Arctic History: Evolutions in Field Work

July 9, 2011

An advantage of being so well connected on the ship is the immediacy of acquiring the data. That quick connection guides the science and speeds up the analysis. It wasn’t always this way, however, so I asked a few scientists on board to share a story about how things used to be. What’s the most interesting change you’ve seen since you first started doing field work?

Greg Mitchell, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Since I started graduate school in 1978 my intention was to study the optics of the ocean and how that relates to the ocean phytoplankton and primary production. That’s been my whole career. NASA’s Coastal Zone Color Scanner [which mapped phytoplankton pigment concentration] was flying when I started graduate school, and in fact I went on the first calibration/validation cruise. It was a fantastic first mission for ocean color, but that was very early days and the satellite wasn’t on all of the time. What we all wanted was a time to arrive when these satellites would support our ocean science, because from the ship, the ocean looks about the same. From the bow or the bridge look around and you’re like, “where’s that feature?”

We could map the ocean with salinity and temperature sensors and try to find features. For example, we knew about a phenomenon called warm-core rings, where warm Gulf Stream water breaks off and creates circular eddies that move in toward cool water of the U.S. East Coast.

Eddies are apparent in satellite maps of sea surface temperature and phytoplankton concentration. Image is from “Phytoplankton Blooming Off the U.S. East Coast: A Satellite Description,” published in 1985 in Science.

From satellites, however, the features stood out like a huge target. Satellite measurements of sea surface temperature and phytoplankton concentration revealed big warm eddies, blue where the chlorophyll was low, trapped inside greener shelf water. A program was started called “Warm Core Rings” to go study these phenomenon, becoming one of the first projects to put physicists and biological oceanographers together on a big interdisciplinary project.

As with ICESCAPE, satellites showed scientists where to sample, and a ship mapped along a star pattern through the eddies. Without the satellite data, scientists wouldn’t have known where to map because if you’re standing on the bridge of a ship looking for a needle in the haystack, you can miss it completely. I remember going to San Antonio in 1984 for the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography conference, where the science presentations were stunning the oceanography community. My dream was always to have these satellites supporting our science, and there it was in living color.

Don Perovich, Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory

Scientists on the ICESCAPE mission can look at data almost in real time and make changes on the fly. That’s a luxury scientists didn’t always have. Credit: Kathryn Hansen/NASA

Doing Arctic field work over the past 30 years, I have seen a lot of ice and I have seen a lot of changes in the way experiments are done. Two things come to mind.

One is on a personal level. When you left port that was the last opportunity you had to contact your family or anyone back home. There were ways — ham radios and things — but basically you were gone until you got back. And now, just last night, my wife and I were almost instant messaging, sending e-mails back and forth.

The other thing is the accessibility to data. It used to be you went out in the field, you made your measurements, and in order to reduce those measurements you needed mainframe computers. So, you wouldn’t know about the quality of your data until you got home. That had two impacts. One, you never really knew if things were working, and two, you couldn’t adapt your experiment on the fly. One of the things we’ve been able to do in this experiment is look at data almost in real time and if we see something interesting, we can spend more time on it.

Another thing is the accessibility to satellite information. On the Healy they have an application called map surfer which accesses all of the available satellite data. You can look at an image from passive microwave, active microwave or visible satellites and see what the satellites saw just hours before.

In contrast I was on an experiment back in the 1980s working on ground truth for remote sensing, back when they were still trying to figure out what those remote signals meant. An aircraft would fly above with an instrument package collecting measurements and creating a map in microwave. To transfer the data, the aircraft would then make a low pass over the ship and throw the map out of a hole in the plane. We would go collect it, look at it, and then we’d pick our science sites. You don’t see much of that anymore.

Ship Position at 2011/07/09 18:04:50

Long: 162 29.365 W   Lat: 72 21.066 N

Sound of the Week

July 8, 2011

ICESCAPE scientists watched from the deck of the Healy as it cut a path through thicker multiyear ice on July 6, 2011. Cutting the path is key for getting researchers to remote research sites amid the sea ice. Credit: NASA/Kathryn Hansen

Our home on the Healy is a noisy one. Engines constantly hum, the fog horn can’t be missed (particularly from staterooms on the third deck), and loudspeakers broadcast the latest Coast Guard drill. Perhaps the most relevant sound on an icebreaker, however, is the sound of breaking ice.

