After a beautiful sun-filled day sampling in the ice that included a sighting of a polar bear, we reached the northernmost point of the cruise, just two nautical miles offshore of Prince Patrick Island on the north side of M’Clure Strait at 75.42 degrees North. It is very cold up here with temperatures hovering around 3 degrees Fahrenheit, -13 degrees F with wind chill! Despite the cold temperatures, I spent much of the day outside, going inside only when I could no longer feel my fingers enough to hit the shutter on my camera. We finished our sampling line just as the sun set and the moon rose over Prince Patrick Island. It was another stunning day in the Arctic!
Sunrise in M’Clure Strait
Sampling in the Ice
Prince Patrick Island, the North side of M’Clure Strait
After we finished sampling, it was time to head south through the ice to our next sampling area at the mouth of Amundsen Gulf. The moon was shining brightly reflecting on the ice as we steamed south and said goodbye to a fantastic two days in the ice!
Steaming South out of the ice…
After 36 hours of steaming, the day dawned with a beautiful sunrise over Robilliard Island as we arrived at our sampling station just south of M’Clure Strait in the Canadian Archipelago. The wind has certainly picked up and the seas are rough and choppy. It is much colder up here as the entire deck is encrusted in ice and slush. With the soft light of the day, it is quite beautiful. The days are getting shorter and shorter both as we head north and get later in the year. I believe we are losing about nineteen minutes of sunlight each day!
We have been collecting water samples along our transect the entire day in order to determine our next sampling area. Hopefully it will involve getting into some ice as the area around the ice edge is particularly interesting in terms of productivity and ocean chemistry!
Recovering a mooring recording the sounds of the Arctic
We are in the middle of the first phase of the cruise which consists of recovering and deploying moorings in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Most of these moorings have been on the bottom of the ocean collecting data since being deployed on last year’s cruises. It is amazing to think about the time series of data that these instruments are collecting. There are a variety of moorings being deployed and recovered, collecting all kinds of data, from physical oceanography data, to chlorophyll measurements to acoustic data listening for passing mammals. So much can be learned from these instruments because they are in situ for so long monitoring the changes throughout the year.
Mooring operations must be completed in daylight so we have been doing CTD casts all night and the mooring ops and any necessary transiting during the day. Ship time is valuable so all minutes and hours of the day must be used efficiently. We have a few more days of mooring ops to complete before moving on to the second phase of the cruise which will consist of 24 hour a day CTD casts and water sampling!
With an early start to the day (0500), back up to the north, the CTD was in the water. The trawl was in and fishing by 0600 for a three hour tow. At 0900, the tow came up and was as expected with a nice concentration of post-smolts although they are quite small. The trawl went out again for four hours on the second tow but the haul had far fewer fish than anticipated. With that in mind, we steamed north a bit for the third tow. We are kind of zigzagging along a contour in order to find higher numbers of post-smolts.
After ending the day with a smaller number of post-smolts, we are steaming farther north to sample tomorrow into the northerly current. We should be above 68°N in the morning to begin sampling so in fact our first proclamation of the northernmost point of the voyage will be incorrect.
The day was filled with quite a bit of wildlife though. We saw a few sperm whales cruising on the surface in addition to two minke whales and a fin whale. There are quite a few fulmars following the ship as well.
Sperm Whale Fluke
A fulmar soaring past the ship
I am quite excited to be heading so far north. Perhaps we will get some sunshine but the fog is rolling in so it is not looking promising.