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Ice Navigation RV Mirai Arctic Deployment 2013 #10

While transiting south on 10 September, we passed through 20 miles of old and thick first year iceI in what to date has been our closest encounter with ice.  This was not unexpected but, just as the approach to the pack ice edge several days ago clearly showed the difference in value of the various ice charts being received onboard, this transit did the same.  The small scale, low resolution based TOPAZ charts indicated open water.  In contrast, the larger scale and composite nature of the NOAA and NATICE charts using higher resolution but older data clearly indicated ice along our planned route.  It was expected, but we knew it would not likely be as concentrated as the American charts suggested.  As it turned out it wasn’t.

Ice Navigation RV Mirai Arctic Deployment 2013 #9

After completing work along the Alaskan coast for the first week of this cruise RV Mirai turned north to challenge the ice edge.  Up till now the polar pack has remained resolutely closer to shore than previous years, but in the last few days has retreated sufficiently for us to attempt to occupy the Northwind Abyssal Plain mooring NAP-12 at 75ºN 162ºW.  Comparing the multiple sources of ice information received onboard, some collated by Martech Polar staff and forwarded to the ship, the Ice Navigator, Captain and Chief Scientist selected a northwesterly course toward station 033 at 74ºN 162ºW  then north along the meridian to NAP-12.

Ice Navigation RV Mirai Arctic Deployment 2013 #8

The final two days in the vicinity of Point Barrow have been about moorings.  Three sub-surface moorings are placed along the Barrow Canyon from about 26nm offshore in the north westerly line.  BCE, BCC and BCW are in place to monitor variations of volume, heat and fresh water fluxes from Pacific Water entering the Arctic Ocean.  The head of the Barrow Canyon is a prime area for biological activity, so sensors are also added to measure temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen and dissolved oxygen.  In some cases whale “voices” are recorded as well.  

Ice Navigation RV Mirai Arctic Deployment 2013 #7

RV Mirai’s bridge crew are somber today.  We just received the sad news of a crash of a Canadian Coast Guard helicopter in the Canadian Arctic in the area of McClure Strait north of Bank’s Island.  The reports we received here were that the helo with pilot, CCGS Amundsens’s Commanding Officer and a scientist onboard the ship went down while on an ice reconnaissance flight, and there were no survivors.  I knew the Captain and he was a good man.  There but for the grace of God go I.  Once many years ago, as Chief Officer onboard an icebreaker operating in the Beaufort Sea, the helo that I was flying in very nearly came to grief when struck with unexpected and very rapid aircraft icing forced an emergency landing.  It was about the same time of year.

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