Can’t ask for more.

Bonjour, hello, friends!


Sidewall of PII-A-1-f with Baffin Island as a magnificent backdrop. Photo: Patricia DeRepentigny

The Amundsen and most of the personnel, are resting in Frobisher Bay near Iqaluit, NU on this last Sunday of Leg 4b. It was a leg packed full of unusual..?, difficult..?, or at least not-your-normal-sampling-station, activities. Our chief scientist illustrated our success over this leg by colour coding our reached, missed, or altered objectives and it was obvious that we had accomplished close to everything planned. That was not an easy task for the lead guy, with all of the complications imposed by weather, malfunctioning equipment, and many operations which competed for daylight. Goals reached include: taking a variety of cores along the east coast of Baffin Island, using the remotely operative vehicle to explore the ocean floor for cold-tolerant critters, deploying some sophisticated, semi-permanent sensors on the sea floor (the ‘lander’) and in the water column (the ‘float’), and… a very successful day spent installing equipment on a 14 km2 ice island barcoded ‘PII-A-1-f’!

It is with much happiness, and relief, that I get to write that. I am always dumbfounded at the extravagant ratio of time and effort put into preparation to that spent during one day on the ice, and this was especially true in 2015. However, I do not mean to downplay what was accomplished last Tuesday. The effort did not cease until the last helicopter flight, returning our team members to the ship, could be seen lifting off from the Amundsen’s deck. This trip has me remembering my first trip in 2011 in many ways: same cruise location and timing, same bunk, many familiar faces on board, and working on the ice pounding computer keys (in the case of 2015, prying a hole in the ice open) until the very bitter end.


Equipment delivery

We had been monitoring the location of a number of ice islands over the month, and even though PII-A-1-f was grounded (I’d optimally collect data on a mobile, deteriorating piece), it was pivoting 180° – a good sign that it could dislodge itself, and was also an order of magnitude larger than anything else around. We were incredibly fortunate that the good weather held out for us to make it to the more southerly reaches of Baffin Island. PII-A-1-f was grounded just 30 km from the community of Qikiqtarjuaq, which may ring a bell for those who remember the 2012, adventure-riddled sojourn in the area.

The last thing I had to worry about was the presence of un belle ours polaire, with the chances being heightened due to the ice island being grounded so close to land. The decision to test our chances with the grounded, more easily bear accessible ice island was balanced by the likelihood of this piece outlasting other fragments, and thereby providing much more data and the possibility of retrieving our equipment next year.


The amazing ice crew


Setting radar settings


Drilling, drilling, drilling

Our teamwork was exceptional on the ice. We were geared up and on the helicopter deck for 7 am and the installation sites were determined before the helicopter equipment sling arrived at 9:15. It was non-stop set-up until we needed to be back on the ship at 4:30 pm due to sunset and impending darkness. My friend and technician-extraordinaire, Graham, solo’ed the weather station while I went to work on the radar system. We were able to confirm that both systems were collecting data and successfully transmitting it for our remote retrieval (quite important if you consider these systems as disposable) by calling contacts, on the ship and even the manufacturer in Vancouver, by radio and satellite phone. While this was all going swimmingly, it was the drilling of 17 x 5+ m deep holes that bottle-necked the operation. Our first two systems, a steam drill and power-drill auger combo, were slow, unfamiliar, and/or malfunctioning. Thankfully, you can always resort to manual power! These holes were necessary for anchoring our systems and supporting accessories such as solar panel arrays and satellite antennas. Also, very thankfully, I had two team members who never ceased alternating their drilling and bear monitoring duties. Completing the installations would have been impossible without them.

Additionally, an important last piece of the puzzle would have come back on the ship with us if it wasn’t for Jonathan’s ingenuity. At the last hole to be drilled we realized that some coupling, needed for a metal post that was to host an instrument to measure surface melt, would not fit into the 2” hole that our auger was capable of drilling. The steam drill really came in handy at this point, when we snaked the hose through the pipe itself and with a little applied pressure, got the post 4 m into the ice before we heard the chopper blades starting up.


Sometimes you need to hug your equipment and provide some comforting words of encouragement.

The good weather didn’t stop for the following days, which let me have a chance to drop beacons and do some aerial photography for 3D modeling on small icebergs in the region. But getting the installations all set, and confirmations of the daily data transfer, was what I really was on board to accomplish. I stepped into the shower after a team dinner on Tuesday evening and promptly experienced 4 resounding neck ‘adjustments’. Ahhhh, that was welcomed!


What a work space!

I can sign off happily for 2015, though I think a picture-heavy post is warranted for next week when I’m back in Ottawa.

Be well,



Not done yet…

Snow on the foredeck. Sorry, only one picture this time around. Internet is moving slowly today!

Snow on the foredeck. Sorry, only one picture this time around. Internet is moving slowly today!

Here on the Amundsen, the first of three legs is coming to an end today. We’re chugging south from a transect across Baffin Bay at 76°N and will arrive in Pond Inlet, Nunavut later this morning where a small crew change will take place. The ten high school students and three teachers who have been shadowing us to learn all they can on Arctic science in their eleven days on board are disembarking there, and my friend & major help, Graham, will be joining us.

Reporting on Leg 4a, the one just wrapping up, doesn’t take long. Starting 36 hours late made for some tricky scheduling by the chief scientist, but we were quite successful in the oceanographic sampling department. Unfortunately, a case of ‘disappearing ice island’ hampered my efforts to survey any piece as I had done 2014. A particular piece in the vicinity of our ship’s planned track was being followed on satellite imagery until the end of August, but since that time has become too small or was obscured by surrounding sea ice, and we were no longer to monitor its location.

