US GO-SHIP is part of the international GO-SHIP network of sustained hydrographic sections, supporting physical oceanography, the carbon cycle, and marine biogeochemistry and ecosystems. The US program is sponsored by US CLIVAR and OCB. Funded by the National Science Foundation and NOAA.

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Arctic Geotraces 2015 Letter from Jim Swift, CTD/hydrographic Scientist, 4 Sep 6, 2015

HLY1502 letter 04 from Jim Swift

Sunday, 30 August 2015, 2:45 pm, local date and time (2245 30 August UTC)

86.3°N, 170.6°E (in the Makarov Basin of the Arctic Ocean)

air -5.0 degC / 23 degF

water -1.4 degC / 29 degF

wind 16 knots from E

En route to station 29 in near 100% ice cover (at the time of this report)

Dear Family, Friends, and Colleagues,

We are making excellent progress north, keeping to the planned replication of the stations occupied on the 1994 trans-Arctic section, thus providing a look at 21 years of change in the temperature, salinity, oxygen, nutrients, CFCs, and dissolved carbon in Arctic Ocean waters from surface to bottom. (And the Geotraces trace element and isotope [“TEI”] program is going well, too.) Ice conditions in today’s Arctic Ocean border on astonishing to a person like me who recalls the thick, tough, old ice of the Arctic Ocean in 1994. If my memory serves, in 1994 we were continually looking for a workable course around thick ice floes - the size of football fields to small towns - occasionally necessitating a slow crunch through a tough area we couldn’t go around. Helicopters were used to scout out feasible routes. As we know from recent published scientific studies, the older, thicker ice has in more recent years occupied a smaller area of the Arctic Ocean, nearer Greenland and the Canadian Archipelago. Thus much of the ice we are traversing is first year ice, but there is multi-year ice out here, along with thick ridges. The ship is able to follow leads around the ridges and multi-year ice, and motors well through the extensive first-year ice. (I enjoy the “Richter 3-4” jostling as the ship gets buffeted by the ice.)

None of the ice adjacent to the ship has yet been substantial enough to permit scientific sampling of and from the ice. Presumably we will soon have a station near suitable ice for the researchers who need to be out on the ice.

It has been chilly all week - in the lower 20s in Fahrenheit degrees - with occasional light snow and periods of 15+ knot winds. Sometimes we see bear tracks in the snow, though I am not aware of sighting in the past few days. There is new ice on the small leads, with some frazil and grease ice on large ones. We are prepared for the weather and all CTD/hydrographic operations are going well, with continued excellent data quality.

Last week I enjoyed providing lectures to the ship’s oceanography class, as other faculty on board have been doing. I ended up with a session on water masses and what I’ll call here the Global Overturning Circulation, favorite subject areas of mine.

We are now well north of the maximum polar latitude from which a ground station can “see” a communications satellite in geosynchronous orbit - which in practical terms means the end of internet for about a month. The Coast Guard does provide email via polar-orbiting Iridium satellites at a very much slower communication rate. For now we are restricted to text-only, generally with no photos or larger attachments coming or going. (If you receive this with a photo, thank the Coast Guard for allowing it.) The ship normally receives a daily electronic 10-page “New York Times Digest” which is posted on the ship’s internal web site, but the computer on shore that provides it died. This will probably be replaced soon, but meanwhile we have had no news the past few days.

We have a Geotraces “super station” coming up tomorrow. This series of casts and ice work will involve a planned 52 hours on station (compared to 3-4 hours for one full-depth hydrographic cast). The ship was designed to store wastes for long periods - even engine cooling water is held I think - so as to minimize disturbance of the water we are sampling with our science gear. But 52 hours is exceptional. In order for the ship to “hold it”, we will be restricted to two minute showers, use of paper plates and cups, no laundry, etc. The ship takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously. There is aggressive recycling, minimal use of disposable products, and so only truly degradables are pumped off the ship: grey water, black water, and the output from the ship’s giant garbage disposal - known as the ‘red goat’.

The Coast Guard has really pulled out the stops on support - we have enthusiastic, capable crews leading every science operation, 24 hours a day. The meals continue to be very good - my favorite last week was excellent New England clam chowder, honey-Sirracha glazed salmon, wild rice mix, sautéed summer squash, fresh-made dinner rolls, and strawberry shortcake!

