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2015 Field Program

Student blogs:

Tara Warkentin: www.arcticlog.blogspot.ca
Cami Daeninck: arcticadventurer.wordpress.com

October 10, 2015

Hi! My name is Tara Warkentin, and I live on Cortes Island, B.C. Our time onboard the Amundsen is coming to a close, but the last day was truly amazing.

We met in the morning to go over our presentation, prepared as a thank you to the scientists and crew. It took ages, and by the end we were exhausted. However, there were many last-minute things to be done. Zoe and I set up camp in the officers’ lounge and painted a million postcards. Watercolour sunrises and diagrams of small benthic organisms covered our table. It was a great way of celebrating individual moments: my first iceberg (we named him Lyle); the light, early in the morning; a petri dish of zooplankton. I hope that when the postcards arrive, they capture the Arctic as I experienced it!

After lunch, Zoë, Gabriel and I went to help section box cores. Michelle Kamula, the scientist we were assisting, studies the history caught in sediment. I think it is fascinating that we can see the past by looking at the bottom of the sea floor!

We left to take group pictures on the Heli Deck. The boat was surrounded by ice, both low to the water and towering in bergs. It was difficult to tear my eyes away, but smiling at the camera was easy. I was so, so happy in that moment, surrounded by such a fantastic group!

To celebrate the end of our time on board, we had “Happy Hour” with the scientists and crew. We walked in to blaring accordion music and grinning Denis, the sweetest Coast Guard on the planet, who was holding glasses of orange juice.

Zoë and I decided to survey the scientists, in an attempt to absorb last advice. Our question: “What inspires you about the arctic/what you study, and what message should we bring home?”

Their replies helped provide a bigger picture to all they had taught us. Philippe, the chief scientist, explained that the whole planet is connected to the Arctic. The east coast is the only place on the planet experiencing colder temperatures. Why do you think this is? When Arctic ice melts, currents bring the cold water down the coast, and that water cools the air. Think of this, he said: You have just boarded a plane. You’ve been planning this trip for months, and you are very excited. Before takeoff, there is an announcement. About twenty screws have been found on the runway, and no one knows where they are from. Would you get off the plane?

This scenario shows our attitude around climate change. We don’t know all the details or the consequences, but we have evidence that something is wrong. Will we continue to push our luck?

Marie told us to follow our dreams and not get sucked into expectations. Becky and Cindy said that the benthic layer is important. Large mammals get lots of funding and attention, but the base of the food chain is vital. Laura emphasized the beauty and importance of the Arctic.

We ate our last dinner with Philippe and Captain Alain. They are both so kind and intelligent, and our conversation ranged from silly jokes to careers.

Scientists and crew packed into the officers’ lounge for our presentation. The theme was connections – between all of us, within science, and throughout an ecosystem. I talked about our floating, self-sufficient Amundsen community, and the Arctic ecosystem at large, as well as the connections between the present (holding a living sea star from the ocean floor), the past (climate history trapped in sediment and living matter), and the future of Arctic science (us!).

After a last game of “Werewolf” with some scientists and crew, I crawled into bed, exhausted. Alex, however, ate five bowls of cereal at 1:30 am with a gang of French scientists.

I have learnt so much in the past few weeks. Lectures, fieldwork, and discussions have brought science to life. I feel so lucky to be able to approach a researcher at the source of information, and ask questions the moment they arise. Being involved in real research has given us a sense of responsibility. If we miscount zooplankton species, it will affect a data set that will be built on for years. Through Schools on Board, both my confidence and my passion for science has grown.