On July 7, I took a trip down into the bowels of the Healy’s bow to record the sound of the ship’s hull pummeling through thin, first-year ice (mp3 above). The rhythm and crescendos reminded me of the percussion section of an amateur orchestra.

Interestingly, icebreaking sounds completely different depending on your location in the ship. From outside on the ship’s deck you can hear the ice cracking and ocean water rushing in to fill the void. From inside in the science lounge, add the effect of vibrating bookshelves and the demise of items not properly secured.

These sounds (not to mention the earthquake-like movement) eventually blend into the background and sleep comes easily. The strange part will be returning home at the end of the month to a “quiet and still” life in the city.

By now you might be wondering, how much ice can the Healy break? Cruising at 3 knots, the ship is rated to break 4.5 feet of ice. By backing and ramming, the ship can break through 8 feet. Breaking thicker ice is possible but would take more time. Find more information here.

Ship Position at 2011/07/09 03:48:50

Long: 163 6.825 W   Lat: 72 7.176 N

Tales From ICESCAPE: Chlorophyll and Cribbage

July 7, 2011

The first set of sea ice stations is a wrap! Christie Wood, of Clark University, walks up the ship’s brow after finishing the collection of water samples at ICESCAPE’s third ice station on July 6, 2011. Credit: NASA/Kathryn Hansen

As we headed north to each ice station (blue dots) the average thicknesses of the ice floes steadily increased from 0.76 meters, 1.03 meters to 1.2 meters. Ecologists on board are excited by what they’re seeing. Just because a part of the ocean is covered by ice doesn’t mean that microscopic life can’t thrive!

The Healy is now heading south to hammer out more ocean stations, but we’re not out of the ice. Scientists had to wait for an opening through which they could lower the rosette/CTD device. Credit: Gert van Dijken/Stanford University

The rosette/CTD device, which collects water samples and measures its physical properties, has been recently turning up high concentrations of chlorophyll peaking close to the surface and decreasing at depth. We’ll continue collecting ocean ecology, chemistry and optics information through the rest of the week and possibly start another series of ice stations by Sunday.

In the meantime, ever wonder what scientists on board do with their limited downtime? Courtney Schatzman of Scripps Institution of Oceanography (left) and Alessandra Santiago of Stanford University (right), practice for ICESCAPE’s first non-annual cribbage tournament!

Ship Position at 2011/07/07 23:46:50
Long: 167 15.405 W   Lat: 73 7.932 N

Q&A With Don Perovich: The Vice of Ice

July 6, 2011

Don Perovich, a sea ice geophysicist at Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, N.H., is co-chief scientist for ICESCAPE. Perovich has studied sea ice for more than three decades, and more than two years of that time has been spent in the Arctic conducting field experiments. For ICESCAPE, Perovich directs the on-ice work. He is particularly interested in understanding how sunlight interacts with sea ice cover.

We talked with Perovich today after completing ICESCAPE’s third straight ice station. Here’s a look into what it’s like to be the “vice of ice.”

On July 6, 2011, Perovich prepared to take optical measurements during the field campaign’s third sea ice station. Credit: NASA/Kathryn Hansen

ICESCAPE: What’s the role of ICESCAPE’s co-chief scientist?

Perovich: If you look at it like a government, Kevin [Arrigo] is the president of ICESCAPE and I’m the vice president in charge of ice operations. So, in a way I’m the vice of ice.

My responsibilities have to do mainly with the ice stations. I help to select the ice floe, help to coordinate all of the ice activities, interface with the crew in terms of what we want to do on the ice, when we want to do it, how many people are going, and how long it’s going to take.

On the ice I have my own science to do and that is what’s really fun. Then, just to get a sense of what’s going on I go around on the ice and share treats — today it was chocolate chip cookies.

ICESCAPE: As the “vice of ice,” can you walk us through a typical ice station day?

Perovich: An ice station day really starts the day before when we’re in our 6:15 p.m. meeting and we decide that tomorrow is going to be an ice day. We found from our experiences last year that it works best if we pick a floe early, and so usually sometimes between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. we select a floe that’s suitable for everybody and we park the ship.

