Science Team Photos: At Sea


From: Haley Smith Kingsland, Stanford University


We have phenomenal photographic talent within the ICESCAPE science party. Here are some images scientists have snapped while we’ve been at sea over the past three weeks.




Before crossing the Arctic Circle, we enjoyed spectacular sunsets and sunrises on our passage north. During this dawn, Jim Swift also saw a rainbow. (Photo by Jim Swift)




Don Perovich compiled this composite image of our “Shakedown Station.” (Photos by Don Perovich)




A windless warm spell brought deck temperatures to the 60s. (Photo by Kuba Tatarkiewicz)




The Van Veen Grab sometimes catches bottom dwellers like sea stars, urchins, and sand dollars. (Photo of Luke Trusel by Christie Wood)




Approaching the ice edge. (Photo by Luke Trusel)




Gorgeous weather continued as we conducted our Kotzebue Bay transect. (Photo by Jim Swift)




The Arctic Survey Boat is deployed off the starboard side. (Photo by Kuba Tatarkiewicz)




While planning an ice station, the sea ice team and U.S. Coast Guard crew members survey the ice from the bridge, where the captain navigates the Healy’s course. (Photo by Jim Swift)



Photo by Luke Trusel



We spent a few days backing and ramming in thick sea ice. (Photo by Luke Trusel) 




Stan Hooker of NASA raises an optical surface reference up the mast. (Photo by Brian Seegers)




Rick Reynolds of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography watches his optical package descend into the ocean from the fantail. (Photo by Kuba Tatarkiewicz)



The Healy parked in an ice floe for “Ice Liberty.” (Photo by Jim Swift)




After a few days of ice stations and “Ice Liberty,” we returned for more stations in the open ocean. (Photo by Jim Swift)



The CTD rosette is a standard oceanographic instrument. (Photo by Melissa Miller)




Walrus sightings are always a treat! We must have passed hundreds on this particular evening. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)


Science Team Photos: Dutch Harbor


From: Haley Smith Kingsland, Stanford University


We have phenomenal photographic talent within the ICESCAPE science party. Here are some images scientists snapped before we left Dutch Harbor, Unalaska, Alaska, on June 15.




Two PenAir Saab 340 twin-propeller airplanes transported the science party nearly 800 miles from Anchorage to Dutch Harbor. The second plane stopped twice to refuel in King Salmon and Cold Bay because it was so heavy with scientists and luggage! (Photo by Jim Swift)




We passed “Ring of Fire” volcanoes on the Aleutian Islands during the flight. (Photo by Christie Wood)





Many scientists went hiking in Unalaska. (Photo by Chris Polashenski)




We slept in the red-roofed building on the right, the Grand Aleutian Hotel. (Photo by Jim Swift)




Fishing boats in Dutch Harbor. (Photo by Kuba Tatarkiewicz)




Harlequin ducks in Dutch Harbor. (Photo by Chris Polashenski)




Bald eagles seemed to be everywhere in Unalaska! (Photo by Chris Polashenski)


Sampling the Chukchi Sea


From:  Kathryn Hansen, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center




On July 2, the Arctic survey boat (ASB) was lowered by crane from the Healy for science excursions away from the main ship, which can mix water and cast a shadow that interferes with the scientific measurements. ICESCAPE scientists and Coast Guard crew made first-of-a-kind measurements near the edge of Arctic sea ice collecting water samples from the Chukchi Sea. The samples are returned to scientists in the Healy’s laboratory for use in biology and chemistry experiments. (Photo by Kathryn Hansen)


The Tools of a Scientist


From: Kevin Arrigo, Stanford University


Despite my son Matthew’s assertion to the contrary, I’m NOT old enough to have been around during the time of the cavemen and so I don’t have a clear idea of what kind of tools they might have used. Still, even though I wasn’t actually there, all available evidence points to the obvious conclusion that cavemen tools were primitive compared to those used by their descendants. In fact, the increasing sophistication of our tools has played a large part in the development of our modern culture. Sure, our tools simplify our everyday lives, but they do much more than that. They make the impossible possible. If you don’t believe me, just think of all the tasks you perform each day and how many of them would not be possible without the right tool.


