Fourth Joint Canada - US Extended Continental Shelf Survey in the Arctic (2011)
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Overview of the Mission
The primary mission of the scientific team of the Canada-US Arctic Survey using CCGS Louis S. St- Laurent will be surveying Canada’s continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. This is the fourth extended continental shelf survey and is undertaken jointly with the United States Coast Guard Cutter Healy. The two vessels will collect seismic and bathymetric data that will also assist navigation and increase scientific knowledge of Canada’s Arctic waters
In collaboration with Natural Resources Canada and Foreign Affairs & International Trade Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Canadian Hydrographic Service is assembling valuable data needed to prepare Canada’s submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Canada ratified the Convention in November 2003 and will make its submission by December 2013.
Hans Böggild is a writer, director and actor and lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St-Laurent Departs for Arctic Supporting Science and Northern Shipping
Canadian Hydrographic Service
Canada’s Ocean Estate: A Description of Canada’s Maritime Zones
Canadian Coast Guard’s role in the Arctic
Canada’s Extended Continental Shelf
Tracking their position
Follow the position of CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent and the US Coast Guard Cutter Healy on this site: http://www.sailwx.info/shiptrack/shipposition.phtml?call=CGBN
The “Healy” also has a web camera on the crowsnest and posts hourly images of the ice ahead of the ship: http://mgds.ldeo.columbia.edu/healy/reports/aloftcon/2011/
Published August 18, 2011
August 18th– Day One of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
Scientists and ship’s crew arrived from all over Canada this morning and converged in Kugluktuk Airport for the beginning of a six-week scientific expedition in the High Arctic. There were many old friends re-united and many new introductions made. It was a slightly rainy morning with the sun trying to burn through, but the social atmosphere was energized with the spirit of exploration and discovery. It is a diverse and eclectic group of scientists, experienced mariners, and staff who will participate in this voyage aboard CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent.
While members of the expedition gathered in Kugluktuk Airport, the process of transporting personnel to the ship continued for many hours today. The ship, anchored just offshore from the airport in Coronation Gulf, is a short but thrilling helicopter ride away. The helicopter made a hundred and eighty-two trips transporting people in groups of three and four, and their luggage, from the Nunavut mainland to the ship. On the helicopter’s trips back to the airport, the crew from the previous voyage returned to shore. With the exception of three people aboard prior to today, the ninety-four people on Louis St-Laurent tonight are a fresh crew. As individuals arrived on board throughout the day, those who had more experience with the ship helped those arriving for the first time get used to the vessel’s physical layout and geography.
It promises to be a fascinating expedition. Seismic exploration will gather data from many kilometers below the ocean floor in areas that have never been examined in this manner before. Scientists will also conduct tests and gather data from the ocean floor to its surface, and further up into the air. New technologies will be deployed, and some of them for the first time.
Published August 19, 2011
August 19th – Day Two of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
After a muster drill last evening which established the stations where everyone aboard CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent should go in an emergency, the anchor was hauled up and we began the first transit phase of the expedition. By late this morning we had passed through most of Dolphin and Union Strait just south of Victoria Island and entered Amundsen Trough heading towards the Amundsen Gulf.
These are historic areas on the Arctic map, visited by many early explorers. Among them, Norwegian Roald Amundsen navigated these waters in his ship, the Gjoa, starting in 1903 and ending in 1905. That voyage was to become the first successful route through the Northwest Passage, an elusive goal that had inspired and eluded explorers for hundreds of years. The Gjoa was a much smaller ship than had been used by earlier explorers of the same area, and was perhaps more suited to navigating through the ice. Amundsen also listened to and followed advice from local Inuit about surviving in Arctic conditions and eating local food.
Thirty-five years later, from 1940 to 1942, Henry Larsen navigated through these waters as Captain of the RCMP vessel St. Roch, and was the first to complete the Northwest Passage from west to east. He took the same route as Amundsen, but in the opposite direction. After a refit in Halifax, Larsen returned across the Arctic from east to west, taking a more northerly route, becoming the first to traverse a Northwest Passage in both directions.
As our ship passed through these historic waters today, the scientific team participated in an orientation session about safety procedures and the use of survival equipment. All of us had a chance to put on immersion suits, and to learn the proper procedures regarding life jackets and emergency drills. Following this we took a tour through the ship, starting at the bridge, and working our way down through the decks. On our second day, I think all of us are getting a better sense of where everything is located on board.
Published August 20, 2011
August 20th – Day Three of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
This morning we left the Amundsen Gulf and entered the Beaufort Sea. We navigated through a corridor that has been mapped for pingos, structures presently sticking up from the bottom, composed of upwelling frozen permafrost, methane, minerals, and ores. These can be a hazard for shipping, especially those which are now hidden from view under the water. While pingos don’t form underwater, many of them currently are underwater, illustrating how sea level has risen. Having successfully navigated through the pingo field, we arrived at an area just off the coast north of Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories. Here the ship will wait offshore to be refueled. From the bow of the ship a large pingo sticking above the water surface could be seen on the south south-east horizon. It looked like an island.
The sky was a brilliant blue today and the surface of the sea could be seen quite clearly. Occasionally there were brown patches on the water, apparently sediment and sand which has drained out of the mouth of the Mackenzie River, and becomes suspended and moved around by the ocean currents. The depth of the water is relatively shallow here, so a barge will come out to the ship with the diesel fuel needed for the voyage further north.
Helicopter Pilot Chris Swannell conducted a safety course on the flight deck for everyone who will be flying as passengers in the ship’s helicopter, a bright red five-seater. There is much to consider in terms of best safety practices, especially in regards to Arctic conditions. One must crouch down while approaching the helicopter and only approach from the front where the pilot can see you. And that’s just the start of it. There are many other safety features and equipment specifically designed for emergencies and rescue situations. This includes a laser flashlight used to signal passing planes if stranded, and a portable GPS unit in the left hand pocket each of the passenger life jackets.
Seismic scientists and technicians worked though the day readying their equipment on the stern of the ship in preparation for deployment when we rendezvous with U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy in the coming days. The high pressure hoses, the hydrophone cables, the compressor, and the seismic array were all being prepared for action today.
In the evening there was a meeting of the scientific staff, where Dr. David Mosher, Chief Scientist, outlined the voyage plan for the seismic exploration. Our planned course will take us as far north as latitude 88.5. Captain Marc Rothwell informed us that due to the delays of the fuel barge coming from Tuktoyaktuk, that we would forge north immediately and get the needed fuel from the Healy, which carries an extra supply.
As we headed north from Tuk, the waves and the sea swell made the ship toss and turn as it moved forward. For those of us unused to seagoing travel it was an introduction to the physical sensations one gets at sea from constant movement. One of the experienced crew confirmed for me that, “This is nothing.”
Published August 21, 2011
August 21st – Day Four of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
By early this morning we had travelled roughly a hundred miles north from Tuktoyaktuk into the Beaufort Sea. The rocking of the ship had settled down considerably. Around 6 am, we hit our first patch of ocean ice which could be heard scraping against the ship’s hull as we moved through it. Looking out a port hole, I witnessed a sea of ice chunks approximately fifteen feet long and six feet wide, and other larger chunks which were white on top and cobalt blue on the bottom. It was breathtaking for someone like me who has never seen Arctic ice before, especially the way the sea surged between the various chunks as the ship passed through them. Coast Guard Ice Observer Barbara Molyneaux explained that the larger chunks with the blue were multi-year ice, and the smaller chunks were first-year ice. The ice we were passing through was apparently a mixture of both kinds. I’m told that the ice will become even more interesting as we continue further north.
Around 9:30 it was announced over the ship’s PA system, “There’s a polar bear off the starboard beam, if anyone’s interested.” I rushed to a starboard deck with my camera, but missed it. We were going about ten knots at the time. I was assured by my ship mates that there will be more opportunities to see them as the voyage progresses.
Later in the morning I went to visit a container near the stern of the ship where Tech Rodger Oulton showed me the air compressor setup used to power the seismic work. A powerful diesel engine drives a crank shaft which builds air pressure in the compressor up to levels of 2000 PSI. The compressed air will travel through high pressure hoses to the seismic guns to create the initial sound wave that sensors will later pick up as data for analysis of the earth’s crust beneath the ocean floor. Rodger and a colleague have been testing the machinery and essentially calibrating it so that the optimum pressure can be maintained for the seismic guns which will need to fire every seventeen seconds.
Shortly after that I went down to the stern where Nelson Ruben was assembling and adjusting the mechanical parts of the seismic array. This consists of machined and brushed steel parts hanging from an impressive bright orange cradle which is located at the very back of the ship. Nelson explained that the three seismic guns he was assembling will need to fire at exactly the same time. Nelson is Inuit and one of the many things he does the rest of the year is fish for Arctic Char in his hometown Paulatuk. The fish he caught this year weighed between ten and twenty pounds each and he distributes them to members of his community beginning with the elders. He explained that, “In a small town, no-one goes hungry.” Later in the expedition, Nelson will work as a Marine Mammal Observer along with his brother John and his cousin Dale who are also on board. As Marine Mammal Observer’s the three of them will rotate in 8 hour shifts, keeping a watch for wildlife 24 hours a day. The purpose of this is to ensure that no wildlife will be harmed as a result of any scientific tests.
Published August 29, 2011
August 22nd – Day Five of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
It was announced on the ship’s PA this morning that caution on the outside decks is advisable because the decks are slippery with ice. Even though the decks have been salted, this means no hands in pockets, and one hand should always be free to grab onto the outside railings. We have reached over 76 degrees north in the Canada Basin of the Arctic Ocean. The Louis S. St-Laurent is ahead of schedule in terms of our planned rendezvous with U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy.
The Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) is currently being assembled in the hangar.
Preparation of the AUV in the hangar of the Louis. Photo by Hans Boggild
The AUV was developed by International Submarine Engineering Limited, Canada (ISE) for the UNCLOS program to fill the need to map inaccessible areas. Richard Pederson of Defense Research Development Canada (DRDC) has been with the project from its conception and told me about some of the things it can do. It can be disassembled and flown in a Twin Otter aircraft to remote locations. It has a range up to 440 kilometers. The bright yellow AUV is powered by batteries, weighs 1800 kilograms, and is equipped with multiple systems for navigation, ballasting, communication, and of course, surveying. It maneuvers in much the same way as a plane with a propeller pushing it forward from its stern. When submerged, it “flies” through the water. When it is deployed it will head out on its own under the Arctic ice, and descend to a level 100 metres from the sea floor to collect ocean depth information. After 48 hours it will come back to the mother ship using an innovative system of sound chirps. The chirps enable it to find its way home and also send information to its operators about its current state.
I had an interesting talk with Dr. Deborah Hutchinson, Research Scientist, Marine Geologist and US Liaison, about gravity. Deborah told me about the gravity sensor on a lower deck of our ship which collects gravity readings through the voyage. Gravity varies with ocean depth and also with the composition of the materials that comprise the bottom. A denser rock formation in the earth would give us a higher gravity reading. Having clear readings of gravity at any point in the voyage helps us interpret the seismic data. These readings are matched with information about depth and position to support the seismic results.
Chief Scientist Dr. David Mosher told us at the nightly meeting of science staff that we will rendezvous with the Healy tomorrow morning. He also told us that seismic testing will begin tomorrow night. There’s a lot of fascinating science happening on this voyage, and I’ll comment on more of it as we continue north.
Published August 29, 2011
August 23rd – Day Six of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
Photo of the two ships in the ice in seismic operation mode, with the Healy breaking ice in front of the Louis. photo by Hans Boggild.
Our deck crew was up early this morning preparing for the arrival of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy, which appeared off the bow of CCGS Louis St-Laurent around 9:30. It was inspiring to see these two polar exploration ships from two Arctic nations coming together for the common purpose of mapping the Arctic Ocean. The Louis maneuvered alongside the Healy f lawlessly, and soon crews from both ships installed a gangway between them. Presently the Louis is refueling from the Healy diesel supply, and crews from each ship are touring the other. It’s fun to watch counterparts from each ship exchanging greetings and discussing insights about the Arctic, Arctic Science, and Arctic navigation. We are currently at 78 degrees north on a sunny day in the Arctic Ocean. We’re surrounded by a calm sea of first-year ice that stretches out in all directions to the horizon.
USCGC Healy Captain Havlik and CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent Captain Rothwell (photo Don Glencross)
I walked across the gangway onto the Healy’s flight deck and was welcomed aboard. Ensign Evan Steckle gave me a tour of the ship from top to bottom. We climbed a few ladders going straight up until we got to the Healy’s version of a crow’s-nest. The observation tower, called “Aloftconn”, is 111 feet above sea level and gives an amazing view providing 13 miles visibility out over the ocean. It’s very handy in terms of providing an advance visual of ice conditions. They can also drive the ship from up there if they wish. Evan then showed me the bridge, and took me down to the engine room to show me the ship’s four huge diesel engines capable of 70,000 horsepower.
In one of the many science areas, Tami Beduhn, a hydrographer from the University of New Hampshire, showed me some of the map making capabilities aboard the Healy. The multi-beam bathymetric sounder can map the ocean floor in a swath as wide as 70 degrees as the ship moves along. The single beam sounder is employed simultaneously and can gather data from as deep as 40 metres into the sea floor. As this information is gathered it immediately imports into a computer graphical interface, called Map Server, which shows all of the areas that the ship has analyzed as a map. It’s a very cool setup.
Santa Clause (Mark Rowsome) piping in the Healy as the two vessels raft together for fuel transfer.
Back home on board the Louis, I ran into Kurt Stewart, the Healy’s Marine Science Technician Chief, who had come over for a visit. He services the needs of the many different kinds of scientists who come aboard his ship. He describes the Healy as, “A science platform with ice-breaking capabilities.” It reminded me of something I overheard someone say aboard the Healy, “The Polar Class ships are icebreakers that also do science. The Healy is a science ship that also breaks ice.”
It just came over Louis’ PA that it’s time for all crew members to return to their respective ships by 20:00. The ships will disengage shortly and begin moving further north together over the same area. Healy will capture bathymetry while Louis will capture seismic data. It’s been a fantastic day that marks the beginning of a significant collaboration on this expedition.
Published August 29, 2011
August 24th – Day Seven of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
USCGC Healy (in distance) and CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent in survey formation. Photo by David Mosher
This morning we are cruising just behind the Healy and it’s another beautiful Arctic day with lots of blue sky. CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent has its bubbler system on, which shoots compressed air into the water creating bubbles and currents that push drift ice away from the vessel as we move forward. Seismic exploration started late last night.
