Since departure the ship has been cruising steadily north at 12kts. Weather has been typical overcast, winds N/NW 15 to 20 kts until late on the 29th when winds and seas began to moderate. That makes it better for the science crews to set up for the busy weeks ahead.
It is almost an entirely new group of researchers onboard since Dutch Harbor, the team focused on North Pacific giving way to those focused on the Arctic. Many of the science technicians and the ship’s crew remain however, but the new research team has been uncrating and setting up their particular equipment and lab spaces. They have until the morning of 31 August (tomorrow) when the first Arctic station in the Bering Strait will be conducted. Then their research begins in earnest.
The Chief Scientist Shigeto Nishino has set a very comprehensive cruise plan that was based on previous years ice situations. This year however, the rapid melt experienced in July stalled through August and the polar park remains stubbornly south of where Nishino would like to see it. We have been accessing American, Russian, and Norwegian ice charts along with American and Canadian weather charts to make plans for the big push after we pass through the Bering Strait. The ice is again retreating and we will amend the cruise plan daily as the ice situation changes.
At this point, meetings between the Ice Navigator, the Master of the Mirai Captain Yoshiharu Tsustsumi, Chief Scientist and Senior Meteorological Officer Jun Inoue have been informal, collecting to discuss information as it comes in. Once the open water phase along the Alaskan Coast is completed off Point Barrow, it is likely daily more formal meetings will be the norm. Till then the ice remains in the distance.
As Ice Navigator, the primary task at this point is obtaining ice information that is suitable for long range planning, still more strategic than tactical, as science stations to be occupied must be clear of appreciable ice. With ice data in hand the IN then works with the Master and Chief Scientist to determine select areas of focus for the coming days. We are looking out 7 days right now, and have determined that we can complete one transect northward towards 72ºN then will return South Eastward to regain the Alaskan Coast to occupy stations off Point Barrow. Tactical ice operations, that is, actually working within the ice, will not likely if at all occur until later in the voyage when the push to move as far north as possible to conduct the meteorological observations at increased intensity occurs.
Photo: Ships Crew and Science Crew trial rig science packages on stern mounted 22 ton A-Frame for upcoming science station. Standard personal protective equipment of hard hats, safety boots, and lifejackets is added to by thermal protection as temperatures are beginning to fall.