In science, the need for the right tools is so acute that it has spurred a cottage industry of entrepreneurial individuals and small firms whose mission it is to build the right widget for virtually any scientific task. This synergy between scientist and tool builder (who are occasionally the same person) has led to major advances in virtually every scientific field.  ICESCAPE is not only benefiting from its use of a wide variety of sophisticated tools, but also helping to improve tools already in use.


Although we have a dizzying array of scientific instruments at our disposal, the ones that are of particular importance to the ICESCAPE mission are those that allow us to collect and evaluate measurements in near real-time. If all we could do was collect samples that couldn’t be analyzed until we got back home, we would never be able to recognize, let alone respond to, exciting new observations. It would be like navigating a dark deserted street without the benefit of GPS. Or a map. Or even street signs. Fortunately, a number of our scientific tools allow us to obtain, virtually instantly, intimate glimpses of the physical and chemical properties of the Arctic Ocean and how the biology is responding to these properties. For instance …


Before the ICESCAPE team left for the Arctic, Gert van Dijken (Stanford University) and Mati Kahru (Scripps Institution of Oceanography) produced satellite images of sea ice cover and surface chlorophyll (an indicator of the abundance of phytoplankton – those small single-celled floating plants at the base of the marine food web) for our study region to help guide our sampling plan. These satellite images are free to the public, available every day, and cover the entire Earth surface (OK, clouds can be a problem, but we can usually get enough clear images, even in the Arctic, to suit our needs). Without these images, we would have been forced to make educated guesses at where we should target our sampling.


Once we’re on board the ship and have identified a promising piece of real estate, Melissa Miller and Susan Becker (Scripps) use a nutrient autoanalyzer to very quickly tell us how much nitrogen, phosphorus, and silicate (an element used by some phytoplankton to build their beautiful glass shells) exists at different depths in the water. Just like the plants in your garden, phytoplankton require these nutrients to grow, and measuring their concentrations provides us with instant information about ecosystem health.


Then Sam Laney and Emily Peacock (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) swing into action.  They use their Imaging FlowCytobot (no matter how many times I say it or read it, it is still the coolest name for an instrument ever!) to both count and identify individual microbes that inhabit the seawater and sea ice we are sampling. Soon after, Matt Mills and Molly Palmer (Stanford University) put these microbes into a FRRF (Fast Repetition Rate Fluorometer) to see how active and healthy they are.


We then use the CTD (which stands for conductivity, temperature, and depth) and an ADCP (Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler) to tell us which direction the water is moving and how cold and salty it is. This information is essential for interpreting the distributions of nutrients and phytoplankton we observe. Amazingly (to me at least), Bob Pickart and Frank Bahr (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) can give us this vital information within minutes of the time that the data are collected.


Tools such as these provide rapid, yet accurate, assessments of ecosystem state and greatly improve our ability to carry out our science. And while these tools are a great help to us, the pendulum swings both ways. Work we are doing during ICESCAPE will markedly improve the quality of some of these tools so that they are of even greater benefit to future scientific expeditions. The most obvious example of this is the work being done by ICESCAPE’s optics team. Interpreting satellite images of sea ice and ocean color depends on our understanding of how radiation interacts with the ice and ocean surface. Because of its unique geography and chemistry, the Arctic Ocean poses a particular challenge to optical oceanographers.  Stan Hooker (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), Atsushi Matsuoka (Villefranche), Greg Mitchell, Rick Reynolds, and Dariusz Stramski (all three from the Scripps) are using a variety of optical approaches to unlock some of the mysteries of the Arctic Ocean. When their work is completed, our ability to interpret satellite imagery will undoubtedly be greatly improved, to the benefit of all.


Success in science, like many other endeavors, relies on using the right tool for the right job.  And while our scientific imagination and creativity can carry us a long way, our scientific instruments allow us to collect and interpret data with unprecedented speed and reliability. As romantic as the old days of the Secchi disk (look it up) and mercury thermometer may be, give me today’s Imaging FlowCytobot any day!




