Dear family and friends,
In the great tradition of the Arctic Ocean, nothing goes as planned. Where we last left off, we had three whale hydrophone moorings left to recover and one whale hydrophone mooring left to deploy. Due to strong currents and zero visibility in the fog, we were unable to recover the moorings, so they will remain on the Arctic floor for one more year. The deployment of our final mooring, however, went smoothly.
During our final mooring operations on Wednesday, we held a retirement ceremony for BMCM Wilson. Master Chief Wilson retired from the Coast Guard with over 23 years in service. While he only spent a little over a year on board, he contributed greatly to the ship with the navigation and training of the bridge crew, specifically during CART and TACT. BMCM Wilson was honored with the Coast Guard Commendation Medal, a Presidential Letter of Appreciation, the Commandant’s Certificate of Retirement, and a shadow box.
This is when life started to get interesting. We spent the remainder of the evening steaming back to Barrow, conducting CTDs along the way. Unfortunately, our helicopter, 6MH, was grounded in Fairbanks due to excessive smoke from forest fires. We had two days set aside for the passenger transfers and stores onload. When we arrived off Barrow on Thursday, 6MH was still grounded and there was so much fog that we could not participate in flight operations even if he was there. So Plan B started to take place, which was the waiting game. While we continually received updates from the helicopter manager as to when the next possible time to take off was, we ran lines of CTDs. After all, if we could not disembark the passengers, we could at least get more data.
As Thursday came to a close and there was no increase in the visibility and 6MH was still grounded in Fairbanks, it became apparent that we needed a backup plan. HEALY has two types of small boats on board. Our primary small boats are our two RHIBs or Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats. These are the orange boats that we use for mooring and sediment trap recoveries. Our other small boat is our LCVP, which is our landing craft. The LCVP can fit more people and cargo (about 25 passengers versus 6), but it has severe restrictions on the conditions in which it can be launched. In order for us to use the LCVP, the seas must be very calm. Unfortunately, these were not the conditions off Barrow. There was, however, a commercial landing craft, much larger than our own, that happened to be in Barrow and offered their services to us. Since our helicopter was still grounded in Fairbanks and the visibility was not increasing significantly, we decided to try our next best option. The Greta S. Akpik, Operated by Bowhead Transportation of Seattle, generously offered to help shuttle passengers and cargo from the beach to the ship. The transfers with the Greta went off without a hitch and allowed us to start AWS-0905 on time.
With our new science party on board and a rendezvous with the CCGS Louis S. St. Laurent imminent, we began our transit north. Before beginning our work with the Louis, we had a couple of other science evolutions to conduct. Our first night was a long one with the recovery of two acoustic moorings that we deployed last year. After their successful recovery, we deployed a CTD glider, which will remain in the water collecting data until our transit back to Barrow. In addition, we needed to conduct a patch test of the multibeam sonar to ensure that the instrument was correctly calibrated and collecting accurate data. The patch test included a 3800m CTD cast, affording everyone the opportunity to send down decorated Styrofoam cups and pieces to shrink with the pressure of that depth. The rest of our time waiting for the Louis was spent mapping specific areas where we had missing data.
Monday evening we rendezvoused with the Louis and conducted flight operations to bring their Chief Scientist on board for the evening. The night was spent conducting tests of their instruments, then we were off north to the location of the first transect.
The next few weeks has us working with the Louis and getting back into the rhythm of escorting in the ice that we left with last year. Soon the morale events will kick into full gear, as will the decisions about where to go during the next transfer season. Until then, we’ll keep driving deeper into the ice.
For those looking HEALY up throughout the web, we have two new websites courtesy of our embarked PA3:
Until Next Week,
ENS Tara Schendorf
Public Affairs Officer