Back on the boat!

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After a year in dry-dock, the CCGS Amundsen is once again steaming north to the Canadian Arctic for its annual Scientific Research Cruise. Everyone, scientists and crew, are excited to get back to work since last year`s trip was cancelled due to majorly needed engine repairs. It’s all systems go now and we’re humming along on a smooth ride with our 4 shinning new engines.

I am here with a new graduate student, Melissa, to re-instate our lab’s ice island field work. I realize that I feel much more comfortable and calm this time on board as I have the routine down and know the ins and outs of the ship. It is also fun for me to have Melissa around, since it is her first trip to the Arctic; she is extra excited and brings great energy.

We will only be visiting one ice island on this two and a half week trip, before getting off in Pond Inlet, a small town at the northern reaches of Baffin Island. There will be a small rotation of scientists then – Melissa and I will disembark with a few others and a new group will come on board and head even further north and into Greenland waters. The scientists on that leg, many from the University of Manitoba, will be modern scientific storm chasers – looking for a storm at the start of the perennial sea ice cover so that they can send instruments out to measure different processes occurring before, during and after the storm.

This ‘leg’ that Melissa and I are on from Quebec City to Pond Inlet has its own fun and perhaps not as nerve-racking missions. We are doing intensive sampling starting this evening in two fjords along the Labrador Coast. Sam Fjord, I am told, is incredible with its 5000 ft cliffs vertical on either side of you. After the fjords we will be stopping in Pangnirtung, another small town but on the southern portion of Baffin Island, to bring on board two specialized ROV (remotely operated vehicle) drivers. They are going to deploy a massive cube of a robot through the ‘moon pool’ in the center of the ship and look for deep sea, cold water corals in the middle of Baffin Bay. This won’t be until early next week. THEN we will get more serious about choosing the ice island that we will target as our field site. There are many between 5-10 sq km along the Baffin Island coast, some from the 2010 break of the Petermann Glacier, which we visited back in 2011 (see way earlier posts). There are also pieces from the 2012 Petermann Glacier break-off event, and at least one ice island produced by the Ryder Glacier – the neighbor of the Petermann Glacier in Northwestern Greenland.

For now, Melissa and I will prep our equipment and plan as best we can for the big day. That can be another post as well. Right now we are all excited to get to the first real stations in the fjord – those will be the first tests of the other scientists’ equipment and procedures. I must say that the ice island work may be stressful because the nature of it being a one shot deal (only one ice island, limited time, no mess-ups!), but I will never have to sample water or take a core from the ocean floor at 2 am. For now I can simply enjoy waking up to ever increasing amounts of sunshine and a new, beautiful backdrop of scenery every morning.

FYI – this post is long over due and a bit late because of weak internet connections. There is more to share and will come in the next few days. Hopefully pictures too!

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