NOAA Teacher at Sea Caroline Singler getting ready to board the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy in Dutch Harbor AK

Friday, September 3, 2010

Pizza Operations – Saturday 28 August 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler
Ship: USCGC Healy
Mission: Extended Continental Shelf SurveyGeographical area of cruise: Arctic Ocean
Date of Post: 2 September 2010

Location and Weather Data from the Bridge

Date: 1 September 2010 Time of Day: 20:15 (8:15 p.m. local time); 03:15 UTC
Latitude: 75º 12.98’ N Longitude: 131º 29.0’ W
Ship Speed: 8.2 knots Heading: 6.9º (NNE)
Air Temperature: 1.36ºC / 34.45ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1010.0 mb Humidity: 86.5 %
Winds: 9.6 knots NNW Wind Chill: -4.93ºC / 23.16ºF
Sea Temperature: -1.3ºC Salinity: 27.55 PSU
Water Depth: 2503.9 m

Date: 2 September 2010 Time of Day: 22:15 (10:15 p.m. local time); 05:15 UTC
Latitude: 76º 36.2’ N Longitude: 129º 42.1’ W
Ship Speed: 3.9 knots Heading: 270 (W)
Air Temperature: -1.08ºC / 30.05ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1017.3 mb Humidity: 99.1 %
Winds: 9.3 knots N Wind Chill: -6.53ºC / 20.15ºF
Sea Temperature: -1.4ºC Salinity: 27.52 PSU
Water Depth: 2492.8 m

When you are at sea for as long as the Coast Guard crew of the Healy, it’s important to build some things into the schedule that break up the monotony. Days pass without much sense of what day of the week it is, often with little difference between day and night. The Healy Morale Committee is responsible for planning activities for the crew, and I have enjoyed attending their meetings as a science team point of contact (POC) during this cruise. Saturday nights are big nights on Healy. They start with the Morale Dinner, where the regular galley staff gets the night off and a different group prepares the meal. Then there is bingo in the mess, followed by a movie shown on the big screen in the helicopter hangar.

Last Saturday was the science team’s turn to try our hands at preparing dinner for the crew. We chose to make pizza, figuring it is usually a crowd pleaser and a complete break from the normal menu. Under the watchful eye of FS3 Melissa Gomes, we spent Saturday afternoon chopping and cooking toppings, pre-cooking the crusts, and baking a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting for dessert – that was my idea; this late in the trip, it seemed like everyone could use a good dose of chocolate. Note that in the galley, everyone must where a cover (hat), but hats are not permitted elsewhere in the Mess.

Pictured, from front: Canadian Coast Guard Ice Analyst Erin Clark, USCG FS3 Melissa Gomes, USGS Scientists Helen Gibbons and Brian Edwards (in the scullery)

Pictured are Jerry Hyman (National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency) and Canadian Coast Guard Captain Michel Bourdeau – yes, we used premade pizza crusts; we are in the Arctic Ocean not a New York pizza parlor!

Here I am trying to figure out how to use the mixer – for this cake, the mix came in a can and the frosting mix was in a box. My watch stander partner Peter Triezenberg helped me frost the cakes, but no one was around to take our photo! Photo courtesy of Sherwood Liu.

USGS geologist Andy Stevenson shows that he can cut a cake with the same precision that he uses to cut core samples. Photo courtesy of Sherwood Liu.

When the time came to start cooking, Erin Clark, USGS engineering technicians Jenny White and Pete dalFerro, and USGS geochemist Chris Dufore (pictured from right to left) put their skills to the test with an efficient assembly line, combining toppings for a diverse array of pizza choices. Photo courtesy of Helen Gibbons.

Captain Michel Bourdeau and Jerry manned the pizza ovens with great style and flair, earning the self-proclaimed designation “SPT” or Ship’s Pizza Technicians.

And Sherwood Liu of the University of South Florida showed that he can cut pizza with the same good cheer and dedication that he applies to analyzing water samples.

When the big moment arrived and the serving window opened, PolarTREC teacher Bill Schmoker, Marine Mammal Observer Sarah Ashworth, and Andy Stevenson (pictured from right to left) greeted the hungry Coasties and served up hot pizza, mozzarella sticks and jalapeno poppers. (Pete dalFerro and Jenny White work the deep fryer in back, with Erin Clark lending moral support.)

