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2011 Field Program

9 October, 2011

Emmett Snyder from Toronto reporting in (once again)! We have arrived at night five in Kugluktuk, and with a little luck, this will be the last one. There is no doubt that this Schools on Board program is the longest to date, our homecoming delayed through a series of extremely unusual circumstances and cancelled flights, but we are all still holding on. A very large thank you to the community, the school, teachers and principal for giving us a place to stay and helping keep us up and running.

After a tearful goodbye, the crew from Winnipeg (and one from Inuvik) was able to fly out today, but our fearless leader (who was also booked on the alternate flight) opted to stay behind with the remaining participants. One teacher and three students have successfully landed in Yellowknife, and will transit home tomorrow. The rest of us will reach home on Monday.

Although we have seen many challenges over the past seventeen days, team S on B has managed to persevere. Since some of us will be unable to sit at our own tables by the time the turkey arrives, the remaining teacher was kind enough to prepare a delicious Thanksgiving meal for the seven of us still in Kugluktuk. Delayed for two days at the beginning of our journey and three at the end, we will soon be homeward bound. Even though we are exhausted, morale still remains strong, and there have been no lack of laughs over the past few days. Although there are great distances between us, the trials we faced have created a family. Schools on Board has been an amazing experience, and I have no doubt that it will remain with us all far into the future.

Figure 1: The Schools on Board crew at Kugluktuk High School. Ariel Estulin (photographer in the background).
Figure 2: "Schools on Wheels" - Passing some time at the school while our flights were cancelled by the freak satellite malfunction. Never a dull moment!
Figure 3: After a tearful goodbye to the Winnipeg participants at the Kugluktuk airport earlier the rest of us sat down to a delicious Thanksgiving meal prepared lovingly but Jennith. Definitely a meal to remember!


5 October, 2011

Ceilidh Stewart, Winnipeg Manitoba

We arrived in Kugluktuk yesterday and were all extremely sad to have left the CCGS Amundsen. We seemed to be going through a withdrawal of sorts. Our one comfort was the fact that we could still see the ship from the village.

Being in the community was very different from being at home. The people where all extremely friendly and anyone you greeted was happy to wave or smile back at you or even say hello, quite like everyone on the ship except there were cute little kids giving hugs. We also went to the store, where the prices were outrageous. A box of 90 pieces of Halloween candy cost $30, and a carton of cranberry juice was $12.

Everything was great until we had to wake up the next morning at 6:30 AM because we were sleeping at the High School and had to make breakfast and eat before everyone got there.

After breakfast we headed over to the Elementary School to present our project. I was surprised how quiet all the students stayed and how interested they were in our presentation.

Afterward, we walked the shore of the Coppermine River delta (fig.2). It was gorgeous!

After lunch we sat in on the (inuanaqtin) language class, where one of the Elders told many interesting stories, including how Bloody Falls got its name. By nap time we were all so pooped we had a blissful half-hour snooze.

Later we had some free time and some people went out to look around town. When someone came back with a carving a bunch of us rushed out looking for the carver to try and buy a memento of our visit. He was all out of carvings when we finally found him, but he had some other cool stuff. I bought a little mukluk zipper pull that will be useful this winter in Winnipeg.

Before the evening feast we were entertained by some of the students. They danced for us (fig.3) and then some of the boys put on a demonstration of some Arctic games (fig.3-4). One of these was the one-foot high kick where you jump up, raise your foot, and hit a small object hanging from a pole above your head. Another was the one-hand reach where you balance on one arm and reach really high up and touch a little thing dangling from a pole. In both games the person who reaches highest wins. The athletes have to be very strong. In the past games like these were used to develop strength and skills necessary for hunting and survival.

Our day ended with a delicous community feast of fish, chowder, chili, salad, rice, and bannock. What a wonderful day to remember!

Figure 1: Students learning how to make various item out of wood in the New Horizon's Centre in Kugluktuk, NU.


