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> May 8, 2006 Ice!, First Day to Break Ice
post May 9 2006, 04:51 PM
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May 8, 2006 – The Healy

We set sail yesterday at 1600 hours (4:00 PM), and today at 900 hours (9:00 AM) we encountered ice for the first time. At first it started out as small floating chunks. But as we continued traveling northward, the ice became thicker and stretched from ship to horizon.

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When we first began to encounter ice, it was scattered in little chunks.

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Ice now surrounds the ship. A member of the Coast Guard raises a flag to help other crewmembers determine the wind’s direction.

When the Healy cuts through ice, the whole ship vibrates. The walls shake, and tables and chairs rattle. That makes mealtime interesting; a rubber gripper lines the metal tables to keep the cafeteria-style trays and glasses from sliding all around. Sam, the teacher who is onboard with me, described the icebreaking perfectly: It feels like we’re eating dinner on a very shaky subway train.

Despite the ice, the Healy is pressing forward and making good time. So the captain expects that we will reach our first scientific station tomorrow morning at around 300 hours (3:00 AM). At these predetermined locations, we will collect things like water samples to test the levels of chlorophyll and zooplankton (more on what this means as the work gets underway!). We’ll also trawl, or throw a net overboard, for animals such as crabs. Some of the scientists will even fly in a helicopter to see how many spectacled eiders they spot. A spectacled eider is a specific type of bird that dives to depths of 150 to 180 feet to snatch crabs from the bottom of the seafloor for food.

All of the data that we collect from these stations in the coming weeks will help scientists figure out how the Bering Sea and its ecosystem is changing in response to a warming climate.

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We will drop this net overboard from the rear of the ship. Then we’ll pull it up to see what we’ve caught.
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