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August 28, 2006

It has been a long and busy 24 hours. After dinner last night, the mooring and science teams prepared for the trip’s second mooring recovery and deployment operation. The mooring to be recovered was located in an area covered with ice, and everyone was concerned that the mooring might come up under an ice flow when released, making retrieval difficult.

The ship used acoustic signals to triangulate the mooring’s location, which had been deployed at a much greater depth — about 1,500 m — than the first mooring we attempted to recover on August 26. Due to the presence of ice flows in the recovery area, the ship maneuvered in a tight circle to break up the ice and provide more open water. Finally, the release signal was sent. Everyone on deck waited and watched. Suddenly a yellow float appeared on the ship’s starboard side and the mooring and science teams shouted and high-fived each other. But the hard work was just beginning.

While the ship maneuvered into recovery position, the float became sandwiched between two large slabs of ice, which were pushed together by the increasing wind. Tiny pellets of snow stung the faces and obscured the vision of the mooring technicians waiting for a chance to snag the mooring’s floats with a grappling hook. Tension on the deck rose as everyone realized that if the float became trapped under the ice, recovery would become difficult if not impossible. After several tries, the ship was able to get close enough for the recovery team to use the grappling hook. Many attempts later, success! When the grappling hook finally captured the float, a group of men struggled to pull the line around the bow to the port side where the ship’s crane was located. Over two hours after its release, the mooring was attached to the crane and ready to be pulled aboard.

mooring deploymentIt took several hours to bring up the mooring’s 1,340 m of Kevlar line and associated instruments. After each piece of gear was unhooked, the science team downloaded data, collected samples and replaced batteries. Then everything was reattached to the line as it was fed back into the ocean. The last float was dropped back into the ocean at 10:37, over 14 hours after the operation began. Well deserved handshakes and tired smiles were seen across the helicopter deck where the work had taken place. Some of the team had stood out in the cold for the entire time, some having to use their bare hands to remove and reattach gear — truly amazing.

At lunch word spread that our first ice station may happen Monday night. The excitement builds.

—Mike Dunn


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