely-packed small chunks is that it is difficult to find or create a sustainable pond of open water. Nevertheless, the crew was prepared to
deploy the mooring.
They tried for several hours to find a way to keep the small floes away from the aft portion of the ship, using a combination of fire hoses and quick bursts from the ships propellers, but their efforts were in vain. Every time a small space was created, more ice would rush in to fill the void. Tom and the Captain finally made the call to abort the mooring deployment. Fortunately, we will be coming back through this area on our way back to port, and hopefully the conditions will have improved.
A high powered stream of water from the ships fire hose couldnt clear the ice.
Click to enlarge
This makes us all the more nervous about the upcoming Beaufort slope moorings, which are farther to the east. What if the ice conditions are similar there as well? One thing is for sure - the disappointment of this morning has shown that despite all of the ways humans have devised to overcome the harsh Arctic environment, we are still at the mercy of the ice.
This afternoon we bid farewell to one of our science party. Jim Johnson has been nursing a shoulder injury he sustained before the cruise, and when it was announced that the ships helicopters were making a quick run to Barrow, Alaska, he decided to hop aboard. We hope hes feeling better soon, since hes scheduled to be back in the Arctic on the Polar Star in three weeks for the next leg of Arctic West Summer 2002!
To see more photos from this dispatch and the others please visit the Expedition Image Archive.
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