Nearly two months have passed since I walked down the gangway of the United States Coast Guard Cutter Healy for the final time. Getting home the week of Christmas ensured there was plenty to do and last minute preparations to be made. Celebrating the holidays and the New Year, returning to the classroom and resuming my coaching duties made the past two months fly by. It is only now that I have time to put my reflections into writing.
Having the opportunity to participate in an authentic research experience on the United States Coast Guards' ONLY operational icebreaker while working with world reknowned scientists has been the pinnacle of my professional career. The fact that this was the first ever winter expedition into the Arctic waters made the voyage that much more special....
After 28 hours of travel time through 4 airports, I have arrived at home at last. There are just a few days remaining before Christmas to prepare for the holidays. I will be posting some final reflections, travel pictures and of course more resources in the coming weeks. Thank you to everyone who followed our Winter Sampling expedition. It was truly an adventure of a lifetime!
Yesterday, we were able to conduct a final net tow before heading into Summer Bay, just off Dutch Harbor. As the Main lab was being “put away” around him, Dr. Campbell worked diligently to pick some last copepods for genetics analysis back in the lab.
Dr. Campbell picking copepods
The sunrise was beautiful in the Bering. It was as if the weather somehow knew we were nearing the end of our voyage and it should be cooperative. We caught glimpses of islands and plenty of birds throughout the day. You could not have asked for a more pleasant day to be on the water.
Sunrise on the Bering
It was the Science party's night to prepare the Morale Dinner! Scientists loose in the kitchen - Watch OUT! Our menu was Salmon, Pork Loin, Vegetarian chili, Garlic spinach, Brussel sprouts,...
Last night Healy took some major waves over the fantail, such large waves that the Aft Staging area door was damaged.
HUGE wave over the fantail!
The Aft Staging area is the location where much of the science equipment (VPR, multi-nets, ring net, Bongo nets) is stored. It is a compartment between the fantail and main science lab. There were reports of 5 feet of water in the room with “hot” electric lines and running heaters in the area. The DC's and EM's worked to repair the damaged door and manage any electrical issues.
DC's working to repair the damaged Aft Staging area door
Because of the weather and sea state, we have begun to head towards Dutch Harbor. Hopefully, we can conduct another net tow, but the weather is not looking promising. The Science party has begun packing...
The weather in the Bering Sea is continuing to make Science operations difficult. We are operating in the worst seas we have seen this voyage. Huge waves crashing over the fantail caused a few problems. The fantail and focsule areas of the ship were secured due to high seas.
Large wave crashes over the fantail
The MST's and MK2 Schumacher were called to the fantail to close vents. These vents were leaking seawater into the steering room every time a wave crashed over the fantail. They also fastened a few loose items down. The Science party gathered in the AftCon to watch the excitement. The Pipes warned us to expect “heavy rolls” as Healy came about in the Sea. We experienced a 9 degree roll and a 14 degree roll. That is enough to knock over chairs, slide computers and stuff...
The weather in the Bering Sea has again taken a turn for the worse. 35 knot winds and high seas make it difficult to conduct science operations. The Night Watch managed to conduct 2 stations before they had to scrub Station 125. The last station on our watch, prior to the most recent storm, was an “all girls” station. MST Liz, Kristina, Celia, Donna and myself deployed the ring net and bongo nets. MST Shannon operated the winch while Dr. Ashjian and Dr. Longnecker conducted the CTD cast. It took us a little longer than normal – Kristina fastened Liz's glove in a book clamp during deployment of the ring net. Good thing it wasn't too cold outside!
MST Liz, Ms. Rose, Kristina, Celia and Donna on deck
The “all girls station” netted a great krill catch. The krill were very large,...
We had BIG excitement yesterday...we saw the SUN!!! Even though we have been South of the Arctic Circle, the sky has been completely cloud covered every day. Stormy weather, overcast and gray skies made it difficult to see where the water met the sky. That was NOT the case yesterday...we were so happy for the return of the sun!!
Oh how we have missed the SUN!
