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Hi there! Welcome to Dave and I’s third and final post. Following the boat, we were able to explore some of Ilulissat and had lots of fun doing so. First, I will set the scene - the town is bordered on one side by Disko Bay and a multitude of icebergs, and on the other by snow-covered hills. Most of the houses are painted in bright colours providing a striking contrast to the rest of the landscape. The town’s center has a harbour through which fishing boats are constantly filtering in and out. One morning, Dave, Peng, Brian, and I visited the Ilulissat Icefjord which is the passageway through which ice calved from the Ilulissat Glacier (the most productive glacier outside of Antarctica) reaches Disko Bay and the ocean. We hiked along the shore of the icefjord and in the surrounding hills.
On June 11th, Dave and Peng flew back home :( while David, Brian, and I went to the second GNSS site located on a small island on the other side of the icefjord. It took about 15 minutes by helicopter to reach – and we witnessed some pretty incredible sights in those minutes (attached). Like at the first site, the wires to the camera and weather station had been chewed, so the data for those only lasted a few months. However, this time the GNSS station had maintained power and consequently had a large and up-to-date time series. Youpiee! David postulated that the wires were being chewed by animals attracted to the heat from the electricity (thinking it might be a tasty snack). Next time, we are aiming to add protective casing to the wires.
The next two days were spent downloading and organizing the data from the cameras and receivers of both sites. I learned that it is best practice to save your data on at least two devices, and also, if possible, to keep it on the original instrument until its next use. Having these days in Ilulissat also gave me a chance to tick some things off of my bucket list, such as going for runs around the icefjord and swimming in the Arctic Ocean (did not last long). David and Brian were also gearing up to visit their third and last site located near the glacier. They are planning to camp out for roughly 10 days to service existing equipment. As for me, the journey back home went much more smoothly than the first, which I am very (very) grateful for. And this brings me to the end of the story.
I am still in disbelief that I was able to participate in this fieldwork. I have learned so much about what it means to do field work (including the unwanted (but inevitable) plot twists, the need for persistence and organisation, and the excitement that comes when things do go right) and about the processes occurring in this region. I also feel incredibly lucky to have gained some insights on what it is like to live in Greenland, albeit very preliminary ones. And I am glad to have gone through this experience with a great group of people, which made it all the better.
Thanks for reading,
devices:( Nonetheless, we were able to service the GNSS station and leave it in working-condition, which is a win.
We had great weather while on the boat – clear skies and smooth waters for almost the whole trip. I also had the opportunity to stare at icebergs for long periods of time. They were incredibly beautiful. It was also quite humbling to be near chunks of ice weighing as much as my house. Although, despite their enormity, they are surprisingly quiet as they float along - I wish I were that graceful.
I think that sums up our time on the Jensen. On June 8th we returned to land and said goodbye to the crew who were departing on their next journey the following day. Now Dave and I are looking forward to having bit of time in Ilulissat before he leaves and before I head to the next site. I will let you know what we get up to!
As part of a project to understand how the ice, ocean, solid Earth and atmosphere interact at the periphery of ice sheets, Dave Purnell and Isabelle McIntyre from McGill are joining collaborators from NYU on a field expedition to Greenland to service and collect data from our instruments that are measuring sea level changes in Qequertarsuup tunua (Disko Bay) near Sermeq Kujalleq (Jakobshavn glacier). They had a rocky start, but are on their way now. Read on to hear more...
The next day we were on a mission. Icelandair told us that they had found our bags in Vancouver and that they would be delivered to Ilulissat on the 5th. Dave would already be on the boat by this point, so we had to find some gear for him to bring aboard. Luckily, David and Denise Holland are very organized people and have some extra boots, coats, and gloves that we can borrow, so Dave and I got some more layers and essentials. Dave also submitted his PhD that day (!!!) so we went out for some fish and chips to celebrate.
