June 1: Back to Barrow

Leaving the cafeteria

The Rotten Ice Team on arrival in a muddy, occasionally still snowy Barrow in June

We’re back! We had a busy two weeks at home in Seattle spent catching up on the rest of life and processing as much as we could from our May expedition in order to stay ahead of the game and, critically, to try to identify problems early so that we can correct them in June and July. Shelly has been busy with the several dozen cell counts she came home with (Spoiler: there are lots of cells in the ice!) and ordering stuff that we either ran out of, forgot to bring, or didn’t realize that we needed. I’ve been busy trying to work out some kinks in some of the things we did in May, such as the incubation experiments, writing scripts to process the thousands of datapoints that filled up my field and lab notebooks, doing some lab experiments to try to figure out the cause of some confusing preliminary results, and stitching together core photos to compare the cores we drilled. We got the microtome repaired thanks to Eric at the UW Health Sciences Scientific Instruments machine shop, but we won’t know if it works until we mate it with its base back in Barrow–fingers crossed. Bonnie got her spectrometer repaired and it held up fine in a coldroom test, but it has yet to be field tested. Monica, Karen, Shelly and I spent some quality time arguing about the best way to solve our microscopy woes and came up with a plan for June that includes some control experiments. We’ve got arguably more to do this month, and one fewer day in which to do it. Ack!

Field notebook

These notes won’t upload themselves…

We also spent some time soaking up the Seattle summer sun. It’s been beautiful. Shelly caught up with gardening in her backyard jungle. I went for a four-day backpacking trip. Karen, Bonnie, and Monica enjoyed time with their families. And we all had other work to catch up on–students to advise, papers to finish, grant proposals to submit…

Carie inspecting glacial ice

I can’t stop looking at ice, even while on vacation. At Anderson Glacier in Olympic National Park.

But today we gathered again, this month’s sample label stickers printed, coolers packed with last-minute orders, duffel bags full of long underwear and warm jackets, for our return to Barrow. Everyone looks tired. I know I didn’t sleep much last night and am dreading the WHOMPing water pump in the Barrow huts, but I’m excited. Excited to see the changes in the ice, excited to return to the Arctic, excited to get back to the science.

Barrow has seen record high temperatures during our two-week absence and melt ponds have started to form on the ice–good news for us as it gives us the “standard summertime melt ice” we’re looking for! I’m curious to see what the ice is like, what a melt pond looks like, how that changes the optical properties of the ice, to see if the ice has gotten more porous, to see what the algae have been up to. June ice, here we come!

Flight to Barrow

Our landing in Barrow, permafrost in the foreground, sea ice beyond.