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Here we are, headed toward Greenland

In my old bedroom at my parents’ there is a framed cloth with my name and birthday embroidered in thread. Around the border, there are ducks. They are floating on a blue, cartoon-style wave.

Susan Lozier made it for me when I was born. Now, she’s sending me to sea.

How long 'til living on this ship feels Knorr-mal?

Here’s the RV Knorr, parked in Reykjavik

In case you’re new here (like me): Lozier is an oceanographer at Duke, and one of the scientists leading OSNAP. The acronym stands for Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Program.  The “overturning” refers to a sort of conveyor belt of water:  the sun warms water at the equator, some of it flows north past Iceland where it drops off its heat, sinks, cools, and then makes its way south. (See the arrows in OSNAP’s cartoon logo? That’s the general idea). This Atlantic heat-shuttling keeps Europe on the whole cozier than it would be if it were sitting its own stagnant bath tub, instead of the same body of water as the rest of the whole wide world. And, of course, human-cause climate change will alter this process — though scientists are not certain of exactly how.

 So, starting this summer OSNAP — a multi-country endeavor, over a decade in the making — is setting up what oceanographer Bob Pickart calls “a giant picket fence” across the ocean. This — a collection of stationary instruments, floats, and gliders — will be  a check point across the North Atlantic for water as it makes its way north, and then south.  Pickart, who works at Woods Hole Oceanographic Instituition, is another leader of OSNAP’s US arm — and importantly, he is the lead scientist on the R/V Knorr for the month of August (Lozier is spending the summer on land at Duke).

We are on this boat for a month to deploy Pickart’s section of the fence: 8 strings of instruments up to 3 kilometers deep, that will be weighted to the ocean floor. These are called “moorings,” and their purpose is to track the underwater highways of flowing water. Each mooring, with its heavy hardware and smart gadgets, has a $200,000 price tag. We’ll be carefully placing them near the southern tip of  Greenland, where they will spend two years alone, collecting data, which Pickart and a new team will retrieve in 2016. On our journey to drop off the moorings, we’ll also make 50 pit stops to take quick stats on the ocean at various depths. These pit stops will happen whenever we arrive at a designated pit-stop location — so we’ll be throwing sensors into the ocean at all hours of the day and night.

Well, Pickart and an assortment of students are here to do all that. I’m here to observe.

For my part, I grew up to be a writer. I’m based out of my office (a corner of my living room) in Philadelphia, where I write and fact check for magazines and websites. I’m a freelancer, which means I can temporarily re-locate wherever I please. The OSNAP grant is comping my room and board for a month, in exchange for the open-ended challenge of conveying the project to the greater world via this here blog.

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