Marine Mammal Observer Nelson Ruben on watch (photo Don Glencross)
After breakfast I visited Marine Mammal Observer Nelson Ruben up on “Monkey Island”, the observation deck just above the bridge. The view of the Arctic Ocean is stunning from this vantage point. Nelson was sitting in a small plywood structure which has been built so he can spend his eight-hour shift with some protection from the elements. Nelson seemed happy to have a visitor and showed me his equipment which consisted of a rangefinder, a sophisticated pair of optical binoculars, a GPS unit, and a ship’s radio connected to the bridge. In the event that a mammal comes within 1000 metres of the ship, Nelson contacts the bridge and seismic work is suspended until the mammal leaves the area. During the process, he keeps his binoculars trained on the animal. Nelson knows where to look in the ice patterns for signs of mammal activity, and his eyes are accustomed to distinguishing polar bears which are often camouflaged by the white background of the ice. It’s a way of seeing that comes with experience. Nelson told me that larger polar bears “Can be over twelve feet from tail to nose.” He’s seen polar bears so large that he can get two of his boots inside one of their paw prints. He says that this time of year there’s often a chase happening on the ice, with polar bears either stalking a seal or actively pursuing it, sometimes with short-lived but powerful bursts of speed.
I walked down to the afterdeck to see the seismic exploration in action. The seismic array, which the team has spent the last week assembling, was now 11.5 metres below the water surface suspended from two heavy-duty wires off the back of the ship. The array’s three pneumatic guns fire simultaneously in intervals ranging between 13 and 17 seconds, depending on the ocean depth, and create sound waves. These waves reflect back from deep in the earth’s subsurface and are received by a hydrophone array, and their time of arrival is recorded by instruments on the ship. An analysis of these data gives a clear picture of the earth’s layers beneath the ocean floor to tens of kilometres depth.
The seismic instrument room is very hi-tech. It has an impressive row of computer screens showing different and immediate results of the ongoing tests, all of which are recorded and backed up frequently. Marine Geologist Dr. Deborah Hutchinson gave me an explanation for each of the screens. There’s a screen that monitors the seismic array, another that graphically shows the density of the subsurface and the depth of the tests, another that shows our current position, and two bathymetric screens showing the current depth to the ocean floor. All of the screens are monitored constantly.
Later I went up to the flight deck and ran into Chief Scientist Dr. David Mosher. He was getting into flight gear, and getting ready to get in the helicopter to deploy a sonobuoy twenty five miles in front of the ship. Sonobuoys were originally developed for anti-submarine warfare during World War II, and since then, they’ve been modified for seismic research. They are another form of hydrophone that receives reflected and refracted sound waves from a different distance and position. The sonobuoys transmit received sound with radio waves back to the ship. Their use helps give scientists greater dimension to their seismic results.
Published September 2, 2011
August 25th – Day Eight of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
At 7:00 this morning we reached 80 degrees north in the Arctic Ocean. The ship’s Public Address (PA) system announced our current distance from a variety of Canadian cities. Halifax, Victoria, and St. John’s were mentioned among them. The announcement had the combined effect of reminding us of home and confirming that our shared journey north is indeed an excellent adventure.
After breakfast I visited with Stoyka Netcheva, an Atmospheric Scientist with Environment Canada, and leader of the Canadian O-Buoy Team. The O-Buoy is a self-contained fully automated Arctic buoy that will be installed on the ice and can measure Arctic air for up to two years. This enables the scientific community to monitor air composition over the Arctic Oceanon a long term, a capability that previously has not existed. Whenever sunlight is available it operates on solar power, and through the dark winter period it is powered by lithium batteries. It can gather information about the atmosphere from sea-level to as high up to and including the troposphere. Records of the information are available for public viewing on the internet.
The buoy is loaded with high precision instruments to measure meteorological data. It also includes a GPS and a webcam used for time-lapse photography of ice and weather conditions. One of the buoy’s most exciting features, which can be employed in the months of sun, is its ability to capture the solar spectrum which can then be analyzed to determine chemical content in the atmosphere. Because light is absorbed differently by different gases present in the air, the spectral analysis of light gives information about the air’s chemical composition.
When an opportunity arises, Stoyka will be flown by the ship’s helicopter to a suitable spot on the Arctic ice, and install the O-Buoy. This will involve drilling a hole in the ice, assembling the buoy’s components, and testing its functionality before leaving it to gather the important information it’s designed to capture.
Published September 2, 2011
August 26th – Day Nine of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
We’re 81.8 degrees north this morning. Ice Observer Barbara Molyneaux told me that the ice conditions are 9/10. As we move further north, ice is becoming more dominant over the small patches of open sea water. Soon, they tell me, there will be no patches of open water and ice conditions will be 10/10. Ice conditions tell the story of our movement north.
On the ship’s PA we learned our current distances from both Bay Roberts and Corner Brook. It was also announced that our Videographer Don Glencross became a father for the third time, and in Halifax his wife delivered a baby girl, Darcy, six pounds, into the world. It’s a great day to be born. I ca n relate to that, because at home my son Kai turns eighteen today. Ship’s Cook Blair Walsh got news from home that his son played well in a provincial pee-wee baseball tournament on the team that Blair normally coaches when he’s home in Conception Bay. We’ve been at sea for just over a week, and everyone aboard the ship feels part of a community.
Every morning at 8:30, the AUV team meets to discuss their progress. The team has been working in the hangar on their “pre-dive” plan. Richard Pederson explains that Chief Scientist Dr. David Mosher has given them a clearly defined mission and route to survey. Given these clear parameters for the sub’s mission, the team is presently configuring potential responses for the AUV depending on what it may encounter beneath the surface. Pre-programming fault responses is designed to give the sub a clear action response depending on its current state, other variables, and combinations of variables. There are up to eighty different alternative responses that are pre-programmed into the AUV for potential situations it may encounter.
Launch of UAV from Monkey's Island on CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent by Captain Stephen Wackowski of the US Air Force. Photo by Hans Boggild
Just after 11:00, many of us gathered on “Monkey Island”, the deck above the bridge, to watch U.S. Air Force Captain Steve Wackowski fly the RQ11-A Raven, an “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle” out over the Arctic Ocean. The small remote-controlled plane was recently used in Iraq and Afghanistan as a reconnaissance drone. Steve was testing how the radio waves used to control the plane would propagate over ice, and this unit has never before flown in the Arctic off a ship. Steve easily launched the plane by starting its propeller and throwing it into the air off the deck.
Infra-Red image of USCGC Healy taken by the UAV in a fly-over. Photo by Steve Wackowski
Taking its controls he circled it over CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent taking aerial video which we could view on a small screen on the deck. The plane also flew around the Healy which was breaking ice a fair distance ahead of us. The plane has a range of 10 kilometres and Steve is excited by its potential use in the Arctic for ice reconnaissance.
Published September 2, 2011
August 27th – Day Ten of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
There were a few difficulties late last night with air hoses leading to the pneumatic guns used in seismic exploration. Two of the air guns had to be pulled up from their position off the stern and the hydro-phonic streamers became stressed by contact with ice. The Seismic Team, experienced working together in Arctic conditions, was up most of the night and had everything functioning in top form by mid-day. The collection of this detailed information about the earth’s crust beneath the ocean floor in the High Arctic is really quite amazing when you think of it. The acquisition of this information about the remote and complex region is a tall order, subject to exacting standards, i n all kinds of conditions. This endeavor highlights the notion that anything worth having doesn’t come easy. This Seismic Team is world-renowned in this field and their level of expertise is inspiring.
The AUV Team continues testing the sub’s technology in the hangar. As well as the many technical tasks underway, the team is planning to affix the name of the sub on the side of the vehicle. The name, QAUJISATI, means “Great Traveler Explorer” in Inuktitut. This name is very appropriate considering the exploratory work the sub will be doing when it is deployed. QAUJISATI was given its name by Tom and Jopee Kiguktak, wildlife monitors from Grise Fiord, Nunavut.
Scientist Jane Eert is organizing a game for everyone on board Louis to play over the next several days. It’s called “The Murder Game”. Each person on the ship draws a card and is given two hex nuts to carry around with them. The person who draws the Queen of Spades is the “murderer” and has to find other people when they are alone, “murder” them by declaring that they are dead, and then collect their hex nuts. If another person figures out who the murderer is as the game progresses, they call them on that, and effectively “kill” the “killer”. At that point, they become the murderer and must finish off everyone left on board. Those left standing at the end of the game are the winners. It promises to provide moments of mystery, intrigue, surprise, and a great deal of fun in the process.
Chief scientist deploying a sonobuoy from the helicopter. Photo by Steve Wackowski (US Air Force).
I had the opportunity this afternoon to join Chief Scientist Dr. David Mosher and Geologist John Evangelatos in the helicopter as they deployed a sonobuoy. Pilot Chris Swannell took off from the flight deck affording us excellent aerial views of CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent and U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy cruising just ahead of us. I was in the front passenger seat and the view of Arctic ice spreading out beneath us was breathtaking as we flew roughly twenty miles north. We decided on a particular patch of open water in the ice to deploy the buoy and the helicopter descended and hovered over it. At the same time, Dr. Mosher leaned out of the helicopter door and dropped the buoy into the water. Gaining altitude, we turned around, and returned to the Louis. There’s nothing quite like a ride on a small helicopter in the High Arctic.
August 28th – Day Eleven of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
We’re currently at 84.3 degrees north, on a calm and slightly foggy Sunday, and we are moving forward at a speed of four knots. This is our average speed for seismic exploration. Captain Marc Rothwell and his officers are doing their Sunday inspection of the vessel, ensuring that everything on the ship meets the high standards aboard CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent.
Stoyka Netcheva is busy in the hangar testing all the systems on her O-Buoy. It’s an impressive-looking array of high tech instruments designed to capture a myriad of Arctic atmospheric conditions. Stoyka needed to test the instrument that measures wind velocity but had a little problem because of the lack of wind this morning. So instead of asking a couple of deck hands to blow on it, she tap ed her personal hair dryer on a nearby post to make the small fan on the velocity meter spin. Necessity is the mother of invention.
I had a chance to talk to Physical Oceanographer Jane Eert who works for the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney B.C. which is part of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. We met in an outside container on the upper deck where she analyzes the tests she conducts on the properties of the sea water in the Beaufort Gyre. The Beaufort Gyre is a huge slowly moving semi-circular wind-driven current or eddy which covers the Beaufort Sea and areas of the Canada Basin. It is like a huge liquid flywheel that is hundreds of miles across. It collects relatively fresh water from the Pacific coming through the Bering Strait and from river basins which all gather in the Gyre and spread out in different layers. Much of this water works its way through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and past Greenland and ultimately out into the North Atlantic. At the same time there is water from as far away as the Atlantic that is also within the slowly moving gyre. The tests that Jane conducts can help us to understand the circulation of Arctic waters and how this has changed in recent years. It’s an important piece of the puzzle in terms of understanding climate change and the implications it may have on ecology not only in the Arctic, but in the world. There are a number of factors that the physical properties of the water reveal about where the water has come from, where it’s going, and the speed it is moving. These properties include temperature, salinity, and acidification, as well as nutrient content, plankton concentration, and chemical content. Satellites can’t tell us this information because they can’t read conditions below the ocean’s surface, so oceanographers need to physically collect water samples.
CTD/rosette system. Photo by Jennifer Nield.
One of the methods that Jane employs to collect water samples is called the CTD/rosette system. The rosette is a 5 foot high, 5 foot around, circular array that consists of 24 grey cylindrical tubes with end caps. The CTD pumps sea water past sensors and analyzes it as the unit is lowered deep into the sea until it reaches a depth just ten metres from the sea floor. This information shows up on Jane’s computer as the CTD/rosette is lowered. When the unit is pulled back up Jane can signal the rosette to lock off and save a water sample in one of the grey tubes from any depth. She can then do an analysis of it in her lab aboard the ship once the unit is hoisted back on board.
Jane Eert has been doing this fascinating work for twelve years, in collaboration with a number of international partners, including Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the United States. Collecting this information over time gives us valuable insights about how the oceans in the Arctic have changed, are changing, and what kinds of conditions we might expect in the future.
Published September 2, 2011
August 29th – Day Twelve of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
Last evening when we were at 85 degrees north, it was announced over the ship’s PA that we were 300 miles from the North Pole. This morning we are at 85.43 degrees north and the temperature outside is minus one Celsius. We are encountering heavier ice floes which are under heavier pressure as we push further north. Because we are towing the seismic array off the back of the ship we need to move relatively slowly so as not to disturb the array’s position in the water. This limits our maneuverability somewhat. Captain Marc Rothwell and his crew are doing a tremendous job balancing the needs of the ship as it moves through the Arctic ice with the requirements of maintaining the seismic array’s position as it trails behind the ship.
The AUV Team is now just four days away from deploying QAUJISATI. Yesterday the sub was out on the flight deck, providing an excellent location for everyone to have their picture taken with it. Today the team continues to check on and test the accuracy of all of its systems. One of the systems, the ATS, or Acoustic Tracking System, is a new prototype that was just installed in June. The team is very interested to see this system’s range when the sub is deployed under the Arctic ice. The hope is that it will be tens of kilometers.
Meanwhile, the Murder Game is continuing and there have been some twists and turns in the plot as it unfolds. I’m hearing that a number of my fellow voyagers have been “knocked off” by the killer in various locations on the ship. I’ve also heard that the killer has changed, and that the original killer was exposed by one of their intended victims, who then became the killer. That’s how the game works. I realize of course that this news of the changed killer may be just rumor, a social phenomenon that has occurred on ships since humans started going to sea. I overheard someone say yesterday that they had been killed, and that “he” did it just next to the ship’s gym on the 500 deck. That led me to believe that the killer was male, something I concluded by a simple process of deduction. Now, however, with the reported change in killer, I cannot exclude the possibility that the current killer could be one of the many women aboard this ship! I guess I should count my blessings that I’m still alive. Where is Hercule Poirot when we need him? It will soon be time for lunch. I will take the odd look over my shoulder as I make my way to the galley.
Photo Credit: Barb Molyneaux
After lunch, the ice is becoming considerably thicker. It is also under greater pressure. U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy is breaking ice just ahead of us, and that ice is tending to immediately close in behind Healy as it pushes through, illustrating the pressure. Previously, Healy was leaving a trail through the ice in its wake, but that is not the case at the moment.
