Citizen Science

A New Age of Exploration (the final blog)

A New Age of Exploration (the final blog)

There was a geologist named Marie Tharp who was one of the most important people in the discovery of plate tectonics. She gets almost no credit today because she was a woman at a time when women weren’t treated as equals in the world of science. There is a book written about her called Soundings, in this book near the end is a paragraph that explains the problems we are having with funding exploration. “The era of exploration is over. Scientists have to write convincing proposals that account for how every penny and moment on a ship will be spent, which essentially means that they have to predict what will happen while they are at sea. Without the time and money for exploration, there’s little space for discovery. Research vessels return to the same places again and again, building expeditions around those places because they can be described in proposals. Lack of funding results in less data and fewer discoveries, which result in less public interest”.

The age of exploration is not over. There are still many discoveries to be made, especially in the Polar Regions both north and south. Grants have become so specific that they are now restrictive. I understand that organizations don’t want someone pissing their money away on some crazy scheme, but they have gotten to protective. Exploration by its very nature involves risks. Not just risking life and limb, there are also financial risks. We must be willing to take these risks or there will be no discoveries. Remember, reward lives in the house of risk.

We need to enter a new age of exploration. Just because we have mapped out the world doesn’t mean we understand everything about it. Our world is going through changes, exploration is more important than ever. There are a lot of things that are happening to our planet that we don’t fully understand. Things that could have serious consequences for our species. Exploration is the only way we can better understand these issues. We are only beginning to understand the world we live in.
Exploration becomes discovery. Look at all of the incredible things we have discovered, from harnessing fire to the weightlessness of outer space. Think of the discoveries to come, whether on this planet or beyond. To quote my favorite scientist of all time, Apsley Cherry-Garrard “We should never stop exploring, for exploration is the physical expression of intellectual passion”.
We made it through this year’s Arctic expedition without too much ware and tare. We did get a three foot rip in our mainsail. I used to do handwork for North Sail so it’s not a big deal to patch a sail. Although our mainsail probably has 15 patches at this point. Our hydro generator got torn off the back of our boat by a giant patch of kelp. This is rather mind boggling as I don’t understand how kelp could snap bolts and rip stainless steel tubing, but it did. Another patch of kelp damaged our wind vane rudder bearing but I can fix that fairly easily when we haul the boat out. We received more damage from kelp than ice, never thought that would happen. We lost our main ships inverter, our heaters never worked quite right, etc. Nothing broke that could even come close to stopping us. All off the scientific equipment worked well and we collected a huge amount of important scientific data. This was our most productive research expedition to date.

In an earlier blog I mentioned that we met a 27 year old French single-hander named Manu who was about to sail alone through the Northwest Passage. I let him borrow my satellite phone so he could get ice and weather information, which is very important in such a dangerous and difficult place. A few days ago Manu made it through the Northwest Passage but not without difficulty. When sailing east to west the last part of the NWP is the Bering Straits. Manu was hit by a strong gale while crossing this (Bering Straits) finish line and broke his solar panels, wind vane, auto pilot, etc. He’s trying to get to Chile to marry the love of his life and make a bunch of little sailor babies. He could have taken the easier route through the Straits of Magellan but chose the harder route through the Arctic. I’m going to nominate him for the Jester Award.

While in the Arctic the film about my non-stop singlehanded circumnavigation of the Americas, Red Dot in the Ocean, the Matt Rutherford story, won best film at the Blue Whiskey Film Festival and won another award at New Hope Film Festival. Looks like the film will be on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and Itunes. Tory is trying to get it on PBS but needs to raise another 7K to make it happen, fingers crossed.
Ocean Research Project’s mission is science, education and exploration and creating ORP has been the biggest challenge of my life. I believe we have been doing a good job upholding the integrity of our mission. A non-profits mission should always come before salary and overhead. The problem is we barely raise enough funding for the mission so we have nothing left for all the other aspects of the organization. Part of the reason we struggle so much with funding is because we spend most of our time and energy planning solid research expeditions and then doing the research expeditions. We spend very little time and energy working on fundraising campaigns, increasing our social media presence, promoting our organization to larger organizations, although we do spend a lot of time writing proposals for grants. We wish we could hire someone to help us with these important things but technically we can’t even afford to hire ourselves. It’s been three years without a salary which makes it very hard to exist as a person in our society. I don’t let any of this bother me much as I know we will succeed in turning Ocean Research Project into a fully functioning non-profit organization. I know this because we can’t be stopped, our determination is limitless. Or as the most successful explorer during the great age of exploration, Roald Amundsen once said “the secret to my success has been due to self-control and willpower. Control yourselves, be your own masters, and at the same time develop determination. If you undertake anything, determine to accomplish your purpose and let no obstacle no matter what turn you back”.

