October 5th – posting delay due to a satellite
Turning upside down in the upper stratosphere for a day – no joke.
So I’m hoping that this comes out somewhat seneschal – the
past three days have been non-stop – time is flying and I wanted to get
something written down before too much time had past – even if I am able to
keel over on this Italian leather sofa…
Let’s start with Yellowknife. I loved it. Before I landed I
loved it. The scenery in the NWT is gorgeous. We weren’t even at the mountains
yet, but the rocky outcroppings and lakes that dotted the landscape caught me
as our flight descended. I met up with my fellow Iceberg teammates, walked
around Yellowknife’s Old Town which is situated on a small island and was where
our super cute B&B was located and bought myself the thickest pair of socks
EVER here, at the combo grocery/camping/excursion store:
Oh! But before I forget and keep telling you about all the
fairy tale magic of the north, let me share the panic that was the first hour
of arriving. One team member was stuck in Edmonton, the Remotely Operated
Vehicle that was a major part of our team’s underwater operation was still in
Vancouver because Air Canada flat our refused to put in on their planes, and
the PVC conduit I had ordered in from Edmonton 2 weeks ago was nowhere to be
found at our equipment warehouse. Oh god. I’m not going to go into detail about
the anguish just ordering that PVC put me through, but let’s just say my
contribution to the project would be zero without it.
That was enough to get the blood pressure rising. After some
frantic calls, many text messages, lots of pleading and smiling, somehow all
three missing items (teammate included!) made it on the charter flight outta
town. The ROV had about 20 minutes to spare…talk about cutting it close.
Now we’re in Kugluktuk, Nunavut. Unfortunately I didn’t get
to see much except from the plane. But the Coppermine River snaked underneath
us, and the airport was a cute stop.
Now the fun starts. Cause I get to fly around in one of
these pieces of machinery! I was pretty stoked, and I have to admit, it was
really cool. I have since befriended the pilot, Guillaume, who gave me a bunch
of tips on how to succeed as a helicopter pilot (I’m looking out for you,
Ghislain). And he also made sure I got an Arctic char from Cambridge Bay when he went in, so he’s alright with me.
As soon as we got on ship, it was to the lab to start
unpacking and getting ready for our first deployment of the autonomous
underwater vehicle (AUV). Her name is Gavia,
for the genus of the common loon, which we all know is Canada’s greatest diver.
If only our Gavia could perform so well…
I am learning tons about basic (and some more complicated)
aspects of engineering on this trip. My little constructions are certainly the
basic, with the AUV team showing me what fun is possible when you really know
your stuff. Who wouldn’t want to go around deploying torpedo sized robots under
icebergs and down through ocean canyons?
Then it’s Wednesday morning already! Plan 1 was to get set
for a 9:30 departure on the ship’s barge to give Miss Gavia a trial run (she
needs a few trials to really be on her A-game). If it’s one thing I’ll take
from this whole science research, is that Plan #1 is never the plan you end up
with. Plan 2 – if you’re lucky, Plan 3, now you’re getting more likely. Within
2 hours we were getting ready to deploy at 9:30, midnight, 8 am the next day, 3
in the afternoon… So it was probably about Plan #7 that worked out with us on
the barge at 12:30. The captain and a few crew were going into Cambridge Bay (a
small coastal town where we were also getting a supply of arctic char from), so
it was the perfect opportunity for the team to test out the AUV. We had a mixed
bag of results, calibration on land went smoothly but little Miss Gavia was
pulling some tricks in the water and simply refused to dive. That’s a bit of an
issue, if you couldn’t guess. But at least we know and have time to fix it.
Now we’re back on board and recovering from the go-go-go of
the past little while. I’m in charge of writing the team’s first newsletter, so
I’ll attach that here in the next couple of days. Besides that, I should have
some time now to start my own little projects before boarding my ice island! I
was working on my GPS beacon/buoys today.
Last thing: the reason that we were stopped today was that
we were taking on fuel from another CCG icebreaker, Le Saint-Louis. We got to
walk the gang-plank and check out a monster AUV. Ours is 2.5 metres, about 130
kg or so I believe. This thing on Le Saint-Louis? 8 m, 2.5 tons! HUGE!
Also, one other thing the Saint-Louis one upped us on
besides the AUV. The gym! Maybe in the next little instalment I’ll show you a
picture of ours here in the Amundsen. Think concrete closet sweatbox. Talk
Until next time! Take care.