On the Healy: The Daily Schedule


From:  Haley Smith Kingsland, Stanford University



“The Board of Lies,” or “half-truths,” jokes science system engineer Dale Chayes, hangs in the main science lab at the Healy‘s stern. Chief scientist Kevin Arrigo constantly updates this plan of the day for the science operations to keep us all on track. A camera photographs the Board of Lies every two minutes, and pictures appear on an internal computer server so scientists and crew can check the daily schedule from anywhere on the ship. However, the plan changes continuously and hence the Board of Lies is almost always wrong at any instant in time.




Arctic Circle Crossing

From: Haley Smith Kingsland, Stanford University


66° 33’ N, 179° 85’ W, June 18 — Friday night, the following pipe reverberated throughout the Healy: “Now attention all hands. The cutter Healy has crossed into the Arctic Circle — the cold, icy waters of King Neptune. Welcome home, Polar Bears. All Blue Noses beware! That is all.”


“Polar Bears” are those who have already crossed the Arctic Circle and gone through initiation. “Blue Noses,” on the other hand, have some surprises waiting for them. Everyone’s wondering what the secret initiation will be, including Blue Nose chief scientist Kevin Arrigo.


Immediately after the announcement, a crowd of scientists and Coasties gathered at the bow as the Healy passed through a belt of sea ice and herds of walruses. For many, it was the first sighting of both — a truly surreal night to remember.




“This is what I’ve been waiting for!” said Cedric Fichot, a graduate student at the University of South Carolina. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)




The walrus’ scientific name, Odobenus rosmarus, means “tooth-walking sea horse” in Latin. Walrus tusks are really extended upper canine teeth that lengthen with age— up to three feet during a walrus’ lifetime. Walruses live on the sea ice edge over shallow continental shelves, and use their tusks to hoist themselves onto the ice and bore holes in it. Males also employ their tusks to threaten rivals. Walrus’ whiskers, or vibrissae, help them nuzzle and forage for shellfish on the shallow sea floor. How will climate change affect these gargantuan creatures? As Arctic sea ice melts and retreats from shallow continental shelves, walruses lose their habitat to water that’s too deep for them to dive for less abundant food. So instead they “haul out” to rest on coastal lands, and over-congregation leads to stampedes and trampling of young calves as well as stiff competition for limited resources. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)




United States Geological Survey scientists have been tracking walruses with satellite radio-tags in order to trace their movements in the changing sea ice habitat. You can follow animations of the walrus’ paths in both the Chukchi and Bering Seas at <http://alaska.usgs.gov/science/biology/walrus/tracking.html>. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)


Across the Bering Strait


From Haley Smith Kingsland, Stanford University

65° 46’ N, 169° 33’W, June 17-18 — With Russia to port and the United States to starboard, the Healy paused for seven stations across the narrow Bering Strait. Farther north, scientists requested an eighth station on the Chukchi shelf. Research is on a roll, and many ICESCAPE teams have divided their work into twelve-hour shifts.

Instruments deployed at the Bering Strait transect measured properties of the water column at four different sea depths — 2 meters, 10 meters, 25, and 50. “The transect went really well, much better than I would have expected,” said chief scientist Kevin Arrigo. “At one point we were even an hour and a half ahead of schedule!”


Here is ICESCAPE’s cruise track delineated by transects. We started at the Bering Strait transect and will continue to many more research stations in the Kotzebue transect, Chuckchi Hot Spot, Barrow Hot Spot, and sea ice. You can follow the Healy’s cruise track at <http://www.icefloe.net/cruisetrack.html> as well as <http://vislab-ccom.unh.edu/~schwehr/healy/>.





The light green squares represent the seven stations across the Bering Strait.





The International Date Line separates the two Diomede Islands, so residents of Little Diomede in the United States can gaze towards tomorrow on Big Diomede in Russia. Here, we spotted a small community on the very tip of Little Diomede Island. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)




Fairway Rock from the fantail. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)





Marine science technician Horace Brittle, or MST1, lowers the CTD rosette into the ocean. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)




Elliot Weiss of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography operated a light sensor on the Healy’s bow walkway. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)





During the Bering Strait transect, we felt almost warm on deck. Temperatures were in the mid-40s! (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)





Station eight was the first station we deployed the ASB, or Arctic Survey Boat. From it Stan Hooker’s team measured the optical properties of the ocean and collected water samples for those working in the main science lab. What’s it like to conduct research from a small boat? “It’s an excruciating amount of work,” says Stan. “We’re still in survival mode.” (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)




At station eight the PRR went off the Healy on a cable near Siberia. “Be careful you don’t deploy the package in Russian waters!” one of the marine science technicians warned. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)




“We’re playing hard at work and working hard at play in the Arctic!” joked Greg Mitchell of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography as he ran from bow to fantail while deploying his optical packages. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)


First Ice Sighted!