Our rewards for our efforts were the smiling, satisfied faces we saw leaving the Mess that evening, which made the job of washing dishes, cleaning tables and swabbing the decks that much easier. Somehow no one remembered to take pictures of the cleaning crew, which included many of those already named as well as Mark Patsavas (University of South Florida), Justin Pudenz (Marine Mammal Observer), and David Street (Canadian Hydrographic Service). It was a great night. We had a lot of fun and showed that we can work as a team in the kitchen as well as in the lab and on the decks.

Mission Status: We are in the home stretch now, leading Louis on what will probably be the last transect through ice. Sometime soon we will break away and start heading for Barrow to start the journey home. I am spending a good part of each day out on the decks, taking photos and enjoying my last look at Arctic ice. Yesterday’s snow added a new element to the scene.

We’ve also had a couple of polar bear sightings, though none were close enough to get good pictures with my camera, but here’s my roommate, Sarah, right after she spotted Wednesday’s bear.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Under the Seafloor

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler
Ship: USCGC Healy
Mission: Extended Continental Shelf Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Arctic Ocean
Date of Post: 31 August 2010

Location and Weather Data from the Bridge
Date: 29 August 2010 Time of Day: 23:15 (11:15 p.m. local time); 06:15 UTC
Latitude: 79º 40.2’ N Longitude: 130º 26.2’ W
Ship Speed: 9.4 knots Heading: 254º (SW)
Air Temperature: 0.6ºC / 33.0ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1008.2 mb Humidity: 92.8 %
Winds: 10.1 knots SSW Wind Chill: -6.3ºC/20.8ºF
Sea Temperature: -1.4ºC Salinity: 27.78 PSU
Water Depth: 3505.8 m

Date: 30 August 2010 Time of Day: 22:00 (10:00 p.m. local time); 05:00 UTC
Latitude: 76º 52.8’ N Longitude: 137º 35.8’ W
Ship Speed: 9.8 knots Heading: 200.9º (SW)
Air Temperature: -0.3ºC
Barometric Pressure: 1008.5 mb Humidity: 99%
Winds: 3.2 knots W
Sea Temperature: -0.5ºC Salinity: 25.8 PSU
Water Depth: 3675 m

Date: 31 August 2010 Time of Day: 22:25 (10:25 p.m. local time); 05:25 UTC
Latitude: 74º 43.9’ N Longitude: 137º 26.1’ W
Ship Speed: 8.5 knots Heading: 124.8º (SE)
Air Temperature: 1.35ºC / 34.42ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1009.2 mb Humidity: 91.7%
Winds: 10.8 knots NNW Wind Chill: -4.1ºC/25.1ºF
Sea Temperature: -0.5ºC Salinity: 24.33 PSU
Water Depth: 3418.4 m

Science and Technology Log
Most of the geology on this cruise is geophysics - we employ remote sensing techniques to generate computer images of the seafloor without direct observation. Bathymetric tools like the multibeam sonar system are valuable for oceanographers because it removes the veneer of the ocean water and reveals the shape of the underlying seafloor. It also makes a seafloor map look like a game of Candy Land – except when we are mapping in ice and it looks more like Pick Up Sticks. (One night on watch, my partner and I talked about how after a while you start to think of the seafloor as if it were colored like a rainbow!) Subbottom seismic profiles go even deeper and provide clues about the sediment and rock below the seafloor, and a trained geophysicist can read the signature reflections of different materials and make strong inferences about the subsurface. But for geologists like me, the highlight is sampling -- bringing pieces of the seafloor above sea level and directly observing what is there. One reason that I was excited to join this cruise was because I visited the core library at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) with the Lincoln-Sudbury NOSB team two years ago. The realization of how important such samples are to our understanding of the geological and climatological history of the earth made me eager to be present when a core was taken from the seafloor.

On a bathymetric survey expedition like this, opportunities to stop the ship for an extended period of time are few and far between, but we have had a few windows of opportunity for seafloor sampling. USGS geologists Brian Edwards and Andy Stevenson, armed with bathymetric maps and subbottom profiles from previous surveys, came on the cruise with several potential sampling targets in mind. USGS engineering technicians Jenny White and Pete dal Ferro are ready at a moment’s notice to get to work assisted by Healy’s team of marine science technicians (MSTs).

