July 27, 2015

Pick it up and pack it away

I began packing my personal gear for the cruise in May when I squeezed my winter clothes and two months worth of toiletries into the spaces around science gear to fill coolers (pictured in Resting Easier post), which are currently stowed on the Healy. Following our work in Seattle aboard the Healy, I began organizing all of my possessions, deciding what to take to Alaska and what to leave behind in Miami. Since this cruise embarks at the beginning of a typical housing lease period (Aug. 1-July 31), I decided to skip signing a lease this year and move all of my belongings into a storage unit. One of the benefits to spending a couple months at sea, aside from the great scientific and travel opportunities, is that it is a great way to cut down on spending (on food, entertainment, and in ideal cases like this one, rent). I’ll get to food and entertainment in later posts, but for now I thought it’d be nice to share a little about the things that I’m leaving behind.

My beautiful storage unit and belongings.

In the above image, you probably just see someone else’s junk, which hurts (a little). What I see looking at this photo is a box filled with negatives and a broken Nikon FM2 camera that sparked my interest in photography. I see blueprints of houses that I helped build in San Antonio and a bookcase that I designed ten years ago, before moving to Colorado. I also see a summer’s supply of water from the back of a truck and a bunch of other great memories that led me to where I am now, in grad school pursuing my PhD in marine chemistry at the University of Miami.

Anyway, aside from the stale memories that I locked away, I’ve said a lot of goodbyes to people and places since returning from Seattle a month ago. One of the places that I will miss is the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School campus, where I’ve gotten used to spending my weekdays working (in the building on the right, just behind the satellite dish), and on my weekends have frequented the beach behind the RV F.G. Walton Smith.

Aerial view of the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (photo from the RSMAS Blog post "Miami Missions").

A group of people that I’ve said goodbye to is my lab — the Hansell Lab — who have previously accompanied me on long cruises during grad school, and it feels odd not having them with me on this one. I’m am lucky to have them support me with my blog efforts, and I know that they will lift my spirits when the trying days grow longer when the Healy goes north and the stations, sampling and analysis seem to never end. Hopefully I can capture aspects of those long days that shed light on Arctic Ocean and the science that the GEOTRACES and Repeat Hydrography teams will be conducting at sea.

The Hansell Lab in Antarctica on February 7, 2013. From left to right: Dennis, Sarah, Meredith and me. Not pictured: Cristina (postdoc), Lillian and Wenhao (lab technicians), and a group of hardworking undergrads.

As I write this, Ryan and I are flying in a 757 to Anchorage, and we’ll be landing in about an hour. I won’t be writing any posts until after we arrive in Dutch Harbor (on Aug. 4), but I’ll be sure to post (non-cruise related) photos to Instagram and Twitter, so be sure to follow me there to see what we’re up to!

—AA

July 10, 2015

Resting Easier

After packing all of our science equipment and personal gear to be shipped from Miami to Seattle (Figure 1), I knew that I wouldn’t be resting easy until after arriving in Seattle and loading our stuff onto the ship. But oddly, after spending the week of June 15-19 in Seattle moving everything on board and stocking up on ground coffee, chocolate, cashews and candied ginger for the long cruise, I didn’t feel any different. Over the past week my feelings changed, and now I realize why they hadn’t changed until writing this. But before I get to that, I want to share what our work in Seattle loading the USCGC Healy was like!

Figure 1. All of our equipment underneath the Science Library and Administrative Building (SLAB) at University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) on May 29. The five black boxes on the left contain instruments for analyzing the pH, total alkalinity and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) of seawater (a.k.a., the CO2 system in seawater). For the most part, the grey bins contain sample bottles for the CO2 system. The coolers on the right contain sample bottles and supplies for the analysis of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), which will be analyzed at RSMAS after they return to Miami in November.

On the afternoon of the 15th, Ryan picked me up from the bus station in Seattle’s International District (I spent the weekend in Portland visiting a friend), and then we grabbed some dinner and talked about our plans for the next few days before heading to the hotel and crashing after our long days/weekends of travel.

The next morning, we got to the Coast Guard base before 9 am. We assumed we wouldn’t be able to accomplish much since equipment was still being craned onto the ship, but we were happy to at least get a nice view of the city from the Healy (Figure 2). We were both thrilled to see how big the Healy is, since neither of us have sailed on it before, and we were both impressed. The Healy is a 420-foot-long icebreaker (or cutter), which is one the biggest non-nuclear polar icebreaker in the world. The Healy will be home to over 100 people (about 50 are scientists) during our upcoming 65-day cruise, and Ryan and I were happy with the layout of the ship, the location of our lab van, and most of all, we were excited to see new and familiar faces that we’ll get to know even better during the cruise.

Figure 2. View of Seattle from the USCGC Healy on June 16.
During the following two days, all of our equipment was craned next to our lab van (known as “the carbon van”) on the 02 deck, and Ryan and I began unpacking, arranging and securing the lab (tying everything down with rope, string or bungees). While we were in the carbon van those two days, I set up a camera and made a time-lapse video of the process (Video 1), which I hope you enjoy.

Video 1. Arranging and securing our lab in the carbon van on the USCGC Healy, June 17-18.

Anyway, I am fortunate to participate in the cruise and contribute to the groundbreaking science that will result from it, and this blog is my way of sharing some of that with you. I am excited about the cruise, but most of all, I am excited about sharing the experience with you. Finally, after months of putting this blog website together and not sharing it with anyone, I am so excited to share it with you. I am excited that I can finally rest easy knowing that this platform for learning about the Arctic, Earth science and life at sea is available to you.


—AA