From: Haley Smith Kingsland, Stanford University


The “Aloft Conn” camera shot this image as the Healy passed through the ice belt early Thursday morning.



62° 36’ N, 168° 29’ W, June 17 — On Thursday morning, about 240 nautical miles south of the Arctic Circle, came an update from Captain William Rall: “I need to be careful what I ask for. At 1:00 a.m. last night/this morning, at about an hour BEFORE sunset, the Healy slowed to 7 knots to pass through a belt of ice. The ice was broken up with no pressure, the biggest pieces were only about the size of a truck. It may have woken up some of the light sleepers, and I did see a couple excited scientists up on the bow taking pictures. We still expect open water at our next planned science station which is at the narrowest part of the Bering Strait, although a wind shift can always change that and blow some ice in.”


Logistics at Sea


From: Haley Smith Kingsland, Stanford University


56° 50.131’ N, 167° 13.632’ W, June 15— The Healy is officially underway! At zero-eight-hundred hours Tuesday morning, line handlers threw off the Healy’s dock lines from giant cleats on the pier and the tugboat James Dunlap nudged the Healy out of Dutch Harbor. Captain William Rall’s departure was very smooth and we’re all becoming accustomed to the ocean now rolling beneath us. “It’s great to be on our primary mission!” the captain reported back to Coast Guard headquarters.



Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland



Coast Guard crew members at the fantail, the rounded area at the stern of the ship. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)



The Healy passed The Deadliest Catch fleet on the way out of Dutch Harbor. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland.)



We’re heading north to the Bering Strait, planning to reach our first research station on Thursday. You can check out the “Aloft Conn” photographs taken from the Healy every hour.


Tuesday afternoon, the science party mustered for orientation with the Coast Guard. We absorbed the following rules: Take short “sea showers” to conserve water. On the mess deck, throw only wet trash in the “red goat” (garbage disposal), and no hats or open-toed shoes. In the laundry room, clean out the lint traps. Wear a lifejacket while working on the side of the ship. Fill out the online accountability form twice a day. Help yourselves to the candy jars outside the sick bay doors.





Those who had never donned “Gumby Suits” were required to learn how to shimmy into these protective neoprene immersion suits in the event of abandon ship. “It was a really strange feeling,” says Shohei Watanabe, a graduate student at Universite Laval in Canada. “The suit was so warm but so difficult to move around in— even just to move my hands. It was also hard to breathe!” (Photo by Karen Romano Young)




If we ever have to abandon ship, every Coast Guard crew and science party member has a specific raft assignment in a particular location. Here, we practice assembling in the proper places on the Healy’s helipad. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)



Tuesday night, ICESCAPE scientists and Coast Guard marine science technicians gathered to discuss set-up progress and finalize the cruise’s operational plan. They have so many logistics to consider before scientific research on the Healy gets underway.


“Even though we had a number of planning meetings and weekly teleconferences, there are always last minute changes to make,” said chief scientist Kevin Arrigo. “It’s really important to get together as a group and hammer out the last details. Very soon we’ll be in serious science mode!”


Video: Scientists Prep for Arctic Voyage

 From: Steve Cole, NASA’s Office of Communications, Washington

Go onboard the U.S. Coast Guard’s icebreaker in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, as ICESCAPE scientists get ready to set sail earlier this week. Three of the expedition’s scientists describe what they hope to encounter and accomplish on the five-week Arctic ocean research voyage.

Shakedown Station at Sea


From: Haley Smith Kingsland, Stanford University


60° 43.118’ N, 168° 28.473’ W, June 16 — The captain brought the Healy to a halt and the ship rocked back and forth in stationary position as ICESCAPE scientists and Coast Guard marine science technicians rallied to deploy their equipment. Oceanographers work on “stations,” or fixed points at sea, to make accurate measurements. Over the next 35 days, ICESCAPE scientists have designated about 136 open water stations and 10 days of ice stations.


