September 30, 2014, by Dan Wolfe
The end of a research cruise is very interesting and what goes on depends on the type of cruise, its location, and the scientific groups involved. This is an overview as it has unfolded on the Oden.
Rumors always begin near the end of a cruise as to when we will stop collecting data and head for home. After 36 days at sea we shut-down the oceanographic operations Wednesday September 24. This meant no more CTD’s or bottom coring. Other parts of the cruise continued, including ocean floor mapping near 85N of the Lomonosov Ridge. From there we headed back into the ice so the oceanographers and crew could pack and secure their gear in preparation for any rough weather. In fact, the entire ship was asked to secure everything. This was completed Friday September 26, at which point we began heading south to Norway still mapping the bottom along the way. The captain and the meteorological officer (along with the help of Ola Persson) looked at the long-range weather forecasts to decide the best course to follow. This time of year the Barents Sea, which we have a ~2 day transit across, is known for storms and that’s what the forecasts were calling for. To minimize our time in heavy seas, we’ve been staying along the ice edge, heading generally west toward Franz Josef Land before turning south.
Even though the oceanographic side of SWERUS is finished, the meteorological team continues to collect data and launch weather balloons. We are very interested in what is happening along the ice edge so this is a fantastic opportunity for us. It would be great to be able to collect data in the Barents Sea if there is a storm, too. We are kind of crazy that way and will continue our normal routine as long as possible weather and seas permitting.
The crew of the Oden never shuts down. The cooks, mess ladies, engineers, abled seamen, and bridge watch carry on as usual. Well, almost as usual. Saturday, as I mentioned before in the blog, is formal dinner night. This last Saturday, the crew took that to a whole new level with an end-of-cruise dinner. The evening started with a gathering by all in the bar. Besides the normal bar favorites, a punch was served. Not to be confused with the warm Thursday evening “punch”. While mingling, the Captain announced there was a polar bear off the starboard side. We were steaming along, so there wasn’t a lot of time for pictures, but it was a large male lopping across the ice (maybe our last). When it came time for dinner, we were invited into the dining area where the crew acted as our hosts and waiters! The normal wine and beer were accompanied by small sample bottles of various liquors, some tasty and others not so tasty, depending on your preferences for that sort of thing. Dinner started with a shrimp and caviar salad followed by an excellent roast beef with oven roasted potatoes and one of their wonderful cream sauces. All of this was finished off with everyone’s favorite dessert, princess cake, not only in celebration of the end of the cruise, but also two birthdays (Clint and Joseph). The Captain (Erik), Co-Chief Scientist (Martin), Swedish Polar Science Coordinator (Magnus), and Russian Co-Chief Scientist (Andrei) all gave little speeches thanking everyone for their hard work and great success.So what else are people doing who aren’t collecting data anymore? For many there is data archiving, data back-up, more archiving, and more back-up. If you figure how much this cruise cost not only money wise, but in person hours and then add in the scientific value, which is incalculable, these data are priceless. Other activities include writing end of cruise reports, analyzing data, and just relaxing by reading, watching movies, or catching up on much needed sleep.
As we find our way back to land I would like to thank everyone who may have followed our blog and hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I would like to send out a special “Hello” to the parents of Laura Gemery in Cleveland, OH who I heard were regular followers!! We all look forward to getting home wherever that maybe.