Edge of the Arctic Shelf
Daily Update
Images and Maps
Dawn CTD
The CTD plunges into the waves, 9AM.
Click to enlarge

Daily Update

Dispatch 32 - October 11, 2003
By C. A. Linder

Weather conditions: Overcast skies, 25 kt winds, 7-10 ft seas, air temperature 32°F

Pizza pizza
Even though I had eaten breakfast an hour ago, the sky was still dark this morning as I watched a CTD cast. I could tell a storm was brewing because 10 foot swell waves were rolling down the side of the ship. As the CTD was being lowered into the water, it rose up on the wave crest and then plummeted down into the trough, snapping the cable taut. When the instrument was brought back aboard we found that the cable connecting the CTD sensors to our onboard computers was damaged. Rob Palomares is an expert on the CTD system, and he took the opportunity to lead a class on how to repair the cable connection. It's a lengthy process; the CTD was down for several hours.

At midday the sky seemed hardly brighter than this morning. Leaden overcast skies spat snow and the wind blew the tops off of the waves. Looks like the start of another storm.

Mrs. Cadwell's 5th grade class at Varnum Brook Elementary School was fascinated by our last big storm. They came up with these great questions.

Strong winds blow spray off the tops of these waves.
Click to enlarge
Question from Shawn: Have you had to cancel expeditions before because of storms?
Answer: Hi Shawn. I am not aware of any oceanographic expeditions that have been canceled due to storms, but the weather definitely has a big impact on science operations. So far we have lost four work days due to storms on this cruise, which is actually pretty good! The North Atlantic is notorious for stormy weather, especially in winter. Bob Pickart battled monstrous waves and subfreezing temperatures for 47 days on a January cruise to the Labrador Sea west of Greenland. Ice was forming on the ship and they had to knock it off with wooden hammers!

Dan Torres told me another great "sea story" about a bad storm he was in.

"During one cruise a few years ago we were faced with a hurricane which was rapidly approaching. We were studying currents around the Faroe Islands which are located in the North Atlantic between England and Iceland. Rather than fight the storm head on, we went to the leeward side of the island where we were somewhat protected from the storm by the islands' jagged peaks. For 2 days we hunkered down and battled 50 - 70 knot winds. But that was a lot better than the 120 knot winds we would have faced if we had taken on the storm directly. Many ships don't have the luxury of being close enough to land to hide from storms. We were lucky."

Martha Delaney carries a pizza up to the front lines.
Click to enlarge
Questions from Felicia: When you said there was a 'leak of water that someone was gathering', does the water come in through the cracks of the ship? Could the boat sink because of these cracks?
Answer: Felicia, the leak you mention was during the October 1 storm. We had to mop up some water that was trickling through the main lab. The waves during that storm were so high that some of them were actually spraying water onto the main deck (note that the main deck is 12 feet above the waterline, so these were some big waves). One of the watertight doors leading from our lab area to the main deck had a bit of a leaky seal, so some water did get into the ship. This is not unusual, and would not cause the ship to sink since the amount of water is so small.

One of the mates working for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Diego Mello, told me a story about how an ice floe in Antarctica cut his ship open above the waterline "just like a can opener opening a tin can." He said that big waves sent water rushing through the mess decks, and they had to lift their feet while they were eating to avoid getting wet! Even with that gaping hole in the ship (it was over 100 feet long), they still made it back to dock for repairs. They were lucky that the hole was above the ship's waterline, or else the flooding would have been much worse.

Tonight we rolled up our sleeves and cooked dinner for the entire ship! Despite the crew's initial fears, I think they were actually impressed with the pizzas, cheesecakes, and chocolate chip cookies that we made. It was a great diversion for us, too -- we had fun making the 60 (SIXTY) pizzas.

If you have any questions about the Arctic, oceanography, or life aboard an icebreaker, send your questions to arcticedge@whoi.edu and I will do my best to find the answers.

  Previous Dispatch    Next Dispatch  

Back to Calendar