3 October, 2011

Davis Neyando

Today is our last, full day on board the Amundsen. We all retreated to the kitchen at 8:00am to have our last breakfast on board; we had grilled cheese, bacon and the choice of fruit. Then we all had to pack a little and then retreat to the conference room to do two dry runs on our presentation that we are going to be presenting in Kugluktuk, NU. Our presentation turned out awesome but I think I'm a little nervous about my part.

Afterwards we all had some set a side lunches and we all ate lunch slowly and then had part of the afternoon for some free time. It wasn't a great because the boat was rocking like crazy! I felt extremely sick so I had to lie down; I'm pretty sure everyone did. It was awful but lying in bed, listening to some peaceful music felt pretty good.

I woke up from my nap by the tapping of a laundry basket on my knees, "Time to go upstairs for the farewell presentation" states Emmett. So I got up and stumbled my way down the hall and up the stairs to find everyone crowded in the conference room to view the presentation. Afterwards Michelle has some kind words to say and then began to give out random gifts to those whose names had been drawn from a helmet. Then she said some more kind words to everyone and offered the floor to those who wanted to say something, I said thanks to everyone including the cooks for my mom because she wanted to be polite to them for taking such great care of me while I was on the trip.

Tonight was a good night because the captain invited all the participants of schools on board to eat with him in the "fancy" dining area. It was nice because the food was great, everyone has a smile on their face, and the captain told us stories about his voyages. Then afterwards we got a treat; to see the moon pool, the moon pool is a deep pool at the stern of the ship where there are two doors that open, in order to see the sea water, they told us they would try and make the water clear but it wouldn't work because they haven't used the moon pool in such a long time but it was still awesome because they put so much effort in showing us the moon pool. I feel very privileged.

We are now packing with our depressing yet joyful conversations but our spirits are high and positive making every moment together count. I think I'm going to miss all the other participants, (Frankie, Geneva, Ceildh, Jamie, Emmett, Karen, and Kendra.) I can't imagine how it's going to be at the airport in Yellowknife when we all separate and travel to our home communities; everyone sobbing their farewells. I can't believe this trip is almost over… it's just unreal. But I guess a trip like this was definitely worth it and if we stayed for a longer time it won't be as special because this trip will become a memory and the memory will forever be in lives'.

In my opinion, the CCGS Amundsen is probably the greatest ship on earth. Everything about this ship is so elegant. It's so diverse. There are French Canadians on board and they try so hard to address us in English; it's just so kind. Everyone on this ship is so nice I feel so privileged to experience these things. Thanks ArcticNet, Schools on Board, BP, and of course The CCGS Amundsen.

Figure 1: Copepods
Figure 2: Davis Neyando
Figure 3: Davis and Marc
Figure 4: The Schools on Board Crew


2 October, 2011

My name is Geneva Cloutis. I'm from Grant Park High School in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The focus of the Schools on Program is mainly science and reasons behind studying the Arctic ecosystem. However, the rest of the students and I have been exposed to something new on this trip: the history behind the science.

Steve Blasco, the chief scientist, and Captain Stephane Julien, have been giving us presentations throughout our time aboard the ship, talking about their experiences at sea. Steve Blasco has been to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean to look at the Titanic, spent 2 months living at the North Pole, and has had countless other experiences with people from all over the World. I had no idea that he was one of the first people to get to see the Titanic wreck and help film the movie Titanica. Every time he talks to us, I am amazed by all the things he has done in his life. He is one of the coolest people I have ever met. He has a great way of making a presentation interesting by making it full of personal experiences and memories. He makes it a lot less factual and a lot more about the amazing things you get to do as a scientist. Every story makes me want to experience the things that he has gotten to do. I can't wait to experience as much as I can throughout my life and hopefully create some amazing memories to pass on like he does.

The captain gave us a really neat presentation about the history of the Northwest Passage today. He has a real interest in history so he makes the stories a lot more interesting. He told us about the countless attempts to try to get through the Arctic Ocean and how Roald Amundsen, the man who the ship is named after, was the first to successfully cross the Northwest Passage. It really made me think about how amazing it is that we as students get the chance to be up here learning about the environment when less than 150 years ago people had no idea what was up here. They came up here with no knowledge but a powerful sense of adventure that drives so many people to make amazing discoveries. It put everything into more perspective and made me realize how fortunate I was to get to be up here.