This bring us to today. We got up early this morning for Dave's flight. I accompanied him to the airport in the hopes of squeezing on to the flight at the last second... and it worked!! Youpiee! As I am writing this we are flying over East Greenland. It's beautiful - below are some pictures. We will be headed directly to the research boat upon landing to start the second phase of our adventure. I'll let you know how it goes.
It’s been a while since the last post, but we’re currently writing to you safe at home in Montreal! We essentially lost track of time with all our activities in port and onboard the second leg.
We had an absolutely packed schedule in Jamaica, filled with outreach onboard Lehmkuhl and onshore, visits to the University of the West Indies Mona campus and marine research lab, and some exploration of the local cuisine thanks to our two new friends and colleagues, sea level scientist Deron Maitland and marine biologist Chauntelle Parkins, who joined the One Ocean course from UWI.
After giving talks about the science being done onboard at UWI, we had the privilege of listening to research presentations given by other graduate students at the university. In contrast to what we might be used to at McGill, much of the graduate research is focused on local impacts of climate change. Many students’ work revolves around the restoration of mangroves and their role in the local ecosystem and carbon budget, while others presented projects on regional sea level change and the health of seagrasses and corals. While climate change certainly poses a global threat, the perspective of our Jamaica-based counterparts is hallmarked by quite localized and tangible consequences of climate change and potential solutions to them. Our discussions at UWI, among other things, highlighted the importance of communication across areas of study and of the incorporation of perspectives that are representative of the diversity of the people who will be impacted by future climate changes, into the mainstream of science.
The second leg of the sailing expedition was marked with even more rope splicing as we finally reached our maximum rope length of over 1000m! The long-awaited day of this experiment coincided with another long-awaited event: swimming! As we “heaved to” (stopped the ship) for the ocean temperature measurements, the trainees and crew all enjoyed a couple of hours in the royal blue waters of the Caribbean Sea.
Just as we were wrapping up our experiments, the beautiful blue skies turned as we finally got some “interesting weather” as Prof. Spengler would say and we were doused in some refreshing rain. It was thus only fitting that we receive some meteorology lectures to understand the strange system we were sailing through. Other valuable discussions around climate action and EDI (equity-diversity-inclusion) were led by female professors and crew members who shared with us their experiences as women in male dominated fields. The grand finale to our last leg were the singing practices which led into our loud arrival in the Havana port: some of us were shouting from above the sails and some of us were on deck chanting as many sea shanties as we could.
In Havana, we again had the pleasure of doing outreach work with local high school students coming onboard. We had the added difficulty of having to present in Spanish this time but everyone, Spanish speaker or not, did an excellent job preparing for this challenge and the students surprised us with how much they already knew about the changing ocean conditions. The students were very vocal and interested, giving us hope for the future of the environment. The rest of the time was spent finalizing our research projects, reflecting on our contributions throughout the course, and enjoying salsa music and a couple of well deserved drinks. As per usual before travelling, we spent some time running around trying to get a PCR test for our return to Canada and while there may have been some tears, we all promptly received our negative test results.
It was hard to say goodbye to all our newfound friends and colleagues in the end but we feel certain we will meet again and hopefully continue collaborating. We have learned that science is enriched by a diversity of backgrounds and that even though some projects may seem daunting, they are worthwhile and most likely to help us grow professionally and personally.
-Jeremy and Julia
We just arrived in Port Royal and what a journey it was. We had a packed schedule every day and definitely had to adjust to being in the heat and humidity of the Caribbean, a wild but welcome change from Canadian autumnal weather. Jeremy immediately got sunburnt and Julia got seasick, but it feels like we started sailing forever ago and we’re certainly adjusted to life onboard at this point. It has been incredible to speak with so many brilliant scientists from around the world while we sail. Most fulfilling has been practicing giving our talks and lectures to other sailors on the ship, speaking with them about climate science, and discussing their fantastic questions. Most of the day is spent working on field measurements and analysis with our working groups, or performing tasks around the ship. Jeremy’s favourite ship-related jobs are those that involve climbing the rigging while Julia’s been her happiest telling people how to take proper field notes in those Rite in the Rains notebooks (thanks Christie Rowe)! We are currently docked in Port Royal, preparing our talks for the crew tonight and for local high school students tomorrow. We’re looking forward to a fantastic five days of climate outreach in Jamaica!