A brief summary of this year’s data collection:
5,000 miles of pCO2 (ocean acidification) data for the Smithsonian’s Environmental Research Center.
5,000 miles of thermosalinagraph data for NASA scientists at Goddard Space Center. This is used to ground truth salinity satellites as the ice in the Polar Regions confuses them.
1,450 miles of Bathymetric data for NASA’s OMG program along with 70 CTD casts many of which down to 500 meters.

We also collected 5 Nano plastics (very small micro plastics) samples for Adventurers for Science and Conservation. This is a great citizen science project and I advise other sailors to look into it.
We were only able to do two long micro plastics trawls at the end due to bad weather. We did find lots of bits of Styrofoam and Nicole will process the samples at S.E.A an affiliate of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute when we return. According to 5 Gyres, Dr. Marcus Erikson this is the first time anyone has trawled for micro plastics in the Arctic.
Nicole’s education blog went out to 300+ middle school students and Nicole will take them on a geographic tour of our research using science on a sphere at Goddard Space Center this fall.
2015 has been our best year yet and next year looks to be even better.
(We have posted 80 pictures on Ocean Research Projects Facebook page, like us on Facebook to see the pictures)

Fortitudine Vincinimous
By Endurance We Concur
Until next year…….

Matt Rutherford

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I hear the leaves are starting to change color back in Annapolis.  There are no trees in Greenland (except the far south) but it is starting to get dark at night.  The darkness brings the cold and it’s not uncommon to wake up in the morning and have ice on the boat.  Our heaters are all in a state of rebellion so we live with the cold, unless the engines on.  My friend Micha told me to buy and install a car heater from Summit racing, which I did before we left.  Just like your car, when our engine heats up we can heat our boat, but when the engine is off it gets cold again.  Nikki told me “I’ve been colder spending the winter on a boat in Annapolis” so she’s fine with the situation. Next year we will have different heaters.

The darkness completely changes how we can operate in the Arctic.  Normally sailing at night is nearly the same as sailing in the day, I’ve spent more nights at sea than I can remember.   Mix the darkness with ice and now you have a very dangerous situation.  So we get up before the sun and get underway as it rises, then we drop anchor before it sets.  We have been reduced to doing day hops from one anchorage to another (I just make up the anchorages day to day depending on wind direction).  At best we can only make 50-60 miles a day so it’s been slow.

We have also been getting stronger winds which makes it difficult to trawl for micro plastics.  Like most research when trawling for micro plastics you really want calm conditions.  If there is any real sea state the waves hit the trawl and splash water in front of its mouth pushing away the micro plastics which float on the surface. This will completely screw up your “how much micro plastics per square kilometer” average.  We have had a little success.  It’s impossible to say exactly what we have found at this point as the samples will need to be processed by Nicole in a lab back in the states, but we have found lots of bits of Styrofoam in the water.

Styrofoam is horrible stuff but it’s cheap to make and therefor cheap to buy.  We love when things are cheap and convenient, hell we’re obsessed with it. I think we should ban Styrofoam, is it really that bad to spend a slightly larger amount of money on a less destructive material?

The bits of Styrofoam are not coming from Greenland but some of the floating trash is.  They really struggle with waste in Greenland.  Most of the trash gets burned locally and most of the trash dumps are right on the water.  A strong gust of wind comes and there goes some trash in the water.  They really are trying to deal with it but it’s such a difficult landscape and for thousands of years they didn’t produce any waste. In Greenland we only throw away our trash in the larger towns that have better trash burning facilities.  To throw your trash away in a small town would be disrespectful.