I have had the most amazing time on this trip so far. Not only are the scientists and crew really nice to all of us, but the bonding experience between me and the other students has been absolutely incredible. We're all part of a weird, nerdy, dysfunctional family and I wouldn't have it any other way. I have found everything I've gotten to do incredibly interesting, from the sorting of zooplankton to the box core to the building of pyranometers. All the scientists have been more than willing to share all their knowledge with us, and have given us the chance to get to be a part of the science. We get to actually participate in the science instead of just observing and taking notes. By being up here, I've gotten a better grasp on just how precious and beautiful the Arctic is and how much I want it to stay that way. I am really excited to bring all my personal experiences home and share everything I've learned with people in my community. Today was a super awesome day, and I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Figure 1: View looking behind the CCGS Amunsden
Figure 2: Dr. Steve Blasco, Captain Stephane Julien, Keith Levesque


1 October, 2011

Emmett Snyder from Toronto here! I woke up to what I believed to be somewhat rough seas, until I saw a large piece of ice float past the porthole. Forgoing breakfast, I moved as quickly as possible to the bridge. Upon my arrival, I was very pleasantly surprised to find we were in the middle of an ice field. Most of it was last year's, having survived the summer melt, but small pieces of pancake ice had begun to form. According to Captain Julien, had we stayed in the area overnight, we would have seen the first freeze of the year.

Following the ice excitement, we visited the heart of the Amundsen, the engine room. The Chief Engineer, Vincent was kind enough to take us on a tour, to show us what kept the ship afloat. Since we cannot carry enough water onboard the ship for the entire voyage, we make our own, by boiling seawater. By condensing the steam, we are provided with the pure water that we use to drink, shower, and clean. The Amundsen produces 6 - 8 cubic meters of water daily, which isn't always enough for the day. In that case, they will use electricity to boil the water faster.

The engines themselves are diesel powered, which spin a generator, sending electricity to the motors. Since refueling midway through a leg is not an option, the boat has a large enough tank to power itself for the 4 month journey.

After the tour, we had a helicopter safety briefing for the return flight in a couple of days. The coast guard helicopters are the same model as the ones used in the Red Bull air show, but are much heavier, as they have extra add-ons (such as cable cutters), in the event of low-altitude search and rescue in low visibility, where overhanging cables may be a surprise.

This evening we began our full station, the second last on the voyage. As usual, the deck was bustling with activity, even into the late hours of the night. The rosette was deployed several times, as were the nets. A group of us went on deck to help with the Agassiz trawl and the box core, likely the last ones on our journey. When the darkness fell, we went out onto the helicopter deck to do some light painting with the photographer, Ariel. Just a few days left on our voyage.

Figure 1: Oh Canada!
Figure 2: Rosette
Figure 3: Schools on Board


30 September, 2011

Allison Baetz, Samuel Hearne Secondary School, Inuvik NT.

The day started off with breakfast as usual. Then right after breakfast, we had a presentation from Jesse (one of the scientists on board) who is involved with the Physical Oceanography team. Physical Oceanography is the study of how the ocean currents move and also what the temperature and salinity of the water. They have to use a special piece of equipment, which happens to be the most talked about piece of equipment on board the Amundsen, called The Rosette. The Rosette is a very expensive piece of equipment that takes water samples of the ocean water at different depths. There are 24 bottles of water that brought up by the Rosette and the water in them is distributed to the various scientists that need it for their research they are conducting on board.