We also had a special fly by yesterday. A Coast Guard C-130 aircraft doing ice reconnaissance in the area did a double fly by past the Healy. It was incredible seeing blue skies, sunshine, beautiful clouds AND the C-130!
A US Coast Guard C-130 made a double fly by!
Working with the scientists aboard Healy for the last 39 days, I have learned many things. In the beginning, I had difficulty recognizing the difference between...
Since we have been “hiding out” from the storm, Dr. Ashjian decided we could do a science station in the ice. It was not a planned station, but we might as well see what's here! Yesterday, right after breakfast, we conducted a science station. Science operations included a CTD, ring net, Bongo nets and ice retrieval. The station went so well, that Dr. Ashjian and Healy Science Ops added an entire new sampling line...the YUK line! Dr. Longnecker asked if the YUK was an abbreviation for the Yukon Rover or if it was an indication of the weather!
Ms. Rose and Celia preparing for a Grazing experiment
We got some interesting fish from one of the tows. Very interesting! We saved them in the Cold Room for Joel, fish expert!
Larval fish caught in a net tow
We also had time to get the...
At some point through the night, the waves and rocking subsided and I could once again hear the familiar sounds of ice scraping alongside Healy. We had made it to the ice! The plan is to remain in the ice to seek shelter from the current low pressure system in the Bering Sea. AG1 says the weather is characteristically bad. It will be interesting to see how much more science can be conducted.
The weather is not looking good.
Because we are not actively working Science stations, it makes the time pass slowly. Erik the Red and Kristina passed time with card games, Dr. Longnecker continued analyzing dissolved organic matter and dissolved oxygen in water samples, Dr. Stockwell and Dr. Laney discuss phytoplankton and Celia and Donna knit...thank you Donna for the socks!
Beep beep beep...NOW – Healy has drifted off station and has been shoaled up...there is a 5 inch hole in science cargo hold three...we're taking on 1,500 gallons of water per minute...science cargo hold 3 completely flooded and Healy is listing 8 degrees...oh yeah, yesterday was FRIDAY! Every Friday after lunch, the Crew of Healy enters a training environment. All alarms are to be considered drills. We have had engine failures, fires, toxic gas leaks, flooding, etc. This week the training was in the science area of the ship, so we got to see some of the action. I have been asked several times about whether I have been scared at sea. I always respond by saying the Crew of the Healy is very well prepared for any emergency and Friday training environments demonstrate that.
Yesterday, we continued to experience weather difficulties. The weather in the Bering Sea in December is just not conducive to science operations. The scientists have been trying to stay busy, working on reports, analyzing data, etc. I stepped out onto the weather deck after lunch to get a few pictures. I got quite the surprise when this wave hit the ship and sprayed a wall of water onto the deck.
Spray from the swell
Station MN19 was the first station we have been able to sample using the ring net and bongo net since December 5. We were SO excited to be able to collect some animals and get back to science. Unfortunately, the bongo nets were a little worse for wear when they was recovered on the fantail. BOTH nets had very large holes that are more than likely unrepairable while...
Yesterday, I stepped outside to snap some photos of the Bering Sea in action. The humidity was 99%. It felt wet outside; not rainy, yet fog you could feel. We were in Russian waters, sailing with the seas behind us for a gentler ride. We are still headed to MN19 with hopes of conducting science operations. It has been a very slow day for science.
The weather in the Bering Sea is NOT cooperating with our Science Operations!
I was pleased to see birds following the ship. With the waves breaking near the ship, Glaucous gulls and Northern fulmar were swooping and flying over...it was a gorgeous sight. Glaucous gulls are the only large gull common in the high Arctic. These gulls are predators and scavengers, often stealing food from other birds. It takes a Glaucous gull 4 years to...
The night watch continued to struggle with the weather. They conducted 2 ctd casts before the weather caused them to scrub their science operations. It was a pretty slow night for them. We also found out that the cold room is not maintaining it's temperature, so all of the experiments will have to come down early so they are not compromised.