Photo #1 and #2: Post card production
Photo #3: Sectioning sediment cores
Photo #4: Group photo on the Heli Deck

October 9, 2015

It was an incredible relief this morning to wake up and be able to breathe properly for the first time in days. Due to the closely-packed nature of the functioning aboard the Amundsen, there have been a number of influenza cases springing up within the crew and scientists, and a couple of days after boarding I was already caught in the throes of the sickness. Soon I was being referred to as 'Elizabeth the Ghost' or simply as one of the walking dead. Today, however, my sinuses have been manageable, and I'm finally able to talk without coughing much - it's made me realize just how blessed I've been to travel from Yellowknife, my hometown, and to come aboard the ship. The experience of discovering just how much my home life was out of sync with the real world of science and research has been similar to the feeling that one gets coming out of a cold. For the first time while looking at the field of research and science, my head feels clear. I feel as if I understand more than ever the importance of what arctic scientists are studying, and much like the feeling of freedom one gets when their health is returned to them, I feel more capable than ever to advance towards my future.

The morning was peaceful and quiet. We're advancing through a lot of soft and slushy ice, which gives the water a reflective quality, and many of the emerging icebergs are almost a deep blue or soft green in colour. This morning, the sky was alight with streaks of red and orange, which faded into reflections of the water - an absolutely gorgeous view. Such an environment is also the perfect habitiat for seals, and we saw several small heads poking out at regular intervals throughout the day. Many of us spent more than half an hour standing out on the helideck, simply experiencing the scenery and the precious moments that we've gained in an environment that few people have ever experienced. The reality of our location and our experience is still incredibly surreal, and my brain is still reeling to catch up on the events of the past week.

Today one of the highlights was a presentation done by one of the researchers named Gabriel Joyal, who talked to us about hydrography, a science focusing on the measure and study of water depths. It's a very important field, as it touches on many subjects such as navigation, the identification of submarine hazards, underwater infrastructure, the exploitation of natural resources, and studies such as archeology and geomorphology. The mechanism aboard the Amundsen can be explained quite simply: a sonar is attached to the bottom of the ship and emits sounds known as 'pings' which bounce of the seafloor and are received by another device. The amount of time between the emission of the sound and the reception of it corresponds to the depth of the ocean!

Multibeam sonar allows us to get a very clear vue of everything on the sea floor, including phenomenon such as scouring and ice streams. However, Gabriel informed us that an huge amount of the arctic sea floor is unmapped – there is more available information on the surfaces of the moon and Mars than there is on the seafloor of our own arctic! Gabriel is therefore trying to assure that as much of the seabed is mapped as possible, and often confers with the ship's captain or navigation head to make sure that we never pass over the same routes, but are always a kilometer or two to the side. When I went and talked to him in his office, deemed 'the Map Room' by almost everyone aboard the ship, I was able to get a glimpse of all the mapping the Amundsen has done so far. It's amazing to see that there are some areas that we have almost completely mapped out, and others that have been almost completely untouched by our sonars. It's exciting to wonder what phenomenon could be out there, completely unbeknownst to us!

Overall, the 9th of October fit in perfectly with the rest of the week – absolutely amazing and informative on subjects that I had had no interest in before exploring. Although I won't be able to study in every field and will never have a full comprehension of everything that we experienced, it gives me hope to realize that there is an incredible amount of information left to discover, and a huge domain of vastly unexplored data waiting to be cracked open.

Elizabeth McCullum
Sir John Franklin High School
Yellowknife, NWT

Picture 1. Sunrise... Baffin Bay
Picture 2. Fish specimen in Beam Trawl
Picture 3. Plotting the course. Note the partial sonar map. Each triangle is a sampling station.

October 8, 2015

Well, I guess I should start off by introducing myself. My name is Carter Lang and I am a grade 10 student at Delphi Secondary Alternative school in Toronto, Ontario. This morning, Cara and I met Jonathan who is a scientist looking at trace amounts of elements in the seawater. Last night we had helped him collect 20 water samples from the Rosette, a piece of equipment that is lowered to/close to the sea floor while attached tanks that are opened at various depths in order to collect water samples at different depths. We took turns testing the amounts of ammonia in the different samples and helping Patricia, a scientist working with Jonathan, to calibrate a machine that tested the amounts of oxygen in different samples.

