Edge of the Arctic Shelf
Daily Update
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Red floats
The deck is getting crowded with mooring buoys! Next week they start going back into the water.
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Boat line
Marine Science Technician Suzanne Scriven lets out a line to the waiting small boat during the ARP recovery.
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Sarah Zimmermann holds a hitchhiking worm that we found stuck to a mooring. Both ends of the worm have large suction cups.
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Daily Update

Dispatch 18 - September 27, 2003
By C. A. Linder

Weather conditions: Overcast skies, 30 kt winds, 1-2 ft seas, air temperature 28°F

Clean Sweep
Our break in the weather came right on cue this morning, and the mooring team was ready to go. Right after breakfast, the last deep mooring was released and quickly recovered. We then proceeded immediately to the site of the Acoustic Recording Package (ARP) and released it. There were some tense moments on the bridge as a fog bank began to roll in while we waited for the buoys to appear. Luck was with us, though - the ARP popped up right in front of the ship. A zodiac was put in the water, and the small boat team hooked a line to the top of the ARP. Then it was a simple matter to reel in the line and haul the several hundred pound mooring on board. This afternoon the shallowest, and final, mooring was picked up, making the mooring marathon a complete success. The instruments were immediately stripped off and checked. Bob Pickart sat in stunned silence when Sarah Zimmermann and Ryan Schrawder broke the news - every instrument on the picket fence had collected more than a year's worth of data! Bob was prepared for a significant instrument failure rate, so this clean sweep was absolutely astounding news! This data will provide us with a detailed look at how the water properties and currents are changing over a full year across the shelfbreak. Never before has this kind of a dataset been collected in the Arctic.

After lunch, the Chief Engineer, Lieutenant Commander Gregory Stanclik, took some science party members on a whirlwind tour of the ship's massive engine rooms. We started with the Healy's massive generators, which provide electricity to the propellers and for the ship's general needs. When the generators are running at maximum capacity (for heavy icebreaking), LCDR Stanclik told us the Healy could "provide electricity for half of Cape Cod!" From there we visited the ultra-modern engine control room, which looks like something out of a Star Trek set. Due to the many automated features, the Healy's engines can be operated by only two watchstanders. In comparison, older icebreakers require about 4 times as many personnel to keep the engines running smoothly. After clambering up, down, and through strange passageways for about an hour, I realized that before this tour I had probably only seen 20% of the ship! The mind-boggling array of electrical lines and motors had our heads spinning. It gave me a new appreciation for just how complex this ship is, and how different from the wooden whaling ships that used to ply these waters less than 100 years ago.

Here are two questions from Mr. Jarvi's 5th grade class at Varnum Brook Elementary School.

Question: Have you seen animals hunting?
Answer: I can think of two instances where we have observed animals hunting. The first time was on September 15th. We had just entered a thick mass of ice floes, and the first thing we saw in the distance was a brownish lump resting on an ice floe. As we got closer, we discovered that it was the body of a young walrus! The two polar bears circling the ship had evidently recently killed the walrus - we had interrupted their meal. Judging from the numerous bloodstained ice floes in the area, this was a popular feeding site for these two particular bears. They certainly looked quite fat and happy! The second time we observed feeding behavior was also in mid-September. A squawking flock of kittiwakes pursued the ship for several days, catching arctic cod in our wake. We also observed their entertaining "dive-bomber" feeding syle last year.

Question: What is the rarest animal you have seen up there?
Answer: That's a tough question... We have seen polar bears and one walrus, which are actually quite commonly seen along the ice edge. I have to say the biggest surprise for me was the short-eared owl that visited us. While I don't think short-eared owls are particularly rare, I think it is unusual to see them at sea. There are two possible explanations as to how the owl happened to visit us out in the middle of the Chukchi Sea. One is that the owl got blown offshore by some strong winds, and was trying to find his way to land. The other is that the owl was on his way from the Alaskan mainland to an island - arctic owls have been known to fly from island to island in the Arctic eating small arctic mice called lemmings.

For the next couple of days we will be preparing the mooring instruments for another year under the ice. In the meantime, we will continue sampling with the CTD and collecting bottom map and current data. Don't forget to visit the image gallery to see more photos of Arctic oceanograpy in action.

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