Then, after breakfast it usually takes an hour or two to get ready for the ice station in terms of making sure all the batteries are charged, the generator is gassed up, all the gear is ready to go and prepositioned on the bow, so when its time to start we’re ready to go. At 10:30 a.m. we typically have a meeting on the bridge to discuss what we’re going to do, what the operation is going to be. That involves everybody who’s going on the ice and everybody supporting them. It can be a pretty big crowd.

Once that’s over it’s time for lunch. If we’re going to go on the ice for a few hours its nice to start off with a full stomach — that was easy to do today because we had macaroni and cheese. The macaroni and cheese is really good. And if that wasn’t enough we had peanut butter cookies to top it off. After all that eating and planning we actually go out on the ice and do some work!

Today we hit the ice around 12:30 p.m., broke into subgroups and spent three and a half hours on the ice making all sorts of measurements. At its best it’s an orchestrated ballroom dance with people swirling around doing different things. Some days it’s a little bit more like a mosh pit where everybody’s stomping around. Finally it’s time to wrap things up, leave the wonderful icescape and get back on board — just in time for dinner.

ICESCAPE: How does this year compare to last year?

Perovich: In a lot of ways, this year has been easier than last year. We’ve only done three stations [out of about ten planned] and my guess is that by the end the ice will be pretty sketchy. So far this year the three ice stations were all nice floes. We were heading north into an area covered by more than 90 percent ice that was about 3-4 feet thick, so there were lots of possibilities. Last year we were in some areas closer to the edge where sometimes it was hard to find the floe, or it was too thick and difficult to reach.

ICESCAPE: What makes a good floe?

Perovich: When we pick a floe, it’s good to step back and say ok, why are we here? The reason we’re here, what ICESCAPE is all about, is to understand how the changes in the physical environment and how changes in the sea ice cover are affecting the biology, the chemistry, and the ecology of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. So we want to get ice that’s representative of this area and representative of changes. We’re looking for first-year ice — ice that formed this past winter. We want that kind of ice but not ice that’s deformed, not ice that has been pounded together and crunched into big fields of broken pieces of ice or piled up into large ridges. We want ice that’s nice and flat and representative of the area.

And then we want to have something that we can work on. That means we want to have some melt ponds — features where the meltwater collects on the surface that are anywhere from just a couple inches deep to a couple inches deeper than your boots are tall. Melt ponds are a very important feature and they affect sunlight, but we don’t want to have so many that it’s hard to go from point A to point B, because we want to be able to move around on the ice, at least in a limited way.

ICESCAPE: What, so far, are we seeing in the sea ice?

Perovich: We’ve gone 72 miles into the ice. That’s like going from a little bit south of Washington, D.C., to a little bit north of Baltimore, Md., so it’s not a huge distance. If you got in the car you could drive it in an hour. Over that distance the ice has gone from being just under 3 feet thick to 3.5 feet thick to now just over 4 feet thick. So the question is why? Of course we have theories that we have to confirm, but one possibility is the influence of the ocean melting the ice. As you get closer to the edge there’s more heat available to melt ice from the bottom and as you go further into the pack some of that heat’s already been used up.

Another thing we have seen, particularly at the first station where the ice was thinner, a lot of sunlight made it through the ice. About 40 percent of the sunlight coming down from the sky makes it through those melt ponds into the ocean where its available to either heat the ocean or provide energy for marine biota. So that’s not bad for just three days on the ice.

On July 6, 2011, Perovich used a spectroradiometer to measure the amount of sunlight reflected from the surface of the ice. Credit: NASA/Kathryn Hansen

ICESCAPE: You’ve been doing this sort of work for more than three decades … what inspires you to come back?

Perovich: When you go down the gangway onto the ice, even though you’ve done it at least hundreds maybe even a thousand times before, there’s still something special about it. As you can see from some of the pictures on this site, it’s a wonderland. It’s an area of incredible colors. Not many different colors, but blues and whites and some blacks. The ocean is as black as you can imagine, the ice is white and you see melt ponds in every shade of blue imaginable. Blocks that are upturned, some of those are white, some are grey, and some are incredible shades of blue. You go out and see new things all of the time.

When you’re in the working pack, it’s like real-time plate tectonics. You learn in school about how the earth has these giant plates that collide and over millions of years to form mountain ranges. In the ice, you can see it happen in 10 minutes; ice blocks that weigh as much as a car just get popped up into the air and fall back onto the ice.