Coring the seafloor is a lot different from coring on land. The work site is the fantail (stern) of ship in the Arctic Ocean. The target is a point on the seafloor thousands of meters below, guided only by bathymetry and the ship’s navigation system. It takes more than an hour on average to lower the coring equipment on cables to the seafloor, and the water around us is moving with the current, requiring great skill on the part of the Coast Guard crew to hold station – keep the ship in a steady position – for many hours during sampling operations. Add in some wind, cold temperatures, and sometimes ice floes moving around the ship, and it’s easy to see why everyone’s energy level is cranked up a notch when coring operations are the plan of the day.

So far, we have collected core samples at three locations. A core is a long cylindrical section of seafloor. A core provides a relatively undisturbed sample of a vertical section of seafloor, preserving sediments in their natural layers with internal structures more or less intact. This provides a vertical timeline of deposition on the seafloor – the sediment at the bottom of the core represents the oldest material and the sediment at the top is the youngest. Core samples provide “ground truth” that supports the findings of remote sensing techniques like subbottom profiling. They allow scientists to “read” the history of the area. Geologists analyze the size and composition of sediment and infer depositional processes and possible sediment sources. Oceanographers and climatologists use information from the sediment and the microfossils they may contain to learn how the ocean and atmosphere has changed over time with respect to physical parameters such as water temperature and salinity.

We have employed two coring techniques on this core – gravity coring and piston coring. A gravity core uses a 2,000 pound weight attached to a 10-foot section of pipe. The pipe is lowered by cables and winches to the seafloor and uses the force of gravity pulling on the weight to drive it into the subsurface. A piston core is a variation on the gravity core that allows for deeper sampling by stringing together multiple sections of pipe. The main core barrel is fitted with a retractable piston in the top of the tube and the same 2,000 pound weight attached. A separate smaller coring apparatus is connected to the top of the piston core barrel by cables and a trigger arm. It hangs beside the piston core barrel, and the entire apparatus is lowered together to the seafloor. The trigger core reaches the bottom first and penetrates the surface sediments. As it falls, it triggers the mechanism at the top of the piston core which freefalls into the sediment. As the piston retracts inside the core barrel, it creates suction inside the barrel that helps pull the sediment into the core barrel and allows for collection of a longer, deeper, and potentially less disturbed sample than a gravity core.

The steel pipes used for coring are lined with plastic liners. At the end of the core barrel is a core cutter and a core catcher with metal teeth that fits into the bottom of the core barrel and holds the core in the barrel. When the core is retrieved, grab samples are collected from the core cutter and core catcher. (In the photo on the right, USGS scientists Brian Edwards and Andy Stevenson collect samples from a gravity core.) The outside of the core barrel is scraped to provide a sample that can be examined for microfauna (remains of microscopic organisms) in the sediment. The plastic liner is removed from the core barrel, starting at the bottom of the core, and is cut into sections. In this case, the preferred section length is 150 centimeters because that is the size of the containers in which the core will be stored back in the laboratory. Each section is measured, capped, sealed, and carefully labeled to indicate the top of the section and the core location. (In the photo on the bottom right, USGS scientists Brian Edwards, Andy Stevenson, and Helen Gibbons measure and cut the core sleeve from a piston core.) All information is recorded on a log in the field. The core sections are then stored horizontally in a specially built box that is kept in a refrigerator on the ship. The cores will be transported back to the USGS laboratory in California after the cruise where they will be cut, examined and logged, and then carefully stored for future reference.
Sometimes a core contains a real surprise. When the piston core from our first location came up on deck, we saw a white crystalline substance in the core cutter and catcher. It was gas hydrate. (Photo courtesy of Helen Gibbons, USGS Scientist.) Water molecules under high pressure may start to solidify at temperatures above the normal freezing point of water, crystallizing into a solid form of water with an internal structure that contains larger open spaces than typical ice crystals. Normally, these crystals are very unstable and will continue to cool and form the more stable molecule we know as ice. However, gases present in the environment may become incorporated into the open spaces within the solid water molecules and form a gas hydrate. This is a physical combination – there is no chemical bonding between the two – but it allows the solid to remain stable as long as it remains in a high pressure and low temperature environment. Seafloor sediments on deep continental margins and buried continental sediments in polar regions (i.e. permafrost regions) are common places where these compounds form. They contain abundant organic matter. Over time, biogenic processes (bacterial action) or thermogenic processes (high pressure and temperature) act on the organic material and produce gases, most commonly methane. These may become trapped in the solid water and form gas hydrates.