This was followed by an interesting presentation from Philippe Archambault, the chief scientist, about the biodiversity of the benthic fauna in the arctic. Benthos are the organisms that live hundreds of metres down on the ocean floor. For example, an earlier phytoplankton bloom could mean more phytoplankton is being eaten by zooplankton. It could also mean, however, that the phytoplankton bloom way before the zooplankton, meaning less are consumed by zooplankton and more die and fall to the bottom to support the benthic organisms. One of the best things about being on the Amundsen is being able to see the interconnectedness of all the different research that’s being done.

Today we reached the first of two Casq stations on our trips. A Casq corer is a tool used to collect sediment from the sea floor. It consists of 2.5 metric tonnes of weight on top of 3 square core barrels (hollow rectangular prisms that are 3m each) that are then connected to a cutter and catcher, which is all connected to the onboard winch by a giant cable. The contraption is dropped off the side of the ship to the bottom of the sea, where it is impaled 9m deep into the sea floor to collect sediment. Fun fact: 4m of sediment is about 1000 years of sediment. Well, not everything went as planned. When the Casq corer was swung over the side of the ship, the weights were dropped. Into the ocean. That caused quite a problem as the weights are what drives the whole system into the ocean floor. Luckily, the resourceful scientists/coast guard crew were able to attach some completely different weights that were onboard the ship onto the Casq corer, which was able to successfully bring up a perfect 5.9m sample from the ocean floor.

I could probably go on forever about what we did today, but that would get even more boring and frankly, it’s getting late and I’m tired, so I’ll just do a short rundown of the other activities we did today:

Finally, I would just like to say how amazing my experience has been so far. I have met some amazing people on this trip, I’ve learned so many new things, had experiences that few people will ever get in their whole lives and not to mention I’m currently in the Arctic, halfway between Canada and Greenland (I still can’t believe this is actually happening). I am really sad that I will be leaving the ship this Sunday, but I’m definitely looking forward to the next couple days, which will hopefully be just as amazing as the trip so far.

Picture 1. Carter and Cara sampling from the rosette to study trace elements
Picture 2. Water density activity
Picture 3. Analyzing data/profile obtained by the rosette during one of the deployments
Picture 4. Stoic glacier

October 7, 2015

Vers 8h30 ce matin, tout le groupe était dans la salle des commandes pour observer le magnifique lever de soleil sur l’océan. La vue était plus que magnifique : à la gauche du bateau, on apercevait les berges du Groenland et à droite quelques glaciers. Une fois le tourisme terminé, nous nous sommes mis aux choses sérieuses. Nous, les jeunes scientifiques, et les professeurs avons été mis en pairs et assignés à une méthode d’échantillonnage. Certains devaient analyser les invertébrés pêchés par des filets, d’autres ont assisté à l’échantillonnage d’eau de mer à différentes profondeurs. Pour ma part, j’ai observé les scientifiques pendant qu’ils recueillaient des sédiments du fond de l’océan arctique. Pour ce faire, une boîte a été descendue grâce à un câble attaché à bâbord. Une fois arrivé au fond, le cube (sans fond) c’est enfoncé dans la glaise de plus ou moins 40 centimètres. Le bac a été fermé grâce à un mécanisme déclenché par l’impact du châssis et du sol. Finalement, le contenu a été tranquillement remonté. Pour clore l’avant-midi, un bon dîner bien mérité : un involtini de carottes ou du porc. Après cette variété d’expérience, nous avons eu droit à un peu de répits. Après quelques joutes de darts, avoir écrit dans mon journal de bord et, pour quelques-uns avoir fait une sieste, nous avons souper. J’ai été soumis à une décision difficile : le saumon ou le frittata pour souper. Incapable de prendre parti, j’ai simplement mangé une assiette des deux. C’est tout de même incroyable de pouvoir manger des mets aussi complexes sur un navire dans le nord de la baie de Baffin, près de la banquise.