Scientists use this nutrient autoanalyzer to discover the concentration of nutrients in water samples. The pink color in the tubes here is a water sample with a high concentration of nitrate reacting with introduced chemicals. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)




The Imaging FloCytobot takes pictures of tiny phytoplankton for scientists to learn more about them and their ecosystem. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)





The ADCP measures the speed at which the water moves. The four separate transducers lie underneath the hull of the ship. (Photo by Dale Chayes)


Ice Liberty


From: Kate Lowry, Stanford University

Kate Lowry of Stanford University and the Healy.  (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)



Sunday, June 27, 2010, was a day I will remember forever. After spending twelve straight hours filtering seawater in the main lab on my night shift, I generally roll over and go back to sleep when an announcement over the ship pipe system wakes me up during the day. Last Sunday, however, there were two announcements that even those of us still in bed were excited to hear. The first was that there was a polar bear off the starboard bow! Like a few of my sleeping neighbors, I rushed out of bed and onto the deck to try to catch a glimpse of the polar bear while it was still in sight.


After watching the polar bear with binoculars from the bow, I went with fellow science party members Molly Palmer (Stanford University), Kristen Shake (University of Alaska – Fairbanks), and Becky Garley (Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences) to the aloft control room for a better view. Although you do have to ask permission from the bridge crew to climb into the aloft control room, the watch officers are very open to letting scientists go up and look around. It was truly a surreal experience to climb to the top of the ship, still in my pajamas, and look out over the ice. Below us, other scientists were setting up for a full ice station off the port side, far away from the polar bear that eventually wandered out of sight and into the fog.


Later in the day an even better announcement awakened me. As soon as the science station was complete, there would be “ice liberty” for everyone! We had heard rumors that there might be a chance to get off the ship and play around on the ice, but we knew that it depended on the weather and the ice thickness. Fortunately, the location and conditions we saw Sunday afternoon were perfect. After a short briefing in which we were told to dress warmly, stay away from melt ponds, and what to do in case of an emergency, we lined up in a mix of orange mustang suits, civilian clothes, and funny costumes to walk down the gangway and onto the ice. For one of the first times since we left Dutch Harbor, nearly everyone aboard the Healy got a chance to relax and have fun.


While we were on the ice, we played games, took pictures, and enjoyed soda and candy, courtesy of the ship’s Morale Committee. After being stuck on the ship for so long, we found many different activities in which to participate. Some of the crew members began a game of football while others played soccer on the ice. Scientists joined a game of frisbee in which one of the biggest challenges was to avoid landing the disk in a nearby melt pond. Snowball fights broke out between different lab groups and excited students posed for funny pictures.


After two weeks of hard work on the ship and even more time for the crew members, “ice liberty” was just what we all needed to feel rejuvenated and ready for the rest of the cruise. As we re-boarded the ship nearly two hours later and returned to normal life at sea, we felt satisfied, thankful to Captain Rall and the Healy crew for keeping us safe on the ice, and hungry for the delicious turkey dinner that awaited us on the mess deck.





Scott Hiller, Alejandro Quintero, Jim Swift, Melissa Miller, Parisa Nahavandi, and Susan Becker, all of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (Photo by Karen Romano Young)





Brian Schieber, Greg Mitchell, Elliot Weiss, and Brian Seegers, all of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, with Sharmila Pal of the University of South Carolina (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)




Mark Morgan, William Glenzer, and John Carter, all of the U.S. Coast Guard (Photo by William Glenzer)




Emily Peacock and Sam Laney of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (Photo by Karen Romano Young)





Zach Brown, Matt Mills, Gert van Dijken, Kevin Arrigo, Kate Lowry (this happy blogger!), Molly Palmer, and Haley Kingsland, all of Stanford University (Photo by Karen Romano Young)





Owen Dicks, Kurt Stewart, Chris Skapin, Lee Brittle, and Evan Steckle, all of the U.S. Coast Guard (U.S. Coast Guard Photo)




Kristen Shake and Mike Kong, both of the University of Alaska – Fairbanks with Marlene Jeffries and Becky Garley, both of the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences. (Photo by Kristen Shake)





Coasties and science party members enjoying the ice together. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)




Photo by Karen Romano Young





Bottom Row: Zach Brown, Molly Palmer, Kristen Shake, Melissa Miller; Middle Row: Elliot Weiss, Becky Garley, Parisa Nahavandi; Top Row: Kate Lowry, Alejandro Quintero, Haley Kingsland (Photo by Jeremy Gainey)




Healy U.S. Coast Guard crew members. (Photo by Karen Romano Young)




Science party members (Photo by Evan Burgeson)


Polar Bears Sighted!


