Blog without Internet Access? Here’s How I Did It!

Here’s the nutshell: we have not had internet or mobile phones – AT ALL – on this expedition. I think I may have made this whole blog process look easy from the other side, with all the photos and stories I’ve sent. But let me tell you the whole story. As I said the other day when we had “technical difficulties” and I couldn’t post anything but that small note, we have been in one of the most remote areas of the Earth. So, how have I been getting these posts out to you? Teamwork! Every day, I have been listening to scientists, watching experiments, asking questions, taking pictures, writing stories, and replying to all of your questions from the previous day (I also make sure to get input from the scientists for your questions). Then I reduce the size of the photos (by a lot), and put all the blog posts, pictures, Twitter/Instagram posts, and replies to your comments into just ONE document on my laptop. Each day, I take that document on a flashdrive up to my friend Oleg in the radio room, who attaches that document to ONE email – my only email of the day. I insert a sim card that I brought with me on the expedition into the Iridium Satellite Open Port, and wait, and wait, for the email to be sent with the slow connection. And for reference, sending email costs $13 per megabyte. (Next time you attach a beautiful high-resolution, 5megabyte photo or attachment to an email and hit send, look at the size of the email and remember that number – that’s why I reduce the image size by a lot before sending.) So, I send that one email a day to my colleague and friend back home. Then everything is copy/pasted into the blog, Twitter, Instagram, etc, along with all my replies to your comments. And every day, I pick up my incoming email (in paper copy form), with all of the new comments ready to be answered. And I start a new day again!

Imagine this – I have been communicating with you, and creating this blog, and I can’t even see it for myself! How crazy is that? As I said, this place is REMOTE. And nothing works on the ship, or with this blog, without teamwork. In any case, how could it possibly not be worth it to share photos like these with all of you???

Just a fraction of my email “inbox” sprawled over my cabin!

Just a fraction of my email “inbox” sprawled over my cabin!

The amazing people, science, and operations onboard – here is when a group of us were lowered by crane onto the frozen ocean to take ice measurements (with expedition Chief Scientist Vladimir Ivanov on deck

The amazing people, science, and operations onboard – here is when a group of us were lowered by crane onto the frozen ocean to take ice measurements (with expedition Chief Scientist Vladimir Ivanov on deck)

More cool science and operations onboard – here’s when I got to take a water sample from the CTD which scientists had just raised up from over 3000meters deep in the ocean

More cool science and operations onboard – here’s when I got to take a water sample from the CTD which scientists had just raised up from over 3000meters deep in the ocean

Even more incredible people, science, and operations onboard – here a mooring is  being deployed a couple miles down into the ocean

Even more incredible people, science, and operations onboard – here a mooring is being deployed a couple miles down into the ocean

Still more awesome people – the students in the NABOS Summer School got to see and learn so much firsthand

Still more awesome people – the students in the NABOS Summer School got to see and learn so much firsthand

This amazing ship that we are on, and the environment around us – here the ship was able to crack through ice and we saw this beautiful blue color

This amazing ship that we are on, and the environment around us – here the ship was able to crack through ice and we saw this beautiful blue color

The Sun over a sea of ice. Enough said.

The Sun over a sea of ice. Enough said.

Polar bears. Enough said. Photo from Drew Slater

Polar bears. Enough said. Photo from Drew Slater

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Post from a Scientist: “Night is Day, Day is Night”

Hi again!

The expedition is coming to its end. We are in the Kara Sea as I’m writing this. The sea looks surprisingly empty. I had hoped for shoals of whales and flocks of birds. In reality I briefly glimpsed only one whale. As for the birds… well, it wasn’t so frustrating. I’m a passionate bird-watcher and I added some species to my “virtual collection,” including Glaucous and Sabine’s gulls, as well as short-tailed, long-tailed, and pomarine skuas. There were also some plovers, but I couldn’t recognize them even when one of them visited our helideck one night (and I mean real, astronomic night – it was dark this night).

Speaking about nights and days, the ship time is very confusing. Prof. Ronen Plesser in one of his lectures on astronomy said: “Should you ever see a full moon at noon, something has gone terribly wrong.” I couldn’t help remembering that sentence over and over, when I saw “sunset” at 10 a.m. and “sunrise” at 9 p.m.

One way or another, there is only one day of the trip left, as I write this. Everyone is giving presentations on what they’ve done during that month. Can’t wait!