The issue of waste is tied directly to one of the most difficult issues we have, over population.  Over population is so difficult because there is no good strategy to deal with it.  You can’t say “you can only have one child” to the entire world.  There are twice as many people on earth as there was in 1960 when JFK was president.  Every single person uses resources and produces waste.  Some people are worse than others, but every person has some impact on this planet.  In the end we might use so many resources and produce so much waste that billions of people die because of it, but that’s a terrible way of dealing with over population.

Over consumption is also a big problem.  In the United States we consume so many resources and produce so much waste that if the entire world lived like we do it would take three planet earths to sustain the current population.  We are the most influential country on earth, we could use that influence to teach the world to live in a state of equilibrium with our environment, but we don’t.

All of this has very little to do with us.  It has to do with our children and grandchildren.  What kind of world do you want to leave the future generations of your family?  We have been lucky to live in a time when the earth is still relatively pristine but things are changing for the worst very quickly.  I don’t have a bleeding heart and I don’t hug trees but I can understand the damage we are doing to our planet.

It wasn’t that long ago that I read in the news that there are 50% less mammals, birds, and fish on earth than there were in 1970.  Things are already changing but it’s not about saving the planet. The planets not going anywhere, it will continue to turn. We need to save ourselves from ourselves. 99.9% of all life that has existed throughout the history of our planet is now extinct. If we don’t want to become a statistic we need to use that big brain of ours and figure out a way convince people to live more responsibly.  If we don’t start making changes things are going to get very bad for our future generations.

Fortitudine Vincinimus

Matt Rutherford

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Heat Seeking Icebergs

Trying to find a good place to anchor in fjords near active glaciers is always interesting.   Like usual there are no soundings so you have no idea where the deep and shallow areas are.  Although it’s deep almost everywhere, right up to the rocky shore, so finding a good patch of shallow water is the tricky part.  All of these fjords were carved out by glaciers which acted like a giant ice cream scoop leaving the cliffs sheer deep into the water.  Imagine your boat is a little kid’s plastic bath tub toy boat.  Now take that toy boat and drop it into a swimming pool and try to find a good anchorage.  Your only option would be to drop anchor on the top step leading out of the pool.  Since the pool is “uncharted” you have no idea where that shallow top step is located.  Shallow also gets a new meaning as dropping anchor in 50 feet is now considered shallow, 60-70 feet is normal and once and awhile you have to drop anchor in 100-120 feet of water because that’s the shallowest water you can find.  You still end up dropping anchor right next to the rocky shore (which is more like a cliff than a shore) but at least you’re not dangerously close.

The first two years I learned how to sail I lived on anchor from the Chesapeake Bay to the Florida Keys.  A couple years later when I sailed from Annapolis to Europe, Africa the Caribbean and back singlehanded I didn’t have the money to stay in marinas, so again I always anchored.  I’ve anchored in just about every different bottom type you can imagine and it has taught me an important lesson.  Buy the biggest anchor you possibly can fit on your boat and the heavier the chain the better.  This may seem like common sense but many boats have puny ground tackle.  I have a 73 pound Rocna (I had to cut the roll bar off with a hacksaw to make it fit so maybe it’s only 70lbs now) 150 feet of 3/8th chain (which is all I could fit) and another 1,000 feet of anchor rode. With this ground tackle I could anchor a 60 foot boat in 200 feet of water during a gale.  I admit I’m a bit anchor crazy but that is what happens when you’ve lived on anchor, dragged anchor and watched people lose their boats due to insufficient anchors.