As a result of the slow speed that we must maintain for the integrity of our seismic gear and the current ice conditions, the Louis has temporarily stopped. We are encountering heavier ice, evidenced by deep blue colour on some of the larger pans. Healy is backing up to loosen some of the ice that is pushing in on us with enormous pressure from all sides. It is fascinating to watch the epic forces at play here as these two huge ice-breakers maneuver in tandem to overcome the current state of the natural environment. Healy pulled back alongside Louis twice on our starboard side to loosen the heavy ice. This process has freed us from the ice for short periods.
Through the afternoon, Healy doubled back behind us on several occasions. Our partner in this expedition then passed us from behind on both our starboard and port sides to loosen the ice that has been closing in around us and slowing our progress.
Watching the ice today has made it easier for me to understand how many of the early Arctic explorers would become stuck in the ice and have to remain there for a season or two. Ice would close in on them from behind and freeze, locking them in one position and causing them to ration their supplies and forage for food in a harsh and unfamiliar environment. Quite often this action of the ice would seal their fate. We are very lucky to have steel ships with the combined power of a hundred thousand horses.
Later on our voyage of discovery, Louis will take the lead position breaking ice. There is a difference in the way the two ships break ice. Their bows are designed quite differently. Healy’s bow is designed to plow straight through the ice, whereas Louis’ bow is designed to ride up on it then crush it using the enormous weight of the ship to do so.
Published September 6, 2011
August 30th – Day Thirteen of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
We have reached 86 degrees north this morning and ice conditions are 9+/10. Late last night heavy ice caused damage to the seismic array and the ship had to stop. The hydro-phonic streamers, the pneumatic guns, and many other parts of the system were completely rebuilt through the night and are now fully functioning. This major all-night rebuild of the entire seismic system is a stunning achievement by the Seismic Team.
Basemap credit: G.W. Johnson, A.G. Gaylord, J.J. Brady, R. Cody, M. Dover, J.C. Franco, D. Garcia-Lavigne, J.C. Gonzalez, W.F. Manley, R. Score, and C.E. Tweedie, 2009. Arctic Research Mapping Application (ARMAP). Englewood, Colorado USA: CH2M HILL Polar Services. Digital Media. http://www.armap.org
The murder game is approaching its third act climax, with only a few “victims” left wandering around our ship. I was polished off last night going down the stairway to the Crew’s Lounge, and was forced to surrender my hex nuts. I can’t tell you who killed me yet, as that would compromise the game, but I’ll fill you in when it’s over. I’ve heard through the ship’s grape vine, that there have been three or more killers as the game moved through its stages. It will be fun to find out who the winner is when all is revealed at the big finish.
The crew has arranged initiation tests for those of us, like me, who have never been to the Arctic before, the so-called “Arctic Greenhorns”. So if you were on the Louis last night, you would have seen a bunch of us greenhorns in the Forward Lounge standing there with spoons stuck backwards in our mouths, balancing hard-boiled eggs on the end of them, while simultaneously attempting to perform jumping jacks. For some reason, the seasoned crew seemed to be getting a huge charge out of this.
There is also a scavenger hunt for the greenhorns that will continue through the week, with a daily clue for us to solve. When you find the daily mystery spot on the ship, you receive a playing card and a sticker, and at the end of the week the greenhorn with the best poker hand wins something, or perhaps avoids having to walk the plank. We’ll just have to see. Another required test is that each of has to carry a small package of soda crackers with us at all times, and make sure they don’t get crushed. These crackers have to be presented if a member of the crew wants to see them at any time. Heaven help the greenhorn whose crackers are crushed. At the end of the week there will be a talent show, and everyone has to perform. Or at least that’s what I think is going to happen. It’s all in good fun. The spirit onboard Louis is excellent. Everyone works very hard and enjoys each other’s company. I wrote last week that we had very quickly started to feel like a community. Now we’re starting to feel like a family.
So here we are in the high arctic, further north than the vast majority of people on our planet ever get. To say that it is awe inspiring and beautiful, which it is, isn’t really enough. Yesterday I took another trip in the helicopter as a passenger on an ice-reconnaissance mission. We flew another sixty miles north to observe the ice conditions in our path. I felt something similar perhaps to what the early astronauts must have felt when they looked back at the earth from space. One gets a sense of the vast scale of the earth near its top, with ice covering everything in every direction making a complete 360 degrees. There is no denying from this perspective that the earth is a planet spinning in space. Any problems or worries one might have seem completely insignificant from this vantage point. The helicopter turned around to return, and soon we could see two seemingly tiny red ships, Louis and Healy, on a vast endless plain of ice.
Published September 14, 2011
August 31st – Day Fourteen of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
We have reached 87 degrees north latitude and have collected over 1000 kilometres of seismic and multi-beam bathymetry data. We crossed the international dateline this morning, by crossing 180 degrees west longitude. So, it’s actually Thursday in terms of where we are, but we’re going to stick with Wednesday on board our ship. We are moving forward steadily, and the pneumatic guns of the seismic array are firing. This is music to our ears because it indicates that everything is functioning correctly.
I spoke briefly with Captain Marc Rothwell this morning. He is maneuvering the ship around troublesome ice formations while at the same time maintaining the track required for the seismic exploration. This is a great example of seamanship meeting science, of which CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent has a long and proud history.
I have just found out that the fourth and final killer in The Murder Game was Ice Observer Barbara Molyneaux. She took out thirty-four people before she was done. I understand there’s going to be another round of the game later in the voyage.
The scavenger hunt clue this morning for the Arctic Greenhorns was announced over the ship’s PA. It was, “You can punch me and kick me, but pain never inflicts me. What am I?” After the initial befuddlement that always ensues when presented with a riddle, the answer became clear. It was the punching bag in the gym! I now have two cards of a five-card poker hand.
In addition to their duties as scientists or sailors, the Greenhorns have been busy writing poetry on the ship today. The assignment from the Crew to the Greenhorns last night was to write a poem to be recited to Captain Rothwell this evening. We were instructed not to use the words “and”, “on”, or “it” in the poems. The required poetic content must come in the form of a request to the Captain to be invited into King Neptune’s court.
Later on, the poetry reading was a great time! Captain Marc Rothwell, as representative of King Neptune, was attired in pirate garb, with a patch over one eye and a kerchief around his head. He was sitting on a throne in the Forward Lounge, flanked by two r obed monks from the undersea kingdom. Each greenhorn had to kneel in front of the Captain, and recite their poem requesting entrance into Neptune’s realm. The Captain then considered the worthiness of each of the verses, making up his mind as to whether the applicant should be admitted or not. He then delivered his verdict, usually in the form of a punch line to a joke. He was often helped in his decision making by some of the old-salt pirates in the room, like Chief Cook Blair Walsh and Logistics Officer Nathan Whiffen, who would throw in comments like, “Arrrrrgh…” or “Walk the plank!” or “That poem was too short!” The poetry from the Greenhorns was extraordinary, funny, and surprising. There are a lot of great poets on this ship. Most of the poetry was written in English, but some was presented in French and Bulgarian as well. Not everyone got the thumbs up from the Captain, but everyone had a lot of laughs.
Published September 14, 2011
September 1st – Day Fifteen of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
At 7:02 this morning we reached 88 degrees north. It’s going to be a busy day. Since we are nearing the end of our present track for seismic exploration, our seismic gear will be pulled up. Louis will then take the lead breaking ice and Healy will follow behind. When we start breaking ice in the lead position, I’ve been told to expect a bumpier ride than we’re used to.
The AUV Team is getting ready to deploy the sub tomorrow. When we get near the spot where the AUV will be launched, we’ll be looking for an open pond in the ice to lower the submarine QAUJISATI under the surface. We’re ordering special satellite imagery to help us locate the perfect open pond. The AUV will explore and gather ocean depth information on a specific track beneath the ice, then return to the ship.
Our 4th Officer, Navigating Officer Jeremy Wagg told me this morning over coffee that I’ve become a member of two different orders. Because we crossed the Arctic Circle some time ago, that makes me a member of the Order of the Blue Nose. Well, I guess that makes me a “Double Bluenoser” since I’m from Nova Scotia. Jeremy also told me that since we crossed the international dateline yesterday, that I’ve become a member of the Order of the Golden Dragon. This is marvelous! Of course, until the initiation rites are over later this week, I’m still an “Arctic Greenhorn”, so I better be careful not to get too full of myself.
I couldn’t clearly hear the PA announcement for today’s scavenger hunt clue because I was in a rather noisy spot on the ship, not far from the seismic array. So I went to see 3rd Officer Amy Tuck on the bridge and she gave me a transcript. Today’s clue was, “Round and round and round I go. I help the air move and flow. What am I? Hint: I’m not so hot on the 500 deck.” So I made my way down to the 500 deck wondering about things that go round and round. When I arrived, there were quite a few Greenhorns looking at fans, and spigots , and the dryer in the laundry. Nobody was having luck finding the little envelope full of stickers. I’ll have to think on this one.
While roaming the 500 deck, I ran into Mark Rowsome, Remotely Operated Vehicle Specialist. He was getting the ROV ready because it will be used to reconnect to the AUV after it returns from getting its bathymetric data under the Arctic Ice. He’ll operate it from a container on the forward deck. He showed me the small ROV which he will maneuver underwater towards the submerged sub when it has returned to its specified location. The ROV will hook a rope to the AUV using a nifty clamp called “The Happy Hooker Pole”, then back away. The rope is then used to haul in the AUV.
This morning we finished the seismic work we were doing on Makarov Basin. Chief Scientist Dr. David Mosher told me he’d seen a statue of the Russian scientist that the basin is named after when he was inSt. Petersburglast year. We will soon be heading over the Lomonosov Ridge, another area named for a Russian scientist.
The Seismic Team and Louis’ Deck Crew have just pulled up the seismic array. It’s a labour-intensive process involving a number of individuals. The high pressure air hoses are the first to be hauled in by the teams. Then the heavy tow sled which holds the pneumatic guns is hoisted from the water by the stern a-frame and then lowered onto a cradle on the quarterdeck. Then the hydrophonic streamers are pulled in and coiled in a figure 8 to prevent tension on the lines.
CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent, taken from the webcam mounted on the crowsnest of the US Coast Guard Cutter Healy.
Louis has just passed Healy and we are now leading the way breaking ice. The Healy has the multi-beam system needed for bathymetric measurements. By breaking ice for the Healy they will be able to get much higher data quality.
We’ve been told to secure any lose items in our cabins, and now I can see why. We can feel the movement of the ship breaking ice. This comes with a new and different acoustic experience on the ship as well.
Today I noticed something quite breathtaking about the Arctic landscape we were breaking through. It was a huge pure white arch in the sky stretching from one ice pan for several kilometres to another. It was the shape of a rainbow but it was pure white. My ship mates explained that these are called “Ice-bows” and consist of frost that is struck by the sunlight in just the right way.
I finally found the mystery location of today’s scavenger hunt. It was behind a rather obscure fan in the pantry behind the Officer’s Dining Room on the 500 deck. Now that I’ve got my sticker, I can go get the third card of my poker hand.
Through the evening, all the Greenhorns got together in the Forward Lounge and were guided through a series of games by the Crew. In a game called “Hexed Again” we had to balance seven hex nuts on top of each other while the ship was blasting along through the ice, not an easy task at all. There were other nearly impossible games involving forks, ping pong balls, quarters and pencils. All of us had a great time.
When the evening was winding down, I learned from Assistant Cook Cheryl Benger that strictly speaking I’m not a member of the Order of the Blue Nose because I didn’t cross the Arctic Circle on a ship. As you may remember from my first blog, we flew from southern areas in Canada on a plane and hooked up with CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent in Kugluktuk. So evidently, crossing the Arctic Circle in a plane doesn’t cut it as far as the Or der is concerned. It’s a good thing I didn’t get too puffed up about it in the first place. I do, however, still feel good about being a member in good standing of the Order of the Golden Dragon, having crossed the international dateline on board a ship. I went down to the galley and had one of Cheryl’s amazing deserts, her chocolate truffle pie with raspberry compote and whipped cream, to celebrate. Actually, to tell you the truth, I had two.
Published September 14, 2011
Sept. 2nd – Day Sixteen of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
We moved throughout the night breaking ice, and we are currently at 87 degrees north. We’ve also crossed back over the international dateline again.
At the morning meeting of the AUV Team, I learned that we are roughly 60 nautical miles from where we will launch QAUJISATI. Given our present position, we could be there as early as this evening, so it’s possible that the sub may launch tomorrow. The Team seems professional, calm, cool, and collected as they plan the day’s activities. Beneath their professional demeanors, however, it’s easy to see that they are pumped up and excited the closer they get to launch. And no wonder, the sub is pushing the envelope in terms of the capabilities of its technology.
Leading up to launch, the AUV Team will do pre-dive testing on the flight deck. Mission planning will be meticulously inspected and reviewed. The file that guides the mission and is pre-loaded into the sub will be tweaked when the location of the start point of the mission is determined. That position will become clear when we find a suitable break in the ice to launch the sub.
Special satellite imagery has been ordered of the launch area to find the perfect spot. But we’re not just relying on that. Our Ice Observer Barbara Molyneaux has just gone off in the helicopter to search for good launch sites.
When the launch process begins, the AUV will be lowered into the sea, and ballasting will be evaluated. This may need to be adjusted due to the salinity of the sea water, the weight of the vessel, and other factors. The sub will be brought back aboard Louis to adjust this, by adding or removing weights or buoyancy as required. It will then be put in the water again, and a 4-6 hour process of testing all of its system begins. Once this is complete, QAUJISATI will be given the signal to begin its exploration under the ice in the Arctic Ocean.
Today’s scavenger hunt clue for the Greenhorns as announced over the PA was, “When things get hot you shall know what I’ve got. Who am I? I’m 25 and growing.” This one really stumped me. I had to rely on some of my sources, who shall remain anonymous, to get to the bottom of it. It turned out it was a fire station on the 400 deck, with the number 25 written just above the fire hose. So I picked up my sticker, and went to the bridge to claim my playing card from 2nd Officer Glen Fitzgerald. Glen looked at the cards I’ve collected so far. He sympathetically observed that I didn’t have the makings of a good poker hand. I had to agree.
During the evening, the Greenhorns put on a variety show for the Crew. Acts ranged from juggling, magic tricks, to musical acts. Quartermaster Bill Savory treated us to some of his original songs, which were great. Bill also provided guitar accompaniment for the George Jones song “Choices” which was sung with great conviction by Seaman Lewis Hann.
