Captain Matt and I are waiting out some stronger winds before heading back South to Sismut and finishing our work along the way. We are pretty comfortable on anchor hiding on the leeward side of Upernavik Island. Soon we will fuel up and get some food from a food market but we have to seek out a different non-exposed harbor as it needs to be calm instead of full of breaking waves. I can’t wait to get cheese so I can make pizza. We collected 70 casts over 1450 nautical miles for the NASA Ocean Melting Greenland Project so I am ready to celebrate with a pizza party. Check out examples of a CTD cast profile of temperature and salinity of the ocean water column in the pictures below. We definitely found the warm salty North Atlantic Water we were searching for multiple times and it got warmer and possibly wider as we headed south. Next year we will have a longer line to drop the CTD because it would have been nice to get below 2100 feet in order to find how wide the warm/salty water layer was in the southernmost regions of our survey. In the uppermost part of our survey the layer seemed to get narrower and cooler as we headed North.
It is unbelievable how many different forms of ice we encounter. Ice up in the Arctic has mainly two origins either by land or sea and one can come across combinations of the two. Sea ice is often varying forms and ages of pack ice, where older ice is stronger and best to give some distance. Ice originating from land includes: (from massive to small) iceberg islands, icebergs, bergy bits, and growlers. Land ice is strong and usually has a height to depth ratio of 1:4. The ice calves off of glaciers as pinnacles, blocks, etc. Matt and I had a taste of what it is like to navigate amongst these varying types of ice. We used satellite pictures, forecasts and observations of weather and currents patterns to keep from becoming surrounded by ice while we conducted our survey. Next year we are making a couple modifications to protect our propeller and add a little more support at the bow.
In the last few weeks of our research cruise we will trawl for the potential discovery of marine debris pollution above the Arctic Circle. We will use a device we are very familiar with, a metal trawl called a Manta net which skims alongside the boat, at the surface catching floating debris the size of glitter, the width of your finger nail, to the size of a football. Are microplastics riding the currents of the world and making its way into Arctic waters? Waste management is even a problem in the Arctic, as every town we stopped in there was litter on both the land and in the harbors, mostly plastic bottles. Most towns in Greenland are built up upon hard rock, and instead of landfills, the piles of trash lay next to the sea, most of it they try to burn the rest it is a pile of trash subject to the wind and waves. The small Greenland town’s number #1 industry is fishing, and if we revisit the food web, one can quickly see that small microplastics full of toxic chemicals can wind up bio accumulating in not only the vast fish populations but seabirds as well. How can Greenland protect the boundaries of its fishing grounds and nature reserves from this silent floating threat?
Trawling along the coast will be more challenging than trawling across the Pacific Ocean, we have to avoid icebergs and kelp (seagrass that could entangle our trawl endangering the rig). I will see many of you this fall at the Science on a Sphere Venue at the Goddard Space Center. I cannot wait to show you where we have been, what we have found, and answer any of your questions using a massive globe. Did you like participating in this Blog? Let us know on Facebook!