Do you remember when we dropped big sea-spider-looking tripods off of the back of the R/V Sikuliaq in the icy dark of last November?
For the last 10 months, those moorings have been diligently recording data from under the ocean and ice surface without complaint or interruption (at least we all hope they have).
In that time, the world above the ocean and ice surface has changed. Last year, 52 people flew in to Nome, Alaska from all over the world and promptly gathered in the mess hall of a ship to share a meal. That seems like almost an impossibly far-fetched concept now.
Science research, like so many endeavors, looks different now.
But we can’t ask the moorings to hang on another year; to conserve their batteries and withstand their cold salty existence for 10 more months. They must still have energy and dexterity to come back to the surface and be retrieved, to share with their scientists the years' worth of data currently filed away in a little underwater SD card.
And so, this September, Dr. Jim Thomson is returning to the Sikuliaq and the Sikuliaq is returning to the Arctic waters off of Alaska to retrieve the 12 moorings we strategically placed last year in hopes of learning more about the dynamic interactions between waves and ice.
This year, the team is smaller, the cruise is shorter, and the protocols are heftier, but the science is still happening.
In the best-case scenario, each mooring responds to an acoustic release signal and pops a buoy to the surface that is then visible from the ship. But sensitive technology doesn’t often cooperate with the brutal conditions in the Arctic. If the acoustic release doesn’t work for any reason, the team will have to think fast in the waning daylight and come up with creative ways to retrieve the moorings.
Stay tuned as we share the inside scoop on a science research expedition in the age of Covid-19.