International Continental Shelf Survey Journals

Dwarf Juniper Clings to Boulder above Skjoldungensund, Greenland
This dwarf juniper above Skjoldungensund, Greenland was the tallest-growing plant around, by virtue of closely hugging a boulder to gain some headway above the surrounding Arctic tundra. TODAY'S JOURNAL: Greenland is known as a pretty harsh place, end even during our mid-summer visit it was evident that life clinging to the margin of land seaward of the ice shelf has very special adaptations to survive in the Arctic environment. Exposed rock was very common, sometimes with wonderfully colored lichen gardens blotching the surface and sometimes still bare from the last glacier paring down the surface just a few thousand years ago. Vegetation there grows as Arctic tundra, a fantastic miniature mix of lichens, mosses, and flowering plants seldom growing taller than a few centimeters....
Gathering water column data at the side gate of NG Explorer
Young explorers Aely, Wesley, Sarah, Kerry, Shannon, and Matthew help Joe Super collect water column data from the side gate on National Geographic Explorer at Qaqortoq, SW Greenland. TODAY'S JOURNAL: In my last post I showed how my partner Joe Super and I deployed a sensor via sea kayak to take some measurements of the water column in a fjord in S. Greenland. We were interested in seeing how the water changed going from the sunny surface down to the murky depths. Ordinarily, oceanographers employ a CTD to collect this type of data. CTDs measure Conductivity (to determine salinity), Temperature, and Depth. A CTD is a pretty standard piece of gear on oceanographic research ships, but our expedition vessel National Geographic Explorer isn't equipped with one. Lacking an "official...
Joe Super and Bill Schmoker sea kayaking in Skoldungensund, Greenland
Joe Super and Bill Schmoker employing a sea kayak to gather water quality data in Skoldungensund, Greenland. TODAY'S JOURNAL: Yesterday I discussed measuring surface temperature vs. longitude as we approacehed Greenland to see where we entered the cold East Greenland Current. Today I'd like to show how my Grosvenor Teacher Fellow partner Joe Super and I collected measurements to generate vertical water profiles showing salinity and temperature vs. depth. On my 2010 Arctic cruise aboard the Healy we had a CTD to measure salinity and temperature vs. depth. In some spots we went down over 3000 meters! On the Greenland trip Joe brought a Digital Multifunction Water Quality Meter that we used to record salinity and temperature to a depth of 15 meters (the length of the device's cable...
East Greenland Current Convergence
Misleading Names: As I mentioned in the previous post, our voyage retraced early Viking pioneers who sailed from Iceland to Greenland (and ultimately to Newfoundland.) Most of my readers will know the irony in these islands' names, as Iceland is fairly green overall while Greenland is covered about 80% by ice. While far from balmy, Iceland owes its warmer climate to the Gulf Stream and its northern extension, the North Atlantic Drift. Warm water from the tropics works its way up the East Coast of the United states before crossing the North Atlantic Ocean, heading for Great Britain and Scandinavia. A fork of this warm surface current known as the Irminger Current envelops Iceland, keeping its coastal waters unfrozen year-round despite its position abutting the Arctic Circle. Meanwhile...
Bill Schmoker, Nanortalik, Greenland
IT'S BEEN A WHILE, I KNOW! So what's been going on with me since my incredible 2010 PolarTREC experience? Well, lots. Teaching is as busy and rewarding as always, all the better now that I have all of my awesome PolarTREC stuff to enhance my curriculum. I got to visit my research team at the USGS Marine Science Lab in Menlo Park, CA (see the previous 5 journals about that trip) and have had the honor of presenting photo tips to the last three PolarTREC teacher cadres. I've given presentations about my experience to various groups, and have another chance to spread the word at the upcoming National Science Teacher's Association Convention this December in Denver. But this past February I received a very interesting phone call. It was National Geographic, asking if I would like to go...
Cold Seep Clams
Our Arctic core samples keep turning up great surprises! If you'll recall from a previous journal (August 13, 2010 Piston Coring), we struck gas hydrate in the bottom of one of our cores in the Beaufort Sea. At the core analysis workshop at the USGS Coastal & Marine Science Labs in Menlo Park, CA earlier this month we discovered that some of the core sections from that site also had numerous clam shells. Since each core is only about 8 cm wide, that would mean that this part of the sea floor is pretty dense with clams! Many were intact with both top and bottom valves (shells) in place indicating they lived there instead of being carried there later. But what would clams live on in this cold, dark, deep water?? Clams recovered from a sea-floor core sample indicate a cold seep...
Tom sniffing for hydrogen sulfide
Once each core sample was split, a host of descriptions, tests and sampling protocols awaited the mud inside. To keep organized, a sampling plan was mapped out for each core taken in US waters on our cruise (Canadian-side samples will undergo similar analysis early next year in Nova Scotia.) On the sampling plan, each core section is shown with its assigned International Geo Sample Number (IGSN, which works like a trackable serial number) and the places where each core was trimmed (in centimeters, measured from the top.) From these measurements the length of each trimmed section can also be easily determined. The map also indicates samples taken from the core catcher & core cutter, as well as external sediment scrapes analyzed for microfossils. Blue dots show the plan for pore...
Walk-in Refrigerator with Core Samples
One of the reasons I so enjoyed and appreciated the 2010 International Continental Shelf Survey last summer was because of the wide range of science that was undertaken on the cruise. Every day I could see something new and learn much about geology, oceanography, meteorology, climatology, ice studies, biology, chemistry, physics, navigation, computer systems, instrumentation, marine sampling technology, and the gear and techniques used to travel in, survive, and understand the Arctic. Still, the mission had three priorities and all other science had to be done in a way that wouldn’t interfere with the primary objectives. The main goal of the cruise was to collect seismic data. Secondary to that was collecting high-resolution bathymetry data via multibeam sonar. These two data sets...
Core Sample
I'm checked in at the San Francisco Airport waiting to board my plane back home. It has been a very busy, productive week for me with the last four days learning many aspects of sea-floor sediment core analysis. I was privileged to help the team with several core analysis jobs, getting my hands dirty but always smiling. I'm going to have a series of journal entries describing much of what we studied from two arctic coring sites we visited last summer on the Healy, but for now I'm a little too knackered to say much more in any kind of articulate fashion. So I'll leave you with a lovely shot of a split core sample taken in the Beaufort Sea- what do you think you can find in the mud upon close inspection? That's all for now- Bill The top part of one of the core samples taken in the...
Sea Otter Grooming
This entry is dedicated to the Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs) from our cruise: Justin, Sarah, & Kwasi! I'm currently on another PolarTREC journey, this time to California in anticipation of a core sample workshop at the United States Geological Survey offices in Menlo Park, California. We took several deep-sea core samples while in the Arctic Ocean, which were promptly trimmed into manageable lengths, sealed, labeled, recorded, and then put into a walk-in refrigerator. When the Healy returned to its home port in Seattle this past October, chief scientist Brian Edwards drove up to retrieve the cores and ship them in a refrigerated truck to Menlo Park, where they have been awaiting the detailed analysis that happens in labs equipped with the right gear. I am thrilled to be involved...