December 24, 2007
Position 71° 15.207' N 124
I met up with Monika Pucko and her husband, Wojciech Walkusz, in the moon pool around 7 am. Married two years, they emigrated from Poland only about 6 months ago to continue their doctoral studies at the University of Manitoba. Monika is interested in studying the concentration of HCHs (hexachlorocyclohexanes) in the Arctic environment and Wojciech has accompanied her for this leg to help and conduct his own experiment on the absorption of HCHs by copepods.
The moon pool is a room located just above the waterline and toward the bow of the ship. It contains a set of doors that opens up to the ocean below. This allows the scientists to lower their equipment when the ice conditions outside would normally prevent it from happening. Today, we took water samples, about 160 liters total from the rosette. The rosette is a device that allows sampling of the complete water column with one drop/raise. Rather than lowering a collection bottle several times to collect water at multiple depths, the rosette does it in one shot. It contains 28 different collection bottles, capable of holding about 30 liters apiece. It is lowered to the bottom with all of the collection bottles open. Then while being raised, it is stopped momentarily at the desired depth and the corresponding bottle closes, sealing in the water from that part of the column. It is also equipped with a CTD which gives real-time information of water salinity, temperature, and dissolved oxygen content among others.
In the control room, Monika set depths of 10, 25, 50, 100, 150, 200, 250, and bottom into the computer and the rosette was lowered through the 285 m (940 ft) of frigid water below. It took about 30-40 minutes for the rosette to reappear in the moon pool and we quickly took our samples. The water was carried back to the aft lab on deck 5 in large coolers and we set about prepping it for analysis. The 4 liter depth samples for her experiment were each spike with 10 microliters of a known HCH compound. This tracer could then be followed through the process to monitor for efficiency. For example, let's say she was only able to recover 90% of the spiked compound at the end. This would mean that she could add 10% to the rest of her data set since her procedure was only 90% efficient at capturing the HCHs. Once spiked, the solutions were drawn by a peristaltic pump first through a filter to remove any living organic matter and then through cartridges filled with a resin designed to remove the HCHs. The solutions had to be filtered at a flow rate of about 30 ml per minute. This predetermined rate stuck a perfect balance. Too fast, and you run the risk of not absorbing all of the HCHs onto the resin. Too slow, and you are simply wasting time, as there is no increase in accuracy associated with a slower drip rate. It took about 3-4 hours total to filter each sample. Thankfully we were able to run several at once so all seven samples were completed in two sets before the Christmas party.
Meanwhile, Wojciech was filtering his own seawater. He filtered about 120 liters of water so that it was HCH free. He will then expose different species of copepods to various levels of HCHs and record their effects. Copepods are small crustacean-like creatures that are in the middle of the Arctic food chain. They survive by feeding off the microscopic plankton and in turn are feed on by fish, small seals, and whales. How many different species Wojciech will study remains to be seen as he will try to catch some tomorrow.
It is a good thing that we got our water samples when we did. The rosette was scheduled to go down a second time in the morning but before it could, large chunks of ice flowed under the ship and popped up in the moon pool. If the rosette had been down while this occurred, most likely the line would have been severed. This would have been very bad news for just about everyone onboard.
All morning ice pushed against the side of the boat, indicating that we were located in an area with too fast a drift. The ship, however, was stuck. The moon pool doors could not close with the ice in the way, and the ship could not safely move with the doors open. For several hours this afternoon the crew tried to remove the ice debris from the moon pool before being given the night off by the captain to celebrate with everyone else. They decided to run hot water through a large metal coil and place it in the moon pool overnight in an attempt to soften up the now rock hard ice. It had come in pieces but quickly froze into one large chunk. This would be a last attempt effort to avoid many more hours of back breaking chipping and removing. I hope it works for their sake.
At 8 pm everybody met in the crew lounge for the gift exchange. All scientists and crew members brought a wrapped gift with them onboard and placed them beneath the Christmas tree in the crew's lounge. Names were placed in a hat, and the person drawn had the choice of either a present still under the tree, or a previously chosen gift. No present was to be unwrapped until the end, so choices were based on size, shape, wrapping paper, and a good shake of the box. Gifts ranged from the normal books and t-shirts to the not so normal stuffed animal in the shape of a common bacterium (definitely brought onboard by a scientist). I ended up with a jazz/swing cd that I will try later this evening on my laptop. A good time was had by all, English and French-speaking Canadians, Russians, Chinese, Poles, Spaniards, and one American (me). The party finally stopped at around 11:30 pm when the stereo malfunctioned. In order to maintain good crew morale, I think this will be placed high on the priority list of repairs tomorrow.