The Sweatbox

Originally from October 7, a.m.

They are coming fast and furious now – the chunks of ice outside my window as
well as the blog updates. Figure I better get them in before the next satellite
decided to somersault up there in the heavens.

We’re on day 3 of the Arctic tour, and will be conducting the third round of
AUV tests early this evening when the ship stops at the next research station
#312. We’ll be out deploying off the barge again (as we did yesterday, details
to follow), while fellow researchers collect water samples and box cores from
the ocean sediments. Another operation is commencing shortly too – the
helicopter will take off and land on a piece of multiyear ice (approx 3-6 m
thick) to recollect a beacon and mooring that has been logging ice thickness
and ice/water temperatures.

Backing up for the time being – yesterday was day 2 and the second round of
AUV missions, which were far more successful that day 1. As in, the AUV
actually dove underwater – fancy that! We took off on the barge
around 9:30, and motored out a few hundred meters away from the mother ship.
This was no protected bay like day 1, and the seas were a-rollin’. My photo
album from this outing is limited, as I was in the cubby hole whenever my hands
weren’t needed, focusing all attention on keeping breakfast down. My teammates
had a good chuckle at my tactics later (slumply sitting, eyes closed, arms in
the zen buddhist position (I was praying to all deities by that point)), but we
were all feeling every wave crashing into the flat bottom boat.

Other than sea sickness – the trail runs went smoothly. A run of the AUV at
10m and another at 50m. We had added 300 g of weight to help keep Gavia
propellers underwater, and also made a few software adjustments. Conductivity,
temperature and depth (CTD) data was collected for at least a short spurt –
which is a major accomplishment as well. The issue came when we were trying to
retrieve our little AUV after it’s missions, as the swells and whitecaps were

hiding her very well. The hydrophone (above) only picked up a short signal,
so we were forced to return to the Amundsen to pick up our satellite phone
which Gavia will send lat and long coordinates too. Finally, with the
help of coast guard crew on the lookout, we spotted her and got GAVIA back on board
and we returned to the ship where I got some more solid footing!

The rest of the day was spent doing small chores. And it was Thursday, so bar night number 2 was on! This time it was a bit
quieter, as researchers were catching their sleep early since we would be
stopped at a station from midnight to 8 am and they’d be working through the
night. But the ship’s captain was there with us, feeding us jerky arctic char
(delicious and full of omega’s the captain told me with his French accent). The
captain sat with our team later on and I was astonished to hear that he had
been reading articles and papers in preparation for the helicopter deployment
and my boarding of an ice island to come later in the tour. He has been
incredibly helpful – getting us out for test runs as much as possible – and
also looking out for me! It is comforting. He continued discussing the fate of
the arctic and his dismay at what little is being done to protect it and the
globe in general. He would rather see work done to stop our contributions to
global warming instead of making preparations for adaptation to the situations
that warming will cause. He predicts no multiyear ice will be present in the
arctic after 2016. He has a bet on it with a friend even ($100). I guess that
brought the mood of this piece down a few notches, but it’s worth reporting.

To lighten things now, I just completed my first session in The Sweatbox.
Treadmill running while the ship careens through a minefield of ice chunks is
so fun, and when you `come on lets sweat` on repeat, it doesn’t get any
better! Running here is perfect too – I don’t have to increase or decrease the slope
because I just run up the waves!


`The Sweatbox`

Ok everyone. Off for now!



2 thoughts on “The Sweatbox

  1. Great stories Anna, keep them coming. We need more voices from the Arctic like your captain’s, urging us to slow the warming. There was an Arctic expedition last year that came ashore with similar conclusions – warming and melting is faster than predicted.

    The loss of Arctic ice is caused by increased combustion of fossil fuel. But we have an economy in Canada that heavily relies on extracting and selling petroleum as fast as possible, limited now by ‘delays’ in pipeline approval. A successful outcome is considered to be the ability to sell tar sands bitumen to the Chinese via the Gateway, at a higher price than the Americans will pay for the same product shipped south by Keystone. Faint efforts at improving our petroleum energy efficiency seem like merely a way to have more left over to sell to others.

    Example: Manitoba Hydro benefits from electricity conservation at home since it can then sell more to the Americans at a higher price.

    In Ontario, the Liberal government barely squeaked through this week’s election where one of the major issues created or exploited by the PCs was opposition to wind energy and the need to pay more for renewable electricity. They do not accept the need for a radical overhaul in the energy industry. At present in Ontario, it is not politically feasible to promote turbines in the most geographically favorable locations – low productivity farmland or 2 km offshore in Lake Ontario, The Green Energy Act was brave and productive but dangerous politically it turned out, and few candidates dared to defend it . Last federal election, neither Liberals or NDP would campaign on environment and energy issues, seen as the kiss of political death. This is a problem – although individuals can accomplish a little with minor changes in lifestyle, significant change will only be possible with significant leadership from government.

    You folks are very fortunate to be above this and at the top of the world looking down. Roald Amundsen was a successful polar explorer because he learned from the local inhabitants how to survive in that environment. Franklin and Scott didn’t learn and paid for it.

    Have you read Richard Weber’s ‘Polar Attack’ on his ski expedition to the pole and back? Gerry Kobalenko’s ‘The Horizontal Everest’?

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