Published September 14, 2011
Sept. 3rd – Day Seventeen of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
The Deck Crew and the AUV Team were up early this morning doing the many preparations for the launch of QAUJISATI. It is a beautiful day in the Arctic and we are at 88 degrees north. The air is cold and the sky is blue. Louis is presently still, having found a small open pond to launch the sub.
Mark Rowsome, ROV Specialist, was on the forward deck around 7 am with the Deck Crew testing the ballasting of the small Remotely Operated Vehicle, which will be used to re-attach to the sub after its mission.
Ballast testing of the yellow AUV followed shortly after that. This was a large operation involving the AUV team and the Deck Crew. QAUJISATI was rolled out onto the flight deck, attached to a giant crane, hoisted high over the flight deck, slowly turned to starboard, and then lowered over the side into the waters of the Arctic Ocean. As this process unfolded, the loudspeakers on the flight deck played “Yellow Submarine.” This raised a smile among the players involved. QAUJISATI stayed in the water for about half an hour for the ballast test, and was then hoisted back onto the ship and rolled back into the hangar.
The clue for today’s scavenger hunt was, “When wet meets dry, moisture meets the sky.” My first thought was that it was some kind of nautical humidifier. It turned out to be an air vent up on Monkey Island, the deck above the bridge.
When I was up on Monkey Island hunting for my sticker, I had to stop for a moment and look at the amazing panorama displayed before me in every direction. The endless plain of Arctic ice was so white, blue, and in such perfect focus, that I felt like I was standing in the middle of a super realist painting.
In the afternoon, QAUJISATI was hoisted and lowered again into the ocean. Testing the trim of the sub in water continued, and the ropes used to lower the sub were released. It was decided, however, that more work needed to be done on the ballasting. In order to get it back up on the deck, Senior AUV Technologist Steve Nishio and Seaman Neil Jollymore were lowered in a basket over the side to reattach the ropes so it could be hoisted up again. The ropes were reattached and the AUV was then hoisted back aboard and adjusted. It was lowered for a third time into the water without releasing the ropes, and was raised once again onto the flight deck and back into the hangar. The sub will deploy tomorrow.
It’s been a day of hard work in very cold temperatures for the AUV Team and the Deck Crew aboard CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent. Often they were required to handle wet ropes, and pay careful attention to detail in the handling, hoisting, and moving of the AUV which weighs over 4000 pounds. It’s an amazing balancing act of strategy and physical exertion. It was a day of aerial hoisting of heavy equipment, precision maneuvering with ropes, and from my perspective, “daring do” of all kinds.
I spoke with Bosun Derrek Walsh to get a sense of the Deck Crew’s structure. The operations today involved Chief Officer Roy Lockyer, the Bosun, Bosun’s Mate Harold Martin, and five Seamen. That’s eight people altogether.
Published September 14, 2011
Sept. 4th – Day Eighteen of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
The ship broke ice through the night, providing movement so that one of the sub’s positioning systems, the Inertial Navigation Unit, could lock on accurately. The ship then returned to the open pool at 88 degrees north, to the same spot where we were yesterday. It is a cold morning.
Through last night, the sub’s buoyancy was adjusted. The top layer of the sea water is relatively fresher this time of year due to melting ice, and further down it is s altier. The sub needs to function in the water deeper below the surface where the salinity is higher, and buoyancy is greater, and that feature has now been adjusted to the team’s satisfaction. QAUJISATI was hoisted over the side early this morning, and descended below the surface at 7:30. It will go through a series of tests and maneuvers for several hours, diving 3600 metres below the ship, before it is given the command to go on its longer data gathering mission beneath the Arctic ice.
AUV Launch: Photo David Mosher
One of the interesting challenges for which the AUV team has been developing solutions is the issue of ice drift. The Arctic ice drifts, driven by both wind and currents, and can move a significant distance over time. The sub has been launched through a hole in the ice and that hole will move as the ice pack moves. How then will the sub find the hole from which it was launched? To deal with this challenge, the DRDC has developed an innovative homing system, using sound wave technology, which is currently housed in the nose cone of the sub. When the sub returns towards the position where it was launched, it will lock on to sound waves emitted from beneath the ship. The vehicle then sends a system of chirps back which indicate its position, and also maneuvers towards a position where it can be recovered.
This afternoon I went down to the acoustics lab where Senior Engineering Technologist Don Mosher was monitoring a computer screen attached to the acoustic direction finder under the ship which can presently track where the sub is located beneath the surface. Under the ship are seven hydrophones arranged in a way that they can receive chirps from the sub from different distances. Sound travels through water at 1500 metres per second, and because the hydrophones are arranged in a pattern creating different distances between them and the sub, the position of the sub can be determined by triangulation. Another way to think of this hydrophone array is as a “three-dimensional acoustic ear” that can pinpoint the depth and orientation of the sub.
The sub dove to a depth of 3600 metres. It then forayed out under the ice for 5 kilometres, and then returned to the area beneath the ship.
In the hangar, where another station of AUV controls are located, it was decided to bring the sub up again due to problems with the forward looking altimeter, which is designed to keep the sub safe and avoid objects ahead when flying 100 metres from the sea floor. There were other parameters and systems that needed further adjustment as well. The command was issued to the sub to rise to the surface.
The sub rose from 3600 metres to a level underneath the ice on the starboard side of the ship. At this point, the ROV, the Remotely Operated Vehicle, was deployed on the forward deck to try and attach a line to it. The sub was not visible from the ship’s deck, and was beneath the ice.
The recapture operation was a large one, involving the AUV Team, the Deck Crew, the bridge, the hangar, and the acoustic s lab. The ROV was lowered by a crane and its cord, the “umbilical cord”, was fed behind it as it was lowered under the surface to hunt for the AUV.
In a container where the ROV is remotely operated there are two video screens which display what the cameras on the ROV are viewing underwater. Looking at these screens, it was easy to see the challenges that the ice formations under the surface were presenting in terms of re-connecting to the sub. The ice had large downward protruding chunks, and subsequently large upward caves or crevices as well, where most likely the sub was located just under the ice, but obscured from the ROV camera’s view. The light beacon located on the top of the sub was also obscured from view in the crevices by the downward protruding chunks of ice. The ROV was deployed twice, but couldn’t see the sub to lock onto it.
I went up to the bridge, to see the operations from that vantage point. Looking down at the sea water on our pool of operations, it was difficult to discern where the sub might be because of ice chunks that drifted in and filled the pool from time to time. The ship’s bubbler system was used to temporarily clear these chunks away. There was still no sign of the sub. Members of the AUV team triangulated the position of the sub, and deduced that it was roughly 180 metres off the starboard side of the ship, most likely under a certain patch of ice that we could all see from the bridge. This was further than the umbilical cord of the ROV could easily reach, so the ship’s bow was maneuvered towards that starboard position. The ROV was deployed again, but again its cameras could not make visual contact with the sub.
Later in the evening, after the ship’s position had changed, the AUV Team dropped acoustic modems off the decks to get a new reading on the sub’s location. It was deduced to be off the port side of the ship.
After twelve hours of work in cold weather, the Deck Crew was released for rest. Tomorrow is another day.
Published September 14, 2011
Sept. 5th – Day Nineteen of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
Last evening I learned that I would be part of the team that was going to install the O-Buoy out on the Arctic ice. When I got this news I visited Marine Mammal Observer Nelson Ruben, to get some survival tips. He’s lived in the Arctic all his life. I showed him the winter clothes I’d brought with me, and he kindly informed me that none of them would be of much use. He suggested that I visit the ship’s storeroom in the morning to pick up some real Arctic gear. He gave me other useful tips as well. He suggested I get something to cover the veins in my neck area, which can leak a lot of body heat. He recommended that I keep moving on the ice, but not to break a sweat. It’s a mode of being that requires exertion to keep the blood flowing, but not to the extent where you get clammy and perspiration freezes. He also mentioned it’s wise to come with lots of layers of clothing, so that you are protected, but if you start feeling too hot, you can “layer down” to prevent the problems that sweat can cause. He said the worst thing to do is to stand around and do nothing, which is often a sign that the cold is getting to a person.
Early this morning, I found Store Keeper Mike Goodwin. He fixed me up with a pair of heavy-duty winter boots, down-filled coveralls, a balaclava, and an excellent pair of lined leather gloves. Mike also runs the ship ’s canteen, and Stoyka Netcheva who is in charge of the O-Buoy had told me to pick up a bunch of chocolate bars for the team, so I got those too.
After breakfast I had a coffee in the Crew’s Lounge and got a few other pieces of advice from various people. “If you fall through the ice, remember to stick your arms straight out so that you’ll only go in up to your armpits,” said one. That seemed logical. “Don’t walk on the blue patches of ice, because you might fall straight through,” said another. Yes, well, I wouldn’t want that. “And don’t eat any yellow snow,” she added. I nodded, not realizing until after she had left the lounge that this was most likely a joke.
After my coffee, I went to the galley to pick up eleven boxed lunches and some thermoses of coffee and tea to have for the team on the ice. The food had already been prepared, and Steward Allison Pike helped me pack it and carry it up to the flight deck.
On the flight deck I chatted with Peter Vass, retired Marine Biologist and master builder of all things technical. He’s had a lot of experience on the ice and working with Arctic scientific instruments. He had helped Stoyka assemble the O-Buoy components for the last couple of weeks, and was coming out with us to help with the set-up.
Stoyka Netcheva and Alice Orlich left in the helicopter with Pilot Chris Swannell to find a suitable place on the ice to install the buoy. Alice is an Ice Observer with the International Arctic Research Centre with a fellowship from the NASA Alaska Space Grant Program. She is also doing a master’s degree at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Seaman Neil Jollymore left with them as well, to maintain VHF radio contact with the ship and to handle the various take-offs and landings of the helicopter from the ground perspective.
The bottom section of the O-buoy consists of a two-metre long metal pole sticking out of a large yellow base. The pole is roughly fourteen inches wide, and would need to be inserted in a hole in the ice and reach down to water level. Stoyka and Alice had to find the right thickness of ice for this to work as intended.
Back on the flight deck, Marine Mammal Observers Nelson Ruben, John Ruben, and Dale Ruben arrived dressed for Arctic conditions. Nelson was also outfitted with a rifle and bullets to take along, in the event that any polar bears showed up. John and Dale were going to help dig the hole in the ice.
U.S. Air Force Captain Steve Wackowski arrived as well. He was coming with us to get a chance to fly his unmanned aerial vehicle, the small remote-controlled drone that he’s been testing in Arctic conditions. Our Videographer Don Glencross was coming with us and he showed up with his cameras.
Out over the ice, Helicopter Pilot Chris Swannell flew Stoyka and Alice to several locations, and they decided on the most suitable ice floe in the area to plant the O-Buoy. The one they chose was a multi-year floe roughly 100 X 200 metres in dimension and the right thickness for the O-Buoy’s two-metre pole to reach to the sea water at its very bottom.
In several trips, Chris flew the rest of us and our tools over to the floe in the red five-seater. Just before my flight left, Chief Officer Roy Lockyer gave me a pair of plastic surgical gloves to wear underneath my regular gloves to keep perspiration at a minimum. It was a short but exhilarating helicopter ride over to the floe, and we set down about 50 feet from the spot Stoyka and Alice had chosen to drill the hole.
A different sound environment was evident once the helicopter blades stopped turning around and we stepped out onto the ice. The silence was a big contrast to the ship where there are always sounds of engines, breaking ice and vibrations of all kinds. We walked towards Stoyka and Alice and our workspace on the ice, following in the footprints they had made in the snow previously. There were a couple of blue patches on the ice, and I noticed that nobody seemed to be stepping on those, so I didn’t either. The view of pristine snow and ice enveloped us quite completely, except for one direction behind us where we could see the helicopter in the foreground and CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent behind it in the ice about a mile away. The rest of the horizon seemed to extend around us to infinity.
Alice Orlich and John and Dale Ruben started drilling the hole in the ice. They used an ice-core sampler of about four inches in diameter which was attached to a gasoline motor equipped with a pull starter. Alice would guide the core sampler into the ice as John and Dale held on to the motor from both sides at the top of it. Sometimes John or Dale would switch with Peter Vass. Each time the sampler descended, it was then pulled out and the ice core was removed from inside it. Some of these cores were stuck vertically into the snow a few feet from the hole, marking our progress. Every now and again Peter would stick a shovel in to pull out some of the ice chunks. The water and ice mixture in the hole took on a blueish colour as we progressed.
Around the outer perimeter of this group, Nelson Ruben surveyed the surrounding territory with his binoculars, scanning the horizon for polar bears. Sometimes he would switch this task with John or Dale and hold the top of the motor for a while.
Seaman Neil Jollymore, listening to the ship radio channel on his headset, would give us updates about the search for the submarine that was still ongoing aboard the ship. If there were any questions for us, the “shore party”, Neil would relate them to us then report back to the ship with an answer.
Steve Wackowski flew his remote controlled UAV, testing its capabilities over the ice, and surveying the surrounding area with its built-in camera. After we’d been on the ice for three hours, I gave Steve one of the chocolate bars that Stoyka had bought for us. He mentioned that according to his GPS, the ice we were standing on had drifted a mile since we first arrived.
The cold was a constant, and it became more acute when the wind picked up for a while. I did notice at one point that my fingers seemed chilled to the bone, so I moved them around in my gloves for a few minutes, and that sensation went away. I was thankful for the surgical gloves that Roy had given me every time I had to remove my outer gloves to adjust the settings on my camera. I was also glad that I’d followed Nelson’s advice and put on as many layers of clothing as I could.
The hole took longer than expected, but progress was steady. As it got deeper,Alice stretched out on the ice, her face just inches from the water. Extension pieces were attached to her core sampler so that it could reach further down. Later, Nelson and Peter took turns using long chisels to knock off some strange ice formations further down.
Through the afternoon, we received news via Neil Jollymore through his VHF radio that the sub had been found off the port bow of the Louis. All of us were thrilled to hear this news.
As the hole neared completion, Chris Swannell took off in the helicopter to pick up the bottom section of the O-Buoy on the ship. He returned later with the section hung beneath the helicopter by a line, and quite miraculously maneuvered the long bottom pipe so that it fell right into the hole we’d made. All of us huddled a distance off to avoid the snow that the helicopter stirred up as it did this excellent piece of work. On the ground, Neil was involved in this, and he and Chris communicated with each other via hand signals to make the maneuver successful. These guys have a lot of experience doing cargo sling operations using the long line.
Chris then flew off to the ship to get t he top section of the O-Buoy, which consists of a number of meteorological instruments and the solar panels that power it during the summer. Previously, Peter Vass had constructed a frame so that this piece of the buoy could be transported effectively and safely by helicopter. Chris returned with the top section, and it was delivered seamlessly. He landed the helicopter then all of us became involved in connecting the O-Buoy.