ICESCAPE: What happens when the ICESCAPE fieldwork is over?

Perovich: Thanks to NASA for providing this wonderful opportunity to go on a mission to planet Earth, to the northernmost part. We’re lucky because ICESCAPE had two field seasons, we had a big field season last year and another one this year, but this is the last field season of the program and we have two years to make sense of the data. We’ll probably spend the first year working by ourselves figuring out our own data sets then the second year bring all the different components together to figure out how the system works.

One of the things we’ve learned is that the Arctic is a system. It’s not just ice over here, biology over there, chemistry someplace else; it’s really an intertwined system. So when the ship gets back to Seward I’ll be getting off and that will be the end of the ICESCAPE field experiments. But you can’t really stop doing these field experiments, there’s so much to learn. Even while we were here I submitted a proposal to come back a bit more north of where we are now, again to explore the changes that are going on in the Arctic. We want to be able to observe and understand those changes, in order to respond to those changes.

Ship Position at 2011/07/07 04:47:40 
Long: 168 21.212 W   Lat: 73 43.164 N

Tech Tuesday: Communicating From the Arctic

July 7, 2011

Sailors of the past century, or even decade, might scratch their heads in wonder if they could have seen us on June 25 pulling away from Dutch Harbor on the Healy. Half-noticing the final sightings of land, we clung to cell phones for a bittersweet last call to loved ones.

Cell phones may have gone silent, but considering that we’re pushing deeper into the Arctic Ocean — today at 74 degrees N — we’re considerably well connected.

From our personal laptops, we can send and receive e-mail files under 3 MB. Any message below 200 K is automatically routed through a system called reachback. The system uses four SIM cards and, just like a cell phone, calls up SIM cards on shore to communicate the information. Reachback is practical, but not functional for much other than e-mail.

“I’m so much more productive out here without Internet all of the time,” said a scientist who asked to remain anonymous.

Internet is available, however, at series of shared desktop computers connected by a satellite system called VSAT.

Dome-shaped antenna structures on the Healy receive signal from satellites to provide an Internet while cruising in the Arctic Ocean. Credit: NASA/Kathryn Hansen

How does VSAT work? Two massive dome-shaped antenna structures sit on top of the port and starboard sides of the Healy, in sight (usually) of at least one of two satellites. Control units on the ship’s bridge are used to switch between the antennas depending on which receives the better signal. With two antennas, two antenna control units, and two modems, the system is redundant and reliable.

Problems can arise, however, when the ship sails further north. Right now, we’re picking up satellite signal that’s just 7 feet above the horizon. Sail much further north and the Earth’s curvature will soon put that signal below the ocean.

Donny Graham stands next to the VSAT control units on the bridge of the Healy. Credit: NASA/Kathryn Hansen

“We’re not going to lose VSAT on this cruise, but on other cruises we start to lose it at a latitude of about 76 degrees N, and definitely by 78 degrees N,” said Donny Graham, a network technician for Coast Guard ships and currently on the Healy.

Graham also keeps watch over the bandwidth, which is metered (right) to ensure uninterrupted operation.

The bandwidth is 256 Kbit per second with up to 512 Kbit bursts. Most 3G smart phones have a faster bandwidth speed on paper, according to Graham.

“But since we manage what goes out over the Internet here, the Web surfing experience is much better then it use to be,” Graham said.

Still, the connectivity has its limitations. Computers on board refused to shake hands with the NASA chat client on shore. Instead, on July 11 at 1 p.m. EDT, experts on the ship will be answering questions via twitter from @NASA_ICE. Tweet your question about the mission at any time with hashtag #ICESCAPE.

Ship Position at 2011/07/05 18:13:40
Long: 168 16.748 W   Lat: 73 9.929

Tales From ICESCAPE: In the ICE!

July 3, 2011

After more than one week heading north in the Chukchi Sea collecting ocean chemistry and optics data, the Healy has reached the ice! So far we have only entered thin deteriorated first-year ice, but should be approaching thicker ice tonight or early tomorrow morning.

ICESCAPE’s co-chief scientist Don Perovich, of Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, briefs crew and scientists on the science goals of the first ice station, planned for tomorrow.

