Posts Tagged ‘snow machine’

Back out on the ice cap

January 24, 2012

19 Jan 2012

Well fed and rested we were ready for another day on the ice. Because of all the uncertainty surrounding the ice conditions we are all trying to make the most of the opportunities we get. Today, in addition to collecting our normal samples, the Bronk team (Stephen and Rachel) are planning to stay a bit longer to collect ice cores and Niko is going to attempt to collect samples for his methane studies. It’s a lot to do and necessitated rather intricate planning, so that we always have enough snow machines, sleds, drivers, guides, and bear guards. Everything started smoothly. We all set out about 11:00 as the dawn twilight began (still no sun, but some light) and headed north. First, we headed north over the frozen tundra and then out onto the ocean. The ice at our new location was very jumbled and rough, which made for a bit of a bumpy snow machine ride. However, the rough ride was reassuring since it meant the ice was probably quite stable. The roughness in the ice and the formation of pressure ridges is largely due to wind moving the ice around and piling it into the shore.  Eventually, with enough pressure it becomes locked in and grounded to the bottom.

Once at the site we began to set-up the camp. Since it was a new camp we had to drill new ice holes and situate the tents over them. We also set-up propane heaters in each of the tents, and unloaded all our gear. It was a cold morning but absolutely spectacular to be out on the frozen Arctic Ocean.

Marc and Victoria geared-up


Drilling an ice hole


Ice camp

Tony Kaleak


Arctic icescape

Everything was going smoothly. First, Victoria and I deployed our Manta water quality instrument to measure the water column and then the Bronk group took over. Then disaster struck! While moving one of their very heavy sample boxes Debbie’s foot slipped into the ice hole and she fell. Her hand hit the propane heater;her down coat touched the hot chimney and melted. Feathers went everywhere. Debbie screamed. It was chaos, but no one panicked. Debbie was quickly pulled to her feet and, besides a nasty burn on her hand (and the destroyed coat), she was fine.

Dr. Debbie Bronk after the fall, it could have been much worse!

We turned the heater off and, when the feathers settled, we were able to continue. But, we thought it best to get Debbie back home so that someone could look at her burn. So while Debbie was escorted back, the rest of us finished-up sampling and then followed her in.

Once back we all got busy in the lab processing the precious water samples that we had collected.

Dr. Tish Yager in her filtering zone

We all realized how lucky we all were today and grateful to be back safely. I for one slept well.

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A Second Sampling Day – January 28, 2011

January 31, 2011

Today was our second scheduled sampling day.  We started off the day with the most amazing start of the twilight time ever.

Dawn! Around 10:30 am Barrow time.

I managed to take a picture but it doesn’t begin to do it justice.  The temperature has actually warmed up quite a bit, which means it can snow, and it did.

Snowy morning

But that didn’t stop from heading out to our ice camp and sampling.

This time I decided that I’d better drive my own snow machine.

Marc driving himself on the snowmachine this time

I tried to get Zac to take the sled musher position, but he declined. Actually, he was going to ride the sled (I think he was going to fake falling off to even the score), but he was drafted to drive Tish Yager (our lead PI on this project.) Does anyone else think this wasn’t the best idea? But Tish was smarter than I was and opted to ride on the back of the snow machine instead of the sled. Even so, having heard the story of the previous day’s adventures, she held on so tightly that if she fell so would Zac. They arrived at the camp intact.

Today, on their own initiative our fantastic support team had actually gone out to the camp early to set things up, so by the time we got there the propane heaters were running and the tents were already warmed. This really made our jobs a lot easier. The YSI instrument even seemed to behave itself today. I’m still not confident in our results, but at least they were in the right range today. The good news is that the salinity gradient we thought we observed and that worried us appears to have been an artifact of the misbehaving instrument.

We finished sample collection in record time, just under two hours and headed back.  Zac and I spent the rest of the day filtering water in the temperature controlled room.  Under normal conditions I would call this room a cold room since we have set the temperature to match the ocean temperature which is -1.8°C (~29°F), but compared to outside air temperatures it is a warm room.  Outside temperatures today were about -20°F and the wind made it feel like -40. Strange to go into a freezing room to warm up, but that is what we did today.

Everything went smoothly filtering water and we were done by dinner time. Having missed lunch again and spent the whole day at below freezing temperatures, dinner was again large and satisfying. Today at the cafeteria they had salmon.

Tomorrow will be another lab day. No weekends for us I’m afraid.

marc