The co-operative feeling of the day really blossomed at this point. We had to lift the top portion onto the base, then hold it up whi le Stoyka made the connections inside. Steve, the tallest among us, pulled the wires up by a string from the middle to the top. Later, Chris climbed on top of the unit to secure some of the instruments, his feet sometimes resting on other people’s shoulders. Peter made sure that all the nuts and bolts were all firmly secured. John put the wind velocity meter on. It was a real team effort. Then there was the big moment we had all been waiting for. Stoyka turned on the O-Buoy, and she was satisfied that it was functioning.
We all stepped back to look at it. Steve pulled out a permanent marker and asked Stoyka if it would be okay if he could sign the base of the buoy. She said sure, and then all of us used the marker to put our autographs on the base. We were all happy that together we’d put the O-Buoy on the ice at 88 degrees north.
We cleared up our tools, and flew back to the Louis by 8 pm. Everyone aboard was in a great mood, and celebrating the recovery of the AUV. I got a few details from my shipmates about what happened aboard ship during the day.
Most of the morning aboard Louis was about recovering QAUJISATI. A lot of this was based on deduction. A series of ranges of the sub’s distance from the ship were taken periodically and systematically. These were provided to the navigational team who would then alter the position of the ship, occasionally breaking ice, to get closer to the sub. The ship was very close to it, but it was still under ice comprised of tricky underwater ridges and crevices. Naturally, this was stressful for the AUV Team. I heard that Captain Marc Rothwell reassured them that CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent had the team, the abilities, and the will to surgically remove the sub from the ice if necessary. Then he quipped, “However, it is a bit like doing surgery with an 11,000 ton scalpel.”
The first indication of the sub’s position was an audible chirp coming from the sub itself. The ship then moved as closely as it could towards that signal, very carefully breaking ice to propagate cracks in it close to the AUV, but without damaging the vehicle.
The two people who got the first visual of the sub were Brett Pickrill of the AUV Team and 4th Officer Jeremy Wagg. Both of them were on the forward deck near the port bow area looking down at the open pool and they glimpsed a small view of the end of the sub for just a moment until it covered over with drift ice again. Thinking fast, Brett took off his work gloves and tossed them down onto the ice, marking the spot on the ice where they saw the sub.
AUV Technologist Stephen Nishio and Bosun’s Mate Harold Martin were lowered in a basket and attached lines and floats to the sub. It was then pulled to the stern where the large crane hoisted it back aboard the ship.
Day Twenty of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
Having left the ice pool, we are now breaking heavy ice at 87.7 degrees north. The ice is 8/10 multi-year which is very old but healthy stuff. As a result of the intense work required from everyone during the last two days, the Greenhorns initiation was postponed until tonight.
Late in the afternoon, 4th Officer Jeremy Wagg announced over the ship’s PA in his best pirate voice, “All Arctic Greenhorns are to report to the boardroom to be counted at 18:30.” We had to bring our crackers and scavenger hunt stickers with us. I was a bit worried about the state of my crackers which I’d been carrying in my shirt pocket for the last week and a half. I was hoping their crumbly condition wouldn’t require me to walk the plank.
When I arrived at the boardroom, Sheriff Barbara Molyneaux was stationed at the door inspecting crackers and stickers. When my inspection came, she was swamped with other concerned Greenhorns, so I quickly flashed my crackers and smiled as if nothing could possibly be wrong with them. Luckily, Barbara didn’t seem to notice my crackers, or perhaps she was letting me off easily because she knew of some worse fate that I was destined for. In any case, I waited for the initiation to begin.
Visit of King Neptune and his court for Arctic Initiation: Photo (Unknown)
During the initiation, each of us was taken alone to an outside deck. There, sitting on a throne, was King Neptune, flanked by his wife Lady Neptune, and their daughter Princess Neptune. They all had the same hair, wigs which were fashioned from the business end of floor mops. I recognized that King Neptune was actually Quartermaster Stanley Fleet, Lady Neptune was Steward Mark Lewis, and Princess Neptune was Deckhand Wayne Austin. Princess Neptune demanded that I kneel down before King Neptune into a large wooden pallet containing a mixture of fish guts, pickles, canned tuna, sardines, fish water, rotten grapes, banana peels, and corn. I attempted to balance over this fragrant mixture bending my knees a little, but that wasn’t good enough for Princess Neptune. “Kneel, Kneel! You’ve got to Kneel!” she demanded. So down I went to my knees in the slop. Then I had to compliment King Neptune and kiss Lady Neptune’s gloved hand, which also had a distinctly fishy aroma.
Afterwards, I went straight for the shower. After all the Greenhorns washed up, we met in the Forward Lounge. Quartermaster Stanley Fleet, now out of his King Neptune costume, read a moving passage about one of William Edward Parry’s Arctic expeditions, and the hardships they faced in those early days. He also pointed out that on Parry’s expeditions the sailors would often put on plays to pass the time and to break up the long periods of isolation. Stanley related this to the piece of theatre that we had just participated in. He also made the connection that we too are on an exploratory mission in the Arctic, albeit in a different time than Parry’s.
Captain Marc Rothwell presented certificates to all of us. We are not considered Arctic Greenhorns anymore. The Captain brought out his guitar and soon there were six of us playing music and many others singing along. Everyone had a great night.
Day 21 of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
Today we are at 86 degrees north. Louis is breaking ice. Directly behind us, Healy is collecting multi-beam bathymetric data. We are continuing along the track we have been following for the last several days over the Makarov Basin and the Alpha-Mendeleev Ridge. Earlier in our voyage, Louis collected seismic information that will assist the U.S. in determining the outer limits of its shelf. Presently, the multi-beam data that Healy is collecting will be useful for the continental shelf submission Canada is preparing pursuant to article 76 of UNCLOS, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Both ships, and their respective countries, are collaborating by sharing scientific capabilities and expertise on our joint expedition. Since the end of our last seismic track 470 nautical miles of multi-beam information has been collected. This process provides benchmark information on water depth and foot of slope on the ocean floor in an area of the Earth that has never been mapped before.
The multi-beam sounder on the Healy bounces sound waves off the ocean floor in a wide swath, from five to twelve kilometres in width, depending on the depth of the ocean where the soundings are taken. The sounder measures the amount of time it takes for the sound waves to return through the water to the receivers, and this generates a large data set. This gives information about the depth of the sea floor, and also includes details of its composition. Because of the wide swath of the multi-beam sounder it can gather information about very large amounts of territory. And as a direct result of Louis breaking ice ahead of the Healy and clearing a path through it, the quality of these data are much higher than if Healy was breaking ice and gathering multi-beam data at the same time. A very similar relationship exists when Healy is breaking ice for Louis when Louis gathers seismic information. The quality of the data is higher.
Airdrop from US Coast Guard for necessary parts for USCGC Healy and for CCGS Helicopter. Photo credit: Vincent Demers
This afternoon Healy and Louis turned to face each other and stopped in the ice for an interesting event. The U.S. Coast Guard air wing did an “air drop” of supplies. A C130 Hercules, a 4-propeller 4-engine plane appeared in the skies over our two ships. It made four passes over us and dropped three large packages out into the air. They floated down on parachutes and landed on the ice. Healy lowered a basket onto the ice and sent a crew out to gather the supplies, all of which arrived successfully. The plane had flown from the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station in Kodiak, Alaska. Many of us aboard Louis watched this event from Monkey Island and the Forward Deck.
This evening’s science meeting was very interesting due to the fact that a great deal of science has happened in the last few days. These nightly meetings are a great way to keep everyone aboard aware of the many types of scientific work underway on the expedition. We also receive a weather report and a forecast of upcoming ice conditions. Another feature that Chief Scientist Dr. David Mosher organizes are occasional “science talks” from various members of the science staff. Tonight we listened to U.S. Air Force Captain Steve Wackowski talk about his UAV, the unmanned aerial vehicle, the small remote-controlled drone that he’s been testing in the Arctic.
Published September 14, 2011
Sept. 8th – Day 22 of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
We are at 85 degrees north and are breaking ice for the Healy which is just behind us.
This evening we had an emergency drill aboard CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent. A continuous ringing of the ships bell draws all of us to our stations during an emergency. For most of us, that means the hangar on the Flight Deck. We proceeded there, dressed warmly and carrying our life jackets. Once there, there is a roll call to establish that everyone who is supposed to be there has arrived. Many of the Crew have assigned duties. For most of us, our duties are to “Assist as directed” in a real emergency.
Following the emergency drill we had a boat station drill. This is signaled by seven or more short blasts plus one long blast of the ship’s whistle. My station is the Port Lifeboat. Again there is a roll call, and when your name is called you announce that you are there, then declare the duty you have been assigned. The Port Lifeboat was opened up tonight, and the diesel engine was turned on to test that it is working correctly.
After our drills, the entire ship’s company gathered in the Galley for debriefing. Chief Officer Roy Lockyer commented on the performance of the exercise, making a few suggestions for improvements. Captain Marc Rothwell also stressed how important it is to know where you are supposed to go in the event of an emergency, and also to listen for and hear any emergency signals. He mentioned that those who use ear buds with their music players should keep them at a volume that will enable them to hear ship announcements. It’s also important for us to close our cabin doors behind us when we go for a drill, partly as a signal to others that we’ve left for the drill, and partly to inhibit fire or other materials from spreading through the ship in a real emergency.
Published September 14, 2011
Sept. 9th – Day 23 of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
This morning we are at 85 degrees north. For the time being, we are breaking ice for the Healy while they continue to collect multi-beam data. Soon we will be passing over Alpha Ridge where our seismic array will be deployed again. Healy will move ahead of us and break ice, clearing a path for us. When this happens we should notice a smoother ride than we have been experiencing aboard Louis St-Laurent for the last while.
Track: September 09 2011.
This evening’s supper was served with a twist. Captain Rothwell and his Senior Officers, along with Chief Scientist Dr. David Mosher and his Science Staff served dinner to the Crew and the Galley Staff.
All of us arrived early in the Galley to prepare, and we all put hair nets on. Logistics Officer Nathan Wiffen was already cooking up the food, and he was the guy who knew where everything was. There was some rousing Newfoundland folk music playing on the sound system, which helped get everyone into the spirit of things. It was my first visit to the inside of the Galley where the food is prepared, and I was impressed with all the cooking gear and equipment. The fridge is so big you can actually walk right into it. The Seismic Crew got the task of doing the dishes, and the big guys looked great up to their elbows in suds. Marine Geologist Dr. Deborah Hutchinson, U.S. Liaison, helped round up cooking platters and prepared the sandwich fixings. Others arranged gourmet potatoes on a serving tray, or moved some of the entrees out to the serving area. It was a veritable hive of activity.
Senior officers and science staff serving in the mess at "pub" night. Photo Credit: Don Glencross, DRDC
On the menu were scallops, chicken wings, cheese fingers, beans, soup, vegetables, potatoes and fries. When the crew arrived and started lining up for supper, Captain Rothwell, Dr. David Mosher, Chief Seismic Tech Borden Chapman, Chief Officer Roy Lockyer, and Ship’s Doctor Vincent Demers all put aprons on and started dishing up the food. Everything worked well without a hitch , and everyone enjoyed dinner as they always do aboard Louis.
Then we all stayed for the clean-up. Dishes were washed, pots and pans were put away, surfaces were scrubbed, and the floor was swept. It was a great chance to experience firsthand the hard work and effort that goes on in the Galley three times a day.
Published September 14, 2011
Sept. 10th – Day 24 of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
This morning we are at 83 degrees north, over the southern flank of Alpha Ridge. It’s cold with sun sneaking through cloud cover. The Seismic Team was up early along with the Deck Crew to prepare and deploy the seismic array. Healy is ahead of us, waiting to break ice for us.
When I arrived at the Seismic Lab, the temperature of the compressor was monitored on one of the computer screens. Peter Vass, Welder on the Seismic Team, explained that the compressor needs to reach an optimal temperature before the air pressure is cranked up to 1900 PSI. Outside on the stern, there was an industrial heater warming the pneumatic air guns, so that any residual water inside them wouldn’t freeze. Up on a ladder nearby, Borden Chapman, Chief Technician, was adjusting another pump designed to blow non-toxic antifreeze through the high pressure air hoses, so any moisture in the air passing through them wouldn’t freeze.
Healy assisting Louis during seismic operations to get us out of a tight jam. Photo Credit: Don Glencross, DRDC
Ken Asprey, Compressor Technician, was tying a weight with a small parachute on the end of it to a piece of rope, attaching it with pull ties. The rope and the weight are attached to the end of the hydrophonic streamers before they are lowered into the ocean. The weight ensures that the streamers sink straight down when they are first put in the water, and thereby avoid getting tangled up in the ice behind the ship. Then when the ship starts moving forward, the water catches the parachute and pulls off the weight. This allows the streamers to stretch out in the water behind the pneumatic guns after the weight falls off. Ken fashioned this system himself to replace an electric weight release system that the team had used previously.
These preparations I’ve mentioned speak to the unique quality of our seismic operation. The majority of the world’s seismic operations over water happen in open water. We are dealing with heavy Arctic ice and free zing temperatures in areas that have never been surveyed before. Over the years, our Seismic Team have found and fashioned numerous techniques to deal with these very particular and unique environmental realities.
Once Ken Asprey finished his preparations, the rope with the weight and the parachute was attached to the end of the streamers. Then it was lowered over the stern by the Deck Crew. Then the hydophonic streamers were lowered, followed by the tow sled holding the pneumatic air guns, then the high pressure hoses. The Deck Crew consisted of Bosun Derrick Walsh, Bosun’s Mate Harold Martin, and five seamen.
Louis breaking ice for the Healy for multibeam acquisition Photo Credit: Don Glencross, DRDC and Chris Swannell (Helicopter Pilot)
When all the seismic equipment was in the water, the Marine Mammal Observer was contacted to ensure no mammals were present before the system could be turned on. Once that was done, Bordan Chapman, Chief Technician, performed some tests on the pneumatic guns. Borden mentioned to me that when Arctic seismic work started in 2006 that it was attempted with only one ice-breaker. He said it was nearly impossible. This is another good reason for our collaboration with the Healy. Capturing seismic data in this environment requires two ice-breakers and a team that can adapt to the difficult challenges that the Arctic can throw at them.