Okay, you’re in a fjord, you have spent the last two hours searching the shoreline trying to find somewhere shallow enough to drop the hook.  You finally find a spot and down goes the anchor.  But wait, that’s only half the battle, what about all the ice drifting this way that that? When searching the shoreline one of the things you look for are areas with less ice (keep in mind there is ice everywhere).  Just because the ice isn’t there now doesn’t mean it won’t be there later, like once you’ve gone to bed.  Nikki and I found a cove that looked mostly ice free, dropped anchor in 50 feet and went to sleep.  Less than an hour later a 60 by 40 foot iceberg was literally knocking on the side of our hull.  The tide was going out which I thought would help keep the ice from coming in, but as if possessed this strange berg was like some kind of heat seeking missile. We pulled anchor and moved to the opposite side of the cove and tried to go back to sleep.  A half hour later this berg was right behind us just 20 feet away and closing.  We ended up pulling anchor five times that night as this berg kept chasing us all over the cove.  The berg itself was in the shape of a freighter with a bird’s neck and head coming out of the bridge deck.  It was like this crazy ice bird was chasing us with an ice freighter.  This all sounds crazy so I added a pic of this thing, the picture was taken from a distance but you can imagine having this thing chase you around all night.

That night like many others we kept an ice watch.  That just means you set an alarm so you get up every hour and check for incoming ice bergs.  You also get up right after the tide changes (if you can figure out when that is) as now the ice is coming from a different direction.  For the most part the ice is more of a nuisance than a danger, but you don’t want a big piece tripping your anchor and pushing you ashore.

We have now officially ended our data collection for this season’s NASA’s Ocean Melting Greenland program.  Over the last month we have obtained 1,450 miles of bathymetric data and 70 CTD casts (often down to 1,675 feet).  Not bad considering there are only two of us on board.  We also found the warmer saltier water column in many places over the last month.

Since Annapolis we have been collecting data for another group of NASA scientists who work at Goddard Space Center near Washington DC. By using a thermosalinograph we have collected surface salinity and temperature data for around 4,500 miles at this point.  Dr. Ludovic Brucker and Dr. Guillaume Vernieres are planning to use this data for ground truthing NASA’s Aquarius satellite.  Aquarius can determine surface salinity and temperature from space but with all the ice in the Arctic it’s hard to get accurate readings up here, so we were helping to fill in the blank, so to speak.  I’m using the past tense because during this expedition Aquarius broke and can’t be fixed.  So now that data will go to help with ground truthing a couple other salinity satellites and in some ways it is more important now Aquarius is down for the count.

RBR, an ocean technology company, is the organization who are generously loaning us the CTD and thermosalinograph. Nikki is helping them in return by working with Dr Richards at RBR on a CTD to thermosalinograph comparison. We couldn’t have collected data for both NASA programs if it wasn’t for RBR’s help.  You have heard me talk quite a bit about the CTD so I’ve added a picture of Nikki holding it along with a pic of the installed thermosalinograph.

When we do an expedition to the Arctic we don’t just collect data for one source.  We collect as much important data for as many different sources as we can manage effectively.  We have a very full plate this year, which is the way a research expedition should be.

We are now switching gears to micro plastics research.  I know of a person who tried to do some trawling in the Arctic last year on my friend Jimmy Cornell’s boat but for whatever reason it was a bust (according to Jimmy and Marcus Erickson).  So that means that at this point there is no data on Arctic micro plastics, zero.  So we will trawl our way back to Sisimut and see what we find.

I may have forgotten to mention but we are keeping our boat in Sisimut this winter so we can do more research in Greenland next year.

Fortitudine Vincinimus

Matt Rutherford

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I doubt any other culture has had to constantly deal with the threat of starvation like the traditional Inuit did.  You would think that the cold would be their number one adversary, but it wasn’t the cold it was food.  10,000 years of starvation changed their culture in ways we westerners in modern times have a hard time wrapping our minds around.  Fore stance it was rather normal (especially if you weren’t a very good hunter) to make your grandparents commit suicide once they were too old to contribute to the hunting society. In was also rather acceptable to kill a new born girl by placing her on a piece of drifting ice.  Their logic was “girls won’t grow up to be hunters”.  This is what happens when a culture starves for millennia, either you can provide food, or you’re just a mouth to feed.

