We Are Back!


From: Haley Smith Kingsland, Stanford University


Thursday, July 22 — After 37 days underway, the Healy steamed into port in Seward, Alaska, on Wednesday morning. The science party disembarks this afternoon to catch flights from Anchorage and go their separate ways. The map belows shows the track of the Healy (red line) since we left Dutch Harbor, Alaska, last month.


More news and photographs will come in the following days!




Profile: Kurt Stewart, U.S. Coast Guard

From: Haley Smith Kingsland, Stanford University





Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland



Describe your job on the Healy. What’s a typical day like for you?


I’m the Marine Science Technician Chief (MSTC), so I supervise the Marine Science Technician Division. It’s also my responsibility to provide weather analysis and forecasting for the evening weather report during the Planning Meeting. I stand a twelve-hour watch each day, and provide hands-on assistance to the science party during science stations. Some of the qualifications I hold are Winch/A-Frame Supervisor, Rigger, Deck Supervisor, Inport Security Watchstander, and Inport Officer of the Deck.


What brought you to the Healy, and what do you like best about your work?


After attending the eight-month-long Air Force weather course, I was assigned to the Healy. I was very excited to finally go to the Arctic, because I went to the Antarctic on both Coast Guard Cutters Glacier and Polar Sea. This is what I always wanted to do as an MST— it’s all about being involved with history as it’s happening.


How does this science mission on the Healy compare to other Coast Guard missions in which you’ve served? What do you find most interesting about the science party’s presence on the ship?


During my last job, I was an Environmental Response Supervisor for the Atlantic Strike Team located in Fort Dix, New Jersey. My last position and now my position on the Healy are both science related, although here on the Healy I’m honored to be allowed to work with scientists discovering important environmental answers on a global level. It’s very exciting to be part of the team!


Profiles: Young International Scientists


From: Haley Smith Kingsland, Stanford University

Although ICESCAPE is a NASA-supported project, in the interest of fostering international collaboration with programs conducting related research, we invited three budding young scientists from Canada’s MALINA program — Eva Ortega-Retuerta, Cedric Fichot, and Atsushi Matsuoka — to participate in ICESCAPE.


Cedric Fichot

Cedric is a graduate student at the University of South Carolina. Here, he’s with a set-up that allows him to measure how much dissolved organic matter enters the ocean from land. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)


My ICESCAPE work focuses on dissolved organic matter (DOM), a major food source for microbes in the ocean. Microbes transform DOM into carbon dioxide during a process known as respiration— basically the opposite of photosynthesis carried out by phytoplankton. During ICESCAPE, I collect samples for the chemical and optical characterization of DOM and conduct experiments to determine how reactive it is.

DOM comes to the ocean from land by rivers, or from living organisms present in seawater itself (including phytoplankton, zooplankton, and even the microbes themselves). DOM’s origin determines its “lability”— basically a measure of how likable it is as a food source for microbes. Just like humans, microbes prefer certain foods, and lability can help us predict how fast microbes will consume their food. Part of my work on ICESCAPE is trying to figure out how much food is available and how labile it is.

DOM is also important because it absorbs ultraviolet radiation (UV) and can protect living organisms from this harmful radiation. In that sense, DOM acts as a “sunscreen” in seawater! Using a spectrophotometer in the lab, we can easily measure how well DOM absorbs UV. Upon absorption of UV radiation, DOM tends to undergo photochemical reactions, so I’m also conducting lab experiments in order to study them.


Eva Ortega-Retuerta

Eva is a post-doctoral researcher in Microbial Ecology at Laboratoire d’Oceanographie in France. Here, she’s preparing tubes in the radioisotope experiment isolation van to measure bacteria production. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)


I’m the “microbial ecologist” of the ICESCAPE team, so I focus my work on studying heterotrophic bacteria— or bacteria that don’t produce their own food, unlike algae that sustain themselves through photosynthesis.

Why study bacteria? These organisms, though tiny (no more than a few micrometers, sometimes less than a micron), are the most abundant living thing on Earth. You can find more than a million bacteria cells in a thumble full of seawater! Heterotrophic bacteria are the “recyclers” of the Artic ecosystem because they use dissolved organic matter for energy and to create new biomass.

