November 12, 2015

A little bit of closure

I wrote my last post just about a month ago from the Bering Sea, and I thought it’d be nice to write a final post about the cruise, now that I am finally getting settled back in Miami.

The Healy, back at the Coast Guard base in Seattle on November 3rd.    
After spending only a week and a half in Miami following our return from the cruise, on November 1st, Ryan and I flew across the country to offload the Healy at Seattle’s Coast Guard base. On the following day, the Coast Guard craned all of the vans off the ship, including our beloved carbon van, which made us a little sad when we didn’t see it on the morning of the 3rd. We had previously emptied out and cleaned the carbon van in Dutch Harbor, having moved all of our equipment to the cargo hold, which made offloading the Healy in Seattle much smoother.

The nearly empty science cargo hold on November 3rd. 
On Tuesday the 3rd, the Coast Guard craned all science equipment onto the dock, where we organized our things into a variety of containers for shipping back to our home institutes. Other than a little bit of rain that morning, we had great weather for packing on the dock, and we managed to have everything picked up and shipped by the end of the following day. I was definitely relieved when my coolers of frozen seawater were dropped off at the local FedEx, which arrived in Miami on the morning of the 5th, where they will remain frozen until early 2016 when analysis will begin.

View of the loading dock and all of our equipment, ready to be picked up on the 4th. The Oceanographic Data Facility’s (ODF's) equipment is being loaded into the semi, en route to La Jolla, CA.
Overall, it was a great week in Seattle, but I’m glad to be back at home in Miami, where I’ve been enjoying Cuban coffees while working on my dissertation, in addition to reconnecting with my Rosenstiel family and friends. My next Arctic goal, following this post, is to put my cruise photos online, which I’ll be posting a link to once they’re ready. For the time being, you can check out some of Bill Schmoker’s great PolarTREC videos, or check out the recently updated Arctic News page.

View of my institute, the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science on Virginia Key, with the City of Miami in the background.

If you’ve enjoyed this blog and would like to continue learning about the life and science behind being an oceanographer and graduate student, let me know. Perhaps it’s time that “Arctic Andy” becomes “Ocean Andy” so I can share all aspects of ocean science with you, without being limited to the Arctic. Let me know what you’re interested in by taking this quick (only one question!) survey.

For the time being,

October 10, 2015

South of the border

We’re about 20 hours away from Dutch Harbor, which means it’s about time for me to sit down and write my last post from the Healy!

A little over a week ago we came out of the ice just north of 75°N, 150°W, where we sampled at the last Super Station of the cruise. Unfortunately, once we left the ice, we were hit with strong winds and high seas, which we had to endure while sending instruments over the side of the ship, continuing our science program despite the bad weather. After a few days on the rough station, we decided to head southwest, hoping to escape the weather while continuing on the planned cruise track towards the continental slope. Once we arrived there, we sampled a series of closely spaced stations across the slope to understand the interactions between the shelf and the Canada Basin interior. A majority of those stations were sampled during my shift, which made for an exciting night of sampling.

Completed stations during the cruise, with the box around the area that’s enlarged to show the closely placed continental slope stations.
Once we finished the slope stations, we were revisited by some more foul weather, which persisted to the end of our sampling program for the cruise. While the weather wasn’t great, we were fortunate to have clear skies at night and were presented with a number of great displays of the aurora. I was not able to get any great photos of them (but I did get a decent one), Cory got some great shots from the bow.

The aurora over the bow, taken on 4 October 15 by Cory Mendenhall, USCG.
Only a few days after our great aurora displays, we had a visitor from Barrow, who flew out on one of the Coast Guard’s Sikorsky MH-60 Jayhawks and is spending the duration of the cruise with us (the Jayhawk went back to Barrow).

The Jayhawk preparing to land on the Healy’s flight deck. Photo taken on 7 October 15 by Cory Mendenhall, USCG.
Following those exciting events, we’ve been busy shifting to normal schedules, and breaking down and packing up our lab spaces in preparation for Dutch Harbor. We’re now well south of the Artic Circle, and it feels a little sad that this great journey is actually coming to an end. To celebrate the end of the cruise, the science party cooked a special “morale meal” for all the Healy’s residents, which was fun getting to work in the kitchen for an hour and help out.

Fen cooked enough chicken to feed 145 people!
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, this is my last one from sea, but that doesn’t mean this is the last post for me. I have a number of photos from the cruise, along with some videos, that I’ll post about and include links to so you all can experience some of the great experiences I’ve had up north. Also, I’ll be back in Seattle the first week of November to offload the Healy, and I’ll be sure to write about that process.