Yesterday, I learned to read the POS/MV Roll, Pitch Heave plot. The main reason for our scrubbed science operations has been sea swells. This plot can help you determine the condition of the seas or the “attitude” of Healy. Attitude is the orientation of Healy relative to the horizon. Roll is movement along the longitudinal axis. It feels like the ship is rolling left to right. Pitch is measured in degrees and it is the rise and falling...
Yesterday, science was once again underway. The weather has been difficult to deal with to say the least. We were working stations on the 70M line. There is a short weather window predicted of conditions favorable for conducting science operations and of that we are taking full advantage. St. Matthew Island is close enough to seek refuge if the weather conditions deteriorate.
Healy headed to the 70 meter line with St. Matthew close to offer refuge!
As we processed samples from the net tows, every microscope was occupied! Dr. Campbell “picked” krill for Kristina to process for CHN analysis. Donna “picked” Pseudocalanus for Celia to process for CHN analysis.
Every microscope was working to process the sample!
A little excitement yesterday, as Krista was watching the map server,...
If you have been following the ship's location, we are in pretty much the same spot we have been in for several days in a row. The weather in the Bering Sea has been horrendous. Two days ago it was decided that we would hang out in the ice to “weather” the storm. The only problem is, storms keep tracking across the Bering Sea. As soon as one storm is through, another one is building behind it. We have done very little science the past two days. You can see the red path we have made on the Healy map server image below.
The red path shows the Healy chilling in the ice out of the wrath of the storms!
Saturday night, for Morale night, the TAD crew made pizza and chicken wings. That was a nice change! There was a SUMO wrestling tournament in the hangar, followed by a showing of...
Yesterday, the Bering Sea once again became a stormy mess. The area where we were sampling, the SL line, was experiencing very high winds and seas. According to NOAA Alaskan Headquarters, we were operating in an area under a STORM WARNING with winds forecasted up to 65 knots and seas to 28 feet. After Science Station SL9 was scrubbed due to the weather, it was decided Healy would head for cover from the storm back in the ice. The ice has a dampening effect on the ocean swells. There were quite a few people not feeling so hot, luckily, I was NOT one of them!
The Healy takes to the ICE!
Taking a break from science stations gave me the opportunity to talk with Steve Roberts, the onboard expert in bathymetry and sonars on the Healy. Bathymetry is the measurement of the depth of...
When my Freshman Physical Science students were asked to identify a piece of technology they could not live without, I was thinking their responses would be clean drinking water, shelter, safe food supply...BOY was I WRONG! Their cell phone was the number one response to my question. Cell phones have become an essential and necessary part of every day life. It is a challenge to NOT use our cell phones in a 42 minute class period - can you IMAGINE the challenge of NOT using my cell phone for 6 weeks???
Cellular phones are actually radios - very sophisticated radios! They receive their signal from a cell phone tower. Cell phones got their name because the land is divided into "cells" (just like your body is made of cells - or small compartments). There is a cell tower in the center...
Yesterday brought a very slow day for science. We had helicopter operations planned for the afternoon and once they were completed, it was 181 nautical miles to the next Science station. We had a full team science meeting regarding what we are going to cook for our Morale Night dinner. We will be cooking for the crew on December 16. Our menu includes salmon filet, pork loin, vegetarian chili, brown rice, couscous, brussel sprouts, spinach, Phils' rolls, salad bar, lemon bars and chocolate chip cookies! It will be fun to be in the kitchen – I do miss cooking!
I had some time to answer a few very good questions in the Ask the Team section of my journal that required me to seek out the answer. Engineering Officer CDR King was helpful in answering my engineering questions. Thank you...
It is December!! WOW, time flies when you are busy! In seventeen short days we will be in Dutch Harbor ready to depart for home. We are in the Bering Sea now...this is where we will spend the remainder of our time. We have many stations planned, so hopefully the weather cooperates!
Yesterday, we had nearly 6 hours of daylight. I was able to spend some time on the Bridge. What got me to the Bridge? A page from David, the US Fish & Wildlife Marine Observer, of course...WALRUS!
