September 10- Polar bear and lab work

A polar bear was spotted! I didn’t get to see it, but hopefully I will see one soon. The ice concentration is getting higher and we are breaking thicker pieces of ice.

Scientist Spotlight: Chemical Oceanographer Matt Alkire, Applied Physics Lab, University of Washington. Matt is a member of the NABOS science team. The main drive of NABOS is to better understand the water circulation in the Arctic Ocean. One hypothesis is Atlantification. Basically, Atlantification means more warm water from the Atlantic Ocean is being distributed under the cold Acrtic water causing the sea ice to melt, among other potential effects. The melted sea ice mixes with the fresh river water to form the halocline, the layer between the cold and warm water. There is a huge amount of fresh water that enters the Arctic Ocean from many sources, but Canada’s Mackenzie River and Siberia’s Ob, Yenisei, Lena, and Kolyma Rivers are the main contributors. The Atlantification hypothesis has important implications for sea ice cover and climate change. Not only is the atmosphere causing sea ice to melt on the surface; warm water is causing sea ice to melt from below. The Arctic Ocean is becoming more like the conditions in the Atlantic Ocean.

Matt is interested in sea ice melt, how the Atlantic Ocean water mixes with the fresh river run-off, and how the different water masses are forming and changing. Using salinity measurements gives some sense of the water movement, but adding chemical tracers give you a better idea. Melting sea ice and river water are both fresh-water, so chemical tracers allow you to distinguish between the two types of water.

I have already talked a little bit about Matt in the September 2 blog entry. Matt is researching dissolved oxygen, oxygen in the water column in order to calibrate sensors on the CTD.  What does Matt do with the water samples he collects? He immediately puts in manganese chloride (MnCl2) and sodium hydroxide/sodium iodide (NaOH/NaI) (pickling reagents) to keep the dissolved oxygen set.

Once the samples have warmed up to room temperature, Matt runs between 9 – 12 samples at a time, once a day. The sooner the samples are run, the better. The samples are put into flasks when the water is collected from the rosette. The stoppers (tops) are put on tight, and then topped off with distilled water to prevent the dissolved oxygen mixing with the oxygen in the air. After adding the ‘pickling reagents’, precipitates (chemical solids) are formed- the light brown cloudy stuff at the bottom of the flasks. Matt added sulfuric acid to dissolve the precipitates which turned the water an amber color. Next, a magnetic stir bar (the white looking capsule), tube and electrode are placed in the flask. The tube adds the liquid from the titrator, and the electrode mixes the liquid measurements. The flask is then put on the ‘stirrer’. Now the fun part! The ‘stirrer’ has a magnetic motor that spins around causing the magnet stir bar to mix the liquid until the amount of dissolved oxygen has been determined by a computer program. Even though, during this process, the liquid turns from amber to clear, this is not the main goal. The main goal is determining the amount of dissolved oxygen. Once back on land, the samples go out to various labs for future analysis. Click on the photos for more details.

Rosetta Update and a question from the Watershed Second Graders in Fairbanks, Alaska:

Does Rosetta ever leave her home to explore the ship? No, Rosetta doesn’t leave her home in Simon and Stephan’s cabin. She is in semi-hibernation, which is normal for this time of year. Right now, she sleeps and moves around in her small space- from her tent, to her comfy corner, to the porthole edge. If Rosetta ventured around the ship, she would probably end up outside where it is very cold and wet, and she might get lost. The plan is to get Rosetta safely to land, Arkhangelsk, to put her back in her natural habitat. Don’t forget, queen bees are the only bees of this species to survive during the winter.

Birds!! The Ruff, Philomachus pugnax (fond of fighting and pugnacious) was spotted on August 21, while we were on the Laptev Sea. Males are called ruffs, referring to the breeding male’s ornamental neck feathers, which resemble the starched neck frill worn by Elizabethan and Jacobean courtiers. Females are known as reeves. Ruffs nest between May – July in Eurasia in fresh-water marshes and damp grasslands on arctic coastal tundra and forest-tundra. Siberian breeders undertake a round trip of 30,000 km (185,000 mi) between the Arctic coast and West Africa. They are also regular visitors to Alaska, and US and Canada coasts and lakes. (The Arctic Guide, Sharon Chester)

Breakfast: cream of wheat, meat and cheese

Lunch: bean soup, meat balls, rice, and spicy carrots

Tea Time: yoghurt

Dinner: pork chops, potatoes, and purple cabbage