The topper: We are only 220 nautical miles from the North Pole.

All is well.

This is PolarTREC teacher Bill Schmoker’s photo of Greg Cutter’s (Old Dominion University) trace metal rosette being recovered after a long cast in the ice.

Jim Swift

Research Oceanographer

UCSD Scripps Institution of Oceanography

PS - Feel free to send questions to me at james.swift@healy.polarscience.net.

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Arctic Geotraces 2015 Weekly Science Report from Jim Swift, CTD/hydrographic Scientist, Week 3 Sep 6, 2015

USCGC Healy Cruise HLY-1502
US Arctic Geotraces Weekly CTD/Hydrographic Team Report 03 from Jim Swift, UCSD/SIO, CTD/hydro team scientific leader at sea

Sunday, 30 August 2015, 2:45 pm, local date and time (2245 30 August UTC)

86.3°N, 170.6°E (in the Makarov Basin of the Arctic Ocean)

air -5.0 degC / 23 degF

water -1.4 degC / 29 degF

wind 16 knots from E

En route to station 29 in near 100% ice cover (at the time of this report)

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.

Dear Colleagues,

We are making excellent progress north, keeping to the planned replication of the stations occupied on the 1994 trans-Arctic section, thus providing a look at 21 years of change in the temperature, salinity, oxygen, nutrients, CFCs, and dissolved carbon in Arctic Ocean waters from surface to bottom. (The Geotraces trace element and isotope [“TEI”] program is going well, too.) A preview of coming attractions in hydrographic data results: Compared to 1994 there is marked impact of freshening on the waters above the Atlantic layer, but underneath that mid-depth temperature maximum the waters are more saline.

The ice conditions in the area we are traversing border on astonishing to a person like me who recalls the thick, tough, old ice of the Arctic Ocean in

  1. If my memory serves, in 1994 CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent and USCGC Polar Sea were continually looking for a workable course around thick ice floes - the size of football fields to small towns - occasionally necessitating a slow crunch through a tough area we couldn’t go around. Helicopters were used to scout out feasible routes. As we know from recent published scientific studies, the older, thicker ice has in more recent years occupied a smaller area of the Arctic Ocean, nearer Greenland and the Canadian Archipelago. Thus much of the ice we are traversing is first year ice, but there is multi-year ice out here, along with thick ridges. The ship is able to follow leads around the ridges and multi-year ice, and motors well through the extensive first- year ice. (I enjoy the “Richter 3-4” jostling as the ship gets buffeted by the ice.)

It has been chilly all week - in the lower 20s in Fahrenheit degrees - with occasional light snow and periods of 15+ knot winds. Sometimes we see bear tracks in the snow, though I am not aware of sightings in the past few days. There is new ice on the small leads, with some frazil and grease ice on large ones. We are prepared for the weather and all CTD/hydrographic operations are going well, with continued excellent data quality.

Last week I enjoyed providing lectures to the ship’s oceanography class, as other faculty on board have been doing. I ended up with a session on water masses and the Meridional Overturning Circulation, favorite subject areas of mine.

We are now well north of the maximum polar latitude from which a ground station can “see” a communications satellite in geosynchronous orbit - which in practical terms means the end of internet for several weeks. The Coast Guard does provide email via Iridium satellites at a very much slower communication rate. For now we are restricted to text-only, generally with no photos or larger attachments coming or going. (If you receive this with a photo, thank the Coast Guard for allowing it.)

We have a Geotraces “super station” coming up tomorrow. This series of casts and ice work will involve a planned 52 hours on station (compared to no more than 4 hours for one full-depth hydrographic cast). The ship was designed to store wastes for long periods - even engine cooling water is held I think - so as to minimize disturbance of the water we are sampling with our science gear. But 52 hours is exceptional. We are preparing for two minute showers, use of paper plates and cups, no laundry, etc.

The Coast Guard has really pulled out the stops on support - we have enthusiastic, capable crews leading every science operation, 24 hours a day. The meals continue to be very good - my favorite last week was excellent New England clam chowder, honey-Sirracha glazed salmon, wild rice mix, sautéed summer squash, fresh-made dinner rolls, and strawberry shortcake!