Par la suite, tous les élèves et même quelques scientifiques ont assisté à deux conférences données par des scientifiques. La première portait sur la principale expérience de demain, celle-ci consiste à descendre un tube métallique de 9 mètres dans le sol de l’océan pour y prélever des échantillons de sédiments étant vieux d’environ 10 000 ans. Jacques, le scientifique en chef de l’opération, tentera de relier la composition du sol d’avant avec des événements historiques tels que l’extinction d’espèces. La deuxième portait sur le champ de compétence d’Anna Crawford : les îles de glaces. Elle nous expliqua comment elle se promène sur d’immenses icebergs plats et y installe des balises de repérages pour les suivre à longueur d’année. L’aventurière fait cela dans le but de comprendre les courants et de recueillir des informations météorologiques. À la fin de sa présentation, elle nous a même montré ses outils et son équipement. Pour finir la journée en beauté, nous avons encore assisté les scientifiques dans leurs expériences. J’ai aidé dans la continuité de l’expérience de ce matin. Dans le cube métallique, nous avons prélevé des échantillons à chaque centimètre ou demi-centimètre pour qu’ils soient envoyés dans des universités et institutions à travers le monde pour des analyses plus approfondies. D’autres ont touché à des thèmes complètement différents. Et voilà ce à quoi une journée bien remplie passée sur l’Amundsen ressemble.

Alex Labelle
Collège Jean de Brébeuf, Montreal, QC

Picture 1. Lever soleil
Picture 2. Iceberg
Picture 3. Alex
Picture 4. Box core sample

October 6, 2015

Hi, my name is Grace Osted. I’m from Hay River, NT. Im really excited to be on this trip but the language barrier is a little difficult. Most of the scientist and crew speak mostly French but my French isn’t very good so it can get a little hard to communicate but my french is improving.

Today was a transit day but that doesn’t mean we were lazy. We had a presentation this morning from Thibault from Laval university explaining his Master Project in which he traps zooplankton from the same mooring by Inuvik during various times in the year. He also explained what zooplanktons are and how to characterize them into microzooplankton and mazozooplankton. Zooplanktons are herdivores, carnivores, omivores and detritivores. They are important for carbon to travel through the ocean levels which is the biological pump. The traps he uses are left for a whole year and have 24 different bottles that can be programmed to rotate at a specific time so you only have that time in the bottle. I believe he sets the rotation time to 15 days.

We also went through ice today which put us behind four hours because the ship can only go so fast through ice fields. We all went up on deck or the bridge and watched the ship break through. I asked Graeme if it is better to avoid the ice or hit it. He said that if they think the piece might hit the ship they want it to hit straight on but would rather avoid it.

In the afternoon we completed our helicopter training. We all now know how to open and close the helicopter doors and how to put on the front seat belt which is a four point harness.

Later in the evening we hit some strong winds at 35 knots, which is approximately 70 km an hour . As a result of that wind Philippe had a meeting and said that we need a new plan because none of the nets can go down in these types of conditions. Also the next station is surrounded by ice making it very difficult to get any samples and whatever hole is in the ice will close up in 4 hours. The next station, 101, was suppose to take 12 hours. So our new plan is to start at 109 go to 115 and then go up and do the casqs and then go back to 108 and finish the transit to 101.

After the meeting, we finished our work with phytoplankton; we filtered phytoplankton ladden water, measured the amounts at different depths and graph it. We where competing to see which of two teams could do the best lab and we finally have a winner. Another scientist, Jonathan, decided that Alex Cami Sonia Carter Elizabeth and I won because our graph had a title.

Picture 1. Helicopter safety training
Picture 2. Zooplankton sampling using the Monster-Loki Net
Picture 3. Navigating through sea ice