Cheers from the Arctic,

 - Anna Nesterovich

Me, out on the ice, Photo from Anna Nesterovich

Me, out on the ice, Photo from Anna Nesterovich

A plover on the ship’s helideck, Photo from Anna Nesterovich

A plover on the ship’s helideck, Photo from Anna Nesterovich

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Post from a Scientist: “Installing a Sea Ice Mass Balance Buoy in the Arctic Ocean”

As part of my activities onboard the Akademik Fedorov, I installed a seasonal sea ice mass balance (SIMB) buoy. This buoy was developed at CRREL (Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab) and is used to measure sea ice melt and sea ice growth from both top and bottom. You can check the data this buoy is collecting in real time on this website: http://imb.crrel.usace.army.mil if you search for 2013H.

 As it was my first buoy deployment ever, I decided to check if everything is working properly. So during the first week of the cruise I connected all the instruments on the helo-deck and got a successful transmission. All was left to do was to wait until we reached the proposed location and deploy the buoy. Due to weather and sea ice complications, we did not get as far north as originally planned. Our vessel, the Akademik Fedorov, can only sustain sea ice less than 2m, and honestly she feels a little easier in less-packed ice. So as we headed north and the sea ice became thick enough for the buoy deployment, we decided to do an ice station on September 3rd, 2013 when our location was at latitude 80degrees 15.7min N, and longitude 155degrees 54min E. Simultaneously to the SIMB we deployed an O-buoy, an ITP (ice-tethered profiler) and a met-buoy. The O-buoy has a webcam mounted on it and as it was the first one to be deployed, it recorded the process of the SIMB installation. I wish I had internet access to see the footage!

Me with all the instruments on the helo-deck, Photo from Masha Tsukernik

Me with all the instruments on the helo-deck, Photo from Masha Tsukernik

A completed buoy looks like a pipe, standing perpendicular to the sea ice cover, with the majority of its length underwater (remember that when ice floats on the surface of the ocean the majority of its mass is underwater). Initially we drilled a 2-inch hole to measure the ice floe thickness. It was 140cm thick with a 5cm snow layer on top – an ideal thickness for our buoy deployment. We then drilled a 10inch hole for an actual buoy to be deployed in. The anchor goes in first – we held it with a metal rod while we attached the rest of the pipe to it. Without the pipe, the anchor would have sunk, but the overall density of the buoy makes it buoyant, and ensures that it floats. The SIMB has a simple design, to ensure a novice like me can deploy it in the field. However, it does help to be prepared – a set of tools, such as a flathead and a Philips screwdriver, electrical tape, a knife, and a power drill, will speed up the installation dramatically. Luckily I had our cruise technicians around and could borrow their tools and expertise. It also helps to have extra hands around – balancing a long pipe as you lower it down into the hole is rather awkward if you only have one or two people around. 

The SIMB, installed, Photo from Masha Tsukernik

The SIMB, installed, Photo from Masha Tsukernik

A couple of days ago I got an e-mail from my mom. She went to the buoy website and was able to obtain new measurements. It turns out that it was snowing on the sea ice floe where we left the buoy – about 3cm of new snow has accumulated over the first week. At the same time, sea ice has been melting from the bottom! The bottom melt has traditionally been overlooked as it is really hard to observe. However, it is believed to be an important contributor to sea ice changes in the Arctic. Buoys like SIMB help us understand the processes important for sea ice mass balance in greater detail.

 - Masha Tsukernik

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Post from a Scientist: “Looking Back on Our Journey”

Hello!

Well…our journey is trailing off toward the end. We have just a couple days left, so I think we should take maximum advantage of our final impressions. Our meteorological group has finished cloud observations (which we did both night and day), so we are really happy that we can sleep in! But thanks to our teacher, I have started to pay more attention to the sky now. Even when I watch a movie or see a picture with a beautiful landscape, the first thing I do is try to guess what types of clouds are in the sky. Stratocumulus! Altostratus! I think it is a great experiment that will last all my life.

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Photo from Svetlana Lisova

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Photo from Svetlana Lisova

In conclusion I want to say many thanks to all the people who gave me an opportunity to participate in this expedition. I love it! I have learned a lot of new things. I will miss all these good people, we really have stuck together. Thank you!

 To all my Russian family and friends,

Передаю большой привет всем моим родным и близким! Желаю ТьМе, побольше вдохновения, народ, я по вам по всем очень соскучилась! Очень хочу поздравить мою дорогую мамуленьку с днем рождения! Пожелать ей побольше светлых деньков. Мам, никогда не унывай, помни, что мы тебя очень сильно любим и всегда сделаем все, чтобы ты была счастлива. Еще, что немало важно, крепких тебе нервов и долгих лет жизниJ

 People, don’t be scared to dream. If you really want something you should definitely get it.