It all sounds rather heartless but you’re looking at it through the eyes of your own culture.  The Inuit didn’t enjoy these practices, they were living the ultimate version of the survival of the fittest.  Since they spent most of their time trying not to starve to death they didn’t wage war like most cultures. After thousands of years without war they seem to have lost most of their sense of bloodlust.  I bet your average American has more bloodlust than your traditional Inuit.  The great Arctic explorers described them as the happiest people on earth (which is also hard to wrap your mind around).  The Inuit went through one of the most extreme transformations in human history going from the Stone Age to the Atomic Age in just a few generations.

Most people in Greenland today wouldn’t call themselves Inuit, just Greenlandic.  In the larger towns like Nuuk and Sisimut many people are a mix of Greenlandic and Danish.  As far as I can tell it’s only when you get north of Upernavik that you start seeing signs of traditional Inuit culture.

Greenland is part of Denmark.  The Danish government gives something like 3-4 billion in subsidies to Greenland every year.  This has changed everything.  If it wasn’t for the support of the Danish government Greenland would be a truly impoverished 3rd world country.  This has also had a huge impact on their culture, the Greenlandic people today are quite western in many ways. I can’t say western culture is always a great thing and it’s sad to see an ancient culture lose its roots but at least they don’t have to deal with the constant threat of starvation anymore.

(An interesting side note, after WW2 the United States tried to buy Greenland from Denmark for 100 million dollars, had Denmark said yes Greenland would be our 51st state.)

It certainly works out well for me and Nicole.  Nearly every town has a small grocery store.  There is only one grocery store chain in Greenland, it’s easy to find as its logo looks like a polar bear sniffing another polar bears butt (can’t miss that).  These stores are full of Danish foods and seem like they have been plucked straight out of Denmark.  It’s funny to think that Nikki and I had to sail to the Arctic before we started eating well on an expedition.  They don’t really have highways or roads in Greenland but nearly every little town has a helicopter landing pad.  If there was an injury you could get to Upernavik’s very nice hospital fairly quickly.  Fuel isn’t cheap but since it’s subsidized it’s not terribly expensive either.  Greenland has its challenges and isn’t a place for novice sailors, but it also has its perks.

North of Upernavik when approaching one of these small towns the first things you hear are the dogs.  The dogs never stop making noise, whether it’s howling, barking or wining.   These dogs aren’t the type you walk up and pet as they are more wild then domestic.  They are work dogs used to pull sleds in the winter, in the north that is still very common.  The dog’s noise isn’t bad, it makes the towns seem more alive.  The big dogs are mostly all tied off but the puppies typically run free.  If you put your hand out the puppies climb all over you, my guess is they think you have food.  Nikki is in puppy heaven every time we go for a walk around these towns.  The Greenlandic dogs have two coats of fur so they are always shedding. They wouldn’t be very good indoors or on a boat unless you don’t mind having dog hair everywhere.

We have been taking it a bit easier since the Devils Thumb.  We are still averaging 10-14 hour days but that’s a whole lot easier than working for days on end.  The research dominates all aspects of our expedition.  This isn’t a sailing adventure with a little research on the side, this is a research expedition with a little adventure on the side.

You probably notice that our track line has been zig zaging all over the place lately.  It’s all part of our bathymetric survey.  We have a 1 kilowatt single beam sonar with data logger and are following lines given to us by NASA’s OMG (Oceans Melting Greenland) program.  By doing this we are mapping out the sea floor helping OMG better understand where the deep areas are that may have the warmer saltier water column.  Our data isn’t strong enough to be given to the Danish Hydrographic Office, but it’s good enough for NASA.  What we really need is a multi-beam sonar but that’s $100,000.

There are almost no depth sounding for any of the areas we have been in so when in doubt we use iceberg navigation.  We only draw four and a half feet, most bergs are deeper than we are so if you see a berg of any real size you can assume that the water is deep enough for us near it.  There is also almost no tide information north of Upernavik, which makes things tricky when you can have fifteen to twenty foot tides.  So we use icebergs that have run aground to gauge the tides by the indention cut out by the rising and falling water. Icebergs can be very helpful at times.

