We are on fire! I am just thrilled that we are finally back to 24 hour operations in the ice, mapping Inglefield glacial fjord’s seafloor and comparing the subsurface temperatures lurking in front of the glaciers. I am kind of the boat’s fortune teller. I wake up every 5 hours for my watch and I ask the Captain, Matt, if the weather forecast has changed. Then I come up with the best case game plan to cover the most ground and update the estimate of when we aim to finish our survey.
After 24 days of surveying the area we could only work 10 full survey days due to bad weather and equipment issues, but we have managed to cover a few hundred miles and a few dozen CTD casts in the last four days. We need to keep this up, and for now we can because winds look light. This is unbelievable considering how strenuous it had been to efficiently navigate the uncharted environment of 6 highly active glaciers while managing to collect the best scientific dataset possible. It is difficult and exciting to be surrounded in an icy world passing seals sun bathing on ice floes as we explore to further science. Except for the occasional cool snaps, we are in t-shirts and moving along about the same speed one would walk. Imagine walking back in forth in a thick forest the size of southern Maryland for over a week; that is kind of what it is like to survey eastern Inglefield fjord by boat.
We saw our first major calving in Bowdoin Glacier fjord around the corner from Qaanaaq. We were not in any danger as we kept a safe distance. The glaciers really are slow moving rivers of ice–very slow, but they are shrinking. It is odd to think these glaciers could become like the many carved out channels cutting the mountains in half to the water’s edge leaving only ground-up gravel and sediment behind. At least those areas make for good anchoring locations when the weather is bad. We will head back to the east end of the fjord after another provision stop in Qaanaaq. We just plan to top off on fuel and water and then off we go again. Last time we stopped I saw two villagers moving water hoses around a sloping glacial stream to capture the fresh water for their water supply. I wonder how long the small ice cap on the mountain where Qaanaaq resides at the base of will provide fresh water for its residents.
We have just 24 CTD casts and 330 nautical miles of survey left. I hope a strong gale does not sneak up on us again. It took a while but now that the project is off and running I am finding some time for art between navigation and science duties. Art takes the edge off. I started painting a mural of a sakura (cherry blossom tree) in the aft cabin, which is my sleeping quarters and study. The tree reminds me of my journey to Japan when I sailed across the Pacific Ocean to sample marine debris in 2014 on a sailboat called Sakura. There are no trees in Greenland and onboard we have no plants. We live on the boat and work on the boat so I wanted to bring a little land onboard in a small way.
This week I start assessing all the CTD casts we have conducted. CTD stands for conductivity, temperature and depth. This instrument can detect major changes in the ocean as it reaches the bottom and is returned to the boat. I lower it down and bring it back up on a line with a pot puller. Sometimes it can take up to 45 minutes before I can offload the data and check if it found the warm Atlantic water that threatens to accelerate melting of the glaciers. If we see a layer of warmer water about 2.5-8 degrees Fahrenheit at 900-2000 feet deep and an increase in salinity then we have found it.