October 4, 2015

Today, the captain made an announcement over the intercom saying that we would be going off course and towards Arctic Bay. Two hunters from the small community were missing and the Amundsen had been dispatched to aid in the search and rescue operations. I had heard about things like this happening before, but was rather surprised to have it happen while we were on the ship. Interestingly, Philippe Archambault, lead scientist on board, had been talking to us about why operations like this were part of the ship’s responsibilities only hours before the announcement. Basically, for a country to be able to claim a northern territory, it must respect four criteria. The zone must be occupied (this is in part why some settlements like Alert exist); there must be knowledge about the environment of the area (e.g. its geography, fauna, flora, etc.); regulations and laws must be enforced within it (surveillance planes are used to do this over large areas with minimal resources)’ and most importantly of all, the government has to prove that it has the ability to proceed with search and rescue operations in the territory. When all of these conditions are met, the Arctic Council may decide that that area is an EEZ, or Exclusive Economic Zone. The country now has control over the resources and land in that territory. What I found to be very interesting about these conditions is how the ship we are currently on has been adapted to fulfill so many of these. Much of the equipment on board is used to chart and analyse the territory in ways that ground teams cannot and, as today’s search and rescue operation shows, the Amundsen is used to ensure the safety of the relatively few inhabitants of this bleak yet truly beautiful part of the world. Also, a few hours after the first announcement, another one was made saying that there were now three hunters and that they had all been found. In the end, the Amundsen was only delayed by half an hour, which everyone on board was rather happy about, consider the many previous delays.

Earlier in the day, while we were still sailing by the amazing glaciers of Devon Island, I listened to Anna Crawford talk about her research on ice islands. She studies these islands, which are basically gigantic, flat icebergs that are stable enough to walk on, by landing on them with a helicopter and adventuring out to study their composition. Due to Coast Guard regulations, the helicopter is not allowed to land and stay with them, meaning that Anna and two other scientists are left alone to explore these extreme locations. As polar bears are a constant threat, one of the scientists is always carrying a rifle on these expeditions, in case of an encounter. I was both fascinated and terrified by the isolation of these researchers and can’t wait to learn more about these islands and their importance!

One of my favorite pictures of the day comes from the benthos lab, which we visited today. The photo shows some of the organisms that were collected by the box corer last night.

Gabriel Daveluy Fletcher
Collège Saint-Charles-Garnier, Quebec City

Picture 1. Backward view of the Amundsen sailing in Lancaster Sound
Picture 2. Shores of Devon Island, NU
Picture 3. Trawl sample sorting.

October 3, 2015

We’re moving! The CCGS Amundsen is currently making its way across Lancaster Sound & we all look pretty funny walking down the hallways. The hand rails are really being put into good use. I personally find it a little relaxing being rocked by the ocean; everyone keeps telling me that this feeling is probably very temporary… but here’s hoping! Before I go on about the day’s events, let me introduce myself: My name is Zoë Perkins, I come from Canterbury, an arts oriented high school, in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, Ontario. Needless to say that the geography is a little different up here, but we did experience our coldest winter in over 100 years last year, so I feel as though that has prepared me for the cold. It has not prepared me for these insane winds, however! You feel as though if you fall, they would catch you right up. Although I don’t particularly care to prove this theory…

The schedule has been a little wavy (pun very much intended) for the past couple days due to the storm in Resolute & the night spent in Iqaluit. We’ve generally been preoccupied with orienting ourselves & going through safety procedures. The scientists are on the same boat as us (both literally & figuratively) in that we’re all trying to sort out plans for the days ahead. The boat’s path has been altered ever so slightly, but kudos to the chief scientist, captain, & any other crew member involved for figuring all that out so quickly!

We’ve had a bit of downtime lately after our three days of intense travel, so I’ve gotten the chance to read some of our Participant’s Handbook. Fun fact alert! Roald Amundsen, of whom the ship is named after, is a really cool guy (pun very, very much intended)! When he was making his first attempt at the South Pole, he told everyone, government & crew included, that he was trying for the North Pole because he knew that the Norwegian government would be hesitant about challenging Great Britain, upon whom they were greatly dependant, to a race to the Pole. It wasn’t until he passed Morocco that he told his crew members where they were actually going!

