There is more on my mind than just puppies and icebergs. Getting through Baffin Bay was a piece a cake except when I interpreted the radar returns in heavy fog as scattered noise and a wall of ice appeared out of the mist. The marine debris trawl samples are always full of life but barren of the plastic that one would expect to find in an accumulation zone. It did not take long to determine the gyre like region in Baffin Bay was not a garbage patch region. We agree with the idea that because of the freeze thaw cycles that is characteristic of Baffin Bay, the pack ice may trap marine debris and move it further south as the ice retreats in the Spring and Summer. If time and calm conditions allow we aim to collect more trawl samples later in the season toon our way home and if lost discarded and abandoned fishing gear is the major source of marine debris from the Arctic in Disko Bay.
Any town in Greenland is beautiful and full of wonder, but you also wonder why there is litter everywhere and if what your smelling is a stream of raw sewage flowing by you. The trash and sewage are typically on the town’s outskirts and at the waters edge, washing out to sea with every tidal cycle. The terrain is to rocky to build landfills and there are heaps of rubbish including bags of poo, old appliances, and scrap metal. Sometime you wonder where the town’s dump ends and the town begins, usually the puppies greet you in between. I think maybe there is a combination of low incentive and support for proper waste management and lack of education in identifying re-usable materials reducing community resourcefulness. Though visually marine debris seems to be a big problem coming from these towns, the populations are so small, often less than 500 people so it is not the major contributor of marine debris pollution in the Arctic.
We are 84% complete the first survey area of our project, Murcheson Channel, just outside of Qaanaaq had little ice and was relatively shallow water. Everyone onboard quickly learned what it means to collect quality sea floor bathymetry data and drive straight lines. Whoever is driving the boat has their own monitor with track lines he or she has to follow. Usually, we do 5 hours on and 5 hours off with 2 people up at all times and take turns every half hour driving. The person not driving the boat needs to keep one eye on the sonar but more importantly the ice around the boat; through blanketing fog they will direct the helmsman on just how close they can get to bergs before getting off course. I do not think I will ever get tired of watching the glaciers appear as we round a bend. The ice cap above them reaches up to the sky and fog rainbows come out and say hello.
We showed up ahead of schedule, 11 days ago and have barely scratched the surface in starting our sea floor survey. Unfortunately our borrowed sonar’s motherboard burned out. Luckily, the shallow mapping capability of the unit survived but this is a Mount Everest sized challenge of a survey, with the majority of it requiring deep seafloor mapping capabilities. Luckily, Teledyne Marine sent us a spare. So our current challenge is to stay productive while waiting for a little red mail plane to reach the furthest major airport in NW Greenland . Instead of tackling hundreds of miles of survey we will begin acquiring CTD casts throughout the fjord representing a dataset of the major thermal and salinity changes that occur from the sea surface to the sea floor. The delay also buys us time, the ice will clear even more in the end of the fjord making deep water surveying a snap. I hope.
There has only ever been a handful of depth soundings recorded through history in this region until now. We have two major survey objectives. First, we will trace the path of the warm water, originating from the Gulf Stream, coming up the fjord deep in the water that melts the glaciers from underneath. It will be a great accomplishment for Ocean Research Project to watch the seafloor surface appear in our hydrographic software programs. Apparently, there are narwhales in this fjord. I cannot wait to see them!