As usual, stay tuned!


September 27, 2015

Back on the map

It’s been weeks since I’ve written a post, and I thought it’d be nice to write this one once we got internet back so I don’t have to limit the quality or quantity of photos included. Speaking of which, I just updated the photos from my last post, View from the top, to have higher resolution, so be sure to revisit those.

Map in the galley that only goes as far north as 84°N. Our first station located south of 84°N on our southward journey was on September 19th, so I guess I’m a week late with this post, although, we did just get back on the internet map at 77.5°N (our current location).
About three weeks ago on September 5th, we arrived at 90°N, and to be honest, I was a little disappointed. I had imagined that there would be expansive sheets of sea ice, covered in thick layers of snow with a giant candy cane marking the geographic North Pole, and Santa waiting to greet us with mugs of hot cocoa. Surprisingly, when the GPS hit 90°N, we were presented with pools of open water (covered in thin ice) and Santa was nowhere to be found.

Reaching the geographic North Pole on September 5th. Photo taken at 8:09 AM, only one minute before photo featured in View from the top.
After two days of sampling and thinking about where Santa might be, we realized that he likely drifted away from the geographic pole with the snow-covered ice. Sure enough, once we finished sampling, we navigated to the largest ice floe near the pole and found Santa waiting for us there, like we had hoped. Looking back, I realize that sea ice—whether at the North Pole or further south—is constantly in motion due to the influence of the wind and surface currents (like the Transpolar Drift — see About the Arctic Ocean), possibly explaining why we found less ice at the pole than we had expected.

Santa and me at the North Pole on September 7th, shortly after finishing my mug of hot cocoa. Photo taken by Katlin Bowman.
Following our visit with Santa, we began our southward journey along 150°W. After reaching the 85°N Super Station over the Alpha Ridge (see About the Arctic Ocean and map below), it became very clear to us that we had previously made the right decision by taking A turn in the left direction and doing the planned cruise track backwards. Much of our southward journey consisted of backing and ramming our way through thick ice floes (what the Healy was designed for), while our northward journey was a smooth ride that bought us some extra time to sample, however, provided less ice for ice sampling stations. Since we went through so much thick ice on our way south, we occupied four ice stations to total six for the cruise, while we had intended to occupy a grand total of ten. A lot of factors contributed to our total of only six ice stations, but it is clear that our number of ice stations was limited simply by there being less ice in the Arctic than there used to be. To learn more about the 2015’s fourth lowest ice extent on record, check out Arctic News.

Ice station at the North Pole. Ana can be seen dressed all in white where she and her team collected trace-element-clean ice cores and seawater.
In addition to the thick ice we went through on our way south, we also experienced a number of bitter cold, whiteout snow days. These whiteout days coincided with the mid-point, or “hump day” of the cruise, providing little escape from the monotony of our sampling and analysis schedule. Rather than keeping a calendar and counting down these monotonous days, in the carbon van, we’ve been keeping a station map and counting down the stations. Lately, it’s been pretty exciting every time we leave a station, because not only do we get to add an “X” to the map, but we also get to take a step back and look in awe at the wonderful work we are accomplishing out here.

The Healy cutting a crack through the ice ahead, extending to (or near) the horizon during one of our whiteout days. Photo taken at 3:08 AM on September 9th.
Photo of the station map we have taped up in the carbon van. We are currently at Full Station 14, which is the northernmost white triangle that has not been X’d out yet.
Over the last couple weeks, the seascapes have changed from white on white to having some variety as we gradually made our way through thinner and thinner ice, and into some better weather. We’ve finally made it back to open water, and more importantly (for you and this posting), we’ve finally made it back to our internet connection.

The Healy nearing open water. Towards the horizon, a dark streak can be seen, which is a sign of open water or an open lead. This feature can also be seen reflected off the overlying clouds. The carbon van door is open as I say goodbye to Ryan before heading to the conference room towards the end of my shift. Photo taken at 7:53 AM on September 25th.
Thanks for following — it’s great to be back.

September 15, 2015

View from the top

On the morning of September 5th, the USCGC Healy and the U.S. GEOTRACES Arctic Expedition reached 90°N, making this the fourth visit to the North Pole for the Coast Guard, and the first visit for many of us on board.