While on the Bridge, I saw two flocks of spectacled eiders and 5 walruses. It was so cool to be able to see them in the wild. The walrus were in the little “ponds” of open water in the ice. Given the choice to watch them myself, or try to take a photo...I opted to just enjoy the moment. They were...
Yesterday's journal explained who the Healy was named for...this journal will allow you to get to know Healy and what makes her go! Members of the Science team got the GRAND tour of the United States Coast Guard Icebreaker Healy from Engineering Officer, CDR Laura King. For more than an hour and half we climbed up and down ladders, went through hatches and ignored the Authorized Personnel Only signs. We WERE authorized to be in the engineering spaces!
Authorized Personnel Only - we WERE authorized!
We started our tour in the winch room. The winches are what allows our science operations to occur. Winches provide the means to get things into and out of the water. There are 3 working winches and 2 spares aboard Healy.
The winch that has been giving us so many problems!
Yesterday, the Crew and Science team gathered on the flight deck for a mission photo. Arctic gear was authorized and the Science team wore our bright orange Mustang suits. The wind was incredible, gusting to 40 knots...I felt as though I would be blown away. The sky was beautiful and it was a nice photo opportunity!
Mission Photo - the Crew of USCG Healy and the Science Team
Science has been going slowly...we have run into complications and set-backs. We have been experiencing trouble with the winches. Several times in the past few days, they have locked up with equipment in the water. The CTD was in the water for 3 hours, and the Bongo net was over the side for nearly 5 hours. When it was recovered, it was so full of mud from dragging the bottom that it ripped at the collar....
Yesterday...the sun ROSE above the horizon! This was the first day in 10 days for us to SEE the sun! The sky was beautiful and pink...it was just as gorgeous as I remembered it as it shone across the ice and water.
Our first sunrise in more than 10 days - gorgeous!
A few days ago, we were told to “secure for sea” and that we would be in open water soon. I thought that meant that we were finished with the ice. I was WRONG! We were in open water as we transited from the Point Lay line to the Point Hope line. We are now operating in ice conditions again...it is new ice, but still ice. I asked AG1 McLaren to explain where the ice came from.
AG1 McLaren working on our ice forecasts
It is easiest for ice to form close to land. There, the water is more shallow and can cool to the...
Yesterday, we approached the Russian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Chukchi Sea. The EEZ is the area in which Russia has exclusive economic rights. For example, only Russian fisherman can occupy these Russian waters to fish and make a profit. We can sample on the line, but can not proceed to sample any farther west into Russian waters without specific permission (and we don't have it!). To the East of the line is the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for the United States. Only American fisherman can fish and seek a profit in these waters. Of course, we can sample in American waters.
The gray line is the Russia/US EEZ boundary
Because the United States and Russia are less than 400 miles apart, the water separating the two countries is split down the middle. When there is...
Today marks the halfway point in this voyage...22 days have passed and tomorrow begins the 22 days until I arrive back at home in Ohio. It is going fast. I can't believe we are halfway home!
Materials to test pH
It is also time to begin to process samples for their shipment back to the University of Rhode Island and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. I helped Donna prepare some samples for shipment. Many of the net tows are preserved in quart sized jars using Formalin, a scientific preservative. After ten days of the animals being in the Formalin, the pH must be checked. If the pH level is too acidic, more buffer needs to be added to the jar.
Donna showing me how to test pH
I used pH indicator strips to check the pH level of the jars of preserved animals. Green is the...
Yesterday, even though it was Thanksgiving, we still did work! It was an easier day than usual. We had only two science stations, one at 0930 and one at 2300. This left the afternoon fairly open for our Thanksgiving feast and a little rest.
Board of Lies Thanksgiving Style!
In the morning, I helped Celia set up a Grazing experiment with krill. We caught some krill in our morning net tow and wanted to see what they were eating. In order to set up the experiment, seawater from the Nisken bottles is used to fill up two different kinds of bottles. Three large clear bottles will be used for the experiment, three large clear bottles will be controls. We also have 7 smaller brown bottles. These hold water that will be analyzed for phytoplankton data. Donna will analyze the water...
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