December 28, 2007
Position 71° 17.856' N 124° 45.393' W
The winds increased in strength during the night and at 9:30 am were gusting at over 40 knots (44 mph). With the wind, it felt like -58°C, or -72°F, on the ice. The work plan for today was adjusted early, with outside activities pushed to tomorrow when the winds are supposed to die down. I can't image how anything survives outside in these conditions.
It was back in the zooplankton lab for me today. After Woijiech handpicked his Calanus hyperboreus specimens, Debbie Armstrong and I sat down to sort through the leftover critters that were caught in the 1 meter square net. The seven larger species of zooplankton were removed and will be dried and analyzed for HCH content by GC (gas chromatography) back in Winnipeg. Although the smaller ones are more important biologically due to their shear numbers, it is much easier to get the necessary biomass with the larger species. Among the species collected were Chaetognaths (small transparent arrow worms), Ostracods (small red plankton that raced around the top of the dish), Aglantha digitalae (bell shaped jelly fish), Themisto libellula (larger black amphipod), Themisto abyssorum (smaller redish amphipod), and Paraeuchaeta glacialis (reddish predator plankton-it arms bent in a way that it could bring its prey to its mouth). Also in the dish were some red star larvae and a jellyfish called Beroe cucumis. This jelly had eight symmetrical fins extending its length that lit up as it moved through the water. I found the zooplankton much less disgusting today and a little more interesting.
Bruce Johnson took some time today to show me some of the instruments that Team 6 are using to measure gas fluxes in the Arctic. Bruce's job is to maintain the vast array of data loggers his team has onboard the Amundsen. Team 6 is interested in the air/ice/water greenhouse gas exchange process. The most important piece of equipment, secured to the bow of the ship, is nicknamed "Tim's Tower" after the Team 6 leader Tim Papakyriakou. This 8 m high scaffold houses instrumentation to measure wind direction and velocity in x, y, and z directions, the partial pressures of CO2 and H2O in the air, and total barometric pressure. The PCO2 and PH2O are measured using an open path infrared spectrometer. Air passes through the IR beam which calculates concentration based on the amount of light absorbed while it travels from the source to the detector. It is calibrated to look specifically for bond vibration frequencies that are unique to CO2 and H2O.
On top of the wheelhouse are three detectors used to measure the incoming amounts of solar radiation, a device that measures the height of clouds up to 24,000 ft., and a digital camera that takes wide-angle pictures of the sky. Hopefully all of these instruments will each play a role in understanding how greenhouse gases move within the Arctic environment. Some of the data is logged by computers up to several times a second which will result in massive quantities of raw information to sort through at the end of this 10-month journey. I can't imagine how long that will take.
It's 11 pm now and the wind is starting to die down. The plan is to finish all of our sampling on Saturday, then move to a better location. Tim said we are about 10 miles from where we started several days ago when we "stopped" in the middle of the ice sheet. Morning will come fast for me. My alarm clock is set for 6:30 am to take water column samples from the rosette. I enjoyed picking plankton but this will be a welcome change of pace.