11 September 2018

A day in the life

We’ve just completed the first module of our cruise plan, collecting as much data as we could at the shelf break in the hopes of learning something about exactly how Pacific water enters the Arctic Ocean. Tonight we’re heading east toward an area of remnant sea ice to begin our second module. Our focus now will be on understanding how the presence of sea ice affects waves at the surface and turbulence in the water column below.

Originally, we had anticipated having to drive much farther north to get into the remnant ice pack. Being September, we’re out here during the time of year when sea ice extent is at a minimum. Conveniently, though, there has remained a pack of sea ice near the shelf break just to the east of us. As the summer heat melted everything around it, something kept it frozen at the surface. So that’s where we’re heading. By mid-morning tomorrow we’ll be ready to sample with our FastCTD profiler as the twin otter plane flies overhead.

Our location is changing, but the rhythm of life in the lab will continue. Most of the science party is divided into three 8-hour watches. Here’s what my day looks like:

5:25 am - Wake up, get dressed and make my way downstairs. My roommate is on the 10 pm - 6 am watch, so I have the luxury of being able to turn on the lights and make a bit of noise opening drawers and doors. This process becomes a lot trickier in the dark when you’re trying to stay quiet.

5:40 am - In the lab. Make a cup of coffee and put on even more clothes to get ready to go on deck. Usually I pull on my steel toed boots, bibs, and a float coat. Today there was some wind that made standing on deck for an hour extra chilly, so I opted for the one piece Mustang suit which kept me much warmer.

6:00 am - 2:00 pm - Relieve the previous watch. I’ll either go outside to operate the FastCTD winch with one of my watchmates or stay inside watching the data stream in on the computer and communicating with those on deck over the radio. For the next 8 hours we rotate through who’s on deck and who’s inside, making sure that no one stays out in the cold for too long and everyone has a chance to cycle through the galley for meals.

During this time, we’re also in communication with the bridge, pausing our profiling when the ship makes a turn to a new survey line, or when we swap instruments.

2:00 pm - Off watch. I get a bit of work done on my laptop, plotting up the day’s data or working on my other projects. Sometimes I take a break to go up to the bridge and look out the windows. It’s a different (and warmer) perspective than you get from the back deck. Yesterday we spotted two walruses swimming below. I’m hoping that getting into the ice will mean more animal sightings.

3:30 pm - Gym time. As a consequence of living on a boat, I walk a lot less than I do in my landlubbing life. There’s only so far you can go! I start to get antsy very quickly if I don’t get a little exercise daily. The Sikuliaq has a surprisingly well-equipped gym on deck below the lab, and a treadmill shoved into a corner of the main deck hallway. My daily routine has been 20 minutes on the treadmill or stationary bike followed by some weight training or yoga.

5:00 pm - Dinner. It’s always delicious. All the meals on this boat have been fantastic. Thanks, Mark and Kim!

6:30 pm - Science meeting. I really love this nightly assembly of the entire science party. Someone gives a short talk about their research or presents some of the data we’ve collected on this trip and that leads into a discussion which segues at some point into the plan for tomorrow. The three watches are awake at different times of the day, so this is the time we have to all get same page about what’s coming next. After the meeting, I spend some more time looking at data and writing until I get tired.

9:00 pm - Bedtime. Rest up to do it all again tomorrow.

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9:53 pm - Current time. I should really go to bed now. Goodnight! See you in the ice!