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Journals 2007/2008

Kathy Couchon
Narragansett High School, Narragansett, RI

"AUV Engineering Trial in Fram Strait in Support of the Gakkel Ridge Expedition"
Icebreaker ODEN
May 27 - June 7, 2007
Journal Index:
May 27 - 28 - 29 - 30 - 31
June 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7

Additional Resources

June 5, 2007
"Do You Believe in Santa Claus?"

Latitude/Longitude: 81°18.0' N, 012°03.0' E
Temp: -1.9°C (29°F)

Today is the day to call my high school and have the scientists and kids chat. There are lots of last minute details to arrange. Outreach is a very important part of this expedition and while the call may not be the highest priority happening today, many folks are working together to make sure it happens. I am fortunate in that Hanu Singh and Tim Shank, have done much outreach with students in the past and are very amenable to this event. I witness the way that they interact with all of the graduate students, and the fact that they are astute teachers as well as scientists, is quite apparent.

There is time after the morning coffee break to meet with Eva, Deitmar and Eskil Franck to discuss teacher researcher programs. Eva is particularly interested in the mentoring component of the ARMADA Project, of which I am a participant. The ARMADA Project has been partnering teachers and researchers for the past 4 years, and the Swedes are incorporating some of the components of this highly successful model into their Teacher Program. It is quite an interesting and animated conversation as we discuss the educational systems of the three countries - USA, Sweden and Germany.

On the science front, there is some consternation about the lost transponders. They are out there under the thick, unbroken ice somewhere. It does not look good; one of Oden's officers asks Hanu if he believes in Santa Claus, because apparently a present from the North Pole would be the only way to get them back. And then to everyone's surprise - one popped up right in the middle of an opening in the ice. Moving to a second site to find the other transponder, no one thought we could be lucky again, but we were; the second one was found after a short bit of ice-breaking. Good thing! These are essential for working with the AUVs and no one wants to leave expensive equipment behind lost in the ice.

Late afternoon, and we are ready to talk to Narragansett. After some hectic satellite calls to Andrea at URI, and my co-teacher, Tom O'Connell, back at NHS to coordinate the photos, we are on! A brief call turns into a half-hour conversation as Hanu chats it up with the kids, sharing his great enthusiasm for scientific research and answering questions. I am so in debt to him for taking the time to reach out to these kids. Perhaps some day one of them will be on a great expedition, inspired by this connection.

What else could top this day? Perhaps only a helicopter ride with Sven Stenvall. I know Sven from my last Arctic expedition and I am happy to be back in his helicopter; this time I get one of the coveted seats right up front. Sven may not say too much, but he sure can fly a 'copter. We do not venture far due to the fog, but he gives an exciting ride including a daring "fly-by" of the ship.

It is almost the end of this test trial and the ending of a cruise on Oden means a special dinner and evening. This will be no exception. Maria prepares a delicious meal of moose steaks and during the meal there are toasts made, mementoes shared, and snaps. This Swedish drink, snaps, is accompanied by much singing of the traditional songs called snapsvisa. The Swedes have anglicized the lyrics so that as we English speakers sing English words in a nonsense order, it comes out sounding like the Swedish words. A crazy, funny tradition.

This festive air turns a bit pensive and melancholy later in the night as we approach the ice edge. A week ago I was anticipating reaching the ice edge and now I am lamenting it. No one can describe the majesty of the Arctic and everyone experiences it and internalizes it in his own way. Everyone I've ever spoken to who has been here, has been changed by the experience. You can feel it in the air tonight. The talk on the bridge is soft, the walk across the floor is light, and even the binoculars are handed silently from one person to the next. We know that after this, we will never be quite the same.

Hanu Singh in a teleconference with NHS students from the Oden's bridge
Last ice views from the bow