From: Haley Smith Kingsland, Stanford University


We spent much of last week conducting sea ice stations northwest of Barrow, experiences you’ll hear more about in future posts. Two of the most special moments rippled as pipes over the loudspeaker: “Now, polar bear, starboard bow. Now, polar bear, starboard bow.” Indeed the Healy is passing through the Chukchi Sea, one of the only regions of the United States where polar bears live.


Scientists refer to animals like polar bears, whales, and sea turtles as “charismatic megafauna” because they easily capture human hearts. As the largest living land carnivore, the polar bear reigns at the top of the Arctic food web. Polar bears are solitary, migratory animals that move with the sea ice rather than establishing territories. Like walruses, they follow the ice edge, where small soft protrusions (papillae) on the soles of their feet help them grip the ice to prevent from slipping. Polar bears’ semi-webbed front paws allow them to swim for hours— hence their scientific name, Ursus maritimus, or “bear of the sea.” The hollow guard hairs of their coats repel water quickly while swimming, and fill with air to act as insulators. Blubber beneath a layer of underfur also keeps polar bears toasty. Only pregnant females hibernate in dens during late fall and winter, and give birth to 1-3 cubs that remain with their mothers for about three years.


However, global warming threatens the Arctic polar bear population, estimated to be about 25,000. As sea ice melts earlier and forms later, polar bears have less time to hunt their primary prey, ringed and bearded seals. Pregnant females are particularly vulnerable to the shorter hunting season, because with less food they enter their winter dens thinner than usual with less fat reserves for fasting. And of course, as the Arctic ice cover retreats, so does polar bear habitat. Polar bears must exert more energy as they travel from ice floe to ice floe in search of food; migrate further north with the retreating ice; or even move to land for a period of fasting without their seal prey.


Polar bears also face political barriers. In May 2008 they became the first species to be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act due to global warming. However, at the time of the listing, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne asserted that it “would be a wholly inappropriate use of the Endangered Species Act” to “regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, power plants, and other sources.”


The listing prompted legal responses from a variety of entities. Because the state of Alaska stands to benefit from developing natural Arctic resources like offshore oil and gas in polar bear habitat, it filed a lawsuit in August 2008 to oppose the listing. In October 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to designate about 200,000 acres primarily in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas as polar bear “critical habitat” where species protected under the Endangered Species Act cannot be harmed. A decision has yet to be reached.


As polar bear politics continue in Washington, those of us on the Healy lucky enough to glimpse them will never forget the excitement of jumping out of bed or interrupting lab work to rush to the starboard bow.


For more polar bear information, visit:,, and





72° 06’ 1” N, 160° 13’ 5” W, June 25 We spotted our first polar bear last Friday morning. Polar bears’ whitish fur camouflages the animals in their sea ice habitat, while their black skin absorbs sunlight to keep them warm. (Photo by Gert van Dijken)






Photo by Karen Romano Young





72° 03’ 7” N, 161° 10’ 4” W, June 27 This speck was a polar bear near the Healy Sunday morning. Its fur is darker because it’s a bit dirtier than that of the first one. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)


Why We Are in the Arctic


Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland



From: Haley Smith Kingsland, Stanford University


“Climate change in polar regions is expected to be among the largest and most rapid of any region on Earth.” — Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 2001


ICESCAPE’s interdisciplinary and multi-generational team of scientists is working hard to better understand the complicated dynamics of the Arctic Ocean and its response to climate change. In the coming weeks, we’ll feature interviews with each principal investigator about his or her research. Below are a few key scientific concepts you’ll likely encounter in conversations with them.


Global warming


Imagine a blanket wrapped around the earth. Composed of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor, Earth’s natural blanket traps heat coming from the sun to keep Earth’s atmosphere and surface warm.


Industrial behavior such as burning fossil fuels like coal and gasoline releases an enormous amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide concentration is now about fifty percent higher than it was before the Industrial Revolution. All of this extra carbon dioxide has trapped more heat in the earth’s atmosphere, and global temperature is expected to increase up to six degrees by the end of this century.


