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NAAMES-II Expedition: May 18, 2016

May 19th, 2016 by Kristina Mojica

With day one of Station One complete, an opportunity is provided to reflect on the stations events so far. I woke up at to start the day at 11 o’clock, quickly helping myself to a cup of the ships endless pot of coffee and a hefty bowl of cereal. If this sounds like a very lazy Saturday morning to you, I’ll add that this is in fact 11pm, with the sun not due to rise for another five hours at our northern latitude. After deploying a series of drifters and vertical profiling floats to autonomously observe the water long after we have left the station, we started our first sampling of the day promptly at half past midnight. But we don’t start our work so early simply because we are excited about collecting our samples. It turns out that light can be the enemy of scientists wanting to study the world’s tiniest photosynthetic organisms. When the sun pops over the horizon, the light used in photosynthesis alters properties of the phytoplankton that we want to measure in a dark-adapted state. As a result, when the late spring offers abundant light and long days, we have to take advantage of every hour of darkness provided.

While the ship is busy with scientists running around in the wee hours of the morning, the ocean can still feel like a lonely place. Step out onto the deck to sample from the rosette, manage incubations, or run up to the aerosol vans to check an instrument, and the fog that lightly grips the darkness provides a sense of immense solitude. However, the light of the morning brings contrast to this feeling, as life abounds all around us, only camouflaged by the stillness if the night. Stowaway songbirds start singing in a small portside hangar. Local fulmars begin to gather near the A-frame at the rear of the ship, hoping for an easy meal to be dumped overboard. Even a pod of pilot whales is spotted in the distance, with rumor that this may be the same pod we observed here last November. Suddenly, the seas do not seem so lonely after all. And to top it off, today was the first fly-by from the C-130 airplane, which collected data on atmospheric gasses, aerosols, and ocean color to complement our shipboard sampling for the NAAMES study objectives. To see another ship on the horizon or planes traveling at 30,000 ft is generally the closest we come to others not on the Atlantis, so to receive a low altitude fly-by from our fellow scientists elevates the spirit, knowing we are important to them and they are important to us.

Local fulmars floating nearby of the ship. Photo:  Christian Laber

Local fulmars floating nearby of the ship. Photo: Christian Laber

Though most science stopped momentarily for the fly-by, as our colleagues flew back into the cloud line, we once again entered the labs to continue our first full station. And as of now, the day has been a great success. Many are still busy deploying and operating instruments, however those of us who started our day before the day actually started are winding down for an evenings rest. We expect to have a schedule like this for the next two weeks, so the early mornings have only just begun. I think there’s an old saying: Early to bed, early to rise, makes a person healthy, wealthy, and able to collect good data on phytoplankton.

The C-130 on its first fly by of the NAAMES-II expedition. Photo: Christian Laber

The C-130 on its first fly by of the NAAMES-II expedition. Photo: Christian Laber

Written by Christian Laber

NAAMES-II Expedition: May 15, 2016

May 15th, 2016 by Kristina Mojica

I am a part of the Saltzman research group. Tom, our fearless yet cheery leader, and Jack, our resident optimist, night owl, and my lab mate, man the instruments day and night. They make sure that every piece, from the Mustang supercharger to the tiniest of valves, runs smoothly. None of this would be possible without the electrical genius of Cyril, our invaluable engineer. We should really make bets on the number of instruments he saves by the end of the cruise.

Part of our mobilization team. From left: Clayton Elder, Tom Bell, Cyril McCormick, Mackenzie Grieman, and Jack Porter

Part of our mobilization team. From left: Clayton Elder, Tom Bell, Cyril McCormick, Mackenzie Grieman, and Jack Porter

Half of our measurements are made in the aptly nicknamed trailer park. We occupy one of the “vans” two decks up from the main deck of the ship. Our van is a mobile lab in which we strapped down instruments for a week before we left for the cruise. Our instruments are so heavy that, to me, this is the most difficult part of the cruise.

Our decorations on the mast are probably the most intricate and time-intensive parts of our set-up. They wouldn’t have been possible without our mast-builder, Clayton. In order to measure gases and aerosols, we need to bring them into the lab. We have a tube going from the top of the mast to an instrument in the trailer park that continuously measures dimethyl sulfide (DMS). DMS is a gas produced by plankton. DMS measurements will help to examine the relationship between plankton blooms and cloud formation. Tom, Jack, and Cyril (the guys) will talk about the intricacies of this in a later blog post.

Jack and me at the mast set-up

Jack and me at the mast set-up

The mast set-up from the window of the van

The mast set-up from the window of the van

My job is to collect aerosol samples. Aerosols are pumped through my sampler and collected in vials of clean water. I will take ~2,000! of these vials home to measure more obscure plankton-produced organic chemicals. These chemicals get into the atmosphere when bubbles come to the surface of the ocean and burst.

I spend a lot of my time listening to the guys’ in-depth conservations about the functionality of their custom-built instruments between very short Jenga games and running sample vials to and from the trailer park. Running up to the vans at night is a bit of a surreal experience as you fight winds in the dark on your way to the red-lit bouncing trailer park. At least the van hasn’t sprung a leak like it did on the cruise in November (yet!)!! Fingers-crossed!

