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News from the CCGS Amundsen, weeks 3 & 4

By Holly Westbrook


You might wonder why there’s such a delay between the date I wrote this and the day it will be posted. As we move further north our wifi signal becomes less reliable, and at this point we will not have wifi again for about a week. The angle between the satellites and the ship is too sharp to get a signal. Nonetheless, here’s an update on the current situation!

Leg 2a has ended and we had some new scientists come aboard on the 26th for leg 2b. Some of us scientists from 2a stayed behind, but most left. I got up early the day that people left to say goodbye, then went back to sleep and when I woke up the scientist change had been completed. When you’ve seen the same people for 3 weeks it’s jarring to walk out of your room (half asleep still) and see someone you don’t know.

So far leg 2b has been very scenic, we’re traveling up the Nares Strait and so far have almost always had glaciers on either side. As we get further north and the Strait narrows we get to see more details of the surrounding land. At one point we were between Hans Island and Greenland. Hans Island had a dynamic mountain ranges with really beautiful coloration, and Greenland was just sort of flat. Some people were able to take the helicopter out and sample on Hans Island (and some other places) and they brought back a few rocks (I gladly took one) and some water from the glacier to drink (I already have a cold so I decided not to drink it). There’s actually a disagreement between Canada and Denmark about who controls the territory since it’s at the divide between the two’s waters. When people from either country visit the island they leave a bottle of liquor, and take away the bottle that the people from the other country left behind. This time there was already a Canadian bottle there so no action was required.

There has been a lot of ice in this portion, which slows down our transit but increases our chances of polar bear sightings. There was one swimming at around the same speed as the ship for a while just yesterday, and another one with a seal in it’s mouth today. There have also been seals and walruses, but since I haven’t been feeling well I unfortunately slept through those.

This leg isn’t as strenuous as the previous one, so in a sense I chose a good time to get sick (don’t worry mom, I’m starting to feel better and yes I went to the medical officer, it’s not anything serious). We have chosen to add some more stations to our plan, but we’re only sampling DON and 18O-H2O at these locations. We wanted to include these because they are near glaciers, which could possibly provide nutrients to the area as they melt. Normally when we look at the isotopes in DON we can tell the riverine vs oceanic sources using the salinity, but ice melt adds a third variable. That’s why we are also collecting 18O-H2O when we can, it brings us back down to one unknown as riverine, salt, and water from ice melt will have a different signal. Thankfully both DON and 18O-H2O are relatively fast and easy to samples. The 18O-H2O bottles actually aren’t ours, but the lab that is analyzing 18O-H2O for leg 2 had extra bottles, and they agreed with us that it’s a waste to come back with empty bottles.

There are fewer rosette stations this leg because: 1) leg 2a was mainly transects of Baffin Bay, which means we cross the bay and take samples at various intervals in order to try and understand what the bay “looks like” going from east to west; 2) we are also doing a lot of coring sites and some glacier sampling this leg which leaves less time for rosette casts.

If we keep at our current pace, I’ll have station to sample around midnight for DON, then I’ll try to rest before the following 6 am station where we’ll sample all our normal parameters.


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