We collected seismic data throughout the day, with Healy breaking ice in front of us, until heavy ice conditions prevented our forward movement. The Louis cannot apply too much power to the propellers when towing the seismic array for fear of tangling the equipment. The Louis has three propellers but can only use two in this situation. The centre shaft cannot be used. Our seismic gear was pulled up at 17:00, and we are now breaking ice for Healy which is currently behind us collecting multi-beam bathymetric data.
Published September 22, 2011
Sept. 11th – Day 25 of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
This morning we are at 82.5 degrees north, and transiting over Stefansson Basin, part of the Canada Basin, heading towards Sever Spur. It is minus 10 Celsius with a strong wind. CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent broke heavy ice through the night, followed by U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy. Our U.S. partner is collecting multi-beam ocean depth information, bathymetry, which will be useful for the continental shelf submission Canada is preparing pursuant to UNCLOS.
The information gathered through our mission has great scientific value on its own terms. It gives scientists more pieces of the puzzle regarding the origins of the Arctic Ocean, and how it may have formed from a tectonic point of view. The data gathered can be applied to major geological questions about this area. How did the area form? What incidents may have occurred through its history? Do these data support or conflict with existing models for the area’s geologic history? How do these data fit into our understanding of the big scale global geologic framework? While these questions could be answered in a myriad of ways, one thing is certain. The data doesn’t lie. It gives scientists a stronger basis upon which to form hypotheses, while fundamentally adding to our knowledge of the Earth’s composition.
Today is Sunday, and Captain Rothwell and his officers are doing their rounds, inspecting the ship from top to bottom. They just visited us here in the Forward Upper Lab, an excellent space affording good views of the Forward Deck and the Arctic Ocean as we pass through it. They noted on their visit that a portable defibrillator has been installed on the wall of the lab, in a case that was built by Ship’s Carpenter Eugene Jones. This installation came out of a request made during last week’s rounds by Ship’s Doctor Vincent Demers.
At 19:30 this evening, at 82.7 north, Chief Scientist Dr. David Mosher decided to begin seismic work along our track. The Deck Crew and the Seismic Crew were called to the quarter deck to prepare the seismic array as Healy took the lead position in front of us. The crews lowered the array below the surface off our stern in difficult ice conditions. Chief Technician Borden Chapman confirmed that the Marine Mammal Observer was in place, fired a few mitigating shots of the air guns to scare off any mammals that might be nearby, then started the system. Healy passed by us to loosen the ice pressure around us, then backed up near our bow to loosen a track, then came around and passed us again. We moved forward and collected seismic data for two hours, but decided to pull up the gear due to heavy ice.
Published September 22, 2011
Sept. 12th – Day 26 of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
We are now at 81 degrees north and heading south towards Sever Spur. We encountered some very heavy ice during the night. At 6:00 we hit an ice ridge, most likely comprised of older multi-year ice, with perhaps more ice underneath its surface than was visible from its top. A few objects aboard Louis moved around as a result of this encounter. Pots and pans went flying in the Galley, tables and chairs moved about in the Crew’s Lounge, and closet doors flew open in various cabins. The impact woke me up when we hit, and everything leaned to the port side for about three or four seconds until our mighty ship straightened up again. Looking out a port hole revealed a beautiful day with some blue sky and clear views of the horizon.
Later this morning, I visited the bridge and Captain Rothwell showed me some of the ship’s navigation equipment. He also explained that winds are pushing the ice pack towards the Queen Elizabeth Islands, our nearest shore at this point, creating a great deal of pressure within the entire ice pack that we are presently navigating through. On the bridge there is a live video feed of what is happening on the Flight Deck. Looking at the screen, I noticed that Chief Scientist Dr. David Mosher was getting into the helicopter to join an ice reconnaissance mission to see what lies ahead of us.
Stoyka Netcheva and I took a trip up to Monkey Island, the deck above the bridge, and she showed me the “Mini-OOTI”, (stands for: “Out On The Ice”) a unit with some of the same instruments as the O-Buoy. Currently mounted on the ship’s deck, the unit includes two spectrometers that scan the atmosphere for trace concentrations of Halogen Oxides, an ozone monitor, a GPS, and a computer that records all the data. Stoyka can compare the data she gets from this unit along with information from the O-Buoy, and similar sensors in Alert and Resolute. This gives her a wider view of what is occurring in the Arctic atmosphere.
Up on Monkey Island, there was a beautiful view of Healy just ahead of us. I also noticed that Nelson Ruben was in his station scanning for marine mammals. These two signs suggested to me that seismic work will probably soon occur. Dr. Mosher returned in the helicopter having viewed the ice, and sure enough, I soon heard the seismic array starting up. I decided to go down to the quarterdeck to visit the Seismic Team.
In the Seismic Lab, Chief Technician Borden Chapman was looking at the computer screen that monitors the timing of the firing of the pneumatic guns in tiny increments of milliseconds. The three guns need to fire simultaneously, and on the screen there’s a green line representing each gun, which intersects with a purple time line running through all three. Borden explained that when the guns went in the water, one of them was colder than the water itself. This created an icing issue on that gun that threw the synchronized timing off for a short while. The ice was flushed out shortly thereafter by the action of the guns and the 1900 PSI of air pressure that runs through it, and currently the guns are firing in unison.
The next two computer screens in the Seismic Lab reflect what is happening with the Seismic Acquisition System. The first screen shows sixteen channels which display the information gathered by the sixteen hydrophones on the hydrophonic streamers trailing behind the ship. Each of those hydrophones recapture the sound waves originally created by the pneumatic guns after they have returned from bouncing off the Earth’s crust below the surface. The screen shows sixteen vertical wave forms. The next screen shows one of the sixteen channels over many shots, forming a profile through the earth, so that the operator can monitor the quality of the waves as they are captured. Later in the process, the sixteen waves are stacked, added, and processed, reducing noise that might be present, and providing a higher resolution view of the Earth’s composition many kilometres below the surface.
Paul Girouard, Navigation and Data person on the Seismic Team, told me a few things about some of the other computers in the Seismic Lab. One of the most important factors is that all the computers operate on the same time. All of the computers get UTC satellite time from a receiver on the side of the Louis. Paul also set up the Science Network on the ship, so that data coming from the Seismic Lab are then available in the Boardroom and other areas where they can be processed, interpreted, and backed up. Paul also runs a navigation program which keeps a record of the ship’s position through all of the tests. Every half-hour he turns to the hydrographer on his right and gets an ocean depth reading which he enters into a log on his navigation program.
On the far right side of the Seismic Lab, Hydrographer Jim Weedon was looking at several computer screens which monitor our single-beam bathymetry. The single-beam sounder creates an ocean depth profile all the time we’re at sea, which also includes the top layer of sediment beneath the bottom going down as far as 30 to 50 metres, depending on conditions. Jim, or one of the other hydrographers, monitors this equipment 24 hours a day.
The ship proceeded on its track all afternoon collecting seismic data. I returned to the Forward Lab. Ice Observer Barbara Molyneaux dropped in and suggested I come up to the bridge to see a major ice field we were passing on our starboard side.
On the bridge, Barbara pointed out a “rubble field” consisting of multiple ice ridges that have crashed into each other over time, and created a mish-mash of ice chunks fused together in multiple directions. It stood about 15 to 20 feet high above the sea-level ice that we were passing through, and stretched for many kilometres out into the distance. “It’s a good thing we’re not trying to break our way through that,” said Barbara, “Because it do esn’t break off in straight or even crooked lines like regular sea ice.”
Published September 22, 2011
Sept. 13th – Day 27 of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
We are currently at 80 degrees north. Chief Scientist Dr. David Mosher told me that we are further east at this latitude in the Arctic Ocean than any ship ever before. This truly is a voyage of exploration. The ice here is the toughest in the Arctic, and the fact that we are here in a ship demonstrates the loss of multi-year ice that allows us to make any passage whatsoever.
I pulled out my polar map this morning to get a sense of where we are. I wondered which famous explorers, if any, might have somehow reached this area in the past. I could see that the closest land to us at the moment is Borden Island, part of the Queen Elizabeth Islands. Don Mosher, Logistics Chief on the AUV Team, noticed me l ooking at my map, and mentioned that he had been on a base camp on Borden Island, and later at an ice camp out on the ocean ice offshore, where they tested the AUV in April of 2010. I went up to the bridge and 3rd Officer Amy Tuck plotted our present position on the chart. Then she pulled out her dividers, “Stabbers” she called them, and told me that we’re presently 175 nautical miles offshore from Borden Island. Chief Officer Roy Lockyer overheard us, and wondered if I was planning to jump ship and find my way home by Ski Do. I assured him I had no such intentions. I explained I had been trying to figure out which Arctic explorers might have been in this area, and Robert McClure was in my thoughts. M’Clure Strait is one of the next major Arctic waterways a considerable distance south of us. McClure had made his way through the strait named after him in 1850 on his ship The Investigator. Among other objectives, McClure had been trying to find the lost Franklin expedition. Amy whipped out her stabbers again, placed them on the chart, and she deduced that we are 360 nautical miles from Cape M’Clure, which is on M’Clure Strait. Roy’s ears perked up again and he mentioned that our ship CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent had stopped at Cape M’Clure in 1998, and had left a brass plaque there which had included the names of the Louis crew at that time. Roy had been on that voyage, and remembered that after they had placed the plaque a polar bear appeared just as they were leaving. I guess all this goes to show that charts can be used for more than navigation on an Arctic ship. They are a great jumping off point for story and history. In a way, it seems that Arctic exploration almost transcends the barriers of time, and past and present seem to intermingle and become unified by the beautiful, unforgiving, and rugged Arctic environment that we find ourselves in this morning.
The heavy ice surrounding us on all sides has lots of ridges. These are created by huge pressure closing in on the entire ice field. The Deck Crew was out early to pull up our seismic equipment, because Louis needed to apply more power and needed to go faster than four knots in order to get through this stuff. Bosun Derrick Walsh told me there was sea fog off the quarterdeck this morning which froze on the rigging and on the Deck Crew’s jackets as they pulled up the gear. By mid-morning, the fog had lifted and it’s presently a beautiful, cold, and clear day. Louis has taken the lead position from Healy, and we’re breaking through some of the toughest ice in the Arctic. It ’s a bumpier ride than usual, and an announcement came over the ship’s PA, “Keep one hand for the ship, and one hand for yourself, as you move around the decks.”
We captured a lot of seismic information over Sever Spur yesterday, and presently Healy is collecting multi-beam bathymetry as we break through the ice today. I just spoke with Chief Scientist Dr. David Mosher who mentioned that our present track is overlapping the line that the AUV surveyed on its mission under the ice in 2010. That’s the same mission that happened off Borden Island, the closest land to us on my polar map.
Published September 22, 2011
Sept. 14th – Day 28 of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
We broke thick ice through the night and are currently at 79 degrees north. Due to the fact that we are travelling through some of the heaviest and oldest ice in the Arctic, we are not putting out the seismic array this morning. We continue to collect multi-beam and single-beam bathymetry of this area. The AUV Team is gearing up for a possible launch of the sub in the next few days depending on ice conditions.
Upcoming on the voyage, Louis and Healy will come alongside each other again. When that happens, there will be a barbeque and bands from both ships will play. Our band is taking shape and so far they’ve rehearsed six songs. The personnel of our band includes: ROV Specialist Mark Rowsome on bass, Chief Cook Blair Walsh on drums, VMMR Engineer Matt Klebert on lead guitar, and Junior Electrical Officer Jordan Stagg on rhythm guitar. They have been practicing in an area near the Ship’s Gym, and I heard them the other night while I was working out. They sound great.
I walked into the Crew’s Lounge today, and Cheryl Benger was working on a knot puzzle, during one of her breaks as Assistant Cook in the Galley. These sorts of puzzles have been aboard ships for hundreds of years. Knots and ropes have been part of the sailor’s stock and trade for centuries. The puzzle Cheryl was working on consisted of loops placed on each wrist with a simple right-over-left knot tied in the middle connecting line. The object was to untie the knot in the middle without removing the loops from your wrists. Cheryl wasn’t having immediate success with the puzzle, and she passed it to me. I approached the challenge optimistically, but was soon hopelessly tangled. Defeated, I passed it on to the next person in the lounge. Several others tried without success. Those who had already solved the puzzle were also sitting in the lounge, watching us with grins on their faces, and unwilling to share the mystery of its solution. “I imagine the answer is wickedly simple, isn’t it?” I inquired. Those in the know nodded and smiled even more broadly. At which point, Helicopter Chris Swannell walked into the lounge. Cheryl asked him to try the puzzle. Chris put the loops on his wrists, thought about it for a second, and then solved it instantly. It was a deceptively easy solution, well perhaps “Easy for Leonardo,” as Dylan Thomas might say. If you’re tempted to try it, I’ll give you a clue. Think about how the simple right-over-left knot on the middle connecting line is constructed. It might lead you to the solution, and that’s all I’m saying.
We continue to make our way through some of the toughest ice in the Arctic. Numerous times today we have had to back up and ram. It took us nineteen tries on one pie ce of ice.
Published September 22, 2011
Sept. 15th – Day 29 of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
This morning we are at 80 degrees north. We broke heavy ice through the night. This morning Healy pulled in front of us to break ice, and Louis followed behind at four knots for a few minutes. This was a test run to see if the ice conditions will allow us to maintain that relatively slow speed for seismic work. It worked, and our seismic array was set up and deployed.
Deploying seismic array. Photo credit: Hans Böggild
Last evening Marine Geologist Dr. Deborah Hutchinson, USGS Liaison Officer, gave an illuminating talk in the Forward Lounge about UNCLOS, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, including article 76. She gave us all a better understanding of the article, which is the prime reason we are acquiring seismic and bathymetric information on this voyage. The scientific information we are gathering will be used in the submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf Canada is preparing pursuant to UNCLOS, and intends to file in 2013. The geological and ocean depth information we are capturing will inform the determination of the outer limits of Canada’s continental shelf 200 nautical miles beyond our shoreline, thereby determining with precision where Canada may exercise its rights and jurisdiction over the continental shelf.
When we were in higher latitudes previously on our voyage, the sun was bright 24 hours a day. We are now further south and as a result we’re all noticing that the sky is getting dark later in the evening and that the sun is now setting. Last night was the first night in a long while that Louis turned on its searchlights to illuminate the ice in front of the ship as we made our way. Healy had their lights on as well. The sun started to set around 22:30 last evening and we were in darkness after midnight. Daybreak occurred around 3:30.