Small party on the bow after reaching 90°N.
Nearly everyone on board was awake for our arrival to the pole. Some of us went to watch the GPS hit 90°N in the computer labs, while others went to the bow to be the first to reach the highest latitude. After celebrating our arrival, we put a rosette in the water and began sampling the northernmost water masses on the planet (see About the Arctic Ocean).

A beautiful North Pole view before going bed.
We were about to begin heading south, but we decided to stay a minute longer to meet up briefly with our German colleagues. Once we finished our water column sampling on the 6th, we moved to where the ice was thick enough to get out on and sample from (photo from previous/first ice station), and also to take a brief “ice liberty” and formally celebrate our North Pole arrival by taking a proper group photo.

Group photo taken by Cory (far right) on the 7th. Fen is in front to the left of Greg (in yellow), I am two to the right of Greg, to the left of Jim (bright yellow on navy) and Ryan is in red under the “U.”
Setting up a station for sampling water directly under the ice using pumps. Coast Guard always has people on polar bear watch (right) while we are out on the ice (even though spotting a bear at the pole is unlikely).
We were about to begin heading south, but we decided to stay a minute longer to meet up briefly with our German colleagues.

The German icebreak Polarstern (German GEOTRACES Arctic Expedition) approaching the Healy at the North Pole.
It has been an exciting long weekend for us! I hope you have a great short week down south!


August 31, 2015

Juggling routine

On the cruise so far, I’ve spent the majority of my time sampling and analyzing samples for the CO2 system parameters (pH, dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and alkalinity), along with sampling for dissolved organic carbon (DOC). Since I’ve been so busy with samples, writing these posts is taking longer than I had initially hoped. Because of that, it seems relevant to share what a typical day is like for me, now that I’m fully adjusted to my odd sleep schedule and excellent shift.

Shortly after my shift ends at 8 AM, I check the “Board of Lies” before going to bed so I know what to expect during my next shift. If there is a station while I’m sleeping, I organize bottles for Ryan to collect DOC samples for me so my sleep is not disturbed. Once I’ve organized my bottles I head to my stateroom, climb into my bunk, pull the curtains closed (all of the bunks have curtains), and am usually asleep before 11 AM. While sleeping in a twin bed on the top bunk in a shuddering icebreaker may not sound that great, I always sleep soundly in my small, yet cozy bed.

The image of the board of lies is updated every 2 minutes, however, the board itself is updated at most every hour. Since things are constantly changing at sea — especially in thick ice — the times on the board are often wrong (they are the chief scientist’s best estimates), which is how it earned its name, The Board of Lies.

After my good morning/afternoon’s sleep, my alarm wakes me up around 5:30 PM (I average 6-7 hours of sleep each day), and the first thing I do (before getting out of bed) is check if we’re on station by opening the ship’s CTD Cast Display from my phone. If we’re on station and the rosette is in the water, profiles of the CTD sensor data are displayed and I assess the amount of time before the rosette is back on deck and sampling begins.

Display of the CTD data while the rosette is in the water from my phone. The y-axis is depth in meters (ocean surface is at the top, and the ocean bottom is at the bottom). The red profile is temperature, blue is salinity (cut off on right) and yellow is oxygen, while the horizontal pink lines mark the depth that Niskin bottles have been closed as the rosette is brought back to the ship.

While the rosette is in the water, Ryan, Fen and I (whoever is on shift) organize sampling bottles and carry them (usually takes about five trips) to the hanger where we sample. Going back and forth to the hanger and van has resulted me walking an average of 4.7 miles and climbing 50 flights of stairs per day over the past week (according to Apple’s Health app). Once our bottles arranged in the hanger, one of us goes to the aft control room to add our bottle numbers to the sampling log before the rosette is brought back on deck and sampling begins.

Joseph (left) follows the CTD profile trace and closes bottles at the desired depths as the rosette is raised by the winch operator on the right (not sure of his name).
Once the CO2 system parameters have been sampled, we bring our bottles forward to the carbon van and prepare them for analysis. While CO2 samples get to temperature (20 or 25°C) and the instruments warm up, I run back to the hanger to collect DOC samples from the rosette. Once I’ve collected all of the DOC samples and have stowed them in the freezer, I head back to the van to juggle analyzing samples on four instruments simultaneously. Whether Ryan, Fen or I are in the van working solo or if we are overlapping, we are managing the collection and analysis of our samples incredibly well and keeping high spirits. Typically, seven people would be doing the amount of work we are accomplishing out here in the Arctic, and we are all proud of the beautiful data that is resulting from this cruise.

