Yesterday we waved goodbye to our last ice station, the eighth in the row of ice floes visited during our cruise. Working on the ice, as well as onboard Polarstern, we’ve been struck by all the types of creative solutions for reaching the goals of our measurements. Not only the instruments themselves, which of course are quite innovative as such, but rather the fixing and trixing needed to make things and routines work well both on the ice and on the ship. Or simply to mend things which break and fail. When spare parts don’t do the trick, it’s probably a mixed balance of skill, imagination and team work that may save your day and turn “disasters” to success.
So far, we’ve been fortunate not to lose any instruments completely, but for sure there have been a number of smaller or bigger ordeals.
The SUIT (Surface and Under Ice Trawl), for example, has been out on a couple of adventures. The trawl fishes right underneath the ice, which is far from smooth. The iron frame of the net is strong but not always as strong as the ice can be, so it’s not uncommon that the frame is damaged during fishing. Luckily the team includes Michiel, who as a metal worker is not intimidated by a little bit of bended iron and is always able to fix it, with help also by the ship’s crew. With a little bit of cutting, bending and welding, they make the SUIT look as good as new. In the last catch the team had another surprise. An enormous block of ice was scooped up by the SUIT and was brought on board when hauling it in. It was not an easy job to get rid of the heavy big block but with help of flowing water and some hammers the block was finally cut into workable pieces.
Our sediment trap has also withstood a number of ordeals while trying out the best working deployment method. The trap hangs in the water during our 24-hours ice stations to collect stuff that sinks from the surface to the bottom, such as dead algae cells or minuscule pellets of poo produced by small animals. This might seem as strange things to collect, but they actually make an important food source for many organisms living in the deep. When the initial plan to hang the trap from the side of the ice floe was found to be far too risky, we had to make it work through a hole in the ice instead. For securing it properly a wooden tripod was manufactured, and for every ice station people came up with ideas to make it work easier, such as the addition of a block, making the tripod more sophisticated each time.
When the ship’s Ferry-box system broke down we all pitched in with spare sensors to continue the collection of data until the pump were fixed again. The FerryBox is a device for continuous measurements around the clock of seawater surface properties such as temperature, salinity and chlorophyll-a. Chlorophyll-a is a pigment that the algae use for photosynthesis, the same that also trees have and that gives the leaves their green colour. The amount of this pigment in the water gives an idea of the amount of algae present. When the ship’s measuring device broke, the water from the surface inlet through the hull was pumped directly into a bucket with the set of available instruments among our various groups and the measurements could continue. A bucket might not sound so sophisticated but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work. As usual the problem was soon fixed by the crew technicians, electricians or engineers here on board of the ship. They always make sure that not only the ship’s machinery and equipment run smoothly, but also work hard to make our small “disasters” turn into success.
The Monday blog team: Fokje Schaafsma, Hauke Flores and Anna Nikolopoulos.