Outward Bound!

by Bill Johns

After much anticipation and seemingly endless planning, we finally set off from Reykjavik, Iceland at 0900 last Sunday morning (July 6th) on Leg 2 of the R/V Knorr’s summer 2014 OSNAP field campaign. Luckily the sea conditions were much improved from what they had been for the last few days offshore of Reykjavik. During the cruise mobilization and loading days a low pressure system had planted itself over Iceland, and the strong winds on its back side brought unseasonably cool temperatures to Iceland and a big swell outside the harbor. This had all of us (and especially the rookies) dreading what might lie ahead. Fantastically the sun came out before departure and the winds laid down a bit, and we found ourselves running SSW toward our work area with a nice following sea on the starboard quarter and the wind at our back, out of the north at about 20 kts.

Onboard are an international group of scientists from the U.S. (University of Miami, Woods Hole Oceanographic, and Duke University), Holland (Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research), and the U.K. (Scottish Association for Marine Science). Our main goal for this trip is to lay out a large string of deep-sea moorings that carry arrays of instruments measuring currents, temperature and salinity, across a swath of ocean extending from Scotland to the eastern Irminger Sea. We will also be deploying some floats that drift below the surface and track themselves by listening to sound-emitting sources we are placing on some of the moorings.

Each of the groups onboard has brought with them lots of equipment, probably enough to legitimately have their own cruise, but we have thrown ourselves together to maximize efficiency. That means the ship is very heavily loaded, and although I have used the R/V Knorr myself on a number of large previous expeditions, I have never seen her so packed to the gills buy aciphex online with equipment. There is something in every nook and cranny of the deck and laboratory spaces. We will be deploying twenty (20!) deep-sea moorings on this cruise, which may well be a record number of moorings on one cruise (somebody should go look that up). The Knorr is an incredibly capable vessel. She is due to be retired later this year, and I will miss sailing on her.

Of course, on this cruise we are focused on two things: (1) carrying out our deployment and sampling operations as efficiently as possible, and (2) the World Cup! On the night before departure we watched the game between Holland and Costa Rica at a venerable establishment in Reykjavik called the “Dubliner”, and helped our Dutch colleagues root their team to victory, in a nail biting shootout. The Dutch group is the only one onboard with a dog still in the fight, so to speak, so we’ve all decided to join their camp. Unfortunately we won’t be able to watch any more games on the ship, but the enthusiasm remains high.

The scientific work will commence shortly, and we will be deploying 2-3 moorings per day, as we move east across the Irminger and Iceland basins toward the west coast of Scotland. After all is said and done, together with coordinated deployments to be done in the next month – or already accomplished – by other international partners, we will have begun our 4-year program of continuously measuring the meridional overturning circulation and associated heat and freshwater fluxes by the ocean across a complete trans-basin section from Labrador to Scotland. This program will ultimately help to determine what causes changes in the heat carried by the oceans to the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, and how this may impact future warming and climate change in the north Atlantic region and globally.

Now… when is the next World Cup game??

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