The “combi” 737-400, a passenger aircraft modified to take cargo in place of half the seating capacity, circled for a second time. Cloud hung low over Nome, Alaska and a westerly gale was building as the airliner finally touched down on the runway. We had to get to the ship quickly.
The R/V Sikuliaq, sea-going home to the ArcticMix team for the next month or more, was dockside in Nome but the heavy weather was a threat to safety in the small, narrow harbour. Departure was moved forward two whole days to 1700 hours, Monday. On an oceanographic science voyage, where the dock-side preparations are typically frantic when time is measured in days and not hours, this felt a bit like madness. But in Alaska weather is the master and you work to the winds and seas.
The preparations are vital. The ArcticMix team brings a unique set of custom designed and manufactured scientific instruments, technology that will hopefully allow the team to make rare measurements of the Beaufort Sea’s physical structure at a very small scale. The secrets of these small scale ocean physics may answer questions about why Arctic ice is melting faster than predicted by current scientific knowledge.
It’s 1712 hours on the 24th of August and the 261 foot, Polar class 5 rated R/V Sikuliaq squeezes by Nome’s rock jetties as building waves peak across the barway. We are away, ahead of the storm, and steaming north to find some better shelter for the ArcticMix team to get back to preparing for colder climes past the Bering Strait.
- Thomas Moore for the ArcticMix team