USCGC HEALYSeptember - October 2003, Barrow - Nome, Alaska
we are poised in Barrow to join the ship. The science party arrived
yesterday - the first load in a gap in the snow storm, the second in
clearer weather. Today we feel the bite in the air, but the sun has
been seen and the seas are coming down. Since I arrived on Sunday we have
had wild, stormy weather. With the land being mostly a coarse-grained black
sand, the waves crashing onto the beach look particularly menacing. Especially
so as they wash away the road in front of you! We are staying a couple of
miles out of town at NARL. The road in hugs the shore and everyday
there are diggers pushing the natural sand into piles to hold back the
waves. For the last few days, they've lost - we drive the inland
road instead, longer and "washboarded" - a vocative expression if you remember
scrubbing clothes on boards by hand. I spent most of Monday and Tuesday
telling school kids about physical oceanography, making them use their
"human salinometer" to taste the difference between Pacific and Atlantic
waters, and playing demonstration games with some salt solutions, a glass
jar and food colourings.
Today was final pre-cruise planning .. and tomorrow should (we hope) whisk the 20 science party and the 3000lbs of freight off to the Healy. So, with any luck, the next should be from sea! Flying up was like travelling 6 months in a day - from the summer of Seattle, to the Fall of Fairbanks, to the barren winter of Barrow. Enjoy the summer for us, and we'll hope for a more wintery than stormy autumn for the start of the trip.
September 14, 2003 - Chief
Greetings from the Healy, somewhere off Hanna Shoal! We're all aboard, 3 days now and already things are slipping into a routine. Despite a large storm pounding the beaches off Barrow so hard it washed away the road early in the week, the weather calmed down enough for the helicopter transfers of all personnel and equipment (3000lbs science gear, 6000lbs stores) on the 11th. We sailed into calming seas, ADCPed the night away running across-canyon sections of Barrow Canyon and successfully recovered the Barrow Canyon mooring on the afternoon of Friday 12th. Saturday saw more ADCP sections whilst the CTD and chemists completed their set-ups and by Saturday night we were running the first CTD casts in a 17-station section (2nm separation) across the southern end of Barrow Canyon. This morning completed the CTD section, and as I type we are steaming north towards the Chukchi Slope moorings, ETA Monday morning.
Time flies, and we are making good progress. Monday morning saw us at the mooring site CS1, with some ice, but good open water. Though the mooring was in position and both releases perky, once released the mooring failed to come up. Time, thus, to dig out the dragging gear, and some hours later, on the first drag, the mooring came to the surface. The drag had caught the mooring and given it a sufficient shake to free it from whatever was hanging it up, since it surfaced normally and was on board by late evening. We can only speculate on improbable theories. It is a reminder that these things can take time. Post recovery, we ran northwest CTDing down across the slope, to catch the core of Herald Valley outflow, ADCPed back and fro across it, returning to the second mooring recovery yesterday. This went smoothly, both recovery and the redeployment of both the Chukchi Slope moorings, and by evening we were running north again to start our main line south through the mooring positions, CTD, ADCP water sampling and the occasional VPR cast .. which is where you currently find us. Ice has been light light light, nothing to hinder our progress so far. Two pairs of polar bears and the remains of their hunt (Walrus?) indicate we are in the nutrient rich waters of the Pacific. One swimming polar bear today makes you ask the eternal question of how did it get there? The ship's ADCP is tracking well, the Seabeam also. We'll finish this line, then head to the Central Channel mooring. Weatherwise, fog seems our biggest hazard, a small penance given what's happening on the east coast!
Thursday 25th Sept and all well. You find us working the Beaufort line and having covered a lot of ground since last week. Last week we were up by the Chukchi Slope moorings in light, mostly negligible ice, and CTDing (and VPRing) south through the mooring line. We extended that section southeast to Hanna Shoal and back south towards the Alaskan Coast, giving us a quasi-synoptic slice through the central Chukchi Sea. We are still finding pockets of winter water, and comparison with the Palmer data of a few months ago gives interesting progression of features.
On reaching the coast, we deadheaded to our fourth mooring recovery, the UAF mooring in the Central Channel, another trouble free recovery and redeployment. Whilst in the area we took the opportunity to assist Chinese colleagues who deployed a surface mooring some months ago but, due to a large storm, were unable to recover it before heading south. We circled the site in Force 5-6 seas, visual contact being our only hope for recovery, since the mooring carried no acoustic mechanism. The large red top float and radar reflector was not to be found, presumably torn off by the storm. The amazingly sharp eyes of the US Coastguard did however locate the second float, the only remaining surface expression, a small, (14inch diameter) white sphere, hidden in a sea of white-caps! From there, the recovery went well, thanks to the dedicated boat and deck crews, and the instruments and the data are safely aboard, enroute back to the Chinese.
Mooring work in the Chukchi completed, we ran another closely spaced hydrographic section (CTD and VPR) through the Central Channel mooring, to the coast, and headed northeast to the Beaufort Slope line. We have been here two days, and so far have been remarkably lucky with weather. We recover moorings in the day and work net-tows and CTD casts (predominantly the calibration casts for mooring instruments to be redeployed) in the night. So far, six moorings are safely recovered. We aim to try for the remaining three tomorrow.
We have been working mostly in calm seas, no ice,
little wind, few waves, northern lights on the clear nights and occasional
sun and snow flurries in the day. It's not
really very Arctic, but if it gives fair weather for the mooring work,
that's fine too.
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