Thanksgiving Char

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

On the boat here, Thanksgiving was a healthy portion of Arctic char that we had picked up from Cambridge Bay, NU just last week. When it comes to holiday meals, I’m fairly particular about getting my serving(s) of cranberry sauce and apple pie, but I’m overly satisfied with the substitute.

If I thought the first few days on the ship were a whirlwind, yesterday was a full out hurricane. Un-real. After a meeting with the ICEBERGS team and the officers of the ship with the objective to get everyone on board familiar with what we are trying to accomplish and the logistics of our ops, we were invited to dine in the officers lounge avec le capitain (oh la!). It was a nice meal, if somewhat formal – but halfway through the call we’ve all been waiting for came through the loudspeaker, “un ours polaire, sur la port.” Now, it was quite rude of us to all hope up and leave our hosts – but I’ve never been great with formalities anyways.

Just as I’m sitting down to check the computer after lunch the captain (he comes up a lot in this story, just a warning), raps on my door and yells as he’s going up the stairs “ice island!” I follow him to the bridge and dead a head, there she was, in all her glory. Cameras are snapping (still with us since ‘le ours polaire’), and the captain says “well that’s what you need, isn’t it?” Not for myself in particular (I’m looking at targets farther east), but the submarine team (formerly Team AUV – we’re looking for a T-shirt logo/saying if anyone has any creative input). So it was all systems go for our well oiled Gavia AUV. Barge deployed and testing on the real deal. Unfortunately….you probably know how this ends up if you’ve been reading the past entries and newsletters. Little Miss Gavia was not going to put her nose under that cold ice. Who can blame her, honestly?

That was too bad, since we had the full attention of the ship, but it was not without any success story. Andrew (UBC) sacrificed his hand to the icy sea and towed Gavia behind the barge so that she could map the side of the Amundsen’s hull with her Swathpath+ sonar (fancy, eh?). The guys have been devouring data all day and have come up with a sweet 3D image – which at this point is awesome, even if it is a ship’s hull.

So the work is done, I’ve had my warm shower – it’s Sunday dinner and the wine cellar is open for business. The captain likes us so much that the team gets to dine in style yet again. And oh man was it ever worth it. As the wine kept flowing, the conversation took a turn for the worse (or best – it’s your opinion). Setting the stage – it is myself and 5 men between the ages of 28 and 50 lets say. And someone starts a tale of an awesome bachelor party…but someone always has a better one, you know. When the captain finished his (he is a true tale weaver), I was crying. The captain proceeded to clear the tables from the dinning room, call in all researchers and crew, stop the boat for the night (this is very very unusual I am told, for no transiting or research to be taking place), and turn into a DJ on the IPod for a dance party.

Ok ok, back to why you are all really reading this. Science science science! There isn’t too much else to report from today except my finangaling with 6 different makes, models and software of and for GPS units. And spray painting PVC neon colours. But two nights ago (Saturday) we did have fun with an ROV (remotely operated vehicle), which we have dubbed “Whinnipiglet”. Maybe I won’t digress into that story… We just hucked her right over the bow of the ship and controlled her like an old school car chase video game from above. I felt like I was shooting for Planet Earth while I watched the screen. And the best part? She worked!

So it’s almost go time for the ‘on-ice’ crew  (which is just me, by the way). It has been an awesome experience to work with all this crazy equipment with the under-ice guys, but my excitement and nerves are growing as we start crunching ice and heading east towards PII-Ba, my first target ice island. Both of my targets, this one and PII-B (near Clyde River, Baffin Island) are remnants of the much larger Petermann Ice Island (PII) that broke off of the Petermann Glacier in Greenland in 2010.

If anyone is wondering the whole point of me being up here for a month and writing about these silly ice cubes – I’ll give you the brief run down. Ice islands are fracturing from ice shelves more and more frequently due to a warming arctic. These are then hurtling southwards along Canada’s east coast. They are also pushing westwards (along with traditional icebergs) into uncommon territory. All of this is happening while oil exploration and drilling is increasing off of Canada’s east coast, and the Arctic coast as well. Putting two and two together…these enormous ice islands could potentially wreck any construction (e.g. oil platform) in its path. I hope to help in the improvement of the Canadian Ice Services’ ice island drift and deterioration models.

So that’s that. I had to put that little disclaimer in – I was feeling guilty for just recounting my eating and sightseeing exploits.

Until next time!




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