Nares Strait 2012: Of Cod’s Tongues, Scrunchions, Screech — and so much more

Allison Einolf, Aug.-8, 2012

Tomorrow will mark our first full week aboard the CCGS Henry Larsen. In one week, I have learned a lot of things, ranging from what cod tongues taste like to the details of sea ice crystal formation to the usefulness of a balaclava in the Arctic. It’s been an incredible week.

Being on the Larsen is almost like being on a mobile town from Newfoundland. Most of the crew speak in heavy accents that sound more Irish than what I would normally consider Canadian, and cod tongues, scrunchions, and Screech are normal fare. I tasted cod tongues today, and I made my entire table laugh with the face I made. They aren’t bad, but I’m not fond of seafood that tastes particularly fishy, and I should’ve gotten tartar sauce with them. Scrunchions I didn’t try (Dave, one of the Canadian scientists, describes them as “essence of pork”), but Screech is something I actually like.

Andreas and Pat had instilled in me a fear of Screech before we came to the ship. The vague stories of screeching ceremonies (in which you become an honorary Newfoundlander) painted a false picture of a terrifying rum known as Screech. In reality, it’s quite tasty rum, and it’s now my go-to drink at the bar.

The last few days have been full to the brim with the retrieval of moorings from 2009 and CTD and rosette survey lines. We successfully retrieved 6 of 7 sets of instruments that were deployed here in 2009, but so far at least two of the instruments were severely damaged. A few of them seem to have hitched a ride with the Petermann ice island in 2010, and they are definitely worse for it.

Today we finished the second of our survey lines. We alternate between lowering the conductivity, temperature, and depth sensor (CTD) and the rosette, which collects bottles of water at different depths. We then do what Humfrey Melling calls “piddling the bottles,” or collecting samples from the collected water. We’re taking samples to process for data regarding barium, oxygen-18, salinity, and nutrients like phosphate or sulfate.

In the week we’ve been on the Larsen, I’ve learned a lot and even gained a few pounds from the huge servings of food we’re given at every meal. It’s amazing how quickly I’ve settled in. I feel like I’ve been here much longer than a week, but I’m glad I haven’t because it means I get another week and a half on this ship in the beautiful wilderness of the Arctic.


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