 - Svetlana Lisova

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Photo from Svetlana Lisova

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The Famous Styrofoam Experiment at Sea!

What happens when you send a Styrofoam cup WAY down into the ocean? When it comes back, does it look different? Why? This is the classic science experiment you can do at sea (when you have access to the really deep water, and the really long cables). You have heard us talk about the CTD onboard our ship, which we have sent down dozens of time to take measurements and samples of the water, at all different depths, and all along our route. So let me tell you again what CTD stands for – conductivity, temperature, depth. And let’s concentrate on the “D” in CTD. Depth in water really means pressure. As you go down further into the water, you have the weight and pressure of all that water around you. The deeper you go, the higher the pressure. We decided to run this experiment, and see first-hand what happens when a Styrofoam cup feels that pressure. Although we didn’t have actual Styrofoam cups for everyone, we improvised by dividing some Styrofoam containers we had onboard (like the kind you get when you order take-out food). Styrofoam is an ideal material for this kind of experiment, because of its low density and, by definition, “foamy” and easily-compressed structure. Each of us designed our own piece and it was sent down in a mesh bag along with the CTD – 600meters deep. Here’s how it all “went down” (or not quite)…

Here are Svetlana and Ekaterina, designing their Styrofoam pieces.

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The “before” picture of some of our pieces (There is a red marker in the photo for scale): If you look closely you can see that I did one for me and another in honor of our new Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, currently being built in downtown Miami!

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The CTD helps us do our experiment – all the way to 600meters (about 0.4miles) deep (this was the deepest CTD cast that we had left to do at the time).

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Here I am bringing back the results of the experiment – almost like bringing back a sunken treasure!

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The moment of truth: Antoine and Ioana check the pieces, to discover that it is not quite the results that we had hoped for…

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Here’s the “after” picture (with the same red marker, for scale): you can see that even the pressure at a depth of 600meters couldn’t compress our pieces into miniature Styrofoam pieces (You can see a very small change, which we pretty much expected, but we were still hoping to see a little more…)

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For comparison, Florence, one of the students in the Summer School onboard showed us what happened on a previous expedition in which she participated. In the photo below, taken by a colleague of Florence’s on that expedition, you can see an ordinary Styrofoam cup on the right. On the left is an ordinary Styrofoam cup – that has been placed on a CTD and sent down more than 2000meters (1.3miles). That’s some water pressure!

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Photo from Florence van Tulder

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Post from a Scientist: “Things to Remember About the Arctic”

And once again, hello! As I am writing this, it is the 19th of September. In a couple of days our cruise will be over, and we will get to Kirkenes, and it will become much easier to call my friends or to send somebody e-mails! But now I have 3 more days on board. It means that I have enough time to do something I’ve never planned to do here! Well, as I wrote in my previous post, my name is Lena (it’s an unofficial form of my name), I’m a summer school student here and today is my second time to write a post in this nice blog! :) Well, Lindsay asked us to write about anything we want. I think it’ll not be so interesting for you to read one more post about our project because I’m sure one of the girls has already written about it. So I decided to write about some special experiences I had on board during the last month.

First, every day, every hour, of this cruise, my project partners and I observed the clouds. We did it by going on the top deck of the vessel and noting our observations in a table. So now I will be able to wake up at 4 or 6am and go upstairs to the 5th or 6th floor and write down my observation. And of course I’ll never be confused again by stratocumulus and stratus clouds! And one more fact: there are not many sunny days in Arctic! Actually we had only a couple sunny days during the cruise, and we had fog, drizzle and cloudy weather conditions the rest of the time.

Second, we had some heavy weather days, so now I know that in stormy weather, the best two skills you can have are to scotch tape everything down in your room, and to fall asleep as quickly as you can! Otherwise all your stuff that was on the table or in drawers and wardrobes will fall in the middle of the night and wake you up!

Everything needs to be taped down! Photo from Elena Khavina

Everything needs to be taped down! Photo from Elena Khavina

Third, it’s really not so easy to sleep during the polar day, because it’s light all the time. That’s why you can’t keep track of the time and never know whether it is day or night. You just start to live according to the schedule. “It’s 9o’clock, it’s time to wake up!” OR “It’s 1am already! Oh my gosh! It’s time to sleep!”