Why worry about a mere six degrees? Well, if the temperature were to drop six degrees, Earth would plummet into an Ice Age. So the current temperature rise could create an entirely new climate unlike anything humans have ever seen. Changes are already rippling across the world, and the Arctic is particularly vulnerable because of the white reflective surface of its sea ice.


Ice-albedo feedback


In the Arctic, ice forms and melts by seasons. It’s so cold in late fall that the surface ocean freezes, expelling its salt to form sea ice of all different kinds like dark nilas, pancake, and shuga. When the Arctic tilts towards the sun in early spring and summer, some sea ice melts in the extra heat.


Scientists use the term “ice-albedo feedback” to describe a phenomenon responsible for amplifying Arctic sea ice decline. Think of albedo as the amount of light reflected off a surface: a white surface like Arctic sea ice reflects lots of light (it has a high albedo), while a black surface like the ocean reflects little light (it has a low albedo). Now that the bright Arctic ice is disappearing in large part because of melting due to global warming, a greater area of the dark ocean is absorbing more sunlight, thus heating the poles even more and making ice formation more difficult. As ICESCAPE co-chief scientist Don Perovich explained in a 2005 New Yorker article, “Not only is the albedo of the snow-covered ice high; it’s the highest of anything we find on Earth. And not only is the albedo of water low; it’s pretty much as low as anything you can find on Earth. So what you’re doing is you’re replacing the best reflector with the worst reflector.”


“Today, Arctic sea ice is melting 28 days earlier and forming 17 days later than usual, meaning that the Arctic melt season has increased more than 45 days,” says ICESCAPE chief scientist Kevin Arrigo. In late May 2010, less ice covered the Arctic than in 2007, the year known for having the least amount of sea ice since records began in 1979. Don Perovich likens the current amount of Arctic sea ice loss to an area nearly half the size of the continental United States.


Sea ice and biology are intricately intertwined. Polar bears have lost valuable time to hunt ringed and bearded seals that live on the sea ice, and walruses’ sea ice habitat is shrinking. But how has reduced sea ice cover affected tiny, microscopic organisms like phytoplankton?




Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland



Primary production


Phytoplankton are one-celled algae that float at the surface ocean. Even though they live for just a few days, they’re the base of the Arctic food web. Tiny shrimp-like animals called copepods feed on them as do whales, seabirds, and fish. All of the energy that fuels the Arctic food web ultimately derives from phytoplankton.


Not only are phytoplankton the building blocks of the Arctic food web, they are also regulators of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. Like plants in your garden that lean towards sunbeams, phytoplankton are miniature plants that perform photosynthesis. Using the energy they obtain from absorbing sunlight, phytoplankton pull carbon dioxide from the surface ocean and create oxygen and carbohydrates, a process known as “primary production.” By removing carbon dioxide from the surface ocean, phytoplankton create space for additional carbon dioxide to enter from the atmosphere. Without the activity of these short-lived algae cells, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be much higher than it is today.


How will reduced Arctic sea ice cover affect primary production? Scientists think phytoplankton will thrive in larger expanses of open ocean with more access to sunlight. These new periods of high phytoplankton growth, or “blooms,” will thus increase the productivity of the Arctic Ocean. Connecting phytoplankton to climate change, the flux of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into the Arctic Ocean has tripled over the last three decades, and scientists are working to discover where that extra carbon has gone and how phytoplankton may be using it.


ICESCAPE in the Arctic


As you will see through interviews with ICESCAPE scientists in the coming weeks, our team spans a wide breadth of expertise. Some researchers are characterizing phytoplankton communities and primary production, some are taking measurements that will allow them to calculate carbon dioxide concentrations in the surface ocean, and some are investigating sea ice ecology. Others are observing the export of particles from the surface ocean to the bottom, and yet others are taking optical measurements that will improve satellite data. Daily interactions aboard the Healy between sea ice researchers, nutrient analyzers, biological and chemical oceanographers, plankton ecologists, optics specialists, and carbon cycle experts are helping the Arctic scientific community develop a more holistic, interdisciplinary approach to understanding this rich ecosystem.




