Friday, October 1, 2010

Thesis Hiatus

To my wonderful readers,

Due to the high stress and time requirements at the end of my Master's Degree program here in Alaska I have had to truly prioritize every minute of my day. The last few months in Grad School require a lot more time than I could have imagined and I am devoted to presenting a solid, complete, well thought out Thesis at my defense on November 10th. My first thesis draft is due in less than a month, and due to these commitments this blog will be on a temporary Hiatus until the final draft of my thesis is submitted.

In case you're curious, the work I've been completing over the past year is going into my thesis titled:
"North Atlantic Air-Sea Interactions Driven by Atmospheric and Oceanic Stochastic Forcing in a Box Model"

Thanks for your understanding,

~Polar_Gal

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What Polar_Gal Does in her Free Time

So the reason there's been a little break in the action here was because I was planning and enjoying another one of my many summer vacations! Summers here in Alaska are super short, so you have to make the most of every moment and I've tried my best to plan a little adventure each weekend. Over Labor Day I planned my first trip to Southeast Alaska ... our state's capital city, Juneau! It's only accessible by air or sea so I used my Alaska Air miles to enjoy a solo vacation!

Here are a couple videos I made to share the adventure with you! Let me know what you think... :)

Part 1:



Part 2:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Day 3: Sea Ice and Work Begins (NABOS 2009)

[*Part of an ongoing series documenting the 2009 NABOS Arctic Expedition, approximately 1 year ago*]

Monday, August 17, 2009

1:15 PM I walk around in my cabin and a glimmering white flash out my porthole window catches my eye. I make a mad dash for the window and climb up on my seating area to get a better look out the window. On the far horizon I see WHITE!! That can only mean one thing.... SEA ICE! Horray! Now this is becoming real!

View of first sea ice out my porthole window

As I continue to stare out my porthole... I begin to spot itty bitty pieces of ice floating by. 15 minutes pass and we're into a sea of floating ice cubes! By this point it's becoming quite chilly in my cabin so I sprint across the room to add on a sweater, hat, and mittens.

Enjoying the sea ice out on deck

Later in the afternoon we have a tour of the entire icebreaker so we're familiar with our surroundings. The 8th and 9th deck showcased some of the most Spectacular views! The wheelhouse... a room surrounded on three sides by paned glass windows making you feel like you're a sea bird floating along a few stories above the ocean below!

Enjoying the view from the wheelhouse

We were able to check out all of the navigation equipment including the radar and nautical maps.

Ship's Radar

Later in the evening dinner conversations turned to the arrival of the icebreaker at our first mooring station to attempt a recovery of the instrument from the sea floor. The research team is filled with anticipation and eager to start working later tonight! On board the ship we all will try to follow a schedule, but from what I'm learning from my new mooring technician friends you never have a real schedule up here in the Arctic. Everything is dependent upon so many variables... wind speeds, sea ice thickness, research equipment working properly... and as a result you should always be prepared to work :)

A little chilly out on the 8th deck in the evening... but breathtaking views!

After team meetings in the evening I headed off to bed, no longer being rocked to sleep by rolling waves, but now feeling like a child being pulled across the snow while riding in a sled...

In the early morning hours while I was asleep the mooring team was called out on deck for work to attempt to recover the first mooring in an area of heavy sea ice... I'll update you on the results tomorrow...

~ Polar_Gal ~

Day 2: Safety Drill and Jetlag (NABOS 2009)

[*Part of an ongoing series documenting the 2009 NABOS Arctic Expedition, approximately 1 year ago today*]

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Today: Jetlag... but NO Sea Sickness... Wahooo!!! It has been easier than expected to adjust to the rocking of the ship in the waves of the Barents Sea. As a matter of fact the rocking of the ship almost rocks you to sleep at night. It should be interesting to see how the ship moves in ice.

Most of the day was spent setting up workstations in the hanger on the back deck of the ship and organizing equipment for deployments. It's a travel day as we head north with our first destination just east of Svalbard where we will be completing our first transect.


In the late afternoon our survival suits (similar to those seen on the TV show "Deadliest Catch") and life vests were distributed. Our safety meeting was held followed by a lifeboat drill. During the drill the alarm sounded (VERY loud, which is great because no one could possibly sleep through that), then we all grabbed our life vests and survival suits and went to our assigned lifeboats. They aren't what I was expecting at all because they're actually completely enclosed, like a giant medicine pill or capsule. Each of the seats in the lifeboat has straps to secure you into a seat and cables above would lower it down to the water in the case of an emergency. Quite the upgrade if you ask me... I was picturing something out of the movie Titanic... haha... on the other hand the life vests did look similar to that era... I guess you can't go wrong with the classic design there!

