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Bill Schmoker's picture


In 2010 I had the incredible experience of being selected as a PolarTREC teacher. I participated in valuable training, met an inspirational cohort of other PolarTREC teachers, and sailed aboard the US Coast Guard Cutter Healy deep into the Arctic Ocean on the 2010 International Extended Continental Shelf Survey.

This past winter, I got one of the more amazing surprises in my life when I was selected to sail again aboard the Healy, this time on the 2015 US Arctic GEOTRACES cruise. The details of the mission will unfurl as my journal entries, photos, and videos are posted but this blurb from Chief Scientist David Kadko is a nice summary of what to expect:

“A team of 50 scientists, students, and technicians will embark on the U.S. Arctic GEOTRACES expedition this year, 9 August -15 October 2015, aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy. Established by the U.S. GEOTRACES Science Steering Committee, the U.S. Arctic GEOTRACES initiative will be part of an international, multiple icebreaker effort—provided by the United States, Canada and Germany—and will include scientists from several nations who will conduct geochemical sampling of the Arctic Ocean.”

For more details, click over to this article about the cruise.

2015 US Arctic Geotraces Proposed Cruise TrackThe U.S. Arctic GEOTRACES proposed cruise track. Image courtesy of GEOTRACES.

After phone interviews and many emails to line up travel details etc. I began my US Arctic GEOTRACES involvement by traveling to Healy’s home port in Seattle in mid-June. The science team shipped their gear here to load aboard and do as much setting up as possible before the Healy headed off on its first Arctic mission of the year, a study on oil spill technologies. We will rejoin the icebreaker in Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska on August 4 for final preparations and sail on August 9. The goal will be to get as far north as possible. Ideally we will try for the North Pole (ice conditions permitting) around the middle of September when Arctic ice is typically at its minimum extent.

Anyway, stay tuned for a few more journal entries detailing some of our preparations in Seattle, and then watch for daily entries whenever possible from our cruise August 9 - October 13!

These time lapses might give you a sense of how busy it can get when loading the USCGC Healy. In addition to the ship’s cranes (it has 5), a shore crane is also used to hoist gear aboard for setting up and stowing in anticipation of our cruise far into the Arctic Ocean.


Watch the time-lapse video again, this time on YouTube's site (click the little YouTube icon in the lower right of the viewer.) Then select 2x speed in the settings menu (the little gear symbol in the bottom of the video window.) In the second part, you should notice the Healy move in an interesting way. How do you explain the sinking and rising motion?

That’s all for now- Bill Schmoker


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Susan Steiner's picture

Susan Steiner said:

Bill, this is an awesome excited for you. I'm also selfishly happy my students will have an expedition to follow. Love the 2X loading speed...I have an idea but I'll wait to see what others say.. have a great trip!!
Bill Schmoker's picture

Bill Schmoker replied:

Thanks, Susan!!
Janet Warburton's picture

Janet Warburton said:

This is great! It will be fun having an expedition that is going on while school is starting! I look forward to following your expedition and of course, enjoying your top notch photos and videos!
Bill Schmoker's picture

Bill Schmoker replied:

Thanks, Janet! Getting ready at school, etc. Almost go time!!
Sheryl Weiss's picture

Sheryl Weiss said:

Looking forward to reading your posts. My daughter, Gabi Weiss, is a Super Tech on this cruise. I will also be sharing your entries with the science teachers at my school; I'm a teacher librarian at a high school in Southern California. Thanks for keeping us posted. Sheryl Weiss
Bill Schmoker's picture

Bill Schmoker replied:

Hi Sheryl- thanks for following along! I met Gabi in Seattle and can tell she will be an awesome person to sail with. I want to pick her brain about Hawaii- that's a state I still haven't visited! I appreciate you sharing the journals far & wide, very pleased to reach all of the corners of the world that I can with my experienced in the Arctic! Hope you are enjoying the final weeks of summer and wishing you a great start to the next school year. -Bill
Peter Detterline's picture

Peter Detterline said:

Congratulations Bill; what an amazing opportunity! I'll have my middle school environmental students follow your progress. There is talk that global warming has caused the arctic ice to thin. Will you be able to do any studies of the thickness of the arctic ice? Bon voyage!
Bill Schmoker's picture

Bill Schmoker replied:

Hi Peter- excellent question. Part of our study protocol will involve drilling through the ice to get trace element samples from the ice itself, the ocean water right under the ice, any snow on the ice, and any meltwater on the ice. In that regard we will be finding out how thick the ice is at those stations, but probably we won't be doing enough coring through the ice to put together a comprehensive system. I know the captain and senior crew, along with our chief scientists, are relying heavily on high-resolution satellite images of the changing ice situation to plan our route north. There is one more element to the ice that will be interesting. We are going to deploy drift buoys onto the ice along with small wooden boats that students and others decorated. The boats and their companion ice buoy will go where the ice takes them, so that particular bit of ice movement can be tracked in nearly real time. Best- Bill
chris ellett's picture

chris ellett said:

Hi! CDM Sixth Graders in San Diego are excited to track and follow your expedition. We can't wait to see your progress and photos. Thanks!
Bill Schmoker's picture

Bill Schmoker replied:

Excellent, glad to have you following! <><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><> Bill Schmoker PolarTREC Teacher 2015 US Arctic GEOTRACES Aboard USCGC Healy <><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>