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> July 8 - 2005
post Jul 11 2005, 04:43 PM
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TEA Teacher

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July 8 - 2005

Today we moved onto the ship. After packing up and leaving Chiniak, we drove to Kodiak for some last minute shopping and to send some of Kodiak's best smoked salmon and halibut home as gifts. After that, we moved our personal gear onto the ship and left for the airport to pick up Dr. Jackie Grebmeier and her husband, Dr. Lee Cooper, both of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Boarding the ship this year is very different because I know my way around a bit from last year's cruise. The CCGS (Canadian Coast Guard Ship) Sir Wilfrid Laurier, based in Victoria, British Columbia is an "ice strengthened ship capable of operating on all BC coastal waters and in the Arctic." The nearly 20 year old ship is 83 meters long and 16.2 meters wide with a top speed of 15.5 knots. Its duties include resupply, aids to navigation, science, search and rescue, fisheries enforcement, and icebreaking.

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I had a chance to speak with Don Matthews, the ship's logistics officer (see his picture below) about life on board the Laurier. Don commented that "the ship is our home, so we try to make it as comfortable as possible." Some of the amenities serve a dual purpose. The satellite TV connection, for example, allows the ice observer on board to download ice images directly rather than the previously used, and very expensive, phone connection. The ice observer comes on board for the Arctic cruises when he will map the ice from the helicopter to allow for easier navigation. Although the Laurier spent a week trapped in the ice in Barrow in 1987, all reports from this year so far indicate very little ice. After leaving Barrow, the ship will escort tugs and barges that bring supplies to the northern villages. Often a family will order a year's worth of canned goods/supplies that arrive in a container on the barge. The family will work round the clock to unload it before the ship leaves, taking the container with it. Along the way, the Laurier crew also maintains navigational aids such as buoys and range finders. After 6 weeks, a new crew will come on board to complete the cruise. Their goal is to be back to Pt. Barrow by October 1 to avoid getting blocked by ice.

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Although we say we are on a science cruise, the key word is science, not cruise. The word cruise conjures up images of elegant surroundings, on-going shipboard activities, formal dinners, excellent food, and active nightlife. While our surroundings are certainly comfortable (two to a room, in bunk beds, with a shared bath), and the food is exceptional, the similarities end there. This is a working ship for all on board. The crew works a daily 12 hour shift (noon to midnight or vice versa) 7 days a week. At the end of six weeks, they will rotate off the ship and another crew will come on board for six weeks. There are 10 members of the science team and I'll tell you about each of them and their work in future journals. The scientists work round the clock, either gathering or processing samples. "Active nightlife" for the scientists means collecting and processing water samples, retrieving or setting out a mooring, or bringing up mud to sieve, sort and process.

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When we arrived on board, we found a copy of the Kodiak Daily Mirror in the Officers' Lounge with this appropriate headline, "Scientists report the warmest ocean temperatures in 50 years." A recent report indicates that the ocean temperatures off British Columbia and in the Gulf of Alaska, in the spring and summer of 2004, were up by as much as 5-7 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas. According to the report, the scientists involved believe that the surface warming is due to unusually warm weather and global climate change.
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