Written by Mackenzie Grieman

The western side of the Olympic Mountains is a sight to behold, with crashing waves along the rocky coast and mossy trees in the rain forest signifying the impressive amounts of precipitation that falls in this area. The ongoing Olympic Mountains Experiment (OLYMPEX) is set up to measure rain and snow over the ocean up to the highest mountain peaks using airborne and ground-based instruments. As part of this project, NASA’s ground-based weather radar, NPOL, sits atop a hill on the Quinault Indian Reservation, with clear views out over the ocean and up the Quinault valley toward the snowy mountains.


NASA’s weather radar (NPOL) on the Quinault Indian Reservation (Photo credit: Dr. Angela Rowe, UW)


As a Seattle resident, I, Dr. Angela Rowe, spend a lot of free time exploring the forests of the Olympic Peninsula. As a Research Scientist in the University of Washington’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences, I spend my work day (and honestly a good bit of my free time) using weather radar data to better understand storms around the world. To have the opportunity to combine both of my passions into one project seems too good to be true.

On a drizzly, foggy morning, I pack up my truck with supplies (water, canned soup, a warm blanket) and drive 20 minutes to the radar site. Half of this journey involves ascending a steep road prepared just for this project. It’s a slow-going trip as the creatures of the peninsula (deer, coyotes, rabbits, etc.) could jump out at any moment. It’s also worth driving a little slower to take in the eerily beautiful scene.


Foggy road to NPOL (Photo credit: Dr. Angela Rowe, UW)


I reach the radar to see the site blanketed in cloud. My view may be limited, but the NPOL radar can “see” out to nearly 135 km (> 80 miles).


The “view” from the NPOL site on a rainy day.


The NASA NPOL and D3R weather radars scan the clouds. NPOL’s frequency is best for looking at precipitation, while the D3R’s dual frequencies are better suited for thin, nonprecipitating clouds than NPOL. (Photo credit: Dr. Angela Rowe, UW)

Example 360-degree low-level scan from NPOL, showing widespread precipitation

Example 360-degree low-level scan from NPOL, showing widespread precipitation.


NPOL sits atop 5 containers, which were used to ship the radar out to the site. One of these containers serves as the “office” for the radar scientists on duty. With 12-hour shifts (the radar operates 24/7), it’s important to find a way to get comfortable in this space, shared with several other scientists.

Peeking into the NPOL scientists' trailer

Peeking into the NPOL scientists’ trailer


The NPOL radar scientist occupies the back left corner of the trailer, where we have a laptop set up to record and analyze data. Real-time displays of the data sit to my left so I can keep a watchful eye to make sure all is running smoothly. The radar engineer on duty is nearby in an adjacent trailer, waiting to help if things go awry.


NPOL real-time display, showing a vertical slice through a precipitating storm.

Dr. Angela Rowe (UW), NPOL radar scientist on shift, monitors data

Dr. Angela Rowe (UW), NPOL radar scientist on shift, monitors data


In addition to monitoring and analyzing radar data, the radar scientist on duty is also responsible for helping launch “soundings”. There is an instrument (called a radiosonde) that is attached to a large balloon which is then released into the atmosphere at a specified time. Data is transmitted back via an antenna located near the radar, providing us with vertical profiles of temperature, humidity, pressure, and winds throughout the atmosphere. This is a routine task under most circumstances, but on the stormy days we are studying for OLYMPEX, the wind and rain can add some obstacles. On this day, with over 30 mph winds out of the southwest and heavy rain at the site, it took four of us to launch the sounding, sliding along the muddy ground as the balloon pulled us toward the northeast.

The balloon is inflated with helium in another one of NPOL's trailers, after which the instrument is attached and we head outside to launch the sounding. (Photo credit: Dr. Angela Rowe, UW)

The balloon is inflated with helium in another one of NPOL’s trailers, after which the instrument is attached and we head outside to launch the sounding. (Photo credit: Dr. Angela Rowe, UW)


After a successful launch, high fives seemed appropriate as we went back into the trailer, took off our rain gear, and began to watch the sounding data come in. This information serves as the environmental context for our radar observations. How is the wind profile affecting the storms? How are the storms feeding back on the temperature and moisture levels of the environment? At what level in the atmosphere is the snow turning to rain? Is that level the same across the area? How are the mountains playing a role? These are important questions we are trying to answer at the NPOL/sounding site.


In 3 hours, it’s time to put on our rain gear again (the OLYMPEX version of a scientist’s lab coat) and prepare to launch another balloon. It’s cold, wet, and windy,…and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Dr. Angela Rowe (UW) heads out into the wind and rain to help launch another sounding.

Dr. Angela Rowe (UW) heads out into the wind and rain to help launch another sounding.


At the end of the 12 hours, I head back out into the rain for the final time that day. It appears that I’m not the only one excited about the rainy day, as a northwestern salamander was sitting outside the trailer!