During ICESCAPE, I’m describing the patterns of bacterial abundance, carbon uptake, and diversity in our study area, and trying to assess how environmental factors like temperature, ultraviolet radiation, and nutrients might be controlling these patterns. My ultimate goal is to improve our understanding of how changes going on in the Arctic Ocean today will affect bacteria metabolism and carbon cycling.


Atsushi Matsuoka

Atsushi is a scientist at Laboratoire d’Oceanographie in France. Here, he works with his UltraPath instrument to measure how colored dissolved organic matter absorbs light. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)


Colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM), similar to the stuff that makes tea brown, leaks from vegetated land surfaces and pours into the Arctic Ocean from its many rivers and streams. I analyze light absorption by this CDOM in water samples collected from both the Healy and the smaller Arctic Survey Boat (ASB), which can be deployed whenever waters are calm enough. The Healy provides water from various ocean depths, while the ASB only collects surface water samples. Although we are still analyzing the data, we’ve already discovered a thin layer on the surface of the Arctic Ocean where light properties change remarkably. I’ve also seen that samples taken near the sea ice sometimes reveal the presence of algal degradation products, suggesting that a thriving community once lived there. Our results have important implications, especially for the next generation of satellite ocean color sensors. I’ll combine my data with other measurements from the optical research teams to develop more accurate satellite algorithms that can distinguish CDOM from phytoplankton.


Reflections from the North


From: Molly Palmer, Stanford University





Stanford Ph.D. student and blog author Molly Palmer working on the ice July 11. (Photo by Christie Wood)



Thursday 8 p.m.


Our team has been filtering seawater for almost 36 hours straight, but there are a lot of tired eyes today and it isn’t just the scientists.  We’re fortunate to have such an accommodating and proficient coast guard crew – everyone I have met, from the mess cooks to the engineers to the officers who stand watch in the bridge, have exuded nothing but the most professional and helpful of attitudes, and they’ve been working incredibly hard to make sure our time on the Healy is as safe and successful as it can be.  We tried to give back a little last week by cooking the Saturday evening “Morale” dinner, allowing the cooks to have a night off, but it feels like little compared to all they do for us.  FS3 Tysin Alley helped us navigate the hectic world of cooking for 130+ people.  I’m impressed with the culinary creativity that comes out of the science party – we end up with 35 different pizzas, from seafood to pesto vegetable to ‘meat extreme’ (extra bacon included).  Cedric turns out to be a life-saver with his practiced chopping skills and pizza-making expertise – I should have known, he is French afterall.  Our lab manager, Gert, also comes through big time by helping organize the pizza-making chain, and Melissa finishes the dessert station before I even realize she has started working on it.  I also have a confession: most of the food was pre-made, including the pizza dough.  So don’t start thinking we have a lot of free time on our hands.


Friday 5 p.m.


I have been especially impressed with the team of “Marine Science Technicians,” or MST’s, whose duty on board is to help our research go as smoothly as possible – as MST2 Owen Dicks told me on one of the first days, our mission is their mission, and they certainly have lived up to that standard.  The MST team has been a godsend, helping us build strange contraptions for safely securing our science gear, pump out water-logged labs, creatively repair old/abused equipment, etc.  I am not entirely sure what we would do without them and can’t thank them enough for all their efforts, particularly for the interest they show in our research and the countless jams they have helped us out of.  The other day I watched MST3 Marshal Chaidez calmly handle what could have been a very bad and expensive situation as a large floe of thick multi-year ice appeared out of nowhere making a beeline straight for our science equipment.  He fended it off with what appeared to be basically a long thin metal pole – keeping it away long enough for us to get our gear out of the water.  Not that I’m complaining – sometimes the simplest solutions are the best.


Saturday 7 p.m.


