September 16-17, 2009
Well, the trip ends in about the same way that it started. We had as much difficulty getting off the Healy as we did getting on. After packing up, eating breakfast, having our rooms inspected, and saying goodbye and thanks to the crew, we mustered in the Science Lounge to wait for our helicopter transfer.
Following a fog delay, the helicopter arrived. We received a safety briefing from the pilot, and the first two people put on their Mustang suits and got ready to leave. The rest of us went back to the Science Lounge to wait. They called 2 more people, the helicopter returned, and we waited some more...and waited, and waited, and waited. We were fogged in. So, we watched movies and then went to lunch. After lunch, we waited some more. Eventually, they decided that the helicopter wouldn't fly because of the fog, so they had to make arrangements to take us off by a small landing craft.
Several hours and another meal later, we were ready to depart. Some people were lowered off the ship in the smaller boats. Others of us had to climb down a Jacob's ladder from the quarter deck into the landing craft. The ship was pitching in the waves, and the ladder moved back and forth. When I was about 4 steps from the bottom, they told me to hold on because the landing craft had drifted away from the Healy - it's a little disconcerting to look down and see nothing below you but the Arctic Ocean. Once we were all aboard, we took a rough ride to shore.
Back at BASC (Barrow Arctic Science Consortium) we had some confusion over where people were staying and whether or not our huts had water. I also tried to find someone to take my biological specimens, but there were no benthic (deep sea) people interested, so I got to bring them home.
Most of the group was ready to depart on Thursday morning, but they cancelled (not even delayed) that flight. Since the other flights were oversold, they initially announced that the first time people would be able to leave was Saturday - that did not go over very well. Finally, they were able to re-book everyone onto a Thursday night flight. They had to bring in a full-size plane, not the half cargo/half passenger ones they usually fly.
After many hours of travel and connections all over the country - the most direct way from Anchorage to Chicago is not through Dallas, but it was the quickest, I was home.
My trip was an amazing adventure. I learned a tremendous amount about oceanography, worked with scientists at the top of their respective fields, gained a deep appreciation of the Coast Guard, made some great friends, and got to experience the beauty and starkness of the Arctic. This was an experience I will never forget.
I need to thank Leyden High Schools, its administration, and my colleagues for their support and for allowing me the time to participate. I also want to recognize the Leyden Credit Union, the Leyden Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, and the Leyden Science Department for financial support for the satellite phone rental. Thanks also to my family for being so supportive as I went off gallivanting for 6 weeks.
Deep gratitude also goes to the ARMADA Project www.armadaproject.org , the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography, and the National Science Foundation for sponsoring the program. Special thanks to the Science Party, Healy crew, and especially to Larry Mayer of UNH/CCOM and to Andy Armstrong of NOAA/CCOM for allowing me to participate and for their guidance.