This image of Alaska and its ocean environs from June 24 combines data from different satellites. Brown is land, gray represents Arctic sea ice, while the colored areas represent different levels of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll a, the green pigment that aids photosynthesis, is an indicator of the amount of phytoplankton in the ocean. In this image, red illustrates areas of high chlorophyll concentration, where there’s a lot of phytoplankton and hence a lot of primary productivity. (Created by Gert van Dijken, a science and engineering associate at Stanford University)


Science Labs on the Icebreaker Healy


From: Haley Smith Kingsland, Stanford University


“I enjoy walking through the labs while they are full of activity. Without the science party on board, they are empty. Now, the lab benches are full of computers, bottles, beakers, funnels, and test tubes, and look like a science fair without the posters describing what’s what.” —Captain William Rall


Scientists work in more than 5000 square feet of science labs and support rooms on the Healy. There’s a large main science lab at the stern of the ship, two climate-controlled chambers, a few smaller laboratory spaces, and two docking stations for portable lab vans (twenty-foot cargo containers). In fact, “most of the work takes place in the labs,” says Jim Swift, a physical oceanographer from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.


While science spaces within the Healy were under design in the 1990s, Jim chaired an oversight committee, the Arctic Icebreaker Coordinating Committee, to offer constructive suggestions. The committee advocated for as much science space as possible, as well as enough flexibility for scientists to customize their labs to their unique instruments and personal tastes.


“A research ship is an industrial environment. It’s not like a home or office,” Jim explains. “Everything is out where you can get to it rather than behind a wall.” He says the Healy’s flexibility “is considered almost perfect by scientists because they can configure their set-ups.” Lab benches are made with plywood that scientists can drill into, and there’s plenty of power, light, sinks, cableways, and hot and cold running water.


Full of bustle and late-shift dance parties, here are some pictures of the science labs with researchers hard at work inside.





Molly Palmer, a graduate student at Stanford University, is experimenting with algae during her time aboard the Healy. She’s interested in carbon cycling and biological productivity in both the surface and deep Arctic Ocean, data that satellites can’t always capture. In a climate-controlled cold room on the Healy, Molly is determining how algal communities recover from light shock. Her studies will create a baseline of data to help scientists understand and predict algae’s response to less ice cover and greater sunlight in the Arctic due to global warming.




Scientists have processed many samples in the past week on the Healy and are already learning from the data they have collected. Here Shohei Watanabe, a graduate student at Universite Laval, is reviewing some of his data so that he can better design his future experiments for the next three weeks.




Rick Reynolds of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography shoots a laser beam at a particle in order to measure how the particle scatters light. Susan Becker, also from Scripps, is measuring the amount of dissolved oxygen in water samples.




Christie Wood, a graduate student at Clark University, operates a machine that runs water samples from the ice stations in order to identify variations of dissolved organic matter throughout the ice and water column.




Kate Lowry and Zach Brown, graduate students at Stanford University, pose in front of their water filtration rack that allows two people to process 24 water samples at once. As soon as the CTD rosette rises from the ocean, Zach and Kate wait in line to fill carboys of seawater from its water sampling bottles. They run sub-samples from the carboys through this filtration rack to measure the amount of chlorophyll, carbon, and various nutrients in the seawater. “It gets really busy!” says Kate. “Especially if one person has to leave for another experiment and the other person has to watch all 24 filtrations at once!”




Sharmila Pal, a graduate student at the University of South Carolina, studies organic carbon, or dead particles, sinking from the surface ocean to the deep ocean. She samples water from the CTD rosette and spikes it with thorium, which sticks to dead particles, in order to measure their concentration. She also deploys a pump from the Healy’s stern to collect sinking dead particles and measure the amount that rains down from the surface ocean to the bottom.



Mike Kong and Kristen Shake, graduate students at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, and Marlene Jeffries of the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences intently contemplate the Arctic uptake of carbon dioxide. They study inorganic carbon, or living particles, in the ocean. Here they’re standing near a VINDTA, a machine that helps calculate the amount of carbon dioxide in the surface ocean.



Aimee Neeley of NASA records crucial information in her sample log. Nearby, her water filtration setup takes measurements of the surface ocean to match with satellite data. Hopefully, her numbers will correspond with those of the satellites. Amy’s work differs from academic research in that she’s developing and refining scientific standards. “I really enjoy bringing the community together to converge on methods and protocols,” she says.


All photos by Haley Smith Kingsland.



Reflections from the Chief Scientist




From: Kevin Arrigo, Stanford University


I have been on research cruises before, but this is my first time being Chief Scientist.  Here are a few early thoughts after a week on the job.