But because we must first rehearse what will become routine for us, Wednesday afternoon was a “shakedown station” to ensure that our instruments function properly and our operations are efficient. We planned a “full station,” meaning that we deployed all scientific equipment. Jim Swift of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography likened the practice to the frenzy of a Chinese fire drill, while co-chief scientist Don Perovich compared its importance to readying football players for the Super Bowl.


He summed up the process nicely:


“It’s ‘AOP walk, PRR bow, IOP stern, CTD star-full water, GRAB back, PUMP star, no ASB, drop ICE on two.’ Got all that? Like a lot of things, it’s less complicated than it seems. It just means that we will mount some light sensors on the bow walkway and then deploy some other light sensors off a hand line from the bow. Then move to the stern of the ship and lower into the ocean more optical sensors using the winch on the stern, and then from the starboard winch lower a device that measures the temperature and salinity of the ocean and takes water samples. When that is done, drop a shovel-like piece of equipment to the bottom and grab some seafloor sediment. Then lower a pump to near the bottom that circulates water through a filter. Oh yes, ‘no ASB’ means we will not launch the Arctic survey boat and ‘drop ICE’ means we will not be sending a team onto the ice. This is a good thing, since there is no ice. ‘On two’ means we start at 2 PM.”


How does all this equipment work? Read the captions below to find out!



“We’re hunting photons!” exclaimed Greg Mitchell of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. A light sensor deployed from the Healy’s bow walkway measures how seawater impurities affect light changes at ocean depths. This is the first time the bow walkway has been set up on the Healy since 2000. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)




Coast Guard Marine Science Technician Chief Kurt Stewart works with a crew of six other marine science technicians, and ICESCAPE is his first full mission on the Healy. So how did the shakedown station go for him? “I thought it was fun. But it would have been nice if it had been warmer— like off the coast of Hawaii warmer.” (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)





Little fins make the PRR, or Profiling Reflectance Radiometer, fall vertically in the ocean. This instrument measures how much light the ocean surface reflects out to space.  Greg Mitchell explained that satellites observe the color of light reflected from the ocean— which depends on the amount of algae and other things in the water— and such information is used to make maps of ocean biology. He said that fieldwork like NASA’s ICESCAPE cruise is crucial because scientists can use the detailed measurements taken at each station to make oceanographic mapping even better. Here, graduate student Brian Seegers of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography lowers the PRR into the water. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)




Chief scientist Kevin Arrigo watches Greg Mitchell tug the PRR back in. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)




This optical package deployed from the A-frame at the Healy’s stern measures light absorption and scattering by diverse things from water molecules to algae and bacteria cells. The IOP frame carries a few pieces of optical equipment from different research groups, including a laser scattering device and Fast Repetition Rate Fluorometer (FRRF) to measure photosynthesis. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)





The A-frame, scientists, and MSTs bring the optical package back to the Healy’s fantail. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)




The CTD rosette lives in a special room on the starboard side of the Healy. It’s really just an aluminum frame that carries water sampling bottles all around its circumference, with different sensors attached to its bottom that record characteristics like temperature and depth. “The CTD is the primary electronic instrument for measuring the physical properties of the water column,” says Jim Swift.


A CTD operator lowers the rosette and closes the bottles to sample water at different depths. Beforehand, scientists request how much water they want for their experiments and Jim keeps track of the numbers in a chart to ensure that the rosette samples enough. He also enforces the scientists’ sampling order when the rosette returns.




Deployed from the stern A-frame, the stainless steel jaws of the Van Veen Grab grasp and trap soft bottom sediments. Technicians and scientists have to take care when raising the Van Veen Grab back on deck, because its choppers could snag somebody! Once on deck, technicians pop open a trap door at the top of the Van Veen Grab and deposit the sediments in a bucket from which scientists take a small sample to measure sediment chlorophyll concentrations. “I saw an amphipod in the mud that looks like a tiny shrimp— it’s what gray whales eat as bottom feeders,” said Karen Frey of Clark University. Here, the Van Veen Grab comes back aboard. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)




The thorium pump was the shakedown station’s final deployment. “It was so light that it flew through the water like a kite,” said chief scientist Kevin Arrigo, so next time it probably needs a weight tied to it. The pump measures how many particles rain down from the ocean surface to the bottom. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)



The full shakedown station elapsed about three hours, and as you can see, working on station requires an enormous amount of coordination and teamwork. Greg Mitchell stressed the significance of ICESCAPE’s interdisciplinary framework that has brought together so many scientists from several institutions. “We’re all measuring different parts of the puzzle to get the best understanding of the ecosystem so we can improve our models and get the best predictions for the future.”