We’ve just had a delicious “Morale dinner” of chili – warm bellies lead to happy scientists and crew alike.  It’s been below freezing for most of the week and I certainly have been a bit chilled at times – this meal has been a perfect antidote.  My roommate Kate and I are preparing for an easy night in the lab, with just a few hours of sampling to do and potentially some “free time” where we might even get to watch the 8pm movie being shown in the helicopter hangar – popcorn and soda included.  The mood is light and everyone seems pretty relaxed – it seems “Morale Night” has been successful afterall.  We shuffle back to lab with smiles on our faces and head towards our work bench where we see our team gathered.  Surprise: we’re going to start a new transect line which we’ll be sampling every hour or so for the next 3 days straight.  Scratch ‘movie in the hangar’ off our list of evening activities, to be replaced with hours of filtering and experimenting.  Kate and I sneak up and grab some popcorn and cans of soda anyway – it’s going to be a long night and the refreshments will come in handy.


Monday 1 p.m.


My alarm has been going off for half an hour before I finally am able to open one eye.  This feels like a big accomplishment and I silently congratulate myself.  It is the small things, when you’re seasick and have hours of work ahead of you.  I visualize for several minutes moving my legs and eventually manage to get them over the side of the bed.  Or at least I think I do.  At some point later, I wake up again and realize I am going to be late if I don’t get a move on soon – my more-punctual roommate Kate is already showered and dressed.  I pop some more Meclizine and roll out of bed; life at sea – always interesting to say the least.


Tuesday 10 a.m.


It isn’t just the MST’s who make our work easier – for example, there is an entire team of engineers working below decks who we don’t see very often but keep the ship running.  They walk through the main lab making rounds to check safety every hour or so, easily distinguishable by the faint scent of diesel and the enormous earmuffs they wear for hearing protection.  I was lucky enough to tag along on one of these rounds with ET2 Jeremy Gainey a week or so ago.  It’s quite an adventure to travel through the bowels of such a huge ship as this – I felt like I was exploring some lost world, with deep underground steel caves and vast forests of metal pipes.  I couldn’t believe all the stuff Jeremy knew about each and every valve, room, pipe, and piece of machinery – and I thought I was the nerd!


Wednesday 8 p.m.


A quick fake to the left and I double back towards the board and get an easy backdoor-cut layup – my teammates Zach and Kevin are excellent passers and I haven’t totally lost my athletic ability even after over a month at sea.  Of course, “quick” is relative when you’re playing 3 vs. 3 basketball on a moving icebreaker after nearly 24 hours of sampling but I am glad to be moving around.  I chuckle at the next team we play – the group from Scripps composed of both the Brian’s and Elliot.  They are all dressed alike in board shorts and t-shirts and exude Southern California surfer style like nothing I have seen in weeks.  All we need is a little sunscreen scent and some flippy floppies and we could be in San Diego.  Oh, and some warm weather.


Thursday 1 p.m.


Standing at my main science station, I am only half paying attention to what I’m doing – mostly I am eavesdropping on a conversation about ring sizes and caterers that is happening behind me to my left.  Two of Karen’s students, Luke and Christie, are both getting married soon after getting off the ship and have wedding plans to make.  For me, it’s easy to forget sometimes about the world that exists outside the ship, but I suppose if I had a fiancé waiting for me back home I’d probably be a little more attentive to my email (sorry mom and dad).  It’s nice to hear talk about “real life” sorts of things though, like weddings and past trips and families – I can’t be focused on science 100% of the time or I’d go crazy.


Thursday 9 p.m.


We’re so swamped with stations we can barely keep up.  I con Sharmila into helping me label vials to prep for the next CTD and madly rush to get everything ready – I’m bringing my A-game today and it is definitely necessary.  I smell freshly ground coffee beans and my entire face lights up; I follow the scent to find Scott and Susan, who have enough sea-going experience to make up several lifetimes and know that nothing picks up morale like a fresh pot of coffee.  A friendly smile and nice words go far towards getting us all through these crazy days and I am thankful for the positive attitudes of most of my colleagues.  Everyone knows how important it is to do the best job we can despite all the difficulties of being at sea, and how critical this project is.  One of the goals of my research for the Icescape cruise is to understanding the various patterns of biological productivity in the Arctic – this field research will complement the numerical model I have been working on to simulate carbon dynamics in the region, and I feel fortunate for the opportunity to get out and actually observe the area I am attempting to model.