United States Coast Guard Cutter Healy in the sunset. Photo credit: David Mosher
Progress on seismic acquisition was steady through the day. At 19:00 we are currently stopped and Healy is coming around to loosen up the ice around us. This maneuver consists of Healy turning around and steaming past us on one side then turning around below us and steaming past us on one or the other side of us, then taking the lead again. By doing this Healy creates pathways through the ice on either side of us, loosening some of the pressure on the ice around us and allowing us to move forward at the slow speed required for seismic work.
At the evening science meeting Chief Scientist Dr. David Mosher hoped that we could get to the end of our current seismic track by tomorrow morning. If that occurs, and a suitable hole in the ice can be found, then the AUV may deploy tomorrow.
Published September 22, 2011
Sept. 16th – Day 30 of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
Helicopter Landing. Photo credit: David Mosher
This morning we are at 80.31 degrees north, and the day started at minus 11 Celsius. We are looking for an open pool or pond in the ice to launch the AUV, the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle. The helicopter is currently in the air and scouting the surrounding area looking for a section of open water. Looking out my window this morning it’s hard to imagine there would be any open water out there. What I see is a vast frozen plain of ice in every direction. The composition of the ice seems a mixture of thinner first-year ice frozen in with heavier chunks of thick multi-year ice. An open pool? It seems like a tall order. Why can’t the ship just carve out an open pool? The trouble with that is the pressure pushing in on the entire ice pack. Any pool we might carve would most likely close in around us quickly again. Also, making a hole that way would also create a lot of “burgie bits” or “growlers,” basically lots of riff-raff ice that would get in the way of the sub when it was lowered into the water. So it seems we need a pool that is already staying open regardless of the pressure. These do exist as natural phenomena, and they’re sometimes called “polynyas.” They’re caused by an upwelling of currents, certain wind conditions, and occasionally they attract mammals. One way to think of them is as an oasis of water in the middle of an ice field. The helicopter has just returned, and apparently there are several open pools up ahead of us. The ship is heading in that direction now.
A while later, the ship stopped at the first open pool. It was decided that it wasn’t perfect for launching the sub. I did have a chance to question Ice Observer Barbara Molyneaux about it. She told me that it wasn’t a polynya, and would more appropriately be designated as a “fracture” or a “blind lead.” A fracture isn’t wide enough to navigate or move in, and a blind lead is big enough to navigate but it doesn’t go anywhere. In any case, we are currently proceeding towards the next open pool that lies eight miles away.
We have now arrived at the next open pool. It’s at least ten times larger than the first one, and it’s not strictly a polynya either. It is covered with a thin layer of ice called “dark nilas,” so named because the darkness from the open water beneath it gives it a darker hue. Dark nilas is up to 5 centimetres thick. On the surface of this thin ice, we can see an interesting phenomenon called “frost flowers,” small flower-like ice crystals that are 50 to 100% saltier than the water they come from.
Arctic Vista. Photo credit: David Mosher
This second open pool has been chosen to deploy the AUV. Through the afternoon, Physical Oceanographer Jane Eert did a CTD\rosette test, getting readings about the water composition, salinity, and the water layers down to the bottom. The depth here is about 3600 metres. This information is useful for the AUV Team, in terms of preparing the buoyancy of the sub for the current water conditions.
At 18:00, the AUV Team lowered some of their submarine tracking instruments from the quarterdeck, while other members of the team continued to prepare the sub in the hangar. At 18:30 the AUV was lowered over the starboard side. At 19:00 it slipped below the waves.
Published September 22, 2011
Sept. 17th – Day 31 of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent is in the same position today as we were yesterday because we need to wait for the return of the AUV, which started its mission last night. The ship was quite still through the night, which is a state unlike what we have experienced through the last few weeks breaking ice. Over breakfast many people aboard commented about the great sleep they had last night.
After the AUV was hoisted over the side last evening, it went through a series of preliminary tests before it departed on its mission gathering bathymetric information under the Arctic ice. First it dove to a depth of 40 metres and circled around. It repeated this pattern at depths of 500, 1000, 2000, and 3000 metres below the surface. It finally dove to 130 metres from the bottom and did one last circle. Once this was completed, the sub automatically went on its mission just after midnight last night. It is expected to return Sunday morning.
Steve Lloyd - Helicopter Engineer conducting 100 hour inspection. Photo credit: Hans Boggild
While the AUV is on its mission, the busy working life aboard our ship continues. In the hangar, Flight Engineer Steve Lloyd is busy doing the 100 hour maintenance routine on the helicopter. He has the red five-seater all apart and he’s adjusting all the essential parts that keep it in the air. It’s interesting to look at the insides of the helicopter with all of its engines, wires, and exhaust ducts on display. The maintenance routine takes two days to complete, and everyone gives Steve plenty of room while he does this important and intricate work, because the helicopter is our essential link to the world around us. I spoke briefly to Steve last night after he finished his first day of this work, and he commented on how much easier it is to make the adjustments to the helicopter when the ship is still, as it is now. He’s often done it when the ship is underway breaking ice or tossing and turning on heavy seas.
On the Flight Deck and the Quarterdeck, the Seismic Team is making repairs to the high pressure hoses that lead to the seismic array. This equipment has taken a lot of punishment over the last weeks, and the repairs and adjustments ensure that the seismic equipment will be ready to go into action again soon after the AUV returns.
At 19:15, just after the evening science meeting, Richard Pederson reported that the team heard the first chirp signal coming back from the AUV, an indication that it is coming home to Louis. This is exciting news. It is expected to arrive back in our vicinity sometime through the night.
This evening, the ship’s band hosted a musical jam in the Forward Lounge. It was the band’s first performance situation and they sounded great. Chief Cook Blair Walsh, the band’s drummer, told me that they’ve decided on “The Jeffreys” as their name.
Published September 22, 2011
Sept. 18th – Day 32 of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
The AUV returned at 1:00 this morning from its mission to gather bathymetric information under the ice. It currently rests just under the ice surface 300 metres behind CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent. The fact that it returned to the position of the ship is quite a technological achievement, given that Arctic ice drifts a great deal. The next challenges are to get it back aboard the ship, and to retrieve the information it acquired on its mission.
Recovery of the sub started at 10:00. When I went to the bridge, the position of the AUV was determined to be 117 metres away, just over one length of our ship. The sub was still beneath the ice at a depth of 2.5 metres. Lookouts were sent to the Forward Deck. Captain Marc Rothwell maneuvered the ship towards the sub’s determined position, using the ship’s bow to make splits and cracks in the ice. Richard Pederson, Leader of the AUV Team, communicating with his hand-held radio, sent a request to his team that modems be dropped over the side to get new range readings on the sub’s position. Captain Rothwell continued to use the ship to chip away at the ice, and to move ice pans around. Everyone on the bridge had their eyes trained down on our pool of operations, searching for a visual of the AUV.
At 11:05, “There it is! It’s off the starboard bow!” All of us moved quickly to see the yellow submarine about a metre beneath the surface, poking out from beneath an ice pan. On the Forward Deck, a bright orange buoy was thrown onto the ice near the sub to provide a visual reference point in the event that it became covered in ice again.
The wind was strong today, and it tended to push our ship back in the water on a frequent basis. The ship steamed forward on several occasions to keep within range of the sub. The AUV popped up to the surface at 11:14. Two minutes later it was covered over again by large chunks of ice. Captain Rothwell used the ship’s bubbler system to push the ice away from the sub.
The sub became visible again. Louis maneuvered alongside it, and by 12:50 it was halfway down the starboard side, close to our giant cranes. Seaman Neil Jollymore and Senior AUV Technologist Stephen Nishio were hoisted in a basket and lowered over the side to attach ropes. They secured the necessary lines, and the sub was hoisted back on board by 13:28.
On the bridge, Richard Pederson savored the moment. He shook Captain Rothwell’s hand and thanked him for an excellent job.
I spoke to Richard Pederson later, just after he’d handed the DVD with the bathymetric data the AUV had acquired to Chief Scientist Dr. David Mosher. Richard commented, “That is what we came here for.” Clearly exhilarated by the mission itself, he was proud of the AUV, of his team, and of CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent. He added, “We have proven that we can deploy AUVs from an ice-breaker in the Arctic. This opens the door to pursuing science using AUVs from ships in the Arctic in the future.”
Published September 26, 2011
Sept. 19th – Day 33 of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
We are at 79 degrees north and on the move again. Healy has rejoined us, having returned from gathering multi-beam bathymetry while we deployed the AUV for the last couple of days. We have just stopped and Healy is now directly in front of us, getting ready to lead the way while we prepare to put our seismic gear in the water.
A little while later, there was a thumping sound coming from the rear of the ship. Many thought that perhaps the seismic array had already been deployed, because the sound was quite similar to the pneumatic air guns. It turned out, however, that the sound was coming from the centre shaft propeller. The ROV, the remotely operated vehicle, will be deployed to go underwater and take a closer look at that propeller.
Everyone aboard is looking forward to the “Raft Up” tomorrow, when U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy and CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent will come alongside. A gangway will connect the two ice-breakers who have worked so hard together for the last four and a half weeks. Music will be played by musicians from both ships. Our Chief Cook Blair Walsh has an excellent menu planned including prime rib, bacon scallops, salmon in phyllo pastry, and lobster tails. The Healy galley will also provide food.
The Raft Up will feature contests and games. The Deck Department will host the Marlinspike Event, where 2-3 person teams will face off in a timed knot-tying competition. The list of knots for the event is a long one, and includes; timber hitch, rolling hitch, eye splice on the bite, heaving shank, monkey’s fist, turk’s head, single carrick bend, and many more. There will also be a splicing event and a line throwing event. Each ship’s galley staff will create two desserts, which will then be judged by the Commanding Officers.
Mark Rowsome, ROV Specialist, brought his remotely operated vehicle back to the Quarterdeck to take a look at Louis’ propeller. This was a very opportune way to get an excellent view of the propeller in freezing cold Arctic waters. The underwater view revealed that the propeller had separated a few inches from the centre shaft, rendering the propeller inoperable for the moment. The ship still has full use of the port and starboard propellers.
Later, due to the restrictions of having only two propellers to power the ship, the seismic array was put away, and science has been terminated. Chief Scientist Dr. David Mosher had hoped for another five or six days of seismic exploration. Finding the means of arriving in these remote uncharted waters is a huge effort of organization and will, and to have come this far and then to lose the opportunity to survey an area is deeply disappointing. Dr. Mosher mentioned that he may not have another chance to survey this particular area in his lifetime.
By the nightly science meeting at 19:00, Dr. Mosher had time to take stock of the many accomplishments the expedition has achieved to date. In spite of his disappointment, he let us know that most of the principal objectives of the voyage have been met. He thanked everyone for the success of meeting these objectives ahead of time. He also mentioned that the data gathered by the AUV has been examined, and that it is good.
Published September 26, 2011
Sept. 20th – Day 34 of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
We’re still at 79 degrees north. CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent and U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy came alongside at noon today for the Raft Up. It’s not every day that two ice-breakers from two Arctic nations come together in the Arctic Ocean t o celebrate a joint mission.
The gangway. Photo Credit: Hans Boggild.
By 13:00 a gangway was secured and crews from both ships crossed it to enjoy each other’s company. There were many preparations afoot to prepare for a banquet celebrating our shared expedition. Louis and Healy crews made a human chain from our galley, over the gangway and ultimately into Healy’s Hangar, the venue for the feast. Passing food from hand to hand during this exercise, one couldn’t miss the pig that roasted in a large barbeque just outside the Healy Hangar, wafting appetizing aromas over us as our banquet took shape.
At 16:00 everyone gathered in the Healy Hanger. Captain Beverly Havlik of Healy and Captain Marc Rothwell of Louis thanked each other for their help on the mission and presented each other with plaques. Canadian Chief Scientist Dr. David Mosher presented Healy Captain Havlik with a plaque commemorating the mapping collaboration between Canada and the US since 2008. He also presented his US scientific counterparts, Dr. Larry Mayer and Andy Armstrong, with a mounted picture of an undersea mountain the three of them had discovered in 2009. Captain Duane Barron, Canadian Liaison Officer, and Dr. Deborah Hutchinson, USGS Liaison Officer, also made presentations honouring the co-operation between our two countries.
Many of us had skipped breakfast and lunch in anticipation of the banquet, and the feast that followed was truly worth the wait. The food from both galleys was fantastic.
After dinner we crossed the gangway to Louis’ Hangar and crowded around for the knot-tying and rope-splicing competitions. There was lots of high-spirited friendly rivalry here. This was followed by the line-throwing event, where a rope was thrown the length of the hangar towards a life buoy. At one point, Seaman Lewis Hann hurled his line right through the centre of it. Captains Rothwell and Havlik took turns as well, followed by the Chief Scientists from both ships. One could imagine that these tests of seamanship could well have taken place aboard wooden ships hundreds of years ago. The fact that this tradition found life aboard the two flagship ice-breakers from Canada and United States, alongside each other in the Arctic Ocean near the end of a historic mission, made it all the more exceptional.
Musicians from both ships then performed in Louis’ Hangar. Our band, The Jeffreys, played a variety of rock and pop, much to everyone’s enjoyment. They were joined by musicians from the Healy, who sat in on a number of tunes.
At 21:00 an announcement went out for crew members to return to their respective ships. At 22:00, the two ships separated, and will now journey south together.
Published September 26, 2011
Sept. 21st – Day 35 of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
We are at 78 degrees north and heading south. The ice is beginning to get thinner.
Most everyone aboard CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent on our expedition has a long-standing relationship with the Arctic. Many of us onboard also have family or ancestors who spent time in this part of the world, and sometimes it almost feels like those connections have drawn us back here. Here’s just a few of those stories.
4th Officer Jeremy Wagg from Burin Newfoundland comes from a family with a long seafaring history. H is great grandfather worked in the salt-bank schooner fishery, and his grandfather was a dory man. His father made twelve trips to the Arctic as Chief Engineer on the Pierre Radisson, a Hudson Bay Company ship, delivering supplies to Iqaluit, then called Frobisher Bay. The ship also resupplied the Hudson Bay Company stores in many other Arctic communities. Jeremy’s dad was excited when he learned that Jeremy was going to the High Arctic on our expedition. To mark the occasion of his present journey to the high latitudes, Jeremy got Burin’s flag from the town’s mayor, and brought it with him on our voyage. It’s gone quite a distance from Burin, located at latitude 47 degrees north. It has travelled from Burin to St. John’s, St. John’s to Iqaluit, Iqaluit to Rankin, Rankin to Kugluktuk, then aboard CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent, and all the way up to our expedition’s most northerly point in the Arctic Ocean, which was 88 degrees 27 minutes north. At that point, Jeremy got a picture of himself with the flag, Captain Rothwell, Chief Officer Roy Lockyer, and Chief Engineer Mia Hicks. When Jeremy returns to Burin after the voyage he’s going to present the flag to the town council where it will be held in council chambers.