Jeremy and Julia
It was a magical moment to walk along the harbour to the ship last night and board after one last COVID test next to the ship. Most of us boarded last night and slept for the first time side by side in hammocks. This morning we met in the onboard classroom to get oriented and then students went to work in their research groups and instructors got in a line with other passengers and crew to help pass all the food on board. This afternoon we set sail and then the crew teaches us about our sailing duties.
As with any adventures, the young heroes were submitted to a multitude of tests of strength and resourcefulness. It’s just not as fun when you are those heroes and running around the Toronto airport. From Jeremy getting caught between terminal train doors and Julia chugging 2L of water to get through security, to swapping out COVID test requirements and having to fill out yet ANOTHER form, we have been put through the wringer and come out victorious; we are finally boarded and en route.
After several weeks (or let’s be honest, months!) of applying for university approval and a whirlwind of packing and prepping this past week, it feels a bit surreal to actually be on our way. We’re so incredibly excited to board the Statsraad Lehmkuhl and meet the members of working research groups and the crew. As any mad scientists, we are ready to let our minds run with the crucial climate data we will collect at sea.
Stay tuned to see if we prove the existence of mermaids and the kraken!
Jeremy and Julia
My heart still skips a beat in excitement every time I arrive at it. Grateful to have a calm morning of reflection by the Caribbean Sea in Curaçao before 3 weeks on the ship. I arrived last night and Jeremy and Julia are on their way, due in this evening. Today we will all get additional PCR and antigen tests to board the boat and meet the requirements to enter our next stop in Jamaica. Exciting to see our boat awaiting us in the harbour.
Packing and prepping for this journey, especially during a global pandemic, has been no small feat! Imagining three weeks as a sailing scientist on a tall ship in the tropics is already a lot to take in from the crisp fall weather in Montreal, even without considering the pandemic. We need to make sure we have the right gear for staying comfortable working on deck most of the day and sleeping in hammocks side-by-side at night, the equipment to conduct our research and take oceanographic measurements on board, and the right paperwork to cross borders and board. With no wifi or cell service on board, we will be bringing all our course content and outreach and research project materials with us. There have also been many extra, much-needed covid-19 safety protocols to consider, and given this will be our first big journey since March 2020, we are all feeling a bit out of practice on travel.
But despite all that, and with the urgent need for climate action as motivation, we are now all packed and ready to go!
For me - especially in the midst of COP26 and with the weight of travel on our shoulders during both global climate and health crises - the responsibility to make the most of this unique opportunity that brings together international perspectives, interdisciplinary expertise and a life-changing learning environment to have a lasting impact on the future of our planet is at the forefront of my mind.
During the month of November I along with two graduate students from McGill, Jeremy Roffman and Julia Morales, will make our way to the Caribbean to join an international group of students, instructors and sailors for a Climate Action, Ocean and UN Sustainable Development Goals themed field course aboard the One Ocean Expedition (Check out their web page here and follow along with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube). After meeting online since September for weekly seminars and to develop ocean research and outreach projects, we will be obarding the Norwegian tall ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl in Curaçao for 20 days at sea with stops in Jamaica and Cuba. The course is hosted by the research school CHESS and the PhD summer school ACDC.
Although there is no wifi on board, we will be posting updates as regularly as we can here so you can follow along with our travels.
This is an exciting opportunity, I can't wait!
Dave Purnell and Isabelle McIntyre are headed to Greenland Summer 2022 to service and collect data from our instruments. Follow their travels here.