Friday 5 a.m.


It is the middle of July and it is snowing – not the usual summer experience for me to say the least.  Outside the world is a frozen grey canvas of ridged meter-thick ice and thousands of rippled little melt ponds that reflect the soft blue-grey haze of a sky.  It isn’t always this pale dull color palette in the Arctic but it makes the bright red of the USCGC Healy stand out even more than usual.  I like to wander the open decks at night when I get off shift sometime after 3am – this is when the sun gets lowest on the horizon (it never sets this far north) and the light often makes the entire deck glow a firey orange red, although not today in this cloudy stagnant iceworld.  It is easy to forget you’re on an important scientific mission when you’re surrounded by such beauty and I silently send my thanks once again for such an incredible opportunity to be part of the NASA ICESCAPE mission.





Researchers Cedric Fichot and Kristen Shake prepare pizzas during the “Science Morale Dinner” in the mess deck galley. (Photo by Jim Swift)





MST3 Marshal Chaidez operates the CTD in the calm waters of the early morning. (Photo by Brian Seegers)





Stanford researchers Kate Lowry (left) and Molly Palmer catch a breath of fresh air in the frozen iceworld outside the USCGC Healy after a long day in the lab. (Photo by Molly Palmer)





The focsle glows firey orange-red in the early morning light. (Photo by Molly Palmer)

Southward Bound


From: Captain William Rall, U.S. Coast Guard



Note: We are steaming south and will arrive to port in Seward, Alaska on Wednesday, July 21.


54° 13’ 944” N, 162° 15’ 721” W, July 19 — Each day the Healy sends an “operational summary”  message, or OPSUM, to 30+ addressees. The OPSUM goes to all Healy Coast Guard bosses, the extensive Coast Guard support network, the National Science Foundation, National Ice Center, and others. The message includes the machinery status, communications, personnel, mission accomplishments, weather, position, and intentions. There is a section for Commanding Officer (CO) comments. Often it says “NTR” — nothing to report. This section receives extra attention from our bosses, so NTR means “no news is good news” — another way to say all is well. When I do put in comments, a large number and variety of folks read them.


My CO comments in today’s OPSUM are: 








Profile: Greg Mitchell


From: Haley Smith Kingsland, Stanford University





Brian Seegers, Greg Mitchell, Elliot Weiss, and Brian Schieber (Photo by Brian Seegers)



The world-class waves of Black’s Beach in La Jolla, California, inspired Greg Mitchell to become a marine biologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. At age thirteen in the late 1960s, Greg read an article in Surfer magazine that featured Black’s Beach and the Scripps scientists pioneering the surf. Having spent his childhood summers crabbing, fishing, sailing, and surfing in Galveston, Texas, Greg immediately envisioned himself at Scripps with a career that would combine his fascination for the marine environment and passion for surfing.


As an undergraduate, a life-changing Biological Oceanography class with professor Daniel Kamykowski, then at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, brought Greg even closer to Scripps. Kamykowski introduced the technical feasibility of using satellites to map phytoplankton distribution across the world’s oceans — today a robust operation — that set Greg’s graduate work at the University of Southern California in motion. Now a Research Biologist at Scripps, Greg’s ICESCAPE work focuses on improving current satellite algorithms so he can better understand how light supports the Arctic ecosystem through photosynthesis.


Satellites measure ocean color, data with which scientists can create detailed maps that illustrate regions of high chlorophyll, the green pigment phytoplankton use during photosynthesis. But interpreting satellite data is tricky because satellites measure the ocean’s color without distinguishing between chlorophyll and other materials in the water that all scatter and absorb light differently. “Satellites detect the color of the ocean,” Greg explains, “but you also need to understand what’s in the water. If we want the most accurate chlorophyll algorithm, we need to take into consideration these other things that are not chlorophyll and quantify how they affect the ocean color.”