Chris Brannan, AUV Team Technologist, has a family connection to the North as well. His great grandfather, Joe Fassett, served in the Arctic on Canadian Government Ship Minto. Joe Fassett, operating the Minto’s wireless on April 15, 1912, received the SOS signal from the Titanic, and relayed the message to Halifax and New York so something could be done about it.
Richard Pederson, AUV Team Leader, has some Norwegian ancestors. One of them is Roald Amundsen, the first man to navigate through the North West Passage.
My father, Captain Kai Böggild, after serving in the RCN during the Battle of the Atlantic, was sent by the navy to the Arctic in 1948 to revise and correct early admiralty charts of the Western Arctic and the Beaufort Sea. He did this work aboard RCMP vessel St. Roch with help and support from the vessel’s captain, RCMP Inspector Henry Larsen, the first man to navigate the Northwest Passage in both directions. My dad and Larsen became lifelong friends, and I met Larsen on many occasions when I was a boy. It feels great to be in the Arctic, a part of the world that my father and his good friend enjoyed so much.
Published September 26, 2011
Sept. 22nd – Day 36 of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
We are at 76 degrees north and heading south. We are noticing that the ice is becoming thinner with more patches of open water. What I see out my window is first-year ice with a few concentrations of multi-year scattered within it.
“Dark nilas” ice. Photo Credit: Hans Böggild
We saw more examples of “dark nilas” ice this morning as we made our way. This is relatively thin ice and the darker hue of the water beneath it imbues it with a darker complexion. One feature that sometimes happens with this ice is called “finger rafting.” Pressure on this salty pliable ice causes long sections of it to ride up over the top of itself in sheets, creating a pattern that looks like intertwined fingers.
Captain Rothwell piped the message to the ship this morning that the final destination of our voyage is Cambridge Bay. The Captain also informed us that Healy will break off from us shortly after lunch today.
Through the morning, the ROV, the remotely operated vehicle, was deployed again to check on the mid-ship propeller. There has been no change to its condition. Our ship has been operating on the port and starboard propellers.
I asked Chief Scientist Dr. David Mosher for more detail about the picture he presented to his American scientific counterparts Dr. Larry Mayer and Andy Armstrong at the Raft Up dinner. The picture was of a seamount, an undersea mountain rising over 1000 metres from the sea floor. The three scientists had discovered it on an earlier mission with our two ships under the UNCLOS program in 2009. Dr. Mosher said that it probably originated as a volcano. On the picture the seamount is depicted by three different kinds of graphical representation; multi-beam bathymetry, single-beam bathymetry, and seismic. The seamount is called “Savajatigiik” which means “collaboration” in Inupiaq.
At 13:30 today CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent did a final sail past of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy. The sky was a beautiful mix of sun and cloud. Many of us gathered at the rails of Louis St-Laurent to wave goodbye. Flags from Canada and United States were flown on both ships. Each ship blew its horn. From my position on Monkey Island, I noticed Captain Marc Rothwell, Canadian Liaison Officer Captain Duane Barron, and Chief Officer Roy Lockyer walk out onto our Bridge Deck. They formed a line, then saluted Healy’s Bridge as the American ship bid us farewell.
Published September 29, 2011
Sept. 23rd – Day 37 of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
We are presently at 74 degrees north. We are still proceeding south, but have been altering course as necessary through the night to avoid some concentrations of heavier ice.
Mark Rowsome and his ROV, the remotely operated vehicle, examined the centre shaft propeller three times today. This involves setting up the remote unit on the Quarterdeck. The vehicle is lowered over the side by the Deck Crew and Mark can then control its movements beneath the surface, maneuvering it to just inches from the propeller. There are two high-definition cameras on the ROV as well as lights that illuminate the subject underwater. On the deck, clear images of the propeller could be seen on two video screens. Our engineers wanted to know if the propeller was moving around as we navigate south, and by viewing its position on several occasions they’ve been able to deduce that it isn’t moving. This is good news.
Through the afternoon, we are still seeing concentrations of sea ice. It is expected that soon we will be in open water.
Published September 29, 2011
Sept. 24th – Day 38 of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
We are presently at 72 degrees north. There is much more open water around us today, but we can still see some very picturesque ice. Some of the chunks appear to be isolated bergs composed of multi-year ice. Some of them have additional structure beneath them, and the bluish colour of their composition below the surface is a sight to behold.
Every morning I check a navigation computer located in the Wet Lab on the 400 level deck of CC GS Louis S. St-Laurent. The computer screen shows our present location indicated by a small ship icon appearing on the background of the Arctic map. It also shows the route of our planned course. Right now we’re located in the Beaufort Sea and we’re heading towards the Amundsen Gulf. This area, where the gulf connects to the Beaufort, is one of the key areas of the fabled Northwest Passage. When Roald Amundsen passed through here on his 1903-1906 expedition it was the pivotal section of his route that enabled him to ultimately navigate from east to west and eventually reach the Pacific Ocean. This earned him the distinction of being the first to navigate the Northwest Passage. It took him years.
On our voyage, we will proceed east down the Amundsen Gulf, enter Dolphin and Union Straight, pass through Coronation Gulf, then Dease Straight on our way to Cambridge Bay. We will pass through this major section of the Northwest Passage in a matter of days.
There were others who explored these areas before Amundsen, but who didn’t quite manage to make it all the way through the passage. John Franklin, perhaps the most famous of them, explored the shoreline around the Coronation Gulf and the Kent Peninsula on his 1819-22 expedition, and later explored the shoreline from the mouth of the Mackenzie River all the way down the Amundsen Gulf on his second expedition in the years 1825-27. On both of these expeditions, Franklin approached these areas over land. Robert McClure passed by this area on ship during his 1850 expedition, and made his way east through a more northerly passage, through the straight that now bears his name, M’Clure Strait. John Rae, known for walking great distances with snowshoes, surveyed much of Coronation Gulf and the shoreline of Victoria Island on his 1851 expedition.
Photo Hans Böggild
This afternoon, a polar bear and her cub were sighted off the bow of our ship. Many of us gathered to watch them. When I first saw the bears, they were swimming along with the mother in the lead, and the cub following closely behind. Their black noses helped to distinguish them in the water. We all got a better view of them when they climbed up onto a large ice floe, shook the water off themselves, and ambled across it, eventually disappearing from view. I couldn’t help thinking that some of the explorers I’ve mentioned most likely would have seen a similar sight.
Published September 29, 2011
Sept. 25th – Day 39 of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
We are presently at 70 degrees north and passing through the Amundsen Gulf. We are 480 nautical miles from our destination Cambridge Bay.
Last evening the ship’s company met in the Forward Lounge so that awards could be presented. Captain Marc Rothwell was the master of ceremonies. Everyone on our voyage was awarded membership into the Domain of the Golden Dragon because during our voyage we crossed over the international dateline, over longitude 180 degrees, aboard a ship. It should be noted as well, for the record, that when we crossed the international dateline we were at the very high latitude of 87 degrees north. The awarding of membership into Domains is part of the long tradition of seafaring. There are many other key points that when passed or reached by ship give mariners certain distinctions. For example, crossing the Arctic Circle in a ship makes a sailor a member of the Order of the Blue Nose. There are many other distinctions, including designations for mariners who have gone around Cape Horn, passed over the Equator, or reached many other key locations around the globe.
Many other awards were presented and received through the evening. Borden Chapman, Chief Technologist on the Seismic Team, who has been an integral part of seismic acquisition for the UNCLOS program since the beginning, was awarded a brass clock and barometer mounted on a lovely piece of teak. The teak came from the old railing on CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent. The award recognizes Borden’s amazing contribution to the program and also honours his upcoming retirement.
Mark Rowsome, ROV Specialist, received a certificate of appreciation for his work using the remotely operated vehicle to get close-up views of Louis’ centre shaft propeller during the latter part of our voyage.
Chief Scientist Dr. David Mosher presented an impressive brass plaque to the ship. It is inscribed, “TO THE CAPTAINS AND CREW OF THE CANADIAN COAST GUARD SHIP ‘LOUIS S. ST-LAURENT’ IN RECOGNITION FOR THEIR TIRELESS EFFORTS LEADING TO THE SUCCESSFUL CONCLUSION OF THE DATA ACQUISITION PHASE OF CANADA’S UNCLOS WESTERN ARCTIC PROGRAM 2006-2011.” Dr. Mosher also presented to the ship the picture of the seamount “Savajatigiik”, which he and Dr. Larry Mayer and Andy Armstrong discovered during the UNCLOS program in 2009.
Dr. Mosher also received a plaque from the Captain, Officers, and Science Staff honouring his work as Chief Scientist. It was inscribed, “To another successful season, all objectives met.”
Richard Pederson received a plaque from Captain Rothwell for his leadership of the AUV mission. He then presented a plaque with a small stainless steel grappling hook on it to Captain Rothwell. This was a reminder of the ship’s full size grappling hook which was lost during the AUV recovery.
Marine Geologist Dr. Deborah Hutchinson received a plaque honouring her three years of sailing with us as USGS Liaison Officer during our joint missions. Deborah was also presented with the American Flag which had flown from Louis S. St-Laurent during our joint surveying missions under the UNCLOS program.
Canadian Liaison Officer Captain Duane Barron, who spent most of his voyage aboard the Healy as Canadian representative is now once again aboard Louis S. St-Laurent. He was presented with the American Arctic Service Medal.
After all the presentations the musical instruments came out. Many of us enjoyed a jam session and sing-along for the rest of the evening.
Published September 29, 2011
Sept. 26th – 27th – Days 40 – 41 of the Canadian High Arctic Seismic Expedition 2011
We are presently at 68 degrees north. We have been passing through Amundsen Gulfand Coronation Gulf on our way to Cambridge Bay. On Thursday we will disembark our ship, CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent, and return by air transport to our shore lives across the country. Our historic expedition to the High Arctic is winding down.
I spoke with Chief Scientist Dr. David Mosher and asked him about the scientific outcomes of the expedition. First he gave me the short answer, that all of the objectives of the mission have been met. Then he went into more detail. Scientists always want more data, especially about areas of the Earth where very little information exists, and that is exactly the kind of territory that we have explored.& #160; Gathering seismic information in the remote and isolated High Arctic is not an easy task, and Dr. Mosher had hoped to acquire more. There were strong westerly winds during the second part of the voyage, putting a lot of pressure on the ice pack which made for difficult passage through some of the thicker ice. Three quarters of the way through the voyage we also encountered difficulty with the ship’s centre shaft propeller, and that prevented us from doing further seismic work. And while the expedition met the objectives of the voyage well ahead of schedule, Dr. Mosher had wanted to exceed them. That is the spirit of science and exploration.
From my perspective, finishing my first sea voyage and my first trip to the Arctic, I am deeply inspired by what this expedition has achieved. It is truly a wonder that any of the objectives of this mission were met considering the remote and unforgiving environment of the High Arctic. Towing seismic equipment under Arctic ice that almost instantly closes in behind the ship while it is moving forward at the slow speed necessary for seismic work is not an easy endeavor. It is hard, difficult, and challenging. The information we acquired was from areas that have never been surveyed. This is Arctic exploration. The information gathered will have an influence on our country’s future as part of our extended shelf submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf , under UNCLOS article 76.
The highest point we reached during the voyage was 88°27.49′ North, 159° 19.61′ West. This is almost the top of the world, just 152.5 nautical miles from the North Pole. On September 12th and 13th we passed through areas in the Arctic Ocean, offshore from the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, that have never been navigated by a ship, areas with the toughest ice left in the Arctic.
The co-operation between two nations, Canada and United States, embodied by the work of two flagship icebreakers, CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent and United States Coast Guard Cutter Healy, was a sight to behold. Picture two ships at turns breaking ice for each other through a vast plain of ice that spreads out in all directions to the horizon. My aerial view of these two ships from the helicopter making their way through this remote and uncharted part of the Earth will stay with me for the rest of my life.
The other programs on the voyage also met with tremendous success. The AUV, the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, was deployed on two occasions. Every good drama needs conflict, and the first deployment encountered some difficulties. There was a technical problem with one of the sub’s obstacle avoidance systems, and the mission had to be aborted. When the sub rose to the surface near the ship as it was supposed to do, it found itself caught beneath ice with huge upward crevices, and it was difficult to recover. Again, when you try and do something that’s never been done before, sometimes it’s not easy. With the amazing work of CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent, using its bow to propagate cracks in the ice around the sub, it was recovered. The AUV team fixed the technical problems. The second deployment was a great success. The AUV went on its mission under the ice gathering bathymetric information and returned to the ship, an amazing accomplishment considering how Arctic ice drifts. To the best of our knowledge, an AUV has never before been successfully launched from a ship in the High Arctic. It has now, and the sub accomplished exactly what it was programmed to do. It has pushed the technological boundaries of what is possible in the High Arctic.
Stoyka Netcheva, an Atmospheric Scientist with Environment Canada, deployed The O-Buoy, a self-contained fully automated Arctic buoy that can measure the chemical composition of the Arctic atmosphere for up to two years. The buoy was installed on an ice floe by a shore party from CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent at 88° north. Physical Oceanographer Jane Eert of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans collected water samples whenever she had an opportunity, and they can be used to understand the circulation of water in the Canada Basin and beyond. Chief Hydrographer Jon Biggar and his team collected single-beam bathymetry all along our route so that accurate ocean depth information can be incorporated into charts of the area.
All of the scientific programs on our voyage required the direct participation and involvement of Captain Marc Rothwell, and the Officers and Crew of CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent. Every person on the ship’s crew brought the highest degree of professionalism to every task. Not only did they work long hours in freezing conditions, the level of commitment they brought to achieving excellent results and positive outcomes was inspiring. All of them cared so much about each and every scientific program and did everything they could to ensure their success.
There has not been a dull moment on this expedition. In addition to all of the hard work, everyone on the Louis has enjoyed great times with their shipmates. There were many evenings filled with music and song, lots of fun around the Arctic greenhorn ceremonies, and a fabulous Raft Up with Healy in the Arctic Ocean.
We have just dropped anchor in Cambridge Bay. I’m very proud to have spent my first sea voyage aboard such an excellent ship. I will often think of the amazing people I’ve met on this voyage to the High Arctic.
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