We did hope to do some bathymetric (sea floor) mapping to try and locate large scour marks made by ice islands running a ground. There is one location where this has happened repeatedly, and with great force, as far as we can tell from our remote monitoring with satellite imagery. The ‘unfortunately’ for this one was too much sea ice in the area, making it impossible to use the ship’s sonar for the mapping.

The one small, but fun, success was our retrieval of a beacon which I deployed on an ice island much further north in Kane Basin last year. This particular type of beacon floats, and the First Mate was able to spot it with his eagle eyes (and some trusty binoculars) bobbing in the waves 2000 ft away. Now we will try and redeploy the beacon on a new ice island, along with the three others given to us by Environment Canada’s staff of ice island fans.

Besides the above, it has been more and more preparation for the big days of work on the new leg 4b. We’re aiming for some large pieces of ice just north of the Cumberland Peninsula and Iqaluit. Our weather station is plugging away on the ‘Monkey’s Island’ just above the wheelhouse, the physical set up of the radar system is all ready, and it seems like we are just tying up the loose ends so that on the big day we are as smooth and efficient as possible.

Without much more science to report on, I’ll fill you in on the important comings-and-goings of Amundsen life.

  • Bar tending is a role that one is expected to fill, from time to time, when that someone is not busy with their own sampling operations. I finally fulfilled my duty as bar tender after 4 years coming on board. It’s a tough job, especially for someone who knows zero about mixed drinks. Orders for them also had to come with instructions.
  • I found the cappuccino machine. Yah – we are really roughing it up here. I am now developing a penchant for a foamed milk layer with my 10 am coffee. This will be an expensive habit when I get back to terra firma.
  • There is a new gym! It’s on the bottom floor too, so you don’t experience as much roll. But this seems to also take the fun out of your on-ship workout. Treadmills are so much more interesting when you need to devote at least ½ your brain to staying upright.
  • The pastry chef likes to sing. It is always in French, but today I recognized the Christmas tune. The snow draped over Baffin Island is getting him into the spirit apparently.

Most importantly: Please go to the below website and vote for Gabriel’s, my friend and shipmate, submission for the CARIS calendar competition. The underwater portion of the iceberg is mapped with a multibeam sonar, and Derek and I are on our way in the helicopter to deploy some beacons.


IMAGE #26!!

Keep wishing for that sunny weather for us! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Same ol’ tune?

By now, we here crew and researchers of the Amundsen, have mostly learned to roll with whatever unplanned (but almost expected?) curves are thrown into our meticulously drawn up plans. I expect that those of you who bother to follow these updates are learning this as well, so it is probably no surprise to hear that this is being written during hour 3 (4? 5?) of sitting in the side-chamber like room at the Iqaluit airport which seems to be traditionally reserved for the terminal’s air traffic controllers. The weather conditions in Resolute Bay, where the Amundsen is currently waiting for us, can only be described as ‘really not good’. The first words from the three people I met at the airport at 4:30 this morning, after an initial handshake, were, “have you seen the forecast for up there today?” Blizzard + 50 to 80 kmh winds gusting to 110 + periods of freezing rain + a southern wind building giant waves = no helicopter, no barge, and perhaps even no landing our plane. Thus, we wait it out in the south. Side note: I can now say that I’ve eaten Arctic shawarma because of this layover.

We’ve kept busy back in Ottawa with our preparations for this next tour of Arctic Canada since our ‘surprise’ field season when we went offshore Newfoundland and Labrador earlier this year. I’m joining 40 crew members, and a smattering of scientists, who will be on board for the full 5 week tour of Baffin Bay, the Labrador Sea and St. Lawrence River. Others will come and go as we stop in Pond Inlet and Iqaluit, NU on the way. About a dozen high school students from across the country are also joining us for a trip which all of their friends back home are going to be mega-jealous.

Our team is very appreciative of the large amount of time which has been allocated to ice island field work during this leg of the science cruise. If all goes to plan (and we know how well that usually goes), we will re-survey a small fragment of the ice island which we worked on in 2014. The beacon which we deployed to track the ice island’s drift since then is showing a location right in the vicinity of the ship’s planned track. However, if there is still a piece of ice associated with the beacon remains yet to be confirmed. Otherwise, we’ll look to do a similar thickness profile and photo-survey for 3D modeling on a new ice island. We’re also hoping to use the ship’s sonar to map the seafloor in a region where numerous ice islands have beached themselves, in the hopes of finding some significant scour marks.

The big work, which we would love all of your positive thoughts to be directed to, will take place in mid-October as we steam down the east coast of Baffin Island. There are a number of ice islands grounded along the coast, ranging from <1 km2 to >14 km2. All of the preparations I mentioned above will go toward two equipment installations on the chosen ice island (i.e., the one we reach when the sun is shining). We’re planning on setting up a prototype ice penetrating radar which will take daily ice thickness measurements for us to monitor the ice island’s thinning. The second system is a small weather station which will record, among other things, surface melt. We’ll use this (with the thickness) to determine the mass balance (thinning magnitude, with the top and bottom surface contributions known). The weather station is also decked out with a camera, which keeps an eye on the radar system, GPS, air and ice temperature sensors and a modem/antenna for transmitting all this data back to an email inbox. Because if we happen to lose the equipment to Neptune, we may as well have some data for all of this effort!


There was a lot cables and metal posts on my back porch for a few weeks!

radar boxes on some Loeb Building 'lawn'

radar boxes on some Loeb Building ‘lawn’



Thanks for reading, catch you somewhere near Greenland..

Over and out.