An exciting part of the day for me was the Zodiac ride! Whenever there is a zodiac operation Team Mercury comes in and does a quiz with us to choose the lucky individual that will get to go in the Zodiac. I won the quiz today and got to go! I find that the Mercury team is a very interesting team of scientists because of what they work with for research. It was a bumpy ride to where we conducted the experiment. While in the Zodiac, they deploy a tube that they call the 'Mini Rosette'. What they do with that tube is send it down under the water to different depths and bring it back up to get the water samples. There is an interesting process that occurs while getting the water samples because you are measuring a very small concentration of contaminants. You have to be very clean when you take the water samples out of the tube. So you have one person who has the ' clean hands' - what they do is touch nothing but the test tubes to get the samples, if they touch anything else then that means the test tube is contaminated and is no longer able to be used for research. Then there is the 'Dirty Hands' - that person does all of the work with the mini rosette so they put it in the water and lower it down to the different depths and take it back up. Then there is the ' helper' - basically what they do is pass stuff to each scientist and hold the Ziploc bag of test tubes for the Clean hands to grab for the sampling. Then we take it back to the lab and check everything out. That is it for the zodiac ride.

Supper! Mmmmmm – it was the best supper we had on board so far! It's our Captains birthday today, so the chiefs made an amazing supper for everybody to enjoy! It was BBQ ribs with potatoes and Cole slaw, then for desert we had a choice of Chocolate Cake or Chocolate pudding it was a hard decision to make because everything on Board is so good to eat.

Sad to say but we leave the Amundsen in 3 days. I never want to leave the ship!

Figure 1: Sampling water from the Zodiac.
Figure 2: DFO scientist deploying water sampling equipment.
Figure 3: Allison on the Zodiac with the CCGS Amundsen in the background.


29 September, 2011

Francesca Schembri, Elmwood School, Ottawa.

This morning, I looked out of my porthole and saw something I hadn't seen for five days (and I was beginning to think I'd never see again); land. Hovering on the border between the blue and gray expanses of sea and sky was a small dark line of rocky coast. This made me all the more excited to start the day and hopefully find out which coastline we were approaching. At breakfast, I found out that I would be helping with the PNF deployment on the foredeck. I met Marjolaine and Armelle, the two scientists in charge of the PNF, which they described to me as an instrument for measuring turbidity. A physical characteristic, turbidity measures the extent to which light passing through water is reduced due to suspended materials. Ocean turbidity is affected by sedimentary upwelling, phytoplankton growth and suspended debris and reduces light penetration in the water column. Armelle lowered the PNF into the water, I relayed her commands back to Marjolaine who was monitoring the data reception on a computer back at the lab. After the PNF had successfully collected the light penetration in the water column and returned to the surface, the scientists deployed another, much simpler apparatus for measuring turbidity – the Secchi disk. The disk was about 20cm in diameter and had a pattern of alternating black and white triangles. Armelle let down the disk into the water, counting meter markings on the rope until we could no longer see it. Using the disks made me realize that no matter how advance scientific apparatus may become, sometimes simple methods based on the fundamentals of science still hold relevance in studies done today. Both scientists were happy to explain their work and we had a laugh trying to stand on the toes of our steel toed boots.

After my morning on the deck, I met up with others in the group to test the pyranometers we had built earlier in the week. In brief, a pyranometer measures the amount of light from the Sun hitting a certain spot using a photodiode under a glass dome. We decided that the observation deck on top of the bridge, the ship's highest spot, would be a good place to take measurements, and brought our pyranometers up there for to collect data.

Ceilidh and I were both invited to have lunch with the ship's captain and chief scientist in the officers' dining room. We were both very excited to have the opportunity to talk to them, as they both had a wealth of knowledge about the ship and many stories from past expeditions. The captain explained that the land I had seen in the morning was the smoky hills of Franklin Bay. He told us that the hills were literally smoky as they had been burning for thousands of years due to a combination of sulfur, peat and minerals.

In the afternoon, most of the group went on deck to watch the scientists deploy the underwater camera that would photograph the floor of the Beaufort sea. We also got to see the box core, that sampled the soil of the ocean floor, and had a lot of fun helping the scientists clean the mud from the equipment.

Overall, it was a very interesting and rewarding day, and it helped me understand that science is not always a completely serious field and sometimes you can learn through having fun.