After all samples are analyzed or passed on to Ryan to finish during his shift, my shift ends at 8 AM, when I like to go on to the bow or up on the bridge to get a good look at the ice we’re making our way through, and also to chat with some of the Coast Guard who on bridge watch duty. If I’m not on the bow or bridge after my shift, I’m either in the conference room or computer lab writing a blog post, catching up on email or entering information into my DOC sample log spreadsheets before checking the Board of Lies before bed.

View from above the bridge, taken at 10:43 PM on Aug. 27 at station 26. Views similar to this, which are updated every hour, can be found on the sidebar to the right.
We just recently finished a line of 6 Repeat Hydrography (yellow dot) stations, and are now at station 26, which is a Full (white triangle) station located at 83° 44’N, 174°36’W (view station map here). We’ll probably be here for another day before we continue on, en route to the North Pole.


August 24, 2015

Shifty people

We’ve now been at sea for around two weeks, which means we’ve had that time to get used to our schedules (or for some of us, lack of schedules). Sampling and analysis at sea goes around the clock, with some people working opposite shifts (e.g., noon to midnight and midnight to noon) so there is always someone from each group working in the labs.

In the carbon group, our shifts are staggered so that at least one of us is available for sampling and analysis at all times – day or night. Our shifts are 12 hours long, but the shifts sometimes begin early or end late if we happen to be backlogged and are continuing to sample (sampling never ends on this cruise). My shift begins at 8 in the evening and ends at 8 in the morning, which is the shift that I elected to take. You might think I’m crazy for choosing that shift, but there are a number of reasons why I think it’s the best shift.

1) Breakfast (served from 6:45-7:45, 7-8 on Sundays).

Over the past couple years, I’ve debated with many people about which shift is the best, and for me, breakfast is where it’s at. I’ve heard the argument that breakfast is always the same, but breakfast is always great, so I have no problem with having something consistently great. Working a shift that skips breakfast but includes lunch and dinner means you get more variety (like tasty burgers, fish tacos and salad while it lasts), but while those meals are oftentimes a hit, they have the most potential to be a miss. Breakfast on the other hand, is always amazing. For me, there’s nothing better than stepping out of the carbon van at 6 in the morning and catching a whiff of bacon and eggs being cooked in the galley. In addition to that smell telling me that breakfast is right around the corning, it tells me that my shift is almost over, and to me, there’s nothing better than that.

2) Sunrise and sunset (taken at 12:16 AM).
I also get sunrise and sunset during my shift, which is undeniably great. On August 15th, I caught the sun rising over Nome, Alaska, and just yesterday on the 19th I got to watch the sunset morph into a sunrise over about five hours during my shift (pictured above).

3) Wildlife (like this polar bear from a distance).
I think that animals tend to be most active at dawn and dusk, so I also get to see the Arctic wildlife (but I think everyone on board will get the chance to see a variety of animals during this cruise). I briefly saw a humpback whale towards the end of the first cast of the first station on Aug. 12th, walruses welcoming us to the marginal ice zone on Aug. 18th, and late on the 19th I saw a polar bear from a distance (while others saw two).

We are currently at the second Full station of the cruise (first in the Arctic at 76.5°N, 173°W), and will be continuing northward to some CLIVAR Repeat Hydrography stations later in the day (view station map from And so it begins for reference).

Well that’s it for this week! I’ll try to write one science/cruise post and a life at sea post for you next week! More photos and great stories to come!


August 18, 2015

A turn in the left direction

At the beginning of the cruise, our Chief Scientist made it known that the sea ice in the Beaufort Sea/Canadian Basin had shifted, becoming thicker, which could affect our northward cruise track. One option given was to stick to the original route that goes northward through the Canadian Basin, returning south on the more western route (a counterclockwise track, following the map from About the Cruise). The alternative option was to do this portion of the cruise backwards (a clockwise track instead), which as it turns out, is what we’ll be doing.

During the science meeting on our first day aboard the Healy, the Coast Guard made it clear that if we went northward on the more eastern route, we may have to turn around before reaching the Pole since breaking through so much thick ice would consume too much fuel and time. On that same day (the 9th), our Chief Scientist stated that the final decision on the northward route would be made once we’ve arrived at station 7 (blue shelf station just north of 70°N, found on map in And so it begins), which we passed yesterday (the 17th).