The arrival was only slightly delayed after the Healy was diverted yesterday morning toward Barrow, Alaska, for the cruise’s second search and rescue operation. The operation was called off when a helicopter rescued the stranded party from an ice floe.

Stay tuned for stunning scenes and science stories from atop the Arctic sea ice.


Ship Position at 2011/07/03 18:03:20
Long: 165 8.987 W   Lat: 71 53.215

Arctic History: Van Veen

July 2, 2011

At NASA, acronyms abound. ICESCAPE, for example, is nothing less than “Impacts of Climate change on the Eco-Systems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment.”

I’m finding a similar scheme at sea, having yesterday met VINDTA and AIRICA. Interestingly, however, some tools on board avoid the acronym game and are named instead for their inventor. Such is the case for the Van Veen grab.

It turns out that I spent the 2010 ICESCAPE campaign erroneously calling the tool the “Van Bean” grab. Correcting myself this year has had me wondering what … or who … is the real Van Veen?

Van Veen is a clam-shell-like tool used to pull up sediments from the ocean floor. There are all sorts of creative ways retrieve seafloor sediments, from coring to scooping. The Van Veen grab, however, is simple and fast — perfect for the quick succession of sampling stations during ICESCAPE.

But who was Van Veen? A slow search online (our limited connection to the outside world) turned up “Ebb and Flood Channel Systems in the Netherlands Tidal Waters,” a paper from 1950 by Dutch engineer Johan Van Veen (1893 – 1959). The paper’s annotations imply that it was this engineer who invented, among other sampling tools, the early version of the sampling device we’re using on our cruise.

“Johan van Veen was a man of wide interests. Although he was trained as a civil engineer, he took interest in and published on a variety of subjects, such as historical geography, geology, land reclamation, climate, land subsidence, sampling equipment, etc. He worked with Rijkswaterstaat, the national water-management authority of The Netherlands, for most of his career. Van Veen was an unorthodox scientist with enormous energy. The editors compiled a reference list of almost 50 papers. Moreover, Van Veen laid the basis for the development of several instruments, e.g. the Van Veen grab sampler, automatically registering current meters, and the electrical Analogon (a computer for tidal calculations that used the principles of electric currents). …”

What does Van Veen do for ICESCAPE? Sampling the bottom dwelling communities, the sediment chlorophyll and organic carbon, adds important context for understanding the Arctic ecosystem as a whole.

Karen Frey, of Clark University, is on the Healy collecting samples with the Van Veen grab (above). Frey works with Lee Cooper and Jacqueline Grebmeier, of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. Grebmeier has been working in the Arctic for nearly 30 years, building up quite a long record of sediment data in Arctic regions. Check out their work here.

Sound of the Week

July 1, 2011

By day, scientists in the Healy’s main lab scurry to retrieve water samples and distribute them to vials and machines for testing. Even at night, when scientists speak in whispers among ship’s red-illuminated halls, the lab bustles with activity. To make the most of our time onboard, researchers work in shifts, day in and day out.

So what exactly does the lab sound like? After spending some time in the lab I noticed one sound rising above the rest …

The whirl and hum heard in the audio clip (above) comes from the pump on a machine called the VINDTA, or the “Versatile INstrument for the Determination of Total Alkalinity.”

The machine tests a sample of ocean water to determine its alkalinity – where it falls on the scale from acidic to basic. A sister machine, AIRICA (not heard) measures the dissolved inorganic carbon, from which scientists can measure carbon dioxide in the surface water.

As the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the ocean becomes more acidic. Scientists want to find out to what extent acidification is happening the Arctic Ocean, and how it’s impacting the region’s ecosystem.

Becky Garley, of the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, is onboard the Healy operating VINDTA and AIRICA and describes why the measurements matter.

In contrast to what some scientists expected, last year’s data from ICESCAPE showed that the surface ocean was indeed absorbing more carbon dioxide.

“That’s going to have an effect on a lot of the organisms, especially the little guys who make their shells out of calcium carbonate, like corals and a lot of plankton,” Garley said. “There are a lot of big fish that like to chow down on those little guys … if they find it hard where are the fish going to go, what are they going to eat?”