The topper: We are only 220 nautical miles from the North Pole.

All is well.

This is PolarTREC teacher Bill Schmoker’s photo of Greg Cutter’s (Old Dominion University) trace metal rosette being recovered after a long cast in the ice.

Jim Swift

Research Oceanographer

UCSD Scripps Institution of Oceanography

PS - Feel free to send questions to me at james.swift@healy.polarscience.net.

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Arctic Geotraces 2015 Weekly Science Report from Jim Swift, CTD/hydrographic Scientist, Week 2 Aug 31, 2015

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.

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Arctic Geotraces 2015 Letter from Jim Swift, CTD/hydrographic Scientist, 3 Aug 31, 2015

HLY1502 letter 03 from Jim Swift

Sunday, 23 August 2015, 5:30 pm, local date and time (0130 24 August UTC)

80°N, 175°W (in the Arctic Ocean, near the Siberian end of the Mendeleyev Ridge)

air -4.9 degC / 23 degF

water -1.3 degC / 30 degF

wind 8 knots from NNW

On Station 19

Dear Family, Friends, and Colleagues,

The past week has been busy: We’ve traveled about 700 nautical miles north, meanwhile completing 12 more stations along the way - some were quite long and complex. We’ve had some 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 letter #2) 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.

The rapid and early Arctic Ocean sea ice retreat - which many know about from news accounts - has impacted walruses. Indeed, there was little or no ice in the part of the Chukchi Sea we passed over. This is bad news for walruses because they feed at the bottom on these shelf seas where the depth is only 50 meters, but they need sea ice in the same area to haul out on from time to time. As we sailed north into deeper water, at the first belt of sea ice we did encounter walruses. We are guessing that the water there may have been nearly as deep as they can bear for bottom feeding. That ice will not be there much longer this summer, so we wondered about the fate of those walruses. A bit further north, as soon as we got into more ice, we saw a couple of polar bears. One was rangy looking, but the other (the one in the photo) seemed to have put on quite a bit of weight - this bear must be an expert hunter (they eat seals).

The sea ice came very close to taking some of our equipment: at one station a sizeable piece of ice drifting past the side of the ship snagged the CTD cable while we had the CTD in the water and pulled the wire (and CTD) about one hundred yards astern. A combination of luck and hard work by the deck crew saved everything, 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. Whew! (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. Breaks in routine are welcome!

I will write more about the sea ice in future letters, but we are happy to be in the ice, which provides visual variety, polar bear tracks to sight (and bears!), and the many sights and sounds of icebreaking. So far we are transiting only first-year ice which is fairly easy going. In fact, we are making good progress.

We are 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. The bakers are adept, turning out not only breads and rolls, but tempting pastries and desserts. The officers cooked Saturday night: excellent teriyaki chicken (grilled outdoors), a tasty vegetarian Thai green curry, braised cabbage, and more. We still have a salad bar, too. 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.

Jim Swift

Research Oceanographer

UCSD Scripps Institution of Oceanography

PS - Feel free to send questions to me at james.swift@healy.polarscience.net.

Addendum to Letter 3

Dear Family, Friends, and Colleagues,

A few minutes after I sent Letter #3, a bear came by the ship at close range. Everybody turned out: this was a well-photographed bear! (And a healthy looking, fat one at that.)

Here are two of my photos, at much-reduced resolution.

Jim Swift

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Arctic Geotraces 2015 Weekly Science Report from Jim Swift, CTD/hydrographic Scientist, Week 1 Aug 17, 2015

USCGC Healy Cruise HLY-1502
US Arctic Geotraces
Weekly CTD/Hydrographic Team Report 01
from Jim Swift, UCSD/SIO, CTD/hydro team scientific leader at sea

Sunday, 16 August 2015, 6:45 pm, local date and time (0245 17 August UTC)

68°N, 168°W (in the Chukchi Sea, about 100 miles north of Bering Strait)
air 7.8 degC / 46 degF
water 5.7 degC / 42 degF
wind 15 knots from NNE

On Station 6

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.