~Polar_Gal~

Monday, August 16, 2010

Day 1: Bon Voyage (NABOS 2009)

[*Part of an ongoing series documenting the 2009 NABOS Arctic Expedition I participated approximately 1 year ago today*]

Video update from Kirkenes, Norway the day before departing:
video

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Around 10:15 AM local time I got word from one of our chief scientists that it was time to head out to board the Icebreaker. My stomach filled with knots as I began drag my huge bag loaded with winter gear down the stairs of our hotel to our rental car. A couple of other scientists joined us and soon we were on our way to the port in town. There was no turning back now...

As we pulled up to the gate I caught my first glimpse of what would be "Home Sweet Icebreaker" for the next 3 weeks. At that point in time my stomach was suddenly filled to the brim with a swarm of butterflies... it was the moment when the chief scientist pulled away to go get other scientists and I was left alone next staring up at an 8 deck tall floating football field with all of my arctic gear in one hand and my jaw just dropped. This was it... I was about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime on a russian icebreaker in the Arctic Ocean.



As I struggled up the 2 foot wide metal plank to climb up 2 stories with my awkward 5 foot long gear bag I was met by a kind young russian crew member that offered some words in Russian and reached out to help me with my bag. Another moment... the dominant language spoken on this trip was going to be russian... this was a russian icebreaker... with a russian crew... and many russian scientists... I was being tossed off the deep end into the Arctic Ocean... if I ever wanted to learn about the russian culture and language this was going to be it! Excitement, Fear, and Anticipation overcame me...

Once on deck I was quickly whisked away to one of our expedition's organizers... she gave me my cabin room assignment and a crew member helped me with my gear once again. I kept thinking over and over... this isn't real... I'm dreaming!

After calming my head for a few minutes I met the gal in the cabin next to mine. Her name was Birke, she was a PhD student from Germany, and I was 100% relieved to find that she didn't know anyone either and was feeling the same things I was! We became close friends, and from that point on we were always found giggling and working together around the icebreaker.


The afternoon was busy out on deck, loading scientific instruments on board with cranes and strapping everything down for the long journey. Everyone gathered out on deck as we departed from the dock early that evening, and we took in the gorgeous views of the bird cliffs along the Norgegian fjord. This would be the last land we would be seeing for quite some time.

Later in the evening we had our first research team meeting, complete with introductions of all of the international participants. It was so neat sit in the room and hear the accents and different languages being spoken! Birke and I looked forward to the challenge of trying to pick up a little of the Russian language before the trip was over. At the conclusion of the meeting old friends reunited and shared stories and new friends were introduced.


Exhausted I collapsed in my bed that night... no need to dream... my Arctic dreams were already becoming a reality!


~Polar_Gal~

NABOS 2009: The Plan

2009 marked the 8th year of the NABOS Arctic Research Expedition. NABOS stands for the Nansen and Amundsen Basins Observational System, which are two ocean basins located in the Arctic Ocean north of Russia and Europe.

During these research expeditions lots of neat science takes place! Scientists and technicians from world come together in Kirkines, Norway to depart on an icebreaker ship, destination: the Arctic Ocean.

The main goal of the project is to collect observations ocean water properties, chemical composition, as well as biological samples of local ecosystems and atmospheric measurements in our rapidly changing Arctic. Scientists can use these observations and compare them with previous years to study how the water masses circulate, transform, and mechanisms that could be causing these changes.


New Blog Series: "A Year Ago Today: NABOS 2009"

To celebrate the launch of the new website I have planned out a series of blogs documenting where I was and what I was up to "A Year Ago Today".

For approximately 3 weeks last summer I was lucky to be given the opportunity to assist with oceanographic measurements during the 2009 NABOS cruise. During this time internet connection was extremely limited due to our remote location, the Arctic Ocean. I did keep an abbreviated blog for my home institution (the International Arctic Research Center aka IARC), but I decided now would be a great opportunity to expand it!

I hope you will join me on this journey as I look back on 3 of the most exhilarating, scary, and inspiring weeks of my life. I'll take you along with photos, stories, and videos. Feel free to send me messages or questions about life on the icebreaker or polar science in general!

Happy Reading!