Schools on Board: Physical Oceanography

September 30, 2011

This morning, we had a presentation on physical oceanography, which includes the study of waves and currents. We learned about how water circulates between the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic oceans, and how climate change can drastically change this. I like physics, and it was interesting to see how it can be applied to climate change.

The scientist then showed us the Rosette, a piece of equipment that samples ocean water at different depths. He showed us the probes it has to measure temperature, salinity, pH and fluorescence. They lower it into the water with a winch that has 3km of cable. It is the most important tool on board in terms of the ship’s scientific operations, because all the scientists need to know characteristics of the ocean water from which they are sampling.

Later on, I looked at a variety of zooplankton under the microscope. I admire the patience that the scientists have, closely examining each creature and trying to determine what species it is.

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We also listened to a presentation about microbes in the ocean. They do not know much about what is found in the ocean because most of the bacteria they find cannot be cultured. I love finding out about everything that there is still left to discover. —Karen Butt’12

Schools on Board: Benthic Ecology

September 29, 2011

This morning, we had two scientists talk to us about benthic ecology. This deals with organisms living on the seafloor. They are good indicators of the global state of the environment, but the scientists don’t know much yet.

I went up on deck today to watch the Boxcore go to the bottom of the ocean. This is an instrument that brings up a cube of ocean floor sediments for analysis. The scientists took the top layer to their lab, and we had to shovel the rest of the mud out of the box back into the ocean. I like how the crew lets us get involved with these kinds of operations and we feel involved in life on the ship as opposed to only watching what is happening.

Afterwards, I went to the lab with two others to sort the organisms found in the mud from the Boxcore. My mind was blown when we showed the scientist some strange creatures we found and she didn’t know what they were. I thought scientists knew so much, but there are still so many species on the bottom of the ocean that are undiscovered.

Karen Butt ’12

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Schools on Board: Marine Mammal Exploration

September 28, 2011

In the morning, a few students went to the data acquisition room, where we got to see a sonar device used for detecting marine mammals and fish around the ship. The two scientists working with it explained that they were creating a database with the best frequencies to use to detect different species. I was surprised to find out that no one knows how to detect these animals that well, and even less is known about their behaviour. So far, I have had the chance to realize how truly mysterious the Arctic still is, even to the best scientists.

In the afternoon, the ocean was very calm, so the captain had the chief officer take all the Schools on Board participants out on the barge to look for wildlife. We were able to see quite a few seals get close to the boat, and we also saw several bowhead whales in the distance. At one point, we caught a glimpse of something white poke its head out of the water, and we were pretty sure it was a beluga.—Karen Butt ’12

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Schools On Board: We Finally Arrived!

September 24, 2011

Today was a great day, because we finally landed in Kugluktuk and got on board the Amundsen! The five students who met in Quebec City met the other 4 students today. We’ve learned to get along really well in such a short period of time.

One of the students needed to go back to Kugluktuk before getting on the ship, so I went with her and got to see a part of the town. Everything is so different! It’s a small community of 1,300 people, and everyone knows each other. The houses are built on supports in such a way that they are not touching the ground. The freezing and refreezing causes the soil to shift a lot, so they need to adapt their houses to the conditions. We drove by the hospital, the grocery store, the hotel, the arena, and the elementary and high schools. It’s not hard to tell that life in Kugluktuk is very different from Montreal, but I’ll find out much more once we get off the ship and spend a few days there.

We got to take a helicopter from the airport onto the ship. That was definitely the coolest thing I have ever done in my life. I can’t believe how much stuff there is on this ship. It never looked so big from the outside. The space is used effectively though, with narrow hallways and steep staircases. We’re free to go almost anywhere we want, and there’s so much to explore. We just went up on deck, and it’s actually really cold because of the wind. I’ve seen many instruments and scientific equipment and I’m really curious about how it all works.—Karen Butt ’12

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Schools on Board: Eager with Anticipation

LCC student Karen Butt is travelling through the Northwest Passage as a part of the Schools on Board/Arctic Net collaboration aboard the Amundsen. Here’s her first reflection.


September 21, 2011

I arrived in Quebec City today, and got to meet all the southern participants. It was a beautiful day and we spent the afternoon walking around the old part of the city. I’m getting really excited because I got to see a lot of pictures and videos taken by someone who’s been on the Amundsen many times. I’m blown away by all the things that there are to experience in the Arctic and I feel like there will never be enough time to embrace it all. I also got to glance through the on-board schedule and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow when I get to enter an entirely different universe.

I’m getting up in 4 hours to fly to Kugluktuk, and we get to board the ship once we arrive. I’m really looking forward to settling in and getting a tour of the ship. What comes after sounds so different and exciting that I can’t believe it’s real yet.—Karen Butt ’12