US Coast Guard science icebreaker Healy left Dutch Harbor, AK, on schedule at 1300 local time on 09 August, one week ago, bound for the Arctic Ocean. The SIO/ODF team had loaded its equipment in Seattle in June, but the routine chemistry equipment (for analysis of bottle salinity, dissolved oxygen, and nutrients) needed to be set up in Dutch Harbor because the science team on HLY-1501 was using the designated lab space. The data processing computers were installed, and the CTD/rosette systems also needed final set up and checking. The set ups, chemical preparations, and tests went smoothly.

ODF is using two rosette systems on this cruise: a 12-place system equipped with 30-liter bottles, used to support Geotraces, and a 36-place system equipped with 10-liter bottles, which will be used to support extra CTD stations along the US Geotraces track in support of the US Global Ocean Carbon and Repeat Hydrography program. [There is also a third rosette system in use - Greg Cutter’s (ODU) trace metal clean system.] These two large rosettes share the Healy’s starboard staging bay and though we use one at a time, they use the same winch, sheave and CTD cable. Switching from one to the other is not trivial, so we plan to use only one of the systems at any given station, switching in between stations. [That sounds fine, but CTD aficionados will know this invites gremlins. Time will tell.] We plan to use the 12x30 system for the first 11 stations, so we tested the 36x10 system in water at the dock, then moved the 12x30 system into cast operation position. The CTDs in both units are working well. The 30-liter bottles are touchy in terms of leaks. (There are ca. 65 lbs of water pushing at the bottom end caps, held tight onto an O-ring by a strong spring in the bottle.) The techs have been working out the kinks and we are satisfied with progress. [One way we stop a leak is to hit the bottom end cap with a non-metallic mallet (see photo, taken by Joseph Gum, SIO, showing oxygen sampler Andrew Barna and hammer-wielder Melissa Miller of SIO). Yes, using a hammer is still how some equipment is fixed!]

The quality of the ODF CTD and bottle data is excellent. The CFC/SF6 team (LDEO and UofHawaii) on board reports their sample analysis equipment is working reasonably well, with a few of the usual bugs. The ocean carbon team (UofMiami) has been generating good data, but their lab van has been overheating. Their analysis equipment generates appreciable heat, but needs a stable lab temperature for best performance. They have a fine air conditioning system but the ship cannot connect it, and so they must attempt to cool the van by leaving a van door part-way open to the cold outside air. This requires that they use headlamps in their van at night (even though we are well north we currently still have a dark period) because their van is in front of the bridge, and the normal lab lights shining out the open door would affect the vision of personnel on the bridge. There is attention being paid to this issue, and progress may lie ahead.

Most of the stations to date have been shallow shelf stations (50 meters or less), and the hydrographic structures of the shelf waters are as one would expect: summer waters on top of winter waters, and, at station 001, which was just off the Bering Sea shelf, a transition to cold, low-salinity, low oxygen, high nutrient Bering Sea waters.

Within the next week we will carry out a section off the shelf. The chief scientist may choose to run the planned track in reverse, in order to take advantage of present and predicted August-September ice conditions over the planned track as a whole.

All is well.

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Arctic Geotraces 2015 Letter from Jim Swift, CTD/hydrographic Scientist, 2 Aug 17, 2015

HLY1502 letter 02 from Jim Swift

Sunday, 16 August 2015, 4:30 pm, local date and time (0030 17 August UTC)

68°N, 168°W (in the Chukchi Sea, about 100 miles north of Bering Strait, above the Arctic Circle)

air 8.2 degC / 47 degF

water 6.4 degC / 44 degF

wind 15 knots from NNE

On Station 6

Dear Family, Friends, and Colleagues,

We have been carrying out sampling over the continental shelf of the Bering Sea and Bering Strait, and are now in the Chukchi Sea. In a few days we will leave the shelf behind and head north into the Arctic Ocean proper. The region we are working at present is shallow - 50 meters deep, compared to 4000 meters depth or more in the Arctic deep basins. Most of the shelf here is solidly ice covered in winter. But this part of the ice pack melts early in the season, so there is no ice in the area now; we will not encounter sea ice for another few days.

