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Close to Home Today

Today we stayed in town all day as we were setting up equipment to begin data collection in earnest tomorrow or Thursday. We went in to breakfast to find a note that there had been polar bear snooping around town at around 4 am. At dinner someone from the Chinese team had posted several pictures. I'll try to get some copies to post here.

For most of the morning we were greeted by hordes of tourists who had come off the latest cruise ship to dock here. It's funny to be in this incredibly remote place and see the influx of tourists. They kind of look at those of us working here as some sort of curiosity – I've even seen a few of them taking my picture. I guess I'm one of the locals now...

Tourists in Ny ÅlesundTourists coming into Ny Ålesund off a cruise ship.

Setting up the Equipment

Today was basically a setup day. We've now had a few days to look around the area. The six students are also settling on their individual project ideas, so we need to get ready to collect data. In reality we'll only have about three weeks of data collection and there are several different measurements that will need to be taken each day.

Cutting tubes for core samplesRachel, Daren and Liz cutting plastic tubing for the core sampling device Setting up the CTDDaksha and Julie setting up the CTD measuring device (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth)

Some of the measurements will require mounting a winch setup on the boats. Ross and George spent the morning getting winches set up on the boats to help haul the instruments in and out of the water.

The winch setupJulie checks out the winch setup on the boat

I spent a lot of today helping Rebecca get the pressure sensor setup ready to go. She's interested in studying the calving process of glaciers – calving refers to when chunks of ice fall off the edge of a glacier into the ocean, and become icebergs. By leaving a sensitive pressure sensor at the bottom of the ocean near the glacier, it's possible to monitor the calving of icebergs – even when you're not there.

The device Rebecca will be using is called a HOBO pressure sensor. (There's a nice little connection to home here – these instruments are made by a company in Onset, Massachusetts!) This sensor can be used to measure the very small changes in water pressure that would occur when there is any kind of wave. Water pressure increases with depth, so the deeper the water, the greater the pressure (think of diving to the bottom of a pool). If there's a wave, and the water becomes deeper for a moment the pressure at the bottom will increase for a moment because it got deeper.

HOBO water level deviceThe HOBO water level measuring device. It measures depth by sensing pressure differences.

It's the size of a cigar, and she'll be putting it inside a piece of PVC tube, anchoring it and tethering it to the shore. So today I helped Rebecca think through how to set up the ropes and to cut holes in the PVC. Then we sent it down off the dock and let it collect data for a few hours.

Testing the HOBORebecca practicing her knots; getting ready to test out the HOBO pressure sensor

After Rebecca retrieved the sensor and downloaded the data, it was pretty cool to see how sensitive it is – it even measure the change in water height due to the tidal change. We could literally see the tide go up and start to come down (and this from a device sitting on the bottom monitoring water pressure!).

Polar Plunge

Today was an absolutely gorgeous day. The temperature was right around 50ºF all day with no wind and bright sunshine. What a day for a Polar Plunge! The most foolhardy of our team decided to go for it...

Polar Plunge ClubThe REU 2011 Polar Plunge Club (photo from Liz Ceperley) Polar Plunge club goes inPolar Plunge Club goes in...(photo from Liz Ceperley) Polar Plunge Club comes outPolar Plunge Club Coming out... (except me)

I was probably the most foolhardy of them all, as I couldn't resist swimming to the nearest iceberg...

Swimming to the icebergSwimming to the iceberg Made it to the icebergMade it to the iceberg Coming out after a refreshing swimComing out after a refreshing swim