Together with colleagues Rick Reynolds, Dariusz Stramski, and Stan Hooker, Greg’s team is investigating how particles within the open ocean both scatter and absorb light. “We know that particles like phytoplankton absorb light for photosynthesis,” Greg says, “but we’re also looking at all these other different constituents— bacteria, decomposing algae, other particles— to see how collectively they affect the absorption and scattering of light.” One aspect of Greg’s work explores colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) — or photosynthetic biomass that’s decomposed by bacteria or other organisms — and how it absorbs light to affect ocean color. “If CDOM absorbs the light, that light’s not available for algae,” Greg says. “The Arctic Ocean contains more CDOM than other regions of the global ocean, but how much more, and how exactly that’s affecting the chlorophyll algorithms, are important to address.”


“We need to get the details of the Arctic ecosystem well-studied so that the algorithms and models are accurate,” Greg continues. To that end, his group is also collaborating with chief scientist Kevin Arrigo’s team to conduct lab experiments that will quantify algae’s absorption of light and determine the rates of photosynthesis. “There are certain things you can only do with a ship, and certain things you can only do with a satellite,” Greg explains. “We’re developing the mathematical equations that relate what we see on the ship to what the satellite can actually observe.” In conjunction with satellite data, their process models will not only allow scientists to better understand future scenarios related to climate change, but also reprocess historic data and start looking at an integrated picture of the Arctic Ocean over time. “I enjoy asking questions we don’t know the answers to,” Greg says. “Science is all about questioning the status quo and not just accepting prevailing paradigms.”


But this surfer’s life isn’t all about science. Greg has been writing a play — a modern-day Romeo and Juliet — with lyricist Brian Yorkey, Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winner for the Broadway hit Next to Normal. And he’s spearheading cultural and biological conservation of South Pacific Islands as founder of the Pacific Blue Foundation. Known for his vivacity on the Healy, he and a few other researchers represent the science party on the ship’s Morale Committee.  Even in the main science lab, Greg keeps spirits high with jokes and Cheshire cat sightings within graphs of data on computer screens. And back home, Greg doesn’t book his calendar before 10 a.m. “I may be in the lab at eight,” he says, “But if the waves are good, I’m surfing.”





Greg mentors Elliot Weiss (left), who graduated from UCSD this spring. “Working with young people is very important to me,” Greg says. “They share the same dreams, motivations, and excitement, and I love seeing them grow in their careers.” (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)





Brian Seegers works in a radioisotope experiment isolation van, where he measures how quickly algae in water samples take up radioactive carbon dioxide for photosynthesis.  (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)





Brian Schieber and Rick Reynolds deploy the optical package from the fantail. The package includes a fast repetition rate fluorometer (FRR) that measures photosynthetic physiology of algae, as well as an AC-9 that measures absorption and scattering of light within nine different wavelengths. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)





Rick Reynolds, Kuba Tatarkiewicz, and Greg Mitchell rinse the optical package upon its return to the fantail. (Photo by Kathryn Hansen)

Profile: Bob Pickart and Frank Bahr


From: Haley Smith Kingsland, Stanford University




Bob Pickart (left) and Frank Bahr (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)



Bob Pickart was a college junior and summer student fellow with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts when he embarked on his first oceanographic research cruise through the South Atlantic. As a math and physics major, Bob appreciated the opportunity to apply his scientific background to the real world. “I knew after the end of that thirty days that this was for me,” he remembers.


Bob is now a Senior Scientist at Woods Hole. As a physical oceanographer, he studies ocean circulation and dynamics: where, how, and why water masses move. Since he’s an expert in high latitudes where storms and winds prevail, Bob’s role in ICESCAPE is to provide the science party members, many of them biological oceanographers, with knowledge about the physical characteristics of their water samples so they can better understand trends they discover in phytoplankton distribution, nutrient levels, and carbon dioxide concentration.