Arctic Ocean ice conditions ahead are much in the thoughts of the chief scientist (Dr. David Kadko, Florida International University) and the ship’s captain and officers. On the whole, the Arctic Ocean ice cover is light this year - not the lightest ever but still “2 standard deviations less than the mean”. But it matters a good deal where the ice is, how heavily it is concentrated, and how thick and old it is. The ship requires more power, and uses fuel more quickly, the heavier its icebreaking chores. It is easy to understand that if the ice has frequent, well-placed openings - these are called “leads” - the ship can make way more quickly and efficiently. Just as obviously, it can go through thinner ice more readily than thicker ice. Perhaps not as obvious to some readers, the younger the ice, the easier the icebreaking: first-year ice is easier to traverse than ice more than one year old. Fortunately, with today’s satellites, it is possible to picture or estimate ice extent, concentration, thickness, and age - but not on a small enough scale for navigation, because the ‘footprint’ of some of those satellite data is on the order of tens of miles (though finer than that for some types of remote imaging). The short version is that the present and predicted ice conditions seem to favor working north on the track we were originally planning to take south. Then we will try the other track southbound. We will know soon which track Dave choses.

My team has been using a water sampling system equipped with 12 30-liter water sampling bottles, which go down open and are closed at selected depths as we haul the system up. These are large bottles (most of my work on past cruises has been with 10-liter bottles) and we knew from experience they are touchy in terms of leaks: there are 65 lbs of water pushing at the bottom end caps, held tight onto an O-ring by a strong spring in the bottle. The techs have been working out the kinks and we are satisfied with progress - one way we stop a leak is to hit the bottom end cap with a non-metallic mallet (see photo, taken by Joseph Gum, SIO, showing oxygen sampler Andrew Barna and hammer-wielder Melissa Miller of SIO). Yes, using a hammer is still how some equipment is fixed!

Most of the water sampling and analysis programs I work with are doing well, but though the ocean carbon team (UofMiami) has been generating good data, their lab van has been overheating. Their analysis equipment generates appreciable heat, but needs a stable lab temperature for best performance. They have a fine air conditioning system but the ship cannot connect it, and so they must attempt to cool the van by leaving a van door part-way open to the cold outside air. This requires that they use headlamps in their van at night (even though we are well north we currently still have a dark period) because their van is in front of the bridge, and the normal lab lights shining out the open door would affect the vision of personnel on the bridge. There is attention being paid to this issue, and progress may lie ahead.

The food aboard has been good. There is a cafeteria-style line - we choose and they serve - with a salad bar, condiments, and dessert nearby - and we are chowing down the fresh vegetables while they last. Some of us work a set watch (for example mine is 11:30 am to 11:30 pm) for which others cover our off time. But most of the science staff on board do their work whenever the ship gets to that particular point in the program, so continual adjustments and naps-when-you-can are standard routine for many others. The work is spread out just enough to allow catch-up from time to time.

Because it’s interesting and uniquely “Alaska”, I’m also including a photo taken by Croy Carlin, OSU, of bald eagles on the beach near Dutch Harbor - pretty wild to have bald eagles instead of seagulls at the beach! (These eagles were hanging out where people were fishing - looking for an easy meal?)

All is well.

Jim Swift

Research Oceanographer

UCSD Scripps Institution of Oceanography

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Arctic Geotraces 2015 Letter from Jim Swift, CTD/hydrographic Scientist, 1 Aug 11, 2015

HLY1502 letter 01 from Jim Swift

Sunday, 09 August 2015, 1:30 pm, local date and time (2130 UTC)

53.6°N, 166.5°W (Dutch Harbor, AK)

air 11.3 degC / 52 degF

water 13.5 degC / 56 degF

wind 12 knots from SW

leaving port, heading north to the Arctic Ocean

Dear Family, Friends, and Colleagues,

A half hour ago, the US Coast Guard science icebreaker Healy left the Aleutian Islands port of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, bound for the Arctic Ocean. 51 members of the science team, approximately 90 Coast Guard officers and crew, and shore support personnel worked diligently the past four days to ready the laboratories, deck work areas, science holds, and other areas for a long- planned NSF-funded (principally) 65-day voyage to study the geochemistry of the Arctic Ocean, not to mention filling huge stores of fuel and topping off tanks holding approximately one million gallons of fuel.