Photo from Elena Khavina

Photo from Elena Khavina

And you have to put on a lot of clothes not to become frozen. So every time you go outside, it takes about 5 – 10 min to put on everything you need. So there are a lot of special features and crazy properties here! And at the same time, you get very cool experiences, and get in touch with real Arctic nature, with sweet white polar bears, insolent sea gulls, and cozy cloudy weather!

And just like the last time, I included some photos of a sunny day in the Arctic Ocean for you. And there’s me too. :)

- Elena Khavina

Photo from Elena Khavina

Photo from Elena Khavina

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Dear Mom, Happy Birthday from the Arctic!

We have had a few birthdays while on this ship (including mine), but we also recently had a birthday back home, and I wanted to say happy birthday from the Arctic to my mom, who, as my brothers and I have always discussed, is the best mom ever! (And a P.S. to the best dad, brothers, family and friends ever, even if it’s not your birthdays…)

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Back Online!

Fingers crossed that it stays that way. In the meantime, we are steaming back toward Norway, and will be back at port in a couple days, and I’ll write more soon, and respond to all of your most recent comments! (And explain the technical difficulties too.)

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Technical Difficulties!

Well, what I have been worried about happening has now happened – technical dificulties! I can feel how remote our location really is. And it’s funny because I was just about to write a post explaining to all of you just how I have been able to get these stories and pictures sent out to you on the blog, Twitter, and Instagram, when I have pretty much zero internet/mobile access. Because it is quite the behind-the-scenes process to make it work! So I can’t send the stories or photos yet today, or answer your most recent questions and comments. This short post was all I was able to get through. But hopefully I’ll be back “online” soon!

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Bigger (and Smaller) Than You Can Imagine

The ocean is big. We are small. These statements are obvious. But just how big, and how small? Numbers and estimates only take your brain so far, and then you have to start using analogies. Here’s one: the Mariana Trench, the deepest trench of the ocean (11km or 6.9miles deep) goes further “down” than Mount Everest (8.8km  or 5.5miles high) goes “up.” Here’s another one: less people have been to the deepest parts of the ocean than have been to the Moon! By the time this expedition is over, scientists will have done over 120 CTD casts. (CTD, if you remember, stands for conductivity, temperature, depth, and is lowered, or “cast,” into the ocean with a slew of instruments that allow scientists to get data on the salinity, temperature, chemical composition, currents, etc, of the water.) You can see on the board in the ship’s hydrochemistry lab that the upcoming series of CTD casts start at 1100meters deep, and that each station gets more and more shallow. This transect, or line of stations, will provide data for the water moving through this area. And earlier in the expedition, we deployed a glider. Gliders move through the water, guided by periodic remote instructions from scientists onshore.

The “view into forever” looking out over the bow of the ship from the top deck. Photo from Tobias Wolf

The “view into forever” looking out over the bow of the ship from the top deck. Photo from Tobias Wolf

The board in the lab, with upcoming CTD stations. Look, we’re going more and more shallow!

The board in the lab, with upcoming CTD stations. Look, we’re going more and more shallow!

All of these things tell us about the ocean, and yesterday we learned from Ilona Goszczko of the Institute of Oceanology of the Polish Academy of Sciences about the “sea” of Argo floats (named after the ancient Greek ship) that are monitoring the world’s oceans as we speak. There are several kinds – if you want to know what is in the water, there are “BioGeoChem” floats. If you want to know about deep (I mean, DEEP) ocean waters, the APEX-Deep can go 6km (3.8miles) down. APEX-Electromagnetic can tell you about the motion of the ocean’s layers. And if you have something else you want to study, engineers can add sensors of your choice! To date, there are more than 4,500 floats deployed and over 1million profiles done of the oceans worldwide. However, although floats have been deployed in the periphery of the Arctic Ocean, they cannot be placed in the interior of the Arctic, because the sea ice would limit satellite communication and potentially damage the floats.

Now let’s get back to scale. This map looks like we have the oceans covered – but think about this. Imagine placing a grid over the Earth, with gridlines marking off increments of 3 degrees (1degree is 60nautical miles). The goal has been to deploy 1 float at every point on that grid, which means that even with 4500 buoys, each begin their journey separated by roughly 200miles in any direction!

Each blue dot represents each of the more than 4500 floats in the ocean!

Each blue dot represents each of the more than 4500 floats in the ocean!

Argo Float Maps

Each of these Argo floats moves through the water, and communicates data to satellites!

Each of these Argo floats moves through the water, and communicates data to satellites!

Argo Information Centre

 

 

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