Bob and his right-hand-man, Frank Bahr, create property and circulation plots using information from the CTD — an instrument that measures conductivity, temperature, and depth of seawater — coupled with data from the Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP). “I wouldn’t have sailed without Frank!” Bob exclaims, because Frank is a guru at analyzing data from the ADCP, which emits sound that reflects off bugs in the ocean to detect the direction and speed at which the water moves. “I like playing with data,” says Frank, who grew up sailing at his local yacht club in Germany. Sometimes the duo can produce their plots as quickly as ten minutes after the data are collected!


“Not only do we supply the biologists with information, but I like to think that we’re helping stimulate discussion amongst the biologists and the physical oceanographers,” Bob says. “And that’s going to lead to interdisciplinary science— more collaboration and a better understanding for all of us.”


Known for his endearing excitement in the Future Lab whenever the Healy approaches a spot of particular interest, one of Bob’s passions is a current that runs along the edge of the continental shelf called the “shelf-break jet.” In the Western Arctic, Pacific Ocean water from the Bering Strait forms this current at the boundary between the shallow Chukchi Shelf and deep Canada Basin. It’s so narrow and difficult to find that Bob and his colleagues didn’t completely verify its existence until eight years ago.


Bob studies two different processes, winds and eddies, that affect the shelf-break jet and thus impact the biology within the water. Storms blow winds from either the east or west that result in wind-driven exchange of water and properties. But when the wind isn’t blowing, the current along the edge of the shelf becomes unstable and forms large meanders. These can often pinch off to form “eddies” (big swirls of water) that then move into the deep ocean. “I think the formation of eddies and their subsequent migration into the open Arctic is a major factor in setting the interior properties which impacts the ecosystem of the central Arctic,” Bob hypothesizes. He wants to know more, and hopes to find and survey an eddy in order to sample its physical, biological, and chemical properties very carefully. Studying just one would yield fundamental information that Bob could then extrapolate to consider the impact of one or two hundred eddies per year in the Western Arctic.


Bob’s eyes spark as he speaks about the prospect of eddy chasing. For him, eddies are an example of the thrill of oceanography that hasn’t waned since he was a college junior. “When I first got into the field only thirty years ago, people were arguing about how much water gets transported by the Gulf Stream,” he recalls. “I was thinking to myself, ‘This is a pretty fundamental thing, and yet they’re arguing about it? This is fantastic! There are so many unknowns that are ripe for looking at.’ I still feel that way today. The field of oceanography is so young. And now throw climate change into the mix. It’s wide-open science and incredibly important for us to know what’s going on.”




Niskin bottles on the CTD rosette collect seawater from various ocean depths. Here, Bob has a rare moment alone in the CTD rosette room before scientists come rushing in to gather water from the Niskin bottles. As the water samplers scurry around him, Bob maintains order and records the amount of water taken from each bottle and by whom. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)


Life on an Icebreaker


From: Kevin Arrigo, Stanford University




This 420-foot icebreaker is a maze of spaces!



I was awakened by the incessant buzz of my cell phone, which was greedily slurping up all the e-mails I had accumulated over the last few weeks. 


Although I was groggy, it occurred to me that I must be in cell phone range! I looked out my porthole, and gazed upon the unassuming skyline of Barrow, Alaska.  After sleeping a bit longer, I called my lovely wife Jan to see how things were going — and to hear her familiar voice. Of course, I woke her up too, but she didn’t seem to mind.


We chatted for a bit about this and that and the subject of the ICESCAPE blog came up.  She said, “I love the blog and all the science stuff is cool, but what we really want to know is ‘What is it like to live on an icebreaker?’”


“What a great idea,” I thought.  So here goes…


I’ll never forget the first time I set foot on the Healy.  It was last fall and the ship was in dry dock in Seattle. Part of our ICESCAPE planning meeting included a tour of the ship and so a few scientists, NASA officials, and Healy crew jumped into vans and drove the mile or so from the Coast Guard base to the dock where the ship was being worked on.


Now, I had worked on the R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer a few times, an icebreaker used by the National Science foundation for their Antarctic operations. At 310 feet long, it’s an impressive ship. But that experience did not prepare me for the 420-foot behemoth that is the Healy!