Wikipedia notes that Dutch Harbor was “one of the few sites, besides the attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, in American territory to be bombed by the Japanese during World War II”. There are ruin-like remains all around from the war-era military facilities which involved over 20,000 personnel. Today the town is one of the top US commercial fishing ports; that and related support activities now dominate the town. It is also the closest US port to Bering Strait and the western Arctic Ocean, which is why we staged our expedition from here.

We enjoyed some of Dutch Harbor’s finest summer weather - easy winds, warm sun, and temperatures in the upper 50s. The treeless hills and lower slopes of the volcanic mountains were lush green with myriad low plants and wildflowers, humpback whales were breeching in the bay, and there were bald eagles overhead. What a great place for a walk after working in the labs! Dutch Harbor also offers a few restaurants and watering holes where science teams and off-watch crew congregated.

Well, that is literally behind us now, as we head north. There is a well- planned sequence of events to prepare the equipment for science use. For example, while docked at the pier we did in-water tests of one of the water sampling devices - the one not used for geochemistry - and this evening we will be soaking the main “clean-sample” geochemistry equipment to help purge the devices from minute traces of possible contaminants.

The part of the program I lead has to do with measuring and interpreting the distributions of the same seawater characteristics I and my colleagues have measured on most of my cruises over the years: the temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and “nutrients” (nitrate, nitrite, phosphate, and silicate) in the water column from the surface to a little above the ocean bottom. And also similar to those other cruises, my colleagues on “hydrography” program will be determining the concentrations of ocean carbon parameters, CFCs (“freons”), and oxygen isotopes. Our team did similar work along part of the intended 2015 track in 1994 and another part in 2005, so we hope to be able to compare our measurements with the earlier ones. This is known by oceanographers as “repeat hydrography”, which is how the geochemists who lead this expedition refer to our work.

They, the geochemists, will meanwhile be determining the concentrations of various trace elements in seawater - “trace elements” because they are present in truly minute concentrations. Why? Because the ones they chose to measure are especially useful at illuminating the processes that interconnect the oceans, atmosphere, sea floor, continental shelves, rivers, ice, and so forth. The concept of “salinity” is based on the fact that to significant extent, the ratio of the various dissolved ions in ocean water (from sodium, calcium, potassium, sulfur, etc.) is nearly constant, no matter the location or the total concentration of all the salts. In other words, relatively fresh (lower salinity) water from the North Atlantic will have about the same ratio of sodium to calcium to potassium to sulfur ions as would a sample of salty (higher salinity) water from the subtropical Pacific Ocean. But there are variations, and they are important in telling us how the oceans work. In the case of this cruise, the geochemists are taking advantage of decades of earlier work to carry out a tightly focused exploration of the variations of a good number of the trace elements.

Hence this is the “US Geotraces Arctic Ocean cruise”, on which the hydrographic measurements provide crucial oceanographic context for interpretation of the geochemistry, as well a rare opportunity to address changes in the Arctic Ocean hydrography over the past 10 and 20 years.

We boarded yesterday and so have had enjoyed our first night’s sleep and first meals on board. We have been warmly welcomed and greatly assisted by the Coast Guard captain, officers, and crew, with whom we will spend the next two months. We are comfortable and ready to work. All is well.

Jim Swift

Research Oceanographer

UCSD Scripps Institution of Oceanography

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Arctic Geotraces 2015 Jul 15, 2015

GEOTRACES WEB PAGE

Healy cruise track

Daily pictures from the aloft conning tower

Cruise Blog: Bill Schmoker, US Arctic GEOTRACES

Geotraces 2015 Blogs

Arctic Andy and the 2015 U.S. Arctic Ocean Section

Arctic Andy’s Instagram

Arctic Andy’s Twitter

RSMAS blog

Dr. Katlin Bowman: Hg in the sea

Dr. Peter Morton: U.S. Geotraces Arctic 2015

Cruise Blog: Bill Schmoker, US Arctic GEOTRACES

Alison Agather: Alison’s Arctic Adventure

Laura Whitmore: Tumblr Blog

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P16N Leg 2 Jun 10, 2015

Go to the P16N Leg 2 Blog

Follow the participants of P16N as they do science in the Central and Northern Pacific.

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P16N Leg 1 Apr 18, 2015

Go to the P16N Blog

Follow the participants of P16N as they do science in the Central and Northern Pacific.

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