Aurora, gliders and more excitement

We left Akureyri on Sunday, on schedule and in good shape, steaming north at speed eager to get on with the science. The plan was to get to our third CTD section, starting in the centre of the Iceland sea gyre and working our way west towards the coast of Greenland. This long run of 29 stations was going to take a few days, with a stop off in the middle to deploy two gliders.

Sunset over the mountains in Akureyri as we set off along the fjord (Sunday 11 February 2018).

On Monday evening the CTDs began in earnest, and the team’s efforts were quickly rewarded with our first sight of the Aurora Borealis! With the bridge excitedly announcing the cosmic display around the ship everyone rushed out on deck. Hard to see at first until the eyes adjusted, a bright green streak lit up the sky, growing, twisting, marching and fading. Of course everyone tried to get a decent picture but struggled in the dark. The image below is my best effort of the night…

Fuzzy but colourful Aurora.

Tuesday brought a day filled with glider action. Stephanie Waterman’s microstructure glider from the University of British Columbia, being looked after on the Alliance by Chris Payne, was deployed using a small boat. Kjetil Våge’s glider from the University of Bergen was craned into the sea, involving a heart stopping moment as it swung back towards the ship before safely dunking into the water.

Unfortunately less than an hour after deployment the microstructure glider ran into difficulties. It automatically fired its emergency weight bringing it back to surface and was quickly recovered. After extensive troubleshooting Chris is now waiting to collect a part in Isafjodur, hoping for successful redeployment in leg two.

Just your average Tuesday morning in the Iceland sea (13 February 2018).
Chris Payne’s microstructure glider off for a brief dip.
Kjetil Våge’s glider safely touching down.
Some of the CTD team watching the gliders begin their journey.
Ensuring the glider is safely on its way.
Chris Payne trying to figure out what went wrong.

After continuing with the CTD section through Tuesday night, we broke off at first light on Wednesday to steam inshore and get as close as possible to the ice edge. There we encountered a jet of high winds and some gnarly waves giving the ship a good shake up. Conditions were too bad for using the CTD winch at the innermost stations, so the team resorted to their expendable versions to capture some valuable extra observations on the Greenland shelf.

However, the interesting weather provided our meteorology team with an opportunity to observe a mesoscale low moving rapidly overhead. So we braved the conditions and performed four soundings, launching a balloon every three hours. Hopefully these will also prove quite valuable.

Waiting for permission to go out on deck to launch another balloon.
The mesoscale low passing just north of the Alliance near Scorsby Sund at 12:19pm Wednesday 14 February 2018.

Another patch of rough weather in the early hours of Thursday morning also forced the use of a few expendable CTDs. However, as conditions relaxed later on these stations were retraced with the more capable winch operated CTDs and section three was finally completed. The launching of both types of CTDs at several stations offers useful data for comparison and calibration. Early indications suggest that this hard fought long section from the Iceland sea gyre all the way onto the Greenland shelf is turning up some exciting results. Watch this space!

CTD sections so far (Friday 16 February 2018).


Now we have progressed further north and section four was underway at first light on Friday. Relatively calm conditions allowed us to get close to the ice edge for the first stations. However no sightings of the ice yet. But, during writing this post, the Aurora show was back out in force. And my photography skills have (very) slightly improved. Enjoy!

The Plough (Big Dipper for the Americans) sitting behind the green flashes.
Orion with a little Aurora above.
The brilliant swirling green high above the ship.



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