Captain William Rall is also happy with the cooperation among all aboard. “Looking across the mess deck during chow and seeing the colorfully dressed science party mixed in and eating with the Coasties all dressed in blue brings me a smile,” he wrote in his log. “It’s cooling off fast as we head north to collect water samples, bottom samples, and support a multitude of optical devices. Can’t wait to get to some ice!”


Scenes from Dutch Harbor


From: Haley Smith Kingsland, Stanford University


Dutch Harbor, Unalaska, June 14 — On Sunday morning, ICESCAPE scientists awoke halfway across the Aleutians in the town of Unalaska. “I went outside, looked up, and saw something that just didn’t register,” says co-chief scientist Don Perovich, of the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in New Hampshire. What he thought were crows were actually bald eagles swooping above him, cleaning fishermen’s nets.


“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Don muses. “Back home, if an eagle’s around it’s a big deal, but here there were 30 or 40 of them just flying around us.”




Photo by Karen Romano Young



Many ICESCAPE scientists marveled at the bald eagles as they waited to board the Healy, docked in Unalaska’s international port, Dutch Harbor. Maybe you’ve heard of Dutch Harbor, made famous by the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch. Here more than 350 fishing vessels haul in the greatest amount of fish of any port in the nation, bringing back crab, halibut, salmon, and rockfish from the Bering Sea.




Known as “the Cadillac of the Coast Guard” for its comfortable accommodations, the icebreaker Healy will be our home for the next five weeks. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)



Perhaps you’ve seen images of Unalaska’s Holy Ascension Russian Orthodox Cathedral — a remnant from Alaska’s early explorers — or know of Fort Schwatka, constructed to protect Unalaska from Japanese attacks in World War II. ICESCAPE scientists explored the town Sunday morning, stocked up on snacks, batteries, and extra layers at local supply stores, and some even hiked Bunker Hill for a panoramic view. Treeless, snowcapped mountains extend into the ocean and the sun shines until 11:30 p.m.




A community member rests outside the Holy Ascension Russian Orthodox Cathedral after Sunday Mass. The cathedral was built between 1894-1896 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)



The science party moved aboard the Healy Sunday afternoon and spent Monday unpacking and setting up their gear, much of which was shipped from their research institutions long ago. Life aboard is bustling as they configure all kinds of equipment like spectrophotometers, the Imaging FlowCytoBot, and the automated UV oxygen titrator in the Healy’s science labs. In spare moments they move into three-person staterooms with many spacious compartments, configure ship e-mail, and learn how to use the pagers the Coast Guard issued to each person. We all have unique numbers to get in touch quickly on this 420-foot ship!



On the foredeck of the Healy, chief scientist Kevin Arrigo’s research team assembles incubators to do experiments with phytoplankton. (Photo by Haley Smith Kingsland)



The Healy leaves port at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning for 37 days at sea. You can learn more about Dutch Harbor and the history of the Aleutians at www.unalaska.info.


Onboard the Icebreaker in Dutch Harbor

Dutch Harbor, Alaska, June 13 – The scientific teams that will be heading to the Arctic on NASA’s first scientific ocean voyage moved their gear and themselves onto the U.S. Coast Guard’s icebreaker Healy. Tonight will be the first of many nights on the Healy for the ICESCAPE crew as they prepare for the five-week voyage.


This afternoon after receiving berth assignments and a safety briefing, the scientists and technicians discussed the immediate work ahead: setting up instruments, equipment and laboratory space. There will be a whirlwind of activity on the Healy all day Monday to get everything in place and in working order. The ship is scheduled to leave Dutch Harbor early Tuesday morning.


You can now follow the ICESCAPE voyage on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ICESCAPE2010



Boarding the Healy. 

Photos: NASA/Steve Cole