We had to climb a dizzying gangway to get on the ship and within 30 seconds of entering the first door, I was completely lost. My first thought was “It’s going to take me two weeks just to find my way around this thing!” With its numerous stairwells and long twisting and turning passageways, I getting a sense of what it might be like to live inside of an ant hill. Surprisingly, though, within a day or so of boarding the ship for ICESCAPE, I could pretty much get to most places I needed to go without making any wrong turns, including my room, the mess hall (where we eat), and the labs.  It took a few days more to find the helicopter hanger, Aft Con (where they run the winches), and Aloft Con (three decks above the bridge— where they drive the boat when in heavy ice). Two weeks in, I found the laundry.


Life on the Healy is surprisingly comfortable. The ship is so large and so well engineered that rough seas are not a big problem— except for a few with sensitive stomachs. We get fed in the mess hall three times a day— four if you opt for 11 pm mid-rats (rats is short for rations)— and the food is pretty good. The rooms are quite big for a ship, even if you have a couple of roommates. Everyone has their own bed, desk, and cabinet for their clothes. Each pair of rooms shares one bathroom complete with toilet (called a “head”) and shower, which might be a bit tight for some, although I haven’t heard any complaints. You won’t see much color, though. Virtually everything is painted a light khaki. Walls, ceilings, doors, furniture— even exposed screws, pipes, and wires.  It looks very military but you get used to it.


As scientists, most of our day is spent in the labs, and there are a number of them on the Healy. The Main lab is by far the largest and where most of the scientists and much of the analytical equipment is located. A few scientists have set up shop in the smaller Wet lab and one research group is housed in the Biochem lab. The Future lab has a few computers for general use and lots of space for people to set up their own laptop workstations.


When we’re not working, some people go to the Science Conference Lounge to surf the web, check e-mail, play cards, or watch television (Armed Forces Network). Others prefer to hang out on the bridge or on one of the many decks and take in all of the beautiful scenery.


Keeping morale up is an important goal on board the Healy and so there are lots of scheduled events for both scientists and crew to look forward to. Last week we had a rousing ceremony to acknowledge those who crossed the Arctic Circle for the first time (yup, I was one of them). We just finished our World Cup Soccer pool, which our resident NASA journalist, Kathryn Hansen, won under a cloud of controversy. The mustache-growing contest is in full swing— mine’s looking a little thin — and gray.  The 3-on-3 basketball tournament resumes tonight. And we begin the ping-pong and foosball tournaments in the next few days. And if that isn’t enough, Saturday nights are for both Bingo in the mess hall and a movie in the Helo Hangar. Although days on the Healy are long, they are never boring.


Finally, no description of life on the Healy would be complete without acknowledging its wonderful crew. They are a part of everything we do and without their much-appreciated efforts on the scientists’ behalf, life on board the Healy would be dreary, and more difficult, indeed.





A stateroom viewed from the doorway. “You’ll notice our lovely hammock to provide the tropical island feeling whilst onboard!” says Becky Garley of the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences. (Photo by Becky Garley)





Becky Garley’s stateroom viewed from the porthole. (Photo by Becky Garley)




World Cup soccer games have consumed both crew and scientists alike. Here, they cheer on teams from the mess deck. (Photo by Karen Romano Young)




Emily Peacock and Food Service Specialist First Class Hernan Cintron bake croissants together. (Photo by Shohei Watanabe)




Greg Mitchell, Elliot Weiss, and Alex Quintero entertained everybody with fantastic music during our Fourth of July barbeque in the helicopter hangar. (Photo by Jim Swift)


A Voyage of Optical Oceanography


From: Kevin Arrigo, Stanford University





Stan Hooker (Photo by Kathryn Hansen)



“NOW there will be a boat brief on the bridge in 10 minutes.”


That’s the cue for Stan Hooker of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and his research associate, Joaquin Chaves, that it’s about time to leave the relatively comfortable confines of the USCGC Healy and embark on a short but important voyage of their own aboard the Arctic Survey Boat (ASB). This small gray metal vessel will carry the team of optical oceanographers less than a mile away — far enough to avoid the enormous shadow cast by the Healy. The ASB also allows them to maneuver in and around the loose pack ice to make their light measurements under a variety of different conditions.