There is a lot of scientific interest in gas hydrates. Some estimates suggest that methane hydrates in permafrost and marine sediments contain more organic carbon than all other known naturally occurring fossil fuel deposits combined. Thus, gas hydrates are considered to be a potential energy source. However, one concern is that hydrates are very unstable at conditions other than those under which they form – the solid water crystals dissociate (i.e. melt) and the gases escape. We saw this with the sample we brought up in the core which began fizzing and off-gassing as soon as it was exposed at the surface. Potential environmental changes that might destabilize naturally occurring hydrates could potentially result in the release of large quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas, to the atmosphere.

We have sampled at four locations to date, shown on the map below. One location was near the top of a small seamount that was first mapped during last year’s expedition. Another sample was from a submarine fan complex. All locations were selected based on some prior data followed by good inferences, a little luck and a lot of skill.

All coring attempts have been successful, with good core recovery each time. It is difficult to predict what we will get when aiming for a target that is so far beneath us. There is only so much that the monitors on the ship that track wire depth and tension can tell us. Given time constraints, there are no “do overs”, so we are happy whenever the core barrel comes up with something inside – it represents more information than we had before we sent it to the bottom. The moments before the barrel is back on deck are full of tense expectation, and one can tell from the look of satisfaction on a scientist’s face when there is a good sample inside. One person’s mud is another person’s treasure! Although I will not get to examine the cores myself, I look forward to hearing what they find when they cut and log the cores back in California. And I have a little bit of ocean floor mud of my own to take home as a souvenir.

National Energy Technology Laboratory: The National Methane Hydrates R&D Program – All about Hydrates
TDI-Brooks International: Piston Coring for Surface Geochemical Exploration.
USGS Fact Sheet: Gas (Methane) Hydrates – A New Frontier. 1992.
USGS Woods Hole Science Center
Woods Hole Ocean Instruments

Personal Log
This is the last week of the trip. After all the preparation that it took to get here, the time has passed rather quickly – even while I did not have a very clear perception of the passage of time. If I were home, I would have met my classes for the first time yesterday and today. I am sorry to miss school, but I am grateful to be among a relatively small group of people who have the opportunity to experience this part of the world. I am fortunate to have a strong support network of colleagues at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School who encouraged me to take advantage of this opportunity and did their best to assuage my feelings of guilt about not being at work. I am fortunate to have such caring friends and colleagues. Thank you, everyone who helped me prepare for the trip and to all those who are keeping things going for me while I am away. You gave me the peace of mind to do this.

The Arctic is a wilderness unlike any other. Whether in the icy desert at latitudes above 80ºN; in thin, patchy ice in the southern and western part of the basin; or in the open waters off the coast of Alaska, each day is something special. I look forward to my first trip out on deck each morning to enjoy the day’s views, and I have not been disappointed. And here in the last week of the trip, as the amount of darkness increases while the latitude decreases, it is actually snowing – enough to make a little snowman on the bow.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Back to School – Tuesday 31 August 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler
Ship: USCGC Healy
Mission: Extended Continental Shelf SurveyGeographical area of cruise: Arctic OceanDate of Post: 31 August 2010

Location and Weather Data from the Bridge

Date: 31 August 2010 Time of Day: 00:00 (12:00 a.m. local time); 07: UTC
Latitude: 76 º 37.6 ‘ N Longitude: 138 º 31.2 ‘ W
Ship Speed: 8.7 knots Heading: 197 º (SSW)
Air Temperature: 0.19 ºC/ 32.3 ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1009.0 mb Humidity: 98.8 %
Winds: 6.3 knots W Wind Chill: -5.3 ºC/ 22.4 ºF
Sea Temperature: -0.3 ºC Salinity: 25.32 PSU
Water Depth: 3666.9 m

This is a special message for my new Earth Science students, members of the class of 2014 who are participating in 9th Grade Orientation at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School today. I am sorry that I cannot be there with you. I am excited to be your teacher this year – you are important to me, and I look forward to getting to know you when I return. You are in the caring and capable hands of Mrs. Iskandar during my absence. Please be respectful of her and thank her for agreeing to cover my classes for the next week in addition to her normal responsibilities in the Science Department.

As you can see, I am a bit too far north to get there on time. I am currently in the Arctic Ocean on board the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy. The ship icon on the map below shows where I was at midnight on 31 August, which was 3 a.m. in Massachusetts. The red lines on the map show different places that we have been during the last month.

