Photo Album: Final Ice Stations


From: Haley Smith Kingsland, Stanford University



Ice Station 10





Ice Station 10: Stanford University researchers (front row) haul crates of ice cores back to the Healy, while Clark University researchers (back row) deploy an optical profiler underneath a melt pond through the sea ice to examine how light varies with depth in the water beneath.





Ice Station 11: Matt Mills of Stanford University fills a glass bottle with under-ice water for Christie Wood of Clark University.





Ice Station 11: Ruzica Dadic lifts an instrument that records the amount of solar radiation through the sea ice. She holds it above her head so her face doesn’t affect the measurements.





Ice Station 12: During the final ice station, a few scientists plus Coast Guard rescue swimmer and swimmer tender walked to the edge of the floe and back conducting measurements — a total distance of about a mile.



All photos by Haley Smith Kingsland 

Our Voyage, by the Numbers

From: Haley Smith Kingsland, Stanford University, and Emily Kehrt, U.S. Coast Guard



Researchers working on the ice during one of our last ice stations. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)



Plankton images Sam Laney’s Imaging FlowCytobot collected: 1.5 million


Meal plates served on the mess deck: 12,900


Gallons of water made: 7,937


Nautical miles traveled: 5,430


CTD rosette water sampling bottles closed: 1,172


Coffee drinks sold in the ship store: 500


Science deployments: 366


Bottom depth at deepest science station (meters): 305


CTD rosette casts: 158


Science stations: 140


New “polar bears” initiated: 51


Days underway: 37


Mustaches grown/maintained for competition: 31


Bottom depth at shallowest science station (meters): 22


Days with more than five hours of “foggy” skies: 16


Ice stations: 12


Polar bears sighted: 7


Sunsets: 5

Icebreaker Lingo


From: Haley Smith Kingsland, Stanford University



We enjoyed a rare glimpse of undular bore clouds above the Healy during a period of spectacular weather at the beginning of our voyage. Coast Guard crew member Jeremy Gainey snapped this photo while assisting with research on the Arctic Survey Boat. (Photo by Jeremy Gainey)



After five weeks aboard the Healy, we’ll all come back ashore speaking in nautical terms and Coast Guard lingo. You may hear some of the following new words slip from our lips:


Below: Downstairs

Bulkhead: Wall

Compartment: Room

Detail: Work crew

Drills: Coast Guard training sessions (on the Healy, each Monday and Friday)

Head: Bathroom

Heave: Ship motion up and down

Helo Hangar: Helicopter space

Ladderwell: Stairs

Liberty: Time off

Mess deck: Cafeteria

Muster: Assemble

Overhead: Ceiling

Pipe: Announcement

Pitch: Ship motion with bow and stern alternating as uppermost

Port call: Time at port

Quarters: Time with the Commanding Officer for official and ceremonial functions (on the Healy, every Tuesday and Friday afternoon)

Rack: Bed bunk

Red goat: Garbage disposal for food waste

Roger that: Yes

Roll: Ship motion sideways

Secured: Closed

Stateroom: Bedroom

Scuttlebutt: Drinking fountain

Swab: Mop

Topside: Upstairs


Profile: The Arrigo Group



From: Kevin Arrigo, Stanford University




Newly initiated “polar bears” Gert van Dijken, Kevin Arrigo, Matt Mills, Kate Lowry, Molly Palmer, Zach Brown, and Haley Kingsland on the fantail. (Photo by Gert van Dijken)



“The changes going on in the Arctic Ocean are frightening,” I tell the scientists and crew members in the audience. 


I had just finished a lecture about some of my Arctic research and someone asked me what I thought about the future of this fragile environment. Melting of Arctic sea ice is pretty familiar to most people by now, but there are other, equally worrisome things going on. Biological productivity has ratcheted up and the timing of many key events is shifting. The sea ice is melting earlier in the spring and advancing later in the autumn.  Phytoplankton are beginning their growth spurt earlier than ever before. Why is this a problem? Many animals key their migration to be in the Arctic when it is at its most productive. Arctic terns and gray whales are two prime examples. What will happen to them as the timing of that production changes? There is an enormous experiment going on in the Arctic and we can’t control it and we don’t really understand it.


That’s why I got involved in ICESCAPE. There are fundamental questions to which I want to know the answers. Is the biological productivity of the Arctic Ocean really increasing, and if so, why? Why is the timing of this production changing? To answer these questions, we need to know what controls the growth of these miniscule plants that manufacture the food for an entire ecosystem. Is it light? Is it a nutrient like nitrogen, the fertilizer of the sea?


To answer these questions, we need to make measurements. Lots of measurements. And we need to do experiments. On ICESCAPE, my research group does both – with the help of the rest of the ICESCAPE team, of course.


It begins with either Matt Mills or Gert van Dijken (depending what time of day it is) telling the operators of our water sampler what depths to grab water from. They always want surface water, but sometimes the bugs are more numerous deeper down, so they may ask for water from there, too. Then Zach Brown and Kate Lowry swoop in, grab the water and bring it into the lab. Most of the water gets collected on little filters to see what’s in it, and Haley Kingsland measures their chlorophyll concentration. Gert injects some of the water with radioactive carbon and it sits either in the sun for a day or in a “photosynthetron” for an hour – that’s how we measure algal growth. In the meantime, Molly Palmer takes some of the water and tracks the algae’s behavior when zapped with lots of light. Finally, Matt and Zach use some of the water to measure how quickly the algae can gobble up different flavors of nutrients. And we do this day, after day, after day.


In the end, we hope to have a better picture of what Arctic algae like and dislike. What makes them thrive and what makes them crash. Why they are so much more productive now than they used to be. Why they are starting to grow earlier in the season.


Armed with this information, we will be in a much better position to interpret the changes we are observing today, and more importantly, to begin to understand what the future is likely to bring.




Gert van Dijken accepted an award on behalf of the science party for 21 days of service

above the Arctic Circle. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)




Zach Brown, Matt Mills, and Kate Lowry before an ice station.

(Photo by Gert van Dijken)




Elliot Weiss and Zach Brown filter water samples for examination. (Photo by Gert van Dijken)




Haley Kingsland measures the chlorophyll concentration of water samples with a fluorometer.

(Photo by Luke Trusel)




Molly Palmer records algae’s behavior under high light conditions using the Fast Repetition

Rate Fluorometer. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)

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: