August 30, 2008
The bulk of today was dedicated to sending down and recovering a dredge to pull up some rock from the seafloor. A suitable location was chosen this morning, one with a very steep slope, which increases the likelihood of bringing up rock rather than the muddy sediment that tends to accumulate in flatter areas. Two researchers on our team, Kelley Brumley and Alex Andronikov, will analyze these samples. They hope that by identifying the type of rock they pull up, specifically whether it is oceanic or continental crust, this will help them determine the history of tectonic movement in this region of the Arctic basin.
The Healy transited to the area by late morning, and then a number of hours were spent setting up the gear, clearing an ice-free space to work in, and determining the drift they would have as they pull the dredge basket slowly along the sea floor. The dredge, which looks like a giant basket made out of heavy chain with a burlap liner at the bottom to catch the rocks, first had to be dropped down nearly 4,000 meters to reach the bottom of the slope. This took over an hour, a reminder of how incredibly deep the ocean is! Next, it was dragged for about a kilometer along the steep slope at a slow speed, and then the dredge began its long steady ascent to the surface. By the time it finally came up on the ship, well after dinner, Kelley and Alex were eagerly awaiting their haul, and a small crowd had gathered to see what they might have brought up (I have to admit, I secretly wondered if they would bring up some bizarre benthic creature that had never been seen before). A first look didn't appear to be all that promising; lots of mud and very little rock were recovered. But, as they continue to wash the mud out of the dredge and pull out the smaller rocks from the muck, they may find some of what they are looking for. I'm sure we will get an update on the dredge results when we have our next science meeting tomorrow evening.
Today was a Saturday, and a number of specific events happen each Saturday here on the Healy. First, the Captain or Executive Officer makes the rounds of everyone's staterooms to be sure everything is clean and there are no problems or concerns. Most everyone on the ship has duties to clean both their rooms and common spaces, and there is a flurry of activity each Saturday morning before inspection. Yes, mom, we still make our beds even up here in the Arctic! Tonight is also "morale night" and the science team volunteered to cook diner for the entire crew. We decided on pizzas and calzones, with a few side dishes, salad bar, and ice cream for dessert. By the time the cooks (that was the team I joined) showed up at 1:30, everyone got busy fast chopping, stirring, rolling, and transforming a mountain of fresh dough into enough pizza and calzones to feed over 100 hungry folks. Our group had a lot of fun working together and chatting while we cooked, and everyone seemed to really enjoy the meal.
Another fun event that happens every Saturday night is "movies in the hangar." A whole bunch of chairs are set up, a big screen is pulled down, bags of popcorn and a cooler of cold soda is made ready, and then everyone who is not on watch is invited down to enjoy a movie together. So far we've seen Iron Man, the new Indiana Jones film, and tonight they are showing a movie I'm not familiar with called Across the Universe. Other morale activities include a weekly bingo game, and a regular aerobics class. These activities, coordinated by Ens. Tasha Thomas, are appreciated by both the crew and science team, and provide a chance to get together socially and enjoy some "down time."