We left Dutch Harbor, Alaska (pictured on the right) on Monday 2 August, cruised North through the Bering Sea, and have been in the region of the Arctic known as the Beaufort Sea and the Canada Basin for the last four weeks. I am here participating in an oceanography research expedition as a representative of the NOAA Teacher at Sea program. The research mission is called the Extended Continental Shelf Project. It is an international, multiyear effort between the United States and Canada to map the seafloor and the subsurface in the Arctic Ocean off the coasts of the two countries. Healy (pictured on right) and the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St. Laurent are both icebreaker ships designed specifically for scientific expeditions in the polar regions. We made it as far north as 82.5º North and are now moving south again. There is still ice around us now, but not as much as we saw just a few days ago. I have been taking a lot of pictures, and I can’t wait to share them with you. Here are just a few from the last couple of days.

A week from now, on Monday, 6 September, we will leave the Healy by helicopter at Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost town in the United States. I expect to be back at school on Friday, 10 September.

Before then, I hope you will take some time to look through my blog and read about some of the things I have seen and done. Then, I would appreciate it if you would send me a short email at this address: Introduce yourself to me and then either make a comment or ask a question about the Arctic, either based on something you read in my blog or just something you wonder about and would like to know. I will do my best to answer all your questions, and I will give you an extra credit homework grade for your effort.

Enjoy your first week of high school. Don’t get too overwhelmed by the size of the building or the crazy way the class schedule works. You will get used to it in no time. Have fun.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you. I will see you soon.
Miss Singler

Friday, August 27, 2010

Farthest North – 26 August 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler
Ship: USCGC Healy
Mission: Extended Continental Shelf SurveyGeographical area of cruise: Arctic Ocean
Date of Post: 27 August 2010

Location and Weather Data from the Bridge

Date: 25 August 2010 Time of Day: 2300 (11:00 p.m. local time); 06:00 UTC
Latitude: 82º 29’ N Longitude: 138º 50.4’ W
Ship Speed: 4.5 knots Heading: 291º (NW)
Air Temperature: -0.5ºC / 31.1ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1010.7 mb Humidity: 97%
Winds: 9 knots SW
Sea Temperature: -1.2ºC Salinity: 28.2 PSU
Water Depth: 3400 m

Date: 26 August 2010 Time of Day: 2230 (10:30 p.m. local time); 0530 UTC
Latitude: 82º 0.5’ N Longitude: 132º 5.5’ W
Ship Speed: 4.3 knots Heading: 163º (SE)
Air Temperature: -1.25ºC / 29.7ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1012.6 mb Humidity: 100%
Winds: 20.4 knots SW Wind Chill: -8.9ºC/15.9ºF
Sea Temperature: -1.35ºC Salinity: 28.47 PSU
Water Depth: 3643 m

We reached our farthest northern location in the early morning hours on Friday 26 August. We stopped a little before midnight local time on 8/25 (07:00 8/26 UTC) for a water sampling event and I captured this map that showed our location at latitude 80º31.85’.

I took the picture at the beginning of this post myself, at about the same time as the map shows! Here is what the Arctic looks like at 82º31.5’N 139º15’W from the bow of the Healy.

We ended up a little farther north in the early morning as we maneuvered to get back in line with Louis, who rejoined us after some downtime for repairs.

Our official FARTHEST NORTH point was at latitude 82º32’. The original plan called for 85ºN, but the ice is thick and progress is slow, and we have had several delays. Now we are eastward bound, on a line that heads towards but ends before the Queen Elizabeth Islands of Canada. Healy spends a lot of time backing and ramming. There are numerous ridges in the ice formed when ice floes drift with the wind and currents and collide with other flows, and these present big obstacles. First they drive the ship into the ridge, then back up, leaving the impression of the ship’s bow like a snow angel.

There is an eerie silence when the ship is backing, and I expected it to be followed by a burst of speed (hence the backing and “ramming”), but the ship just drives forward again over the same track. It can take two or three times to break through a large ridge. Even then, it can be difficult for Louis to proceed with her towed gear even – often the pressure causes ice to drift back into the track before Louis can pass through. On numerous occasions Healy has had to double back to relieve the pressure on Louis by coming around and passing to the side of the ship, trying to give the ice a different way to drift. Sections of Healy’s track line look as if we are doing figure eights around Louis.

