August 18, 2015

A turn in the left direction

At the beginning of the cruise, our Chief Scientist, Prof. Dave Kadko, made it known that the sea ice in the Beaufort Sea/Canadian Basin had shifted, becoming thicker, which could affect our northward cruise track. One option given was to stick to the original route that goes northward through the Canadian Basin, returning south on the more western route (a counterclockwise track, following the map from About the Cruise). The alternative option was to do this portion of the cruise backwards (a clockwise track instead), which as it turns out, is what we’ll be doing.

During the science meeting on our first day aboard the Healy, the Coast Guard made it clear that if we went northward on the more eastern route, we may have to turn around before reaching the Pole since breaking through so much thick ice would consume too much fuel and time. On that same day (the 9th), Dave stated that the final decision on the northward route would be made once we’ve arrived at station 7 (blue shelf station just north of 70°N, found on map in And so it begins), which we passed yesterday (the 17th).

Screenshot from my computer with the Healy’s science map server open, with an overlay of sea ice analysis from the National Ice Center (NIC) from the 17th. Our cruise track so far is marked by the red lines, and the Healy’s location as I write this is marked by a red dot and boat outline. To see our current location as you read this, click here.
If we had gone east to the Canadian Basin, we would be in thick ice for a longer period of time during the cruise, which would have cost us in fuel, time and sampling.
Prior to arriving at station 7, the seas picked up and were a little too rough for us to sample the intermediate Chukchi shelf station, so we steamed passed it in a north-northwestern direction. If we would have stopped to sample at station 7, sampling would have taken longer (harder to prepare, deploy and recover instruments when it’s rough out), and sampling would have been limited. Our hope now is that we can sample at that location in October if there is still time.

View from the Healy’s webcam above the bridge in the early afternoon of the 17th, when the old station 7 would have occurred. Small waves are pictured, crashing into the bow of the ship, making sea spray.
We are currently about three hours from the new station 7, which will be the first of thirty-eight Repeat Hydrography stations (or CLIVAR stations on map in And so it begins). The current latitude is 72° 55.476’ N, meaning that we’re north of the Arctic Circle, and in the Northern Domain of the Polar Bear.

Next post will be on our schedules at sea! I have some exciting photos to share, so stay tuned!