Figure 1: Pyranometer testing
Figure 2: Boxcore sampling
Figure 3: Smokey mountains


28 September, 2011

Jamie Hargreaves, Parkland Secondary, Victoria.

Today was one of the nicest days we've had. It was so calm out . When the clouds broke and the sun came out it was even nicer. Today was a transit day, so there weren't many experiments going on, which is okay because a lot of us were up late last night with the sampling crews. But we did get to see the sonar SX90 in action and Maxime explained how it worked and what they were doing. We found out that they are trying to find an average acoustic signature of the different whales and seals so that scientists or other people can figure out what animal is on the screen without having to confirm on deck. That way, if it's foggy, for example, you can detect the mammal and know what kind it is. We then went to the bridge and looked for wildlife. We saw birds and several seals! The captain also explained to us about the receding ice coverage and how we should actually be able to see the ice from where we are but it's now very far away from us. He also told us about when they were stuck in the ice one winter and how the seals would come up into the moon pool.

After lunch we went on the barge. At first, all we saw was a couple of seals and then we got a call from the ship telling us where the whales were and we watched them. Then when we were heading back to the ship, after being out for about 2 hours, we saw a beluga! It was the first time seeing a whale for three of us so it was a really great time. I've never seen a Bowhead whale before, and I've also never seen a Beluga in the wild before so I was really excited. Roger, the Wildlife Observer was really excited as well. We also learned that the Bowhead whales spray when it comes up for air is unique. You can tell that it's a Bowhead when the spray is in a V shape. We finished off the night with a presentation on Mercury and talked about how its everywhere in our Environment and that once it's released it can't be taken back. Today was a really fun day and I think everyone is really tired from being up late for the past few nights, I'm excited for tomorrow!


27 September, 2011

I'm Karen Butt, a Grade 11 student at Lower Canada College in Montreal. We've been on board the Amundsen for three full days now. We couldn't land in Kugluktuk last Thursday because there was too much fog. After waiting in the Yellowknife airport for several hours, we found out that we needed to go to Edmonton for two nights before boarding the ship. Despite this long delay, it was great to see that everyone from Schools on Board, Arctic Net and the Coast Guard was patient and cooperative. Everyone just accepted that we couldn't change anything and made the most of their time in Edmonton. I found the Eskimos versus Alouettes football game that we all went to a lot of fun.

So far, I'm really enjoying life on the ship. The atmosphere is really friendly. Being over 80 people living in close quarters, we see each other a lot. Everyone, both crew and scientists, are eager to get to know each other and talk about what it is they do. Even with a language barrier between English and French, people still make an effort to talk. For the past few days, we've been settling in and familiarizing ourselves with life on board. Schools on Board participants have seen the ship's scientific equipment and watched a few operations on deck. Everyone's happy to finally be here.

Today, I got to do fieldwork for the first time, which was really exciting. I woke up at 1:30 am this morning to help a scientist specializing in contaminants take samples from the Rosette. He needed an extra person for filling bottles, because touching both the rosette and the bottles could contaminate the samples. Then, we went to the clean room to filter some of the water in order to study the mercury attaching itself to the phytoplankton. I got in at 5:30, and after getting a bit of sleep, I got to go on a Zodiac. This was necessary because the scientists couldn't sample water at depths less than 20m for mercury contamination, because the ship contaminates the water around it. We had to go out into the ocean, where the scientists lowered a mini rosette to different depths and collected water samples. The bumpy ride back to the ship was thrilling.

I couldn't believe that I was helping someone who was studying something that had never been looked at before. It was fascinating to see how little the scientific community knows, particularly about the Arctic, and how many more things there are out there for people to study.

Figure 1: Karen with a scientist in the Zodiac taking water samples to study contaminants
Figure 2: The CCGS Amundsen in the Amundsen Gulf
Figure 3: Launching of the Zodiac


Other blog of interest:

Follow Emmett's journey >>

Karen Butt's Blog - Lower Canada College


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