Since Sunday, we have been at latitudes where the sun does not set. I get off watch at midnight local time, but true midnight is usually an hour or two after that. Here are some views of the sky that I see when I leave the computer lab at night.

Midnight- 23 August 2010

Midnight- 24 August 2010

Midnight- 25 August 2010

Midnight- 27 August 2010

I can’t always see the sun, but it’s still pretty and peaceful, even when we are banging through ice.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Great Day for Flying – 22 August 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler
Ship: USCGC Healy
Mission: Extended Continental Shelf Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Canada Basin in Arctic Ocean
Date of Post: 23 August 2010

Location and Weather Data from the Bridge

Date: 22 August 2010
Time of Day: 2200 (10:00 p.m.) local time; 05:00 UTC
Latitude: 78º31.9’N Longitude: 149º21.3’W
Ship Speed: 4.2 knots Heading: 63.8º (northeast)
Air Temperature: 3.98ºC/38.10ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1024.6 mb Humidity: 67.5%
Winds: 7.4 knots NE Wind Chill: -0.4ºC/31.2ºF
Sea Temperature: -1.3ºC Salinity: 27.64 PSU
Water Depth: 3829.9 m

Date: 23 August 2010
Time of Day: 2310 (11:10 p.m.) local time; 06:10 UTC
Latitude: 78º31.9’N Longitude: 149º21.3’W
Ship Speed: 4.9 knots Heading: 4.3º (NNE)
Air Temperature: -1.74ºC/28.87ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1026.8 mb Humidity: 93.7%
Winds: 8.4 knots NW Wind Chill: -8.05ºC/17.5ºF
Sea Temperature: -1.4ºC Salinity: 27.25 PSU
Water Depth: 3773.9 m

Personal Log

Sunday wasn’t an ordinary day right from the start. As always, I checked the Almanac data on the ship tracker map when I woke up in the morning, and I noticed that there were no sunrise and sunset times listed, only local noon – 8/22 22:06Z, which is 3:06 p.m. here – and local midnight – 8/23 10:05Z, or 3:05 a.m. here. Sometime on Saturday night, we ventured into latitudes that are far enough north to still receive 24 hours of daylight at this time of year. The weather was perfect – high pressure, clear skies, a few high wispy cirrus clouds, light wind, and temperature just above freezing. The sea ice coverage was between 6 and 8 tenths – more than we had seen recently. Where previously there was open water between ice floes, now there was grease ice – a thin icy surface that shimmered in the morning sun and formed intricate patterns when pushed aside by larger pieces broken by Healy.

Just when it seemed that a day couldn’t get much better, my pager went off, which always catches me by surprise. Chief Scientist Brian Edwards informed me that PolarTREC teacher Bill Schmoker and I would be visiting the Louis after lunch along with two Healy crew members. Suddenly the teachers at sea became “Teachers Aloft”, a catchy phrase courtesy of USGS scientist Helen Gibbons.

Helicopter operations (“flight ops”) on Healy are serious business. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to ensure the safe transfer of personnel between the two ships. I thought I would be more nervous than I was, but there wasn’t much time to be nervous. I just did what I was told and before I knew it we were on our way. Here are some photos taken before the flight. (Photos taken by USGS scientist Helen Gibbons unless otherwise noted.)

Suiting up in a Mustang floatation suit:

Canadian Ice Services Specialist Erin Clark briefs us about safety issues before our flight on the Canadian Coast Guard helicopter. From left: USCG ENS Holly McNair; USCG CDR John Reeves, Erin Clark, Bill Schmoker, and me.

Ready to go!

Helo On Deck

Boarding Helo

Buckled In
(photo by USCG IT1 Miguel Uribarri)

Lift off!

Walli Rainey of Natural Resources Canada gave us a tour of the living and working spaces on Louis, which are set up differently from Healy’sHealy feels more like a working vessel with a distinct military style; Louis is designed a bit more for comfort, with drop ceilings covering the pipes, ducts and wires that are exposed on Healy and curtains on the windows, many of which are large square windows not portholes. While visiting the bridge, I noticed that we were surrounded by ice, which puzzled me because Healy was breaking ice for Louis, but pressure on the ice had caused it to move back into the track cleared by Healy. Healy came around to starboard to try to help free Louis from the ice, giving us an opportunity for a good look at and photo opportunity of our “home” ship.

Eventually, the captain determined that Louis could not get free without pulling the seismic gear. Less than an hour later, we were on our way back to Healy with a great new experience to share.