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Sep 04 - Arctic Bound

Date: 4th September 2005
Observation Time: 12:00 Local

Latitude: 73° 40.2 N
Longitude: 013° 47.2 E
Bearing: 241 °T, 96.5 Nm from Bear Island
Course Made Good: 047 °T
Total Distance Travelled: 1070.5 nm
Total Average Speed: 11.9 kts
Wind: Direction SE , Force 5
Sea State: Moderate
Air Temp: 9.0 °C Sea Temp: 9.6 °C
Pressure: 998.5 Tendency: Falling

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Following a very brief visit to Stornoway on Monday afternoon,  to do a personnel exchange,  the James Clark Ross headed north to make a start on the Arctic Cruise,  numbered JR127,  with the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS).  The forecast for the Monday evening was a 'Violent Gale Force 11' but I am very pleased to say that we managed to avoid it and, so far,  have had some lovely weather, although Storm Force 10 is forecast for tonight!

This week will see the 'Science bit in the middle' return,  where some of the SAMS team will explain just what it is that we are going to be doing during the course of this science cruise.

Before that I thought it was time to have a few pictures from around the ship.  Our first stop will be in the Underway Instrumentation Control Room (UIC Room) where the scientists will set up all sorts of equipment,  typically computer based,  and collect data from the numerous data collection systems being deployed.

Looking at the UIC Room.  Not too sure if the user of the PC is sitting in his chair correctly though......or if he has actually signed on! Photo M.Goloistein

This  is the Chemistry Lab,  with some of the equipment being used during the Arctic Cruise. Photo M.Gloistein

Ash Huntley,  Chief Cook,  in one of the fridges displaying a salmon.  It was minus 24°C in there and I nearly froze taking the picture.....Ash did not even seem to notice the cold!! Photo M.Gloistein
...and from the fridges the food will end up in the Galley.  Our 2nd Cook Jamie Lee has been busy baking the bread and rolls for the day,  along with some snacks for Sunday lunchtime. Photo M.Gloistein

New SAMS laboratory opened in 2004

JCR 127 is the second SAMS cruise to the Arctic directed at understanding natural and man-made environmental changes in the Arctic Seas, particularly those around the Barents Sea, Fram Strait and fjords of west Svalbard. Our first cruise was JCR 75 in summer 2002.

We aim to advance our knowledge and understanding of the linked physical, biogeochemical and geologic processes occurring at higher northern latitudes. This will be achieved through an increased interdisciplinary approach to planning, acquisition, interpretation and publication, and will be based on data and knowledge gained on JCR 75. The main types of sampling gear to be used on JCR 127 include the CTD, the NIOZ box corer, the megacorer, and two types of Lander. A Lander is an autonomous instrument that sits on the seabed for periods of 2-3 days making in situ measurements of biogeochemical processes. We are using both microelectrode profiles and benthic chamber incubations on this cruise.

Lander deployment in 3,300 m of water in the Norwegian Basin (Dumshaf Abyssal Plain at the foot of the Bear Island Fan.

Principal investigations include:
· Processes of shelf and fjord water mass exchange
· Chemical gradients in high latitude shelf waters (nutrients)
· Changes in benthic faunal composition and size
· Animal-sediment interactions
· Contaminant redistribution in sediments (206Pb/207Pb, 210Pb, Hg and Cd)
· Contaminant transport (SPM, 206Pb/207Pb)
· Carbon cycling within sediments ( d13C and 234Th)
· Particle transport in the Arctic environment (radionuclide tracers)
· Identification of water masses (d18O)
· Investigation of productivity/palaeo-productivity (solid phase and dissolved Ba)
· Retrieval of palaeo records from shelf and oceanic cores

The main geographic locations for our work are:

1. Vøring Plateau (VP)
2. Bear Island Fan (BIF)
3. Margin W. of Svalbard, no ice cover (WSS)
4. Kongsfjorden (KF)
5. Yermak Plateau (YP)
6. Fram Strait/Greenland Margin (GM)

Sampling Sites for JCR 127.

In addition, we have a mooring with sediment traps in the Kongsfjord that has been continuously recording temperature, salinity, chlorophyll and the sedimentation of particulate matter since 2000. We will be servicing this mooring.

Sediment trap deployment in the Kongsfjord (JR 75).

As part of the JCR 127 itinerary we anticipate calling in to the Polish science station at Hornsund in SW Svalbard, and the “science village” of Ny Alesund situated on the Kongsfjord, NW Svalbard.