Northwestern salamander (Photo credit: Dr. Angela Rowe, UW)

Northwestern salamander (Photo credit: Dr. Angela Rowe, UW)


I leave the residents of the NPOL site behind and slowly drive back down the dark, winding road, reflecting on the exciting day and ready to do it all again tomorrow.

Plankton are microscopic yet they play a big role in the cycle of elements fundamental to life on earth. The NAAMES project is a testimony to their importance in our ability to predict how the oceans may mediate the Earth’s future climate.

I’ll be joining the cruise to measure rates of phytoplankton growth and mortality, the latter induced by a community of largely unicellular organisms best known as microzooplankton. These include <200 µm ciliates and flagellates, which in the past 50 years or so have been discovered to be quite fond of the microscopic plants that grow in the sea, or phytoplankton. The NAAMES project is particularly interested in the role microscopic grazers play in the yearly cycle of phytoplankton biomass. One idea we are exploring is whether winter creates conditions favorable for phytoplankton growth to outpace the rate at which grazers can eat them, setting things up for the explosion of phytoplankton biomass that occurs every spring in the North Atlantic.

The work we’ll be conducting on the ship to make such measurements requires our lab to bring a battery of equipment. We are fortunate that Woods Hole, where the ship will depart from, is only 1-1/2 hour away from our campus at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography, and last week we loaded the 2 trucks pictured here and brought all our “stuff” to the dock.


Essential to our work will be daily incubation experiments in specially crafted incubators like the ones shown in the picture below.  And bottles, lots of bottles!!!


Once we were done unloading, we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Quick Holes Taqueria.  I’m glad the R/V Atlantis we’ll be boarding soon does not quite resemble this earlier version of the Atlantis, a picture of which hangs in the restaurant!


Although we’ve been planning this first research cruise for several months now, it’s last week at the dock that I really started getting excited  about going to sea! Tomorrow members from our lab will meet me in Falmouth to move the equipment aboard. Can’t wait to get started!!


Back in Kulusuk

August 18th, 2015 by Lynn Montgomery
Our camp setup on a cloudy night.

Our camp setup on a cloudy night.

Nick, Olivia, and Lynn enjoying a beautiful afternoon with lunch outside.

Nick, Olivia, and Lynn enjoying a beautiful afternoon with lunch outside.

After 18 long days of successful science and arctic adventures on the ice sheet, we were finally done and ready to head back to civilization. On the morning of August 13th, our expected pull out date, we received bad news from the pilots – they were not even in Kulusuk due to weather delays the day before. They planned to travel that morning and the next day to arrive so pickup should be in the coming days, however to call back later for an update. We went on with our day making pancakes and playing UNO because all the work and all the packing was complete, what else are scientists to do when all the science is done? We called the pilots in the afternoon for an update and got the best news possible – one pilot had arrived and was on his way to pick us all up that afternoon!

We headed back to Kulusuk just in time for dinner and had three sling loads come in the following days (August 14 and 15).   Huge thank-you to our fantastic pilots Diddi and Johannes for the smoothest and quickest field put in/pick up so far.

The helicopter taking in a sling load full of our gear.

The helicopter taking in a sling load full of our gear.

This field season could not have been more rewarding and efficient. We completed all our our science goals and even got some extra data. In the field, we were able to visit all four sites as well as check out some other interesting spots near camp and near the crevasses (though still at a very safe distance!). These extra sites were chosen based on ground based radar data processed and provided by Clem in the field. The field team even got overlapping measurements of radar, seismics, MRS, hydrology, and ice core data from the same site sometimes simultaneously!

When science overlaps -- Taking a seismic shot while drilling for ice cores and taking hydrological measurements of the aquifer!

When science overlaps — Taking a seismic shot while drilling for ice cores and taking hydrological measurements of the aquifer!

The weather was perfect almost every day, we only had two days of clouds and a bit of snow overnight. The winds would moderate in the morning and generally die down in the afternoon, but wonderful conditions for working as it was not too cold. This heat would cause a bit of melt at the surface in the afternoon with no winds which would make it a bit slushy, but work was always manageable. We took no rest days, as the weather did not permit us with any spending all of our time working, some days lasting 11-12 hours. However, we do not complain about the long hours, we take this time to work in great conditions as a huge gift not often seen in Southeast Greenland especially after our last field season.

As for the seismic portion of the mission, we are very happy to report that we were absolutely successful on all fronts. Due to some logistical issues, we decided to use a smaller version of the streamer cables, the one we brought in weighs only 65 pounds instead of the 350 pound original one which also required a snowmobile to tow. We ended up doing about seventeen lines in total at 6 different sites combined. One line corresponds to a 115 meter cable with 5 meter spacing on the geophones. We took shots from 80 meters before the line and 80 meters after the line as well as on the line at ten meter spacing allowing us a much finer spatial resolution for the incoming P-waves to determine the first arrivals. That translates to over 1500 manual hammer shots and almost 600 data files. We had some very sore backs some days but the team really pitched in to help out, even slightly bending the steel hammer plate by the end! We cannot wait to analyze the data and begin looking at results.

The seismic software setup.

The seismic software setup.

Here’s a video from the field showing how we collected the seismic measurements:

Notes from the Field