Over the last week the water has been the clearest I’ve seen yet. You can see down fifty feet and at thirty feet you can clearly make out every detail of the sea floor.  This makes anchoring a lot easier.  Since the bottom is full of large flat rocks and boulders we can find the sandy spots and drop the anchor right on target.  The water almost looks tropical if it wasn’t for the fact its freezing cold.

Tomorrow we will enter heavy ice once again in an effort to help map out the fjords around Kakivfaat and Nunatakassaap glaciers, then it’s off to Upernavik.

Fortitudine Vincinimus

Matt Rutherford

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Old School Exploration

Old School Exploration

The open polar sea seems like such a crazy theory at this point in history.  Before satellites and airplanes people had no idea what the northern Polar Regions were really like.  Many people thought that “deep water can’t freeze” or “24 hour sunlight in the summer would not just melt the ice, it would also be a tropical climate”.   Some people went so far as to believe that there was land at the North Pole inhabited by a technology advanced people (basically Arctic Atlantis).  Better yet, there is a hole at the pole that leads to an underground paradise.  That theory was the inspiration for Jules Vern’s “journey to the center of the earth”.  However silly all of this sounds in the 19th and early 20th century people took this theory not just seriously, but as scientific fact.  Many died because of it. They thought that there was a ring of ice surrounding the Arctic, but if you could only break through that ring of ice you would enter an open polar sea.

In all the Polar Regions north and south the area we have been sailing through over the last couple of weeks has seen the most U.S. lead polar expeditions.  The reason for many of these expeditions was to find the open polar sea.  Starting with Elisha Kent Kane and ending with Peary Northwest Greenland was America’s contribution to polar exploration.

Unlike Shackleton, I can’t say “I wish I’d been there with them”.  Kane was incredibly arrogant and was universally despised by his crew. Charles Francis Hall traveled the Arctic for years on his own living with the Inuit truly respecting their culture.  Unfortunately he was a terrible leader of men and was found to be so insufferable by his crew that he was poisoned to death by his own ships doctor. Cook was a fraud. Peary only cared for fame and named practically everything he saw after himself, even places that didn’t exist. More than likely the last 100 miles of Peary’s journey to the North Pole was fabricated.  He still deserves to be called the first man to reach the North Pole, like horseshoes and hand grenades he got close enough to count.  George DeLong was by far the most likable and honorable of all the American expedition leaders.  He too was looking for the open polar sea (although in a different part of the Arctic).  He was a man worthy of his crew’s respect, but his boat was crushed in the ice and he died along with 2/3rds of his men.

The great Arctic and Antarctic explorers all deserve respect regardless of their personal quirks.  These men endured great mental and physical hardship often without concern or complaint.  They lived in a time when polar geography was truly unknown, a time of legends and myths.  Men with hearts full of courage, braver than any explorer in the modern era. Compared to them we are nothing but a shadow. They are the ones who taught me what it is to be a man.

Today few places on earth are still uncharted, some of these last bastions of exploration are here in Greenland. The area where we conducted the majority of our research in the High Arctic was one of those regions. NASA scientists gave us a map that showed all of the data collected by all counties throughout history, within this map there was a large triangular shaped blank north of Qaanaaq. To be able to collect truly virgin data these days is about as rare as a leprechaun riding a unicorn, it was a chance we weren’t going to let slip by.

It’s very interesting to compare what is supposed to be there verses what really is.  North of Cape Alexander we would see an island here on the chart and there on the chart that simply didn’t exist in reality. When going into a fjord to do a CTD cast we didn’t have a chart with soundings to say its 100 feet deep over here and 20 feet over there, or don’t go over there rocks are hiding just below the surface. We had to use a combination of observations and sailor intuition.  As you can imagine my Inner-Shackleton is pumped up like Barry Bonds on steroids. It’s so nice to be back in the Arctic.