Ship Position at 2011/07/02 00:52:20
Long: 166 9.002 W   Lat: 69 56.845 N

Tales From ICESCAPE: Hotspot is Lukewarm

June 30, 2011

Last year, ICESCAPE scientists on board the Healy were surprised by the massively productive bloom of phytoplankton in the Chukchi hotspot. This year, satellite measurements of ocean color had led us to believe the bloom wouldn’t be as hot.

Upon returning to the site today, we learned that indeed, “the hotspot is not so hot,” said Kevin Arrigo, ICESCAPE chief scientist.

“After our extreme hotspot finding last year we’ve come back and its still seems to be a productive zone but much less than last year,” said Zach Brown, of Stanford University (right). “My guess is that what we’re seeing is due to a combination of factors.”

The first factor, according to Brown, is because we are arriving on the scene about two weeks later and the bloom has already peaked. In addition, sea ice retreated earlier this year than last, and large blooms of phytoplankton in the Arctic tend to accompany that ice edge.

What scientists are seeing, however, is a large amount of chlorophyll below the ocean’s surface.

“That probably means that the bloom happened perhaps a month ago and now it’s slowly sinking to the bottom where it will land and feed a very productive benthic community, Brown said. “But for now, the surface waters are nowhere near what they were last time.”

Scientists, however, are only beginning to analyze the series of events that put a chill on the 2011 Chukchi hotspot.

Ship Position at 2011/06/30 20:34:00 
Long: 168 24.026 W   Lat: 67 50.728 N

Q&A with Kevin Arrigo: Fitting the Pieces Together

June 29, 2011

We’re just five days into ICESCAPE’s 2011 campaign, but Kevin Arrigo of Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., has already been putting in long hours to keep a complex mission running smoothly. From the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy, Arrigo stepped away from the lab to share his thoughts about his role as ICESCAPE’s chief scientist.

ICESCAPE: What is chief scientist?

Arrigo: Basically my role as chief scientist is to make sure the science gets done. If there’s a decision that needs to be made in terms of conflicting priorities for example, it’s me who determines which of the priorities is the priority. There are a lot of constraints in a cruise like this, particularly time. In many ways it’s a facilitator role.

ICESCAPE: What is the goal for this campaign compared to last year?

Arrigo: One thing we’re looking for is to see how things differ from year to year. This year, we had the option of sampling completely different places or coming back to the same places and it’s always better to resample places you’ve sampled before. That way you can start building up a time series and see how things are changing over time.

There are also new things we want to do up north when we get into deep waters. For me it’s the connection between the deep basins where the nutrient reservoir is and the productive shelves and how the waters exchange between them, so that’s my big picture. The other big picture is collecting as much optical data as we can to allow the satellite algorithms to be improved as much as they can so we can improve our ability to view this system from space.

ICESCAPE: Why are you interested in this work?

Arrigo: I’m interested in the climate angle. I’m an ecologist by training. Most of my work has been done in the Southern Ocean. Changes, however, are going on much more rapidly here and so, like a lot of people, I want to understand the implications of those changes. Particularly, I’m interested in the base of the food web — a hard thing to see. It’s really easy to see what’s happening to the polar bears. It’s really hard to see what’s happening to the little critters that feed the entire ecosystem. I think that’s one of the most important things we have to understand because if we don’t understand what happens with them we don’t understand the system at all.

So for me, it’s a lot of intellectual curiosity. I love to understand how systems work. I was trained as a systems ecologist and so I like to see how all the pieces fit together. The Arctic is a really important piece of the whole global picture. But even as a system itself there’s lots of little pieces we don’t understand very well, how they fit together, and that’s what I’d like to get out of this.

ICESCAPE: It’s early in the cruise, but have you had to make any major decisions?

Arrigo: Early on we had a lot of problems. Last year things went perfectly, everything worked the first time. This year a lot of things didn’t work the first time. For example, when we did our shakedown station the winch [which lowers the water sampling device over the side of the ship] didn’t work. We had the option of going to the first station and trying it then. I was uncomfortable with that, so I decided we were just going to stop, get the winch in the water, and make sure it works. That way if it didn’t work we would have a few hours to fix it. Fortunately everything went perfectly smoothly when we got to the first station.