Let me start by saying that when the opportunity to lead the NASA-funded ICESCAPE program presented itself, naturally I jumped at the chance.  We would be doing important scientific work in the Arctic Ocean and I looked forward to the challenges of both helping to organize and lead such a complex oceanographic expedition. And while I welcomed the challenge, I didn’t fully grasp its scope at the time. I’m beginning to, now.


For those of you who are not aware of what a Chief Scientist does, it is fair to say that we are the last word when it comes to making scientific decisions during a research cruise.  In my case, the position also included a great deal of pre-cruise planning and organization, but my primary responsibility is to ensure that we do the best science that we can possibly do while at sea.  Personally, I like to consult with the other scientists on board before deciding on things like where the ship will go and what we will sample when it gets there. That means lots of meetings. And teleconferences. And e-mail back and forth. And when we get on the ship, even more meetings. Stan Hooker, one of the scientists onboard the USCGC Healy quipped, “I have been to more science meetings in the first three days of this cruise than I have on any whole cruise in my entire life!”  Suffice it to say, I think meetings are important.


It also means keeping things on schedule. For that, we have a scientific plan of the day that I post on the “Board of Lies.” And while I really don’t mean to lie, the plan has an effective lifespan of about three seconds. Invariably, as soon as the plan is posted, some unforeseen event transpires that throws it all out of whack. Or maybe I’m just a lousy judge of how long things should take, I’m not sure which. All I know is that yesterday alone I probably posted more than a half dozen different versions of the plan of the day.


“Can I pump some water at this station?” asks Sharmila. “Sure,” I say, knowing that it’s going to slow us down by an hour and a half. Need to post a new plan.  The ice is heavier that we expected and the boat can’t go as fast as I’d hoped.  Post a new plan. The three-hour sea ice station takes five hours. Post a new plan. I forgot to include the science meeting. A new plan. You get the idea. Changes are to be expected, but accounting for them sure keeps me busy!


Luckily for me, NASA put together a very knowledgeable group of scientists who are great to work with. Even though there are 50 of us and we work in so many different scientific disciplines, everyone is willing to look beyond their own self-interests and promote what is best for the program.  Sure, there are often strong opinions but there is also a willingness to cooperate. For this I am very grateful!


As chief scientist, I also rely heavily on Captain Rall and his crew, as does the entire science team. I have to say that this group of young men and women are a pleasure to work with. They have just the right blend of experience and enthusiasm and seem willing to do almost anything to ensure that our “mission” succeeds. They drive the ship, run the winches, operate the cranes, stage our equipment, ensure our safety, cook our food and they always do it with a pleasant attitude. We couldn’t accomplish our goals without them.


I could go on, but it’s time for another science meeting.


Arctic Weather?


From: Kevin Arrigo, Stanford University


68° 00’ W, 167° 30’ N, June 21 — When you plan a trip to the Arctic Ocean, you expect it to be cold. Perhaps bitter cold. And cloudy. And probably also windy with rough seas. Suffice it to say that the weather we have experienced the last few days is not at all what we expected.  We have seen nothing but bright sunny skies, temperatures in the upper 50s and almost no wind— the ocean is a sheet of glass. At times it’s easy to forget that we are actually on a ship floating in a vast ocean. The stillness is beautiful, but also somewhat eerie because it seems so out of place.


Luckily, this means that conditions for deploying our wide array of instruments couldn’t be better. Getting things into and out of the water on a ship bouncing around in rough seas can be a real challenge. But so far, rough seas are nowhere to be found. Some of our instruments have even been able to measure the effect that this beautiful weather is having on the Arctic Ocean. As the sun beats down on the ocean surface, the water in the topmost layer heats up and we are able to measure its increase in temperature. In some places, we can also detect a thin layer of freshwater that comes from the rapid melting sea ice. Usually, this layer is not so obvious because the winds stir up the water column so much. Under such calm conditions, though, this warm and fresh layer is very easily detected.


We do realize, however, that our good fortune with the weather will not last forever.  I expect that as we move further north we will encounter a more typical Arctic Ocean environment. But until that time arrives, we will just enjoy bathing in the anomalous sunshine!





Photos by Haley Smith Kingsland