Stan wants to understand what happens to sunlight between the time it enters the ocean and is reflected back out to space, eventually to be measured by our suite of Earth-observing satellites.  In some sense, he is interested in answering a variation of the age-old question, “Why is the ocean blue?” In his case, it’s more like, “Why is the ocean green?” Or greenish-blue? Or brown? The color of the ocean can tell us a lot about what’s in the water and because we can measure the color of water from space, we can use satellites to tell us what the surface ocean contains.


But we need a translator. A sort of optical Rosetta Stone. That’s where Stan’s work comes in. He makes detailed measurements of the color of the ocean — actually, he measures absorption and scattering at many different wavelengths of visible light. He does this by lowering a number of different light sensors over the side of the ASB and letting them sink slowly below the surface, making measurements all along the way. This gives him an idea about how the total amount and the color of light changes as it penetrates the upper ocean.


He also collects samples of water and brings them back to the lab to measure what in the sample is giving it color.  By linking the color of the ocean to what’s in the water, Stan constructs a sort of optical translator. Then, when a satellite sees a piece of ocean of the same color, we can be pretty sure about what lurks below its surface. Green water screams phytoplankton— large numbers of those little green algae. Blue water indicates a virtual biological desert. Yellow-brown water means lots of river runoff from the land.


Because the Arctic Ocean see-saws between open water and ice cover, and is surrounded by land strewn with big rivers dumping a huge amount of material into its shallow waters, it is a complex place to make these kinds optical measurements. Stan sees this as a challenge. If he can decipher the meaning of the varied colors of the Arctic Ocean, understanding other simpler parts of the world ocean should be a snap.





The ASB comes back aboard after a full station’s work. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)





Joaquin Chaves (Photo by Karen Romano Young)


Profile: The Icebreaker's Engineer Officer


From:  Haley Smith Kingsland, Stanford University





Laura King (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)



Describe your job on the Healy. What’s a typical day like for you?


As the Engineer Officer onboard the Healy, I’m responsible for the operation and maintenance of the most complex and technologically advanced power plant within the Coast Guard. I also provide support for all shipboard scientific hardware and equipment.


A typical day is full of paperwork, meetings, juggling what gets fixed when, scheduling maintenance and drills so as not to interfere with science operations, and arranging for parts and repairs once we’re back in Seattle.


What brought you to the Healy, and what do you like best about your work?


I was stationed onboard the Healy in 2004-2007 as the Assistant Engineer Officer. I enjoyed it so much that I came back for a second tour. Plus I get extra money for sea pay! I really enjoy meeting all the scientists, learning what they do, and taking them on tours of the engineering spaces so they can see what I do.


How does this science mission on the Healy compare to other Coast Guard missions you’ve served on? What do you find most interesting about the science party’s presence on the ship?


I’ve been stationed on two High Endurance Cutters: Alaska Patrols (Fisheries and Law Enforcement) and South Patrols (Drug and Migrant Interdiction and Search and Rescue). We only went out for short periods of time.


Working with the scientists aboard the Healy is so different. The science party is our customer onboard the Healy whereas on other cutters, the customer is the U.S. government. We get to know the scientists and learn what they do and how their work helps the grand scheme of things for Arctic exploration. In 2004, the scientists found a mountain in the ocean and named it Mount Healy and in 2005 the scientists found several species of jellyfish that had never been documented. We also circumnavigated North America. Only two other Coast Guard Cutters can claim that and you can’t do that as a white hull sailor.


When you’re ashore, what do you like to do for fun?


I like to ride my motorcycle with my husband, ride my bicycle with my daughters, read, swim, and go for long walks. I love to hang out with my husband David, our two girls Britney (8) and Sarah (6), and our Corgi Barbie. It’s so neat seeing things through their eyes. Britney can’t wait until she is old enough to ride on Mama’s Boat for an overnight trip. When Sarah was asked, “What does your Mama do?” Her reply was: “She works on a big red boat in the Arctic, making money, and she gets to see real live polar bears from her ship.”