USCGC Healy Cruise HLY-1502
US Arctic Geotraces Weekly CTD/Hydrographic Team Report 02 from Jim Swift, UCSD/SIO, CTD/hydro team scientific leader at sea

Monday, 24 August 2015, 7:30 pm, local date and time (0330 25 August UTC)

80.x°N, 176.x°W (heading toward the Makarov Basin of the Arctic Ocean)

air -3.4 degC / 26 degF

water -1.3 degC / 30 degF

wind 9 knots from NE

Coming on to Station 20

Note: This is a hydrography-oriented report from Jim Swift, who is working with the SIO Oceanographic Data Facility (ODF) CTD/hydrographic team on the US Geotraces Arctic Ocean expedition led by Dr. David Kadko, FIU, chief scientist. This is not a report from Dr. Kadko or the other science teams.

Since the last report we have traveled 750 nautical miles farther north, completing 13 more stations along the way - some were quite long and complex. We’ve had one bout of stormy weather, moved into the Arctic Ocean ice pack, now are in perpetual daylight (until mid-September), and in various ways have settled into the routines that will carry us and our work through to mid- October.

Shortly after we completed station 6 (when I sent report #1) the winds came up as we steamed north - steady near about 35-40 miles per hour and too windy for our work. So we passed over a planned science station location on the mid- outer continental shelf. The weather improved by the time we hit the shelf edge, and, ever since, we’ve been working the plan northward, albeit in the reverse order - taking the western leg north - in order to take advantage of ice conditions.

When we first entered the outer fringes of the Arctic Ocean sea ice we saw some walruses, and since then have seen several polar bears, including a curious, fat bear which came close to the ship last night while we were on a long station - it was a well-photographed bear! We have been making good progress through what is almost all first-year ice, with significant areas of open leads.

The bridge and deck crew work well together to keep ice off the wire when we are doing a cast. But a sizeable piece of sea ice came very close to taking some of our equipment one night when it drifted past the side of the ship and snagged the CTD cable while we had the CTD in the water. It pulled the wire (and CTD) about one hundred yards astern. A combination of luck and hard work by the deck crew and bridge saved the day, with the sole damage being to the CTD cable. The damaged part was cut off and new electrical and mechanical terminations were made to the equipment. (It was the closest call of that type yet in my experience.)

We had a bit of excitement last week when a Coast Guard C-130 aircraft flew out to the ship and air dropped a few items needed for the engine room and extra heaters for one of the science team’s outdoor-stored equipment. The crew had a small boat standing by to pick up the waterproof floating package.

The CTD/hydrographic team has been doing a great job, producing very high quality data while dealing with both the myriad samples and casts of the Geotraces program and the quick, high-sample-output repeat hydrography casts. After we made our first switch from the 12x30-liter ODF rosette (used for Geotraces casts) to the 36x10-liter ‘CLIVAR’ repeat hydrography rosette, we continued using the 36-place rosette for subsequent Geotraces casts (by closing three bottles at each level). This reduces the wear and tear of switching the termination. Performance has been excellent, thus for the moment we are doing all ODF casts with the 36-place unit.

Captain Hamilton, Healy’s officers, and the crew continue to treat us very well, enthusiastically performing a great deal of hard work to keep science operating around the clock. They (and we) have adjusted deck and cast procedures for cold weather and ice, and we are keeping a good pace in all respects. Meanwhile, we are quite enjoying the food. The Healy galley staff serves tasty, hearty meals four times daily: 7-8, 11-12, 5-6, and 11-midnight

  • one can catch a hot meal no matter what hours the work dictates. Counterbalance is provided by the ship’s two gyms full of commercial grade equipment, plus there are exercise sessions and other inducements to keep fit.

All is well.