By Carin Ashjian for The Arctic Winter Cruise 2011
We have decided to make a run for it. After remaining south of the Aleutians in the Gulf of Alaska for an extra day or so in order to avoid the huge Bering Sea storm, we are making a strike to get through the Bering Sea as unscathed as possible. We see more low pressure systems coming into the Bering Sea and so are trying run between storms. Although I cannot hear the engines from my room (I am four decks up from the main deck), I can feel the ship quivering as she cuts through the waves. We are going 15-16 knots, heading into Unimak Pass and from then to the north into the Bering Sea and beyond. If I went down 2 decks, and stepped out of the “house” (the forward structure on Healy in which the living quarters are located), I would hear the air intakes roaring from the engine room. Healy is not a loud ship, as engine noise on research vessels goes, but one can tell when she is in a hurry. Unfortunately, we do expect some pretty rough seas as we go into the Bering so we have tied everything down and stowed loose items lest they become airborn.
There is a sense of anticipation because we are finally turning north. Yesterday we were issued “arctic gear” – incredibly warm, large, and cushy boots (they feel like slippers), a one-piece coverall or adult snowsuit, and wonderful huge gauntlet mittens. Today we did a test station, putting most of our gear into the water for the first time. We caught some Calanus copepods, the species that is found in the Gulf of Alaska (Calanus marshallae). Some of them are presently living in buckets in our environmental chambers or cold rooms, where the temperature approximates that found in the water. Our night watch team is shifting their schedules so that they will be accustomed to working from 10 PM to 10 AM. We are ready to start work in earnest. Our first planned station will be to the southwest of St. Lawrence Island where we want to look for overwintering copepods
We will be going to the north first, to the Chukchi Sea and the edge of the forming sea ice. The Chukchi Sea shelf is vast and shallow, with most depths less than 50 m. Do Calanus overwinter on this shelf? Or do they die off each winter only to re-colonize the shelf the following winter? We know that Calanus in other locations overwinter in deeper water (100-200 m). One of our goals is to see if there are Calanus here on this shelf during their period of diapause or hibernation. What will we find? I really do not know. This is the great excitement of this cruise, that we will be discovering something new and as yet unknown.
By Carin Ashjian for The Arctic Winter Cruise 2011, WHOIExpeditions http://arctic-winter-cruise.blogspot.com/2011/11/into-bering-sea.html Thursday November 10th, 2011