I have also had to be creative in terms of the sampling order so that we get to the places we want to be at the times we want to be there. For some stations, it doesn’t matter when we sample them. For others, we absolutely want to sample them at a particular time of the day. There’s a bit of a juggling act that goes into getting that right.

ICESCAPE: How many stations will we sample?

Arrigo: Now we’re at station 12. Last year we did 140 stations and we had figured to do 70. How many stations we do this year will depend on what happens up north. I doubt if we’ll do 140 again. If the ice allows, we’re going much farther north and into much deeper water. Here the water depth is 25-50 meters so whenever we do a station and drop our instruments down, we don’t have to drop them very far. But we’re going to get into waters that are not 25 meters deep, they’re 3,000 meters deep, and then you’re literally sitting there for hours waiting for the instruments to go down and come up.

ICESCAPE: So far, have we seen anything interesting in the data?

Arrigo: What you saw me doing down there was the first analysis of the pigment data. So far, it seems to be really different from last year in terms of just looking at the profiles. There’s a water mass that comes through the Bering Strait that carries most of the nutrients through. We caught that last year and we didn’t see it at all this year, at least it doesn’t look like we’ve seen it at all this year. It’s probably there, but it’s probably just too far to the west and we didn’t get over far enough to actually see it.

Its always nice when you do a cruise two years in a row to see interannual differences, it helps you understand how the systems work better. But it’s really early and I don’t know that anybody has gotten any real data yet. Tomorrow!

ICESCAPE: What is the plan for tomorrow?

Arrigo: It’s going to be really hectic over the next 36 hours. Now we’re doing basically 18 stations over 48 hours. We started early this morning and will continue all the way until sometime day after tomorrow, early in the morning again. Then, things are going to slow down as we have a 13-hour steam to the next stations. We’ll be doing maybe one more full station before we start heading north again where things will start getting a lot more interesting. Within five to six days I suspect we should be in the ice.

ICESCAPE: Have you ever worked in the Arctic?

Arrigo: ICESCAPE is my first Arctic field campaign. It’s really different, its much bigger in scope than anything I’ve ever done before. It’s a big group, a lot of science, and very interdisciplinary. There are a lot of very bright people doing a lot of different, interesting things. And that’s what’s attractive for me — we’re going to get a lot of the little pieces that I’ve been so curious to see how they fit together. But it’s a complex system and it’s a complex group, which meshed really well last year and I’m sure it will mesh well this year. I’ve never been chief scientist before so it’s a whole different perspective.

ICESCAPE: What goes into being chief scientist on a mission like ICESCPE?

Arrigo: I remember before I did it I was really nervous about it. I didn’t know if I was going to like it, I didn’t know if I was going to be good at it, there were a lot of unknowns. It’s a lot different than I thought it was going to be. There are a lot of little things … questions coming from all over the place. Even though it’s a big picture job being chief scientist there’s just a lot of little details that you have to keep straight in your head and it’s a real challenge because you have to be sharp all of the time.

The work schedule is its really hard because there are a lot of long hours and long days. I feel fuzzy headed certainly by the end of the shift and then I have to make decisions for the whole ship. It seems a little daunting at times. But I found that I really enjoy it. I enjoyed these cruises much more than I’ve enjoyed any other cruise I’ve been on.

ICESCAPE: What kind of hours do you keep?

Arrigo: I usually work 8 a.m. to midnight and maybe run for a little bit during that time on the gym’s treadmill. But there’s always stuff going on. I was up for the first station at 2:30 a.m. and then I wanted to make sure that the second station worked in terms of sampling and timing so I stayed up until 4 a.m. and then got back up at again at 8 a.m. That was a tough day. Was that yesterday? It seems like forever ago but it was only yesterday. So I try. The last thing I can afford to do is burn out. 16 hour or 18 hour days are ok. You can do that for five weeks but you can’t do it any longer than that.

ICESCAPE: What are your plans after the cruise?

Arrigo: I’m going to Hawaii with my wife and son as soon as we get back. We did that last year too, it was great. But the cruise certainly hasn’t gotten to the point — nor did it last year — where I was like “when is this thing going to end?” I was disappointed when it ended last year. I think this year will be a little different because we’ve done it already and it will be a little more familiar and a little less exciting. But hopefully when we do all of the new stuff up north everybody will get jazzed up again.

Long: 163 38.138 W   Lat: 66 44.616 N