Barrow and Back Again

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Our cruise track so far, from Nome to Barrow Canyon

Bring on the science

The first transect of the cruise began this morning. We’ve transited from Nome, Alaska through the Bering Strait up the Alaskan coast to the waters off Barrow, Alaska. We’re now doing a northerly transect across Barrow Canyon into the Chukchi Sea. This transect roughly follows the DBO 5 line. (DBO = Distributed Biological Observatory. DBOs are a collection of sampling spots the Arctic oceanographic community has decided to sample together. This helps them get a lot of samples from the same places over a long period of time.)

Around 8am this morning we reached our first “station”, where we did a CTD (CTD = Conductivity, Temperature, Depth. It is a standard oceanographic sampling method that’s on almost every cruise. A CTD is a collection of bottles that is lowered into the ocean and collects water from different depths.) After the CTD, at about 10:30am, the Hales team deployed their SuperSucker. This is a specially designed towed sled that collects near real-time data from the water as it’s pulled behind the boat. It was our first deck operation of the cruise. The SuperSucker had to be retrieved once for a bit of trouble shooting, but was soon returned to the water and has been working well ever since.


Goñi and Juranek doing a CTD this morning, while discussing the importance of coffee



Retrieving the CTD this morning



Brianna Stanley, Kendra Turk-Kubo, Rachel Sipler, Erin Guillory, Kylie Welch, and Debbie Bronk ready to collect water from the CTD



Bosun Paul St. Onge deploying the SuperSucker around 10:30am this morning



The aft deck after the CTD was deployed this morning



The Hales lab trouble shooting after the SuperSucker went in for the first time



A successful deployment of the SuperSucker. This is the Hales lab station, with the Baltic room and aft deck in the background


Agenda: CTDs and Multi-coring 

The SuperSucker will be towed in the water for 12 hours and brought back to the ship. Then the normal sleepless madness of research cruises will commence. We will work our way back inshore along Barrow Canyon, stopping at 9 sampling stations along the way. At each sampling station, we will do a CTD. And in-between each sampling station, we will do a multi-core. Most everyone on the cruise uses the water from the CTDs, but the multi-cores are the messy adventure for the Goñi lab. A multi-core has tubes that are dropped to the bottom of the ocean, grab mud, and bring that mud back. After each multi-core the Goñi lab will cut the mud tubes into 1cm segments. The whole journey back to the point near Barrow where we started this morning will likely take 12-15 hours and last well into tomorrow.   

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A more detailed map of our cruise plan



Our plan for the upcoming CTD and multi-core bonanza along the Barrow Canyon transect


Between the Chukchi and Beaufort

What makes a Barrow Canyon transect interesting is partially it’s location near the border between two very different bodies of water: the Chukchi and Beaufort Sea. The Chukchi is a shallow shelf of about 50 meters while the Beaufort drops off to depths of 3000 meters.

“As a geochemist, the Chukchi shelf is where all the action is,” says Rachel Sipler, Principal Investigator for the VIMS lab, “because it’s not deep enough to sequester all of the organic matter that falls to the bottom. So with a really big storm or scouring from ice, some of those nutrients and organic matter come back up to the surface. The Chukchi gets terrestrial influence from the shore, and also from the Bering Sea. The Bering Sea delivers nutrients at high enough concentrations of nitrate and phosphate, which are essential for growth, to create massive blooms. And so it’s a really productive area.”

Sampling on the Barrow Canyon line is a great opportunity for the teams onboard because ice coverage made it inaccessible last year.

We will stay within the Chukchi Sea for this cruise. Part of the cruise plan is to sample along the Wainwright line, followed by DBO 4 and the Hannah Shoal line. Sipler calls Hanna Shoal “the jungle of the Arctic” because it has so much growth and activity.

Other than the birds that glide behind the ship, our large wildlife sightings have been limited. But this morning Britte Merculief, the community observer from Fairbanks, Alaska, saw three bowhead whales off the port bow. Later this morning some of us also saw a couple spouts and a whale fluke (species unidentified) off the starboard aft deck. 

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Whale sighting!


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Pong is life.


A Team Effort 

There are 20 scientists onboard this cruise, not including Deb Greene (an educator from Anchorage School District), Kim Kenny (myself, communications), Britte Merculief (the community observer from Fairbanks, Alaska), and two marine technicians who help facilitate the science. (Apologies to those I have yet to get a portrait of. Coming soon.)

Among those 20 scientists, there are six teams represented: from OSU,

  • the Juranek lab (chief scientist Laurie Juranek)
  • the Hales lab (PI Burke Hales, marine technician Dale Hubbard, guest marine technician from the Hakai Institute Katie Pocock, undergraduate Selina Lambert (who will be going to the Hakai Institute to work under Katie Pocock), recently graduated Carrie Weekes, and graduate student Will Fairchild)


Burke Hales



Dale Hubbard



Katie Pocock


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Carrie Weekes and Katie Pocock



Selina Lambert


  • the Goñi lab (PI Miguel Goñi, marine technician Kylie Welch, undergraduates Erin Guillory, Emmanuel Alegria, and Issie Corvi), and


Miguel Goñi



Kylie Welch


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Emmanuel Alegria and Issie Corvi



Emmanuel Alegria



Issie Corvi



  • the Shroyer lab (Nick Beaird is a post-doctoral student in Emily Shroyer’s OSU lab studying physical oceanography).


Nick Beaird in the main lab today. “The thing that I’m most excited about is that we’re getting these really unique small scale turbulence measurements at the same time that we’re getting these really unique biogeochemical measurements from Burke’s SuperSucker,” said Beaird, “It’s a combination of pretty unique datasets. I think putting them all together will be really cool, and it’s something that’s not very common. And it could provide some good insights about how ocean physics and biology are interacting.”  

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Nick Beaird putting instruments on the SuperSucker


From VIMS there is the Sipler team (PI Rachel Sipler, co-PI Deborah Bronk, recently-finished (!) Ph.D. student Jenna Spackeen, and graduate student Brianna Stanley, and undergraduate Zane Norton).


Rachel Sipler


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Deborah Bronk explaining nitrogen fixation


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Zane Norton and Jenna Spackeen brining incubated bottles inside for storage



Zane Norton 



Rachel Sipler and Kendra Turk-Kubo



Jenna Spackeen


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Zane Norton and Debbie Bronk in the analytical lab


Working with the VIMS team is Kendra Turk-Kubo, from the University of California Santa Cruz John Zehr lab. She does DNA analysis of the organisms in the water. This helps the VIMS lab know when and where to sample. Turk-Kubo is also taking many samples back to the lab in Santa Cruz to better understand how the nitrogen fixers in Arctic waters work. 


Everyone has their own goals on this cruise. But everyone also simultaneously works together to achieve the common goal of better understanding Arctic biogeochemistry. And the Sikuliaq is our temporary home while we work to accomplish that.


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