Andreas Muenchow, Aug.-8, 2012, off Cape Baird
In 2003 we deployed a tide gauge that was recovered today after attempts in 3 different years to do so failed. Discovery Harbor near Fort Conger was the most northern location at 81 42’ North and 64 1’ West of a large moored array placed in 2003. It was at Fort Conger, that Lt. Greeley of the U.S. Army waited in vain for a supply ship that never arrived, but this sad story is for another day and I like to write about happier news: Our 2003 tide gauge lay in wait for 9 years and 1 day precisely. A 2006 attempt to reach this northern location by ship failed on account of heavy ice cover, a 2007 attempt by helicopter succeeded to establish acoustic communications, but failed to recover the sensor package, and a 2009 attempt by ship failed again because of difficult ice conditions.
The odds of a recovery were slim, but 4 hours ago a crew of five found the tide gauge the same way that skilled fishermen of Newfoundland recover lost traps and fish for halibut: with a line of hooks operating small ships smartly. Chief Officer Brian Legge, Seamen Derick Stone and Carl Rose, as well as scientists Ron Lindsay and Jonathon Poole found the proverbial needle (read tide gauge) in the hey stack (read Arctic Ocean). The entrance to Discovery Harbor was guarded by yet another ship-sized piece of Petermann Glacier ice, this one grounded, as well as several large and small sea ice floes, all moving rapidly with the tides and currents. Even navigating the zodiac through this maze to a fixed location was a major accomplishment.
The long-lost tide gauge is a 2 feet cylinder filled with electronics, but 9 years moored to the floor at 20 meter depth turned it into a complex biology habitat attracting wild life much like the artificial reefs created along Delaware by sunken New York City’s discarded subway trains. Mollusks, seaweed, clams, barnacle, algae, and bacterial slime all attached themselves to every surface. Arctic shrimp perhaps feeding on algae or slime were captured along with the gauge. Seaman Derick Stone, who has never seen an Arctic shrimp (neither have I), quickly brushed it away and back into the ocean muttering something about “Scorpions in the Arctic.” A second specimen was captured alive and returned to the ocean after a brief inspection. It was agreed, that there was no enough meat on this 2-inch long and skinny shrimp
As a sign of respect to the gods of the icy seas a majority of PhDs aboard solemnly swore to give the long lost sensor 3 days of rest before stripping it bare to reveal its guts, check health and status and retrieve recordings. Pranksters aboard this ship, at least one with a PhD, already alerted me to schemes of hostile capture and ransom requests; I suspect ransom to be paid in treasures, valuable certificates, and screech. Little do these pranksters know of web streaming, local area networks, advanced image processing, and other counter-intelligence operations … to be continued.
P.S.: Oh, we also completed section work (temperature, salinity, water samples) in Robeson Channel to the north of Petermann Fjord where a few segments of Petermann Glaciers former ice shelf are both grounded and moving off the coast of Greenland. Presently off Cape Baird to perhaps recover an automated weather station to be placed instead at Joe Island at the southern entrance to Petermann Fjord, weather permitting. We got 40 kts winds from the south, braking waves, as well as balmy air temperatures of 4 degrees Celsius or so.