The Arctic is magical, that we know, but when one ship multiplies to hundreds of small boats we really see the effect that Arctic magic can bring.
Margie Turrin, Author at State of the Planet - Page 2 of 5
We are closing in on a week of intense focus and excitement for GEOTRACES and for the United States around the Arctic. President Obama became the first sitting president to visit Alaska, the US Coast Guard Cutter Healy with US GEOTRACES scientists completed the first unaccompanied US surface vessel transit to the North Pole, and the first group ever to collect trace metals at the North Pole! You might assume these three items are unrelated, but they are in fact tightly linked.
For the sampling GEOTRACES is doing in the Arctic there is a specific goal of collecting just the top few dozen centimeters of sediment and the water just above it. Although the plan was good, things don’t always go perfectly.
Scouring Arctic for Traces of Fukushima and Cosmic Rays
Sounds like the basis for a great scifi thriller…”scientists scour Arctic, hunting for traces of nuclear fallout and ejections from cosmic ray impacts”. In reality this thriller theme is the actual core of the GEOTRACES mission.
When we venture into the Arctic for research for most of us there is the lingering hope that a polar bear will appear on our watch; at least as long as we are safely outside of its reach.
The land surrounding the Arctic Ocean is like a set of cradling arms, holding the ocean and the sea ice in a circular grasp. Within that cradle is a unique mix of waters, including freshwater from melting glacial ice and large rivers, and a salty mix of relatively warm Atlantic water and the cooler Pacific water.
The Ross Ice Shelf is the largest of the Antarctic ice shelves, measuring just under the size of the state of Texas. It is several hundred meters thick, although most of this is below the water surface. Along the ~ 600 kilometer front edge of the shelf, the ice towers up to 50 meters in height; a sheer vertical wall of white and the iridescent blue of compressed ice.
Migrating south in the winter is a behavior that Antarctic scientists share with many species of birds, although the scientists fly just a bit further south. For the IcePod team it was time to join the migration so they could test their equipment in the most challenging environment the Earth has to offer.
No one ever leaves the field the same way they entered it. Yes there is a new layer of mud on equipment, the expected wear and tear on your gear and your physical being. But also, an intangible shift in perspective.
Today’s plan is to extend the sampling to include a wider region of the water exchange between Alison (Nanatakavsaup), the surrounding ocean and the connection to Hayes glacier. At the Village Meeting we had queried the local fisherman about the iceberg exit pathways for both Alison and Hayes to confirm or correct information we have gleaned from satellite imagery.