August 6, 2020

Postcards from a (formerly) frozen icebreaker: Part 44

Posted by larryohanlon

By Matthew Shupe

7/14/20 Helicopter Fishing Trip
With a short weather window we had the time to make a quick trip to the L2 site today. That’s where we have one of our semi-autonomous surface flux stations operating. It has been a cloudy day but the clouds are just high enough to provide a reasonable flight altitude below. This trip was kind of last-minute, as these days the conditions are typically not conducive to flying, so we don’t schedule our days around such a trip. But, late morning, the trip was planned. Finding a “bear guard” to accompany was easy; Jonathan heard us discussing plans over lunch and his ears perked up…. Eagerly volunteering to go along. For me it was a fun trip as it was my first time at MOSAiC flying in the front of the helicopter with the pilot.

A helicopter hovers above the ice, preparing for flight. Photo: Michael Gutsche/Alfred Wegener Institute

What a remarkable view from the front, with the big windows that look out in all directions. Flying out over this diverse ice pack. One thing that struck me about the flight was the number of dirty ice floes. There are many others like our floe, and some that are much dirtier, black and gray. Landing at L2, we found the scene mostly unchanged from a couple weeks ago. The adjacent ice floe had moved and the edge was different, but all of the major equipment was still intact. Our work was quick, checking tasks off our list for the day, diagnosing problems and making small fixes. Leveling our radiation measurements. Then a bit of work over at some buoys deployed by partners, again leveling them so that the measurements make sense.

But the highlight of the trip for me was the fishing. Not for fish, but rather for ocean properties. A little device for measuring ocean temperature and salinity strung from a motorized fishing rod. I found a nice perch on a large, sloping ice block that leaned out into the lead and dropped the instrument in the water. A slow descent of the device for the first 20m to resolve the interesting details of the upper ocean (including maybe a fresh water layer on top), then a little faster descent below that depth. Down to 250m, at which point the helicopter was on its way to get us….. The motor on the rod made for easy reeling, and within a few minutes the measurement package was back at the surface. That was my first so-called CTD measurement. I guess most oceanographers have done them, just like most atmospheric scientists have launched a weather balloon. A rite of passage in some respects. And now I have a new skill….. and this one was learned in great style, nice and mellow, sitting there on the edge of a lead.

An aerial view of the melting MOSAiC floe. Photo: Markus Rex/AWI

Read more of Shupe’s posts here

Scientist Matthew Shupe (CIRES/University of Colorado Boulder) is blogging from an icebreaker frozen into Arctic Ocean sea ice, so far north that the Northern Lights are no longer visible. Shupe is co-coordinator of the international Arctic climate mission MOSAiC, or Multidisciplinary Drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate. Today, he’s among about 100 people aboard the German icebreaker Polarstern. Shupe, who also works for the NOAA Physical Sciences Division in Boulder, Colorado, began planning the mission more than a decade ago, with an expanding network of scientific leaders from around the world. In a series of short posts from the ship, he shares his experience of the expedition, led by the Alfred Wegener Institute. U.S. funding for MOSAiC sciences comes primarily from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. Follow the expedition: and @MOSAiCArctic.