Screenshot from my computer with the Healy’s science map server open, with an overlay of sea ice analysis from the National Ice Center (NIC) from the 17th. Our cruise track so far is marked by the red lines, and the Healy’s location as I write this is marked by a red dot and boat outline. To see our current location as you read this, click here.
If we had gone east to the Canadian Basin, we would be in thick ice for a longer period of time during the cruise, which would have cost us in fuel, time and sampling.
Prior to arriving at station 7, the seas picked up and were a little too rough for us to sample the intermediate Chukchi shelf station, so we steamed passed it in a north-northwestern direction. If we would have stopped to sample at station 7, sampling would have taken longer (harder to prepare, deploy and recover instruments when it’s rough out), and sampling would have been limited. Our hope now is that we can sample at that location in October if there is still time.

View from the Healy’s webcam above the bridge in the early afternoon of the 17th, when the old station 7 would have occurred. Small waves are pictured, crashing into the bow of the ship, making sea spray.
We are currently about three hours from the new station 7, which will be the first of thirty-eight Repeat Hydrography stations (or CLIVAR stations on map in And so it begins). The current latitude is 72° 55.476’ N, meaning that we’re north of the Arctic Circle, and in the Northern Domain of the Polar Bear.

Next post will be on our schedules at sea! I have some exciting photos to share, so stay tuned!


August 13, 2015

And so it begins

We arrived at our first station at around 7 o’clock in the morning on the 8th, and the approximate location can be seen in the first image as the white triangle at about 60°N and 180°E, near the Russian/U.S. economic exclusion zone (EEZ) boundary (in U.S. waters). On our transit to station 1, we had two rinse (or practice) stations, which are necessary for rinsing and testing the closing mechanisms of the Niskin bottles, and ensuring that our sampling procedures are efficient and our instruments are working properly.

Station map planned for the 2015 U.S. GEOTRACES Arctic Expedition (Kadko, 2015).
At most stations during this cruise, we will be deploying rosettes equipped with either 12, 24 or 36 Niskin bottles to sample multiple depths throughout the water column (from bottom to top), illustrated by this animation and introduced in About the Cruise. Typically there are multiple casts at individual stations, either because there aren’t enough bottles in the rosette to resolve the full water column, or because multiple rosettes are necessary for our sampling requirements.

For the first cast of station 1, we deployed a special 24-bottle rosette, designed to prevent contamination from the ship (made of iron), so low concentrations of elements (i.e., trace elements) such as iron can be accurately sampled. Once we recovered the rosette, it was sampled by the GEOTRACES teams, who will later determine the concentrations of various trace elements in special laboratories at their home institutes.

Shortly after the recovery of the GEOTRACES rosette, a large-volume rosette, equipped with twelve 30 L bottles, was deployed using the A-frame on the starboard (right) side of the ship, which was deployed to a maximum depth of 740 m (or about 2440 feet). Casts usually take about 1 hour for every 1000 m, so after about 45 minutes the rosette was on deck and sampling began. Ryan and Fen sampled all Niskin bottles, which we have since analyzed for pH and total alkalinity (TA), and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) in the carbon van. While they sampled for those three parameters, I waited my turn to sample for dissolved organic carbon (DOC), which I have since preserved by placing samples in the freezer. Once the cruise is over and the Healy has returned to Seattle in November, coolers filled with frozen DOC samples will be shipped to Miami, where they will be analyzed at University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, where I am currently pursuing my PhD.

The large-volume rosette being deployed at station 1. Notice how the bottle caps (top and bottom) are held open by the spring-loaded lanyards. Once the maximum depth was reached, bottles were triggered to close at the desired depths, collecting our seawater samples. The instrument package under the bottles is the CTD sensor package.
I had hoped to write this post on the carbon van and some of our instruments, however, I thought it would be best to write about our first station. Ryan, Fen and I are just starting to get settled in the van, and now that the first station is behind us, we are getting a sense for the rhythm of our sampling and analysis procedures. Once we get that rhythm down, I will write a post about the work we are doing in the carbon van and the CO2 system in seawater.

How does our lab van look compared to in June when we were in Seattle? The instrument on the left analyzes samples for pH, while the instrument on the right analyzes for TA (second TA instrument in partial view on the left).
This is my last post for the week, so expect a new post either Monday or Tuesday next week. As I write this, all sampling at station 1 is complete and we are now steaming to station 2 to begin our shelf sampling stations.