Ny Alesund in April with seaice in Kongsfjord – it will all be gone when we are there!

Scientists on board are (hopefully!) sending back to Dunstaffnage a daily personal account of our activity so far. Here are a couple. More will follow in next week’s diary……

SAMS Arctic Cruise, Day 2

Work began early, after a quick breakfast at 0730hrs getting to grips with the systems for acoustic seabed surveying. As the RRS James Clark Ross progresses north, we are continuously surveying the seabed in two ways; firstly by using pulses of sound to map the shape of the seafloor (termed ‘multibeam bathymetry’) and by passing sound through the seabed to record the layers of sediment (‘sub-bottom profiling’) and outcrops of rock that might occur. These two systems when combined can provide a detailed data on the depositional history of the seafloor since at least the last glaciation, 20,000years ago.

The use of multibeam bathymetry has developed considerably in the last few years and the system onboard the James Clark Ross is one of the most sophisticated in the world. Our first task was to familiarise ourselves with the system and prepare a system of shifts for watch keeping, typically divided into 12:00-4:00, 4:00-8:00 and 8:00-12:00 shifts. The team working these shifts are; Suzanne Cox, a SAMS research student examining the ancient record of climate change in the Arctic, Charlie Wilson a SAMS Marine Science third year undergraduate and myself, John Howe. We also have onboard essential technical help for the mapping systems in the shape of Peter Morris, who is patiently guiding this inexperienced team through the data collection and processing.

After lunch we switched from the high-tech to the low tech working down in the aft hold stapling boxes together that will, ultimately, contain the long core samples we hope to collect from the seafloor around Svalbard and Fram Strait.
One of the problems of such a multidisciplinary and therefore multi-personnel cruise such as this – is what music to listen to in the communal main lab. So far this afternoon we have had System of a Down, Santana, Django Reinhardt and what can only be described as the best of Bongo Inferno volume II….only three weeks to go then. As I write this we are rolling along under misty grey skies along the Norwegian margin. We are due to pass over the Arctic Circle in less than an hour – onward and upward!

John Howe

SAMS Arctic Cruise, Day 3

1st September ... is also our first full day north of the Arctic Circle. Although there was  considerable debate yesterday with regard to its exact latitude, since the ship is now above 67°N there can be no further doubt that we have crossed it (although disappointingly, I didn't feel the bump as  we did).

For some of us the day really does start at midnight. While the rest of the ship sleeps or prepares for sleep, the twelve to four (ttf) watch assembles for four hours of coffee, toast  and techno Abba. This morning the watch (Paul, Lois, Katie, Nuria and myself) has been joined by a gorilla called Gerald. Its just another surreal moment at sea. I hasten to add he is not one of the crew, even though some of them do fit the description, and one of them has actually claimed to be one.

The four hours pass by in a flurry of non-activity and then we witness one of the greatest pleasures of the watch, the bleary eyed arrival of the four to eight watchkeepers. This is rapidly followed by our departure to the ship's bar for the nightly ttf bonding session which does, I must confess, involve the moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages.  Its difficult to convey the unique flavour of the ttf watch to someone who has never experienced it. The following stanza from a poem which
resulted from a cruise on the Challenger in the days before the NERC ship's' alcohol policy (historical note: Dave Ellett's last cruise), written by Bo Thruster, might help:

Addiction to chocolate struck the twelve to four
Who were perpetually craving for more.
And as each dawn came up again nobody spoke
As they swallowed huge volumes of four bells and coke.
'It helps us to sleep' they were oft heard to slur
As these shadows of men stumbled round in a blur,
And being one of this party of reprobates
Who spent all their time in such altered states,
I cannot, no matter how deeply I delve
Remember what happened between four and twelve.

Which, when you come to think of it, pretty much accounts for the rest of the day. Though I do have dim recollections of my subsequent sleep, breakfast (which for everyone except the ttf gang was lunch), continuing buzz of activity as we all prepared for the arrival on board of our first samples, my being binman for the day (you have to be versatile here), the excitement of the ship's arriving at the first station (Bear Island Fan, station 6, close to the eastern edge of the Dumshaf Abyssal Plain, in 3300 metres water depth) in the early afternoon, a successful deployment of the NIOZ box corer, my dressing for dinner, our evening meal and then back to bed for a few more hours sleep before the new day's ttf.

Marvyn Hartey

Special thanks to the SAMS team for the above information.