Cruise Report AR69-03

By Fiamma Straneo

Cruise Track: AR69-03 Reykjavik to Nuuk, August 18 to September 24, 2022
An awakening of gusty winds and capricious waves
Replace images of Reykjavik
Hesitant movement on the ship as we abruptly begin
Steam, Stop, Sample
Rollercoaster at the surface mirrors the spires of the mid-Atlantic ridge beneath us
As we head across the Irminger Sea
Steam, Stop, Sample
A rhythm slowly unfolds
Steam, Stop, Sample
Waves become longer and movements less hesitant
Sensors pierce through young and old waters on their way down
Warm waters, suggestive of tropical climes 
Give way to cold, newly formed mid-depth waters and 
Look! The deep waters from the Iceland-Scotland Ridge
Crawling at the bottom, invisible to the surface
The essence of the overturning circulation
Text book learning turns into experience
Steam, Stop, Sample
Until the end of the line
Marked by Greenland’s jagged mountains
Here icebergs with mesmerizing shapes drift in cold, clear waters
Every now and then a glacier comes into view

Turn back to pick up buoys left behind last time we were here
Steam, Stop, Release
Hoping they will cede to our call and drop their anchor
Hoping to be the first to spot them as they pierce through the surface 
Waiting turns into excitement. 
Steam, Grapple, Hoist
Help the heroic instruments back onboard 
Scrub them clean of temporary dwellers
Before greedily listening to the stories they tell.
Two years inside the overturning.
Steam, Stop, Release
Steam, Grapple, Hoist
A rhythm slowly unfolds 
As the instruments pile up on deck
Flurry of laptops, cables, instruments
Young scientists turned overnight into crusty, able oceanographers 
Until, one of many low-pressure systems scurrying across the Atlantic,
Stalls Over Us
Roll, Tie-down, Roll
Toes wedged between wall and mattress anchor us during sleep
Water floods across the deck 
Pilot whales surf in the waves by the ship beckoning
Then just as it came the storm leaves
Leaving sunshine, icebergs, glaciers and northern lights 
Steam, Stop, Sample
Deep canyons guide tropical waters towards the ice
Steam, Stop, Sample
Time to head back to the buoys
Steam, Stop, Release
Steam, Grapple, Hoist
Every buoy replaced by a twin
For more stories in two years.

We cross to the Labrador Sea through a steep-walled shortcut
Here it all repeats
Steam, Stop, Sample
Steam, Stop, Release
Steam, Grapple, Hoist
A rhythm slowly unfolds
Backdrop of southwest Greenland’s gentler peaks 
Crane stops working. 
Intermission filled by acrobatic flights of dark-eyed fulmars
Crane fixed. 
Steam, Stop, Sample
Sensors piercing waters cold and warm, fresh and salty
And deep down the dense waters again.
Crawling at the bottom, invisible to the surface
Steam, Stop, Sample
Vials of precious salty waters packed in endless boxes with little numbers
Some emptied into alchemic alembics 
The vials too tell stories.
This time of origin and happenings along the way
Steam, Stop, Release
Steam, Grapple, Hoist
Every buoy replaced by a twin
To measure for two more years
At night different canyons drive same swirling currents

Steam, Stop, Sample
In the day 
Steam, Grapple, Hoist
At night
Crane breaks. No fix this time
Pause nonetheless to watch great shearwaters wing-dipping in cold water
Without a crane weights are dragged on deck 
Until all the twins are deployed.
Take a break in the icy, flat waters of a fjord before heading out into another storm

Cape Desolation beckons us with its submerged rocks and mountains
Whale spouts in the distance and stiff wind ahead
Forty knots gusting fifty
Fifty knots gusting sixty
This is the North Atlantic after all
Roll, Tie-down, Roll
Steam, Stop, Sample
White waves bounce us in the dark.
Until time’s up 
And the lights of Nuuk’s bustling harbor appear
Hesitant movement on land after 37 days at sea
Ocean data, recently declared world heritage, 
Tucked deep in our pockets in a small hard-drive 
A giant effort by a ship, 17 scientists and 22 crew 
A small step forward for overturning science
To be continued to provide answers
twin buoy after twin buoy
vial after vial
one crusty oceanographer after another. 

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