We left Qaanaaq and sailed down to Melville Bay to conduct a 150 mile preliminary survey from Cape York to the Devils Thumb. Peary (the guy who went to the North Pole) was in this area when he noticed the local Inuit had tools and weapons made of a very strange rock.  The Inuit told Peary the rock was sacred.  Peary convinced one of the Inuit to show him the source of this sacred rock.  Peary’s suspicions were right, the tools and weapons weren’t made of normal Greenlandic rock, they were made from a meteor (two meteors to be precise). Apparently, the Inuit of the Qaanaaq region have been using these meteors to make tools and weapons for hundreds of years.  In one of his more fiendish acts, Peary then stole both of these sacred meteors and brought them back to the United States, denying the Inuit the materials they desperately needed to survive.  In a sad twist of irony there is a monument to Peary on top of Cape York overlooking Savissivik, the old site of the sacred meteors.  If I was from Savissivik id knock that monument down and drag it back to the old scared site so it could be turned into a latrine, but then again I don’t like Peary.

Melville Bay is the land of a million icebergs, I mean literally a million.  In the last week we have seen more icebergs than we have over the entire time we have been sailing in Greenland, multiplied. After passing Cape York we entered Meteor Bay to do a CTD cast. Meteor Bay probably had 500 large monstrous icebergs in it (possibly twice that number).  From each berg came an assortment of growlers and bergy bits. I’d never seen anything like it.  The icebergs were so thick we had to look for leads between these monsters as if they were pack ice, and that was just one fjord!

From Meteor Bay we skirted the edge of the Melville Nature reserve.  You can’t do research in the nature reserve without a permit hence the “preliminary” part of our 150 mile survey. There’s always next year. Once south of the reserve we headed back towards land in an attempt to get to Hayes glacier to do more CTD casts. Hayes glacier is simply massive and constantly calving like crazy. About 15 miles from land you notice what looks like an impenetrable wall of icebergs as far as the eye can see.  It’s like a bumper to bumper traffic jam of large icebergs.  As you get closer you start to see leads but they don’t look like they go anywhere.  Closer still you encounter fields of densely packed small ice between the size of a baseball to the size of a washing machine. There is no way to go around these fields of densely packed smaller ice, you can only go right through.  Nikki calls these areas “the crunch” as that’s the sound the ice makes off your haul as you slowly pass through. Unfazed you press on and upon approaching this seemingly impenetrable wall of icebergs you realize there are some spaces between the bergs, so you enter this labyrinth of icebergs.  It’s very slow going, Nikki covers the port side and I cover the starboard pointing out the smaller car sized bergs that litter the passageways between the monsters. (We had a three days forecast with no wind when entering the ice, had there been any wind in the forecast we would have stayed the hell away.)

We had been underway for several days since Qaanaaq, dodging ice and hardly sleeping.  Now that we were navigating heavy ice sleeping was impossible.  Sleep deprivation was catching up to me and I was starting to hear things that weren’t there.  We needed to drop anchor and sleep, but where, we are completely surrounded by ice?  An old grey bearded sailor once told me “any man can sail, but only a sailor can anchor”.  For a guy who has spent so much time at sea non-stop I’ve gotten quite good at finding safe anchorages. There were several small uncharted lumps of rock that I guess you could call islands a few miles away.  On one of these rocky outcroppings I found a current shadow, a place the current passes in such a way that the ice doesn’t get pressed up against that side of the island.  So we dropped anchor there and slept.  In the morning we got an email from Dr Fenty at NASA saying that Hayas was too iced up and we can try again earlier in the season next year when conditions will be more favorable. So we pulled anchor and started working our way through the ice to the Devils Thumb. (I’ve added some pictures of the impenetrable wall of ice but they don’t even come close to showing what it’s like)

We are currently on anchor near the Devils Thumb a place with so many bergs that we have to keep an ice watch when we sleep so we can quickly pull anchor and move before a 100,000 pound iceberg runs us down. Luckily they move very slowly.

What we have been doing here in Greenland is about as close to old school exploration as you can get these days.  Venturing into uncharted waters colleting important scientific data in places where no one in human history has collected such data before.  And this is only the beginning for Ocean Research Project.

(We have added some pictures of the research we have been doing.  The blue line represents where we collected pCO2 (ocean acidification) data, thermosalinograph data and bathymetric data.  The white circles represent CTD casts.)

Fortitudine Vincinumus

Matt Rutherford

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