Through the Strait

By Carin Ashjian for The Arctic Winter Cruise 2011


This morning at around 1030 local time we passed through Bering Strait and into the Chukchi Sea.  As we go, the air becomes colder, the water becomes colder, the sea is gray, and the winds are howling at 30 knots from the NE.  We are heading into the teeth of early winter.  The ship is pitching, with each crashing descent sending seawater cascading across the foredeck. Sometimes the spray is so high that it reaches the windows of the bridge, making a “woosh” sound as it lashes across the front of the house of the ship.  I can hear the spray in my room, as I lie in my bunk at night.  During the day, we don’t hear the spray in the lab but we can feel the impact as the ship crashes down after pitching across a wave and then shakes a few times.  It is not unpleasant, but it will be wearing.
A wave breaking over the bow this afternoon.
Late last night we conducted a station to the south of Bering Strait.  The wind was howling and blowing snow sideways.  The station went very well though and we caught a treasure trove of plankton in our net.  Large amphipods swimming madly through the jars like shooting stars.  Krill darting back and forth.  And copepods.  It was a great tow, with so many copepods and krill. The plankton group all fell to, sorting and photographing animals into the night until finally quitting at 2 or 3 AM.
The CTD being deployed off the side of the ship during the blowing snow last night (Photo by Sam Laney)
Krista filtering her first sample, collected last night from our CTD cast south of Bering Strait.
Kristina photographing a Calanus copepod.
The weather has not been treating us well.  It is usually too rough to sample.  And we have had to move more slowly in order to keep the spray off the foredeck as much as possible.  No great surprise this, after all, we are venturing into the Arctic in winter.  We are looking forward to when we reach the ice.  However, we must be patient.  We will get there in good time.
BM1 Skinner and SN Jones at the grill on the helo deck.
In the meantime, we have been amusing ourselves with a variety of pastimes.  Yesterday the deck force cooked dinner.  Rather than a conventional dinner in the mess, we had a cookout in the helicopter hanger with burgers, sausage, and Portobellos grilled on a huge grill on the flight deck.  Several of us completed a jigsaw puzzle of Mt. Rushmore.  And in between working on papers, photographing our favorite plankton, and practicing sampling oxygens we read books, talk, and watch football on TV (yes, we have football).
Tomorrow morning we hope to conduct another plankton tow, if the winds and waves permit.  We are getting closer to the ice where the seas should be calmer.  In the meantime the air temperature outside is 18 Deg. F.  Truly, we have come to winter.

By Carin Ashjian for The Arctic Winter Cruise 2011, WHOIExpeditions Sunday November 13th, 2011

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