We had a very thorough safety talk today. The third officer took us all over the ship, explaining safety protocols & procedures. I feel extremely safe & well looked after right now! We talked about everything, including fire drills, how to properly put on lifejackets & immersion suits, & opening water tight & fireproof doors. We even got to go in the lifeboat! It is all very thoroughly thought out & really, very interesting to see - I just hope we never have to use it. We also got our first view of the Bridge; it was nothing but ocean water for as far as the eye could see! I’m very interested to learn about all the navigational equipment & use their really detailed binoculars to spot some wildlife. The nurse also went through a safety debrief with us. She really knows her stuff. We’re definitely, officially all set & ready to have an amazing, safe, & educational trip! Some of the scientists are doing their first samplings tonight, so here’s to the days ahead!

Picture 1. On board the Amundsen
Picture 2. Immersion Suits

October 1 and 2, 2015

Cami Daeninck here, reporting from on board the CCGS Amundsen. I am a student at Collège Jeanne-Sauvé high school, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I am so excited to finally be on board after three days of flying!

Our first two full days as a group were very busy. We started off in Quebec Thursday morning after meeting up on the afternoon of September 30th and taking a tour of the city before a great Italian dinner together. It was a day of introductions and new friends, as well as new sights and new foods.

Thursday, we had to wake up incredibly early in order to get to the airport for our flight to Iqaluit (early meaning 3:30 am!). Once we arrived at the airport, we relaxed until the plane was ready to board. It was a calm flight, with many of us sleeping because we were very tired from the hectic morning. I have to say, northern flights are awesome. Once we landed in Iqaluit, things became a little crazy because there was a snowstorm in Resolute, with the bad weather making it impossible to fly. We were brought to a charter plane terminal where the logistics were to be figured out. It was a small building with a few different rooms, filled with all of the members of the Schools on Board group, scientists and members of the Coast Guard. There were 80 of us at the Frobisher Bay airport for around 5 hours, plenty of time to start to get to know each other. The reservations were later figured out and we were sent to one of three different hotels! The Schools on Board crew was sent to the Frobisher Inn, which is the nicest hotel in Iqaluit. While we waited to check in, we went for a walk to see the capital city of Nunavut. It was pretty amazing to see how different it was from any other city I’ve ever visited. There were gorgeous snow covered mountains in the distance and colourful houses surrounded the bay. We walked into a general store to see how different the prices were to ours, and everything was very expensive! Later, we continued on to see the seawall and the stranded boats, stuck in the mud due to the low tide. This was where the most gorgeous photos were taken, with the light and the background both coming together to make beautiful photos. Once we became tired of walking, we returned to our hotel to settle in to our rooms before meeting up for supper. Everyone was tired from our long day of sitting in airplanes and terminals, waiting to hear news of whether we would be continuing to Resolute. Everything worked out well, because we had an early night followed by a more normal wake up time to hear news about our flight time… it was possible that we might have to stay another night in Iqaluit if the weather didn’t improve.

The next morning, on October 2nd, we received good news: we would be flying out around 9:30 am. We all bought some breakfast and packed our bags before taking shuttles back to the airport terminal. We were quick to board the plane so that we would be in Resolute by 11:00. Once in Resolute, we had to continue to wait in a different terminal for all of the Coast Guard crew and then all of the scientists to board the helicopter, four at a time, to fly to the Amundsen. The Schools on Board group was to be last, due to the importance of the Coast Guard doing a full crew change. Finally, we had the chance to put on our floater suits and head off into the sky to the Amundsen. I had the opportunity to sit in the front beside the pilot because I filmed the flight with a GoPro. I swear I was smiling the whole time! When we landed on the ship, we went right to the dining room to have dinner. It was super yummy, especially after the long day! After having a quick look at our rooms, but without our baggage which was still in Resolute, we attended a science meeting that discussed the rules of the ship. Then, we all went to bed, rocked to sleep by the Arctic Ocean. We knew we couldn’t miss breakfast the next morning and all of the excitement that is yet to come!

Picture 1. One of my favourite group pictures so far. Boarding the plane to Iqaluit in Québec City!
Picture 2. Here I am (Cami) with Zoë and Tara on top of a rocky outcropping in Iqaluit, Nunavut.
Picture 3. One of the first pictures I took when I got on board was of the Amundsen name and maple leaf.

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