Sea Ice

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Editor's note: Since Titanic is the best (only) movie featuring large ships and ice bergs, I found some relevant movie quotes to go along with Karen's latest entry.  Perhaps Fred can loan us one of his Celine Dion albums.

Working in sea ice is a unique experience.  When the LMG first got into the ice, I heard and felt it before I saw it.  The boat slowed and it felt like something was jostling the entire ship from below: a little jolt this way, then that way.  And the sound of it- mostly slush against the metal hull with an occasional bang and grind- was attention-grabbing.  Due to the white overcast, the sea and sky blended together into a white-wash of bright though diffuse light.  Magical!

An ice and skyscape, tweeked blue.
Lookout: "Ice berg right ahead!"

Up close and personal with sea ice.
Ruth: "So this is the ship they say is unsinkable." 
Cal Hockley: "It is unsinkable. God himself could not sink this ship." 

Deploying scientific instruments and collecting water and plankton in sea ice is a real challenge.  Large chunks of ice can damage and break cables; they can smash sensors, and they can rip nets.  The people deploying the gear, whether CTD, net or towfish, must communicate with each other, a winch operator and the person steering the boat.  The winch operator lets wire and cable in or out depending on whether the equipment is to be lowered or raised.  The person steering the boat must watch for large ice bergs, hold a course, stay on station and provides wash behind the boat which clears the ice away.  The people on deck must coordinate everything and physically guide the equipment into the water.  It is common to have to replace nets that get snagged on ice.

The coordination of all people involved in deploying equipment takes extra communication when working in ice. 

After this deployment, the net was ripped so badly that we had to replace it with a spare.

Jack: "I don't know about you, but I intend to write a strongly worded letter to the White Star Line about all of this. "

Another exciting aspect of working in ice is the different wildlife you can see.  Ross seals are often observed floating around on chunks of ice.  Killer whales are also found along the ice edge, hunting seals.  We were lucky enough to find a pod of killer whales; the whale researcher onboard attempted to biopsy and photograph the group.  Unfortunately for us, killer whales are fast and smart; no successful biopsy was collected.  However, photos for individual identification were collected.  Unique dorsal fin shapes and features, as well as the saddle patches (a lighter patch on the backs of killer whales), are used for categorizing individuals.

Three killer whales in a pod of around 10 individuals.  

Here you can see how different the dorsal fins are; they males have the tallest fins (left).

Jack: "it hits you like a thousand knives stabbing you all over your body. You can't breathe. You can't think. At least, not about anything but the pain. Which is why I'm not looking forward to jumping in there after you."

This photo clearly shows this animals saddle patch, used for identification and cataloguing of individual animals.

I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to work and travel in and around the sea ice.  Unfortunately, it kept us from reaching our southernmost station, but was beautiful and exciting all the same.

A sunrise with some distant icebergs.

One of our only sunny days!
Rose: "Look. It's so beautiful." 
Jack: "Yeah." 

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This page contains a single entry by Andy Pershing published on February 6, 2012 7:47 AM.

Growing Copepods was the previous entry in this blog.

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