Hidden Ocean 2016: Chukchi Borderlands

Mission Logs

Follow along as participants in the cruise provide updates and reflections on their experiences, the science, the technology, and other elements of the expedition.

  • Summary

    August 26, 2016  |  By Russ Hopcroft

    Arctic fogbow
    USCGC Healy

    The Hidden Ocean 2016 cruise followed the legacy of our prior expeditions by assessing the biodiversity within the Arctic’s three major realms – the sea ice, the water column, and the seafloor.

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  • Final Wrap-up

    August 10, 2016  |  By Russ Hopcroft

    A group of 141 scientists and Coast Guard crew completed a successful expedition to the Chukchi Borderlands.

    Together we have traveled over 4,000 nautical miles, and it will seem strange not to see the same faces every day, even if they were tired ones. There are talented scientists, a small army of enthusiastic students, and a skilled ROV team here, but we have been successful largely because we worked as a team.

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  • Healy – Not Your Grandfather’s Icebreaker!

    August 9, 2016 | By CAPT Jason Hamilton and CDR William Woityra

    The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy sits alongside an ice floe to allow science operations to occur.

    When U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Healy sails throughout the Arctic, we simultaneously fulfill many purposes. First and foremost, we are an ice breaker, providing presence and access for a myriad of objectives, the primary and most visible of which is scientific research.

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  • Learning From the Sea

    August 8, 2016 | By Sandra Thornton

    As a PolarTREC fellow/NOAA Teacher at Sea, I have been privileged to participate in The Hidden Ocean 2016: Chukchi Borderlands expedition. In these capacities, I have gotten to explore the many different types of research being conducted during this expedition; had access to an amazing group of scientists, students, and technicians; and experienced life aboard a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker/research vessel.

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  • Dr. Lindsay and Mr. Pumpkin

    August 7, 2016 | By Kate Segarra and Caitlin Bailey

    Specimens of Mr. Pumpkin collected by the Global Explorer ROV allow scientists to look at the ctenophores’ structure and take DNA samples.
    This image of Mr. Pumpkin in the water column was taken by the Global Explorer ROV. It is important to image any undescribed species in its own habitat.

    During this expedition, the science party has collected multiple ctenophores that may represent new species. Of course new is a bit of a misnomer – these graceful animals were around long before human existence. The correct taxonomic term is 'undescribed.'

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  • Imaging the Small

    August 6, 2016 | By Dhugal Lindsay and Jessica Pretty

    Image-based profiling instruments take photographs of parcels of water as they are lowered through the water column. These images contain lots of different things such as zooplankton, phytoplankton, and non-living particles; things that all play a role in the ocean’s carbon cycle and therefore are integral to understanding the Earth’s carbon cycle and allow a glimpse into the vertical profiles of particles in the ocean.

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  • Ice! Camera! Action!

    August 4, 2016 | By Caitlin Bailey and Kate Segarra

    Science and ocean exploration are based on discovery, mystery, and adventure. Filmmaking is grounded on the same attributes. Part of the mission of The Hidden Ocean 2016: Chukchi Borderlands mission is to share scientific discoveries with the public through outreach. Two media teams were invited on this expedition to fulfill that mission and bring the Arctic to audiences around the world.

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  • An International Team Researching Jellyfish

    August 2, 2016 | By Heidi Michelle Mendoza-Islas

    This jellyfish is Benthocodon hyalinus and is found in the water column throughout the Pacific Ocean, from the Arctic Ocean to Antarctica.
    The Beroe abyssicola is a species of comb jelly that the Global Explorer ROV collected during the expedition.

    I am very passionate about jellyfish, and for a long time I have been wondering if there are jellies in the poles. If so, how do they survive? Looking for answers, I found a paper about remotely operated vehicle expeditions researching jellyfish. And now here I am, on a six-week long expedition on an icebreaker.

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  • The Other World Around You

    July 31, 2016 | By Brian Ulaski

    Studying microbial oceanography has altered how I interpret the living world around me. Take a look around you, wherever you may be – if bacteria were instantly illuminated under some sort of microbial black light, you’d witness the ever-presence of the unseen majority.

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  • Studying the Deep

    July 30, 2016 | By Irina Zhulay

    Lauren Sutton and Irina Zhulay hold a large anemone that was collected by the ROV.
    Members of the science team sort through rocks and mud to look for animals from the trawl.

    The realm of the deep sea is a world of cold temperatures, tremendously high pressure, inky darkness, and very limited food. Just about two centuries ago, some scientists believed that life could not exist below 55 meters depth. The term "deep sea" is used for depths of 200 to over 6,000 meters. We now know that life can not only survive, but thrive in the deep sea, even at the bottom.

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  • Mud, Mud, and More Mud!!

    July 29, 2016 | By Angie Gastaldi and Leah Sloan

    Leah Sloan sieves through the muddy box core sample, separating the sediment from the animals.

    Most people try to keep mud off their boats, but we have been spending a lot of time and effort bringing boxes full of mud onboard. Why are we doing this? We are interested in the infauna, which are the organisms that live in the sediments on the ocean floor. Although often small and hidden in the mud, these organisms are an important part of marine ecosystems.

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  • Making a Home at Sea

    July 28, 2016 | By Jessica Pretty

    The 24-hour sunlight of the Arctic summer means that work can happen at any time. However, beautiful views like this, which was taken during remotely operated vehicle operations at midnight, remind us that life on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy is a special experience.

    As a graduate student living in Fairbanks, Alaska, I live year-round in a dry cabin: a structure with electricity and heat, but no running water. This means hauling water from a local source for drinking/cooking and, yes, having an outhouse. From this perspective, life aboard any research vessel is incredibly luxurious since I no longer have to carry gallons of water to drink and even have access to a bathroom and shower from my room!

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  • A Ship of Opportunity

    July 27, 2016 | By Kenny Cook

    The Coast Guard is responsible for safely deploying and recovering all of the scientific instruments, including the remotely operated vehicle, needed to collect data from the Arctic.

    Life on board the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy is unique and different from any other job I have had during my Coast Guard career. The Healy’s mission is mainly science-based, although we do maintain a readiness posture in the event we are needed for an emergency or search and rescue operations.

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  • Trawling in the Arctic

    July 26, 2016 | By Kelly Walker

    The trawl is important to determine what species of benthic invertebrates and fishes are in an area. The science team sorts through the organisms, mud, and rocks brought up by the trawl, finding different animals, like this sea star.

    As the sole member of the fish team aboard the Healy, my responsibility is to run the bottom trawl for sampling fishes, as well as benthic invertebrates.

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  • Taking the 'Net North

    July 25, 2016 | By Sarah Kaye

    Sarah Kaye works on a satellite dish inside a dome on the top deck of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy. One of the most prevalent challenges of getting an Internet signal in the Arctic is overcoming atmospheric conditions, such as fog.

    We have an Internet connection on a ship in the Arctic Ocean! How cool is that? Well, it isn’t broadband. That it works at all is due to a bunch of nifty technology that does its job quietly and effectively most of the time. If it did its job all of the time, my work day would be more predictable and less fun.

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  • One Instrument for All

    July 24, 2016 | By Peter Shipton

    Members of the U.S. Coast Guard prepare the CTD for launch.

    A CTD is an essential tool used in all disciplines of oceanography. CTD stands for Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth. By measuring the conductivity of seawater, the salinity can be derived from the temperature and pressure of the same water. The depth is then derived from the pressure measurement by calculating the density of water from the temperature and the salinity.

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  • Arctic Adaptations of Zooplankton

    July 23, 2016 | By Jennifer Questel and Caitlin Smoot

    The two copepod species Calanus hyperboreus and Calanus glacialis prepare for the winter by storing lipids, as seen in the photos.

    Zooplankton in the Arctic must deal with harsh winter conditions, including freezing temperatures, limited food availability, and the Polar Night. The Polar Night refers to the time of year when the Arctic experiences 24 hours of darkness each day. The region is also covered with sea ice during this time of year.

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  • Mapping the Arctic Seafloor

    July 22, 2016 | By Croy Carlin

    This screenshot of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy’s multibeam software shows the main challenge of mapping in the Arctic. While the ship is at a science station, the mapping is clear, but the map is broken up when the ship is breaking ice.

    Of the numerous underway scientific sensors that the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy is outfitted with, the most asked about and visually appealing is certainly the technology we use to map and visualize the seafloor.

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  • Finding your BEARing

    July 21, 2016 | By Erica Escajeda and Jennifer Stern

    This polar bear was pounding on a seal den, hoping to find food in the open Arctic landscape.
    Approaching from a distance, this polar bear attempted to ambush a pair of seals, which quickly slipped into the water when the bear got too close.

    Polar bear research is a team effort – there are the lucky few who get to go out and work with the bears directly, but there are far more researchers who work on polar bear data and never have the opportunity to see them in the wild. Polar bear research comes in a variety of formats – tracking studies, capture-recapture programs, modeling, physiological studies using samples from captured or harvested animals, and many more. All are equally important and are vital contributions to our growing understanding of these top predators.

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  • Tracing the Arctic’s Present, Past, and Future Water Cycle: Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry Aboard the USCGC Healy

    July 20, 2016 | By Jeff Welker and Eric Klein

    Isotopes are everywhere and can help scientists map intricate food webs. It is essential that the Arctic food web is better understood as the climate continues to change.

    The hydrologic (water) and carbon cycles in the changing Arctic are highly complex and require an understanding of the biological, chemical, and physical processes that drive these cycles. One tool that scientists use to study these systems is stable isotope geochemistry.

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  • The Wing Beat

    July 18, 2016 | By Elizabeth Labunski

    A Laysan albatross soars over the top of the water, showing off a wingspan that can measure up to 203 centimeters (80 inches).

    Seabirds are a diverse group of birds that spend most of their lives at sea and only come to land for a short period each year to nest. Seabirds’ unique connection to the marine environment makes them excellent indicators of the marine ecosystem’s function, health, and change. Studying seabirds helps us to determine how the distribution and abundance of birds change over space and time.

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  • Ice Coring in the Arctic

    July 16, 2016 | By Kyle Dilliplaine

    The ice team, consisting of Dr. Eric Collins, Kyle Dilliplaine, and Brian Ulaski, is lowered in a man basket to the ice below from the deck of the Healy.

    Sea ice is a unique substrate to sample. It is a composite material comprised of freshwater ice crystals permeated by hypersaline (very salty) “brine.” As a biologist, I study the organisms that occupy the brine channel system (BCS).

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  • First Station

    July 14, 2016 | By Lauren Sutton

    Besides the ROV, the other four significant instruments used to collect scientific data on this expedition are (in order) the CTD, box core, trawl, and multinet.

    I have been fortunate enough to find myself as one of many scientists aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy for the 2016 Hidden Oceans mission in the Chukchi Borderlands. As a new (and when I say new, I mean I will start classes in late August) graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks I am extremely excited and eager to learn as much marine biology and oceanography as I can!

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  • Go with the Floe

    July 12, 2016 | By Kate Segarra

    The thickness of the ice is apparent as the Healy continues to try to plow through the large floe.

    In the months leading up to this expedition, news was circulated that 2016 is on track to set a new minimum for sea ice in the Arctic. We were all concerned about these predictions and the implications for both the ecology of the Chukchi Sea as well as the impacts on our science mission. However, low ice coverage does not mean no ice coverage and the Chukchi Sea is currently a mosaic of ice floes and open water.

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  • The Fluke and Flipper Survey

    July 10, 2016 | By Kate Stafford

    A beautiful ribbon seal rests on an ice floe.
    A large herd of walrus use floating ice to haul out after swimming in Arctic waters.

    As part of the Chukchi Borderlands expedition, a marine mammal watch is held on the bridge while we are underway. Because we can’t dictate where the ship goes, or how fast, our observations serve as indicators of which species are present in a region, but do not provide estimates of abundance or relative density of animals. Rather, we are interested in how the species composition changes as we move north from the Gulf of Alaska, through the Bering Sea, and into the unexplored high Arctic.

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  • Welcome to the Arctic!

    July 8, 2016 | By Caitlin Bailey

    The beautifully dramatic Arctic landscape spans across the horizon.

    The air gets noticeably crisper as we pass through the Bering Strait, approaching the Arctic Circle. Members of the science team gather on the bridge to experience this momentous occasion. Many of us have never been this far north nor have seen sea ice. When we cross, there isn’t a dotted line in the water or ice at the edge, but a feeling of “we finally made it.” In fact, it will be a full 17 hours before we see our first sea ice.

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  • The Global Explorer ROV: Giving Scientists Arms, Hands, and Eyes in the Arctic Depths

    July 6, 2016 | By Joe Caba

    The ROV Global Explorer is ready to dive in the Arctic as it sits on deck on the USCGC Healy.

    What is a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and how does it contribute to Arctic exploration? The quick answer is that Oceaneering’s Global Explorer ROV is a precision tool used to collect data and physical samples far beyond where humans can reach on their own. A more fanciful answer is that the ROV is like Ms. Frizzle’s Magic School Bus, transporting scientists on adventures to remote—and yet real—locations populated by strange and wonderful life forms.

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  • Celebrating Independence Day at Sea

    July 4, 2016 | By Caitlin Bailey

    SK1 Francis Purcell and Expedition Coordinator Kate Segarra take a well-deserved break with a round of cornhole.
    Kyle Dilliplaine cuts a syringe as smoothly as possible to be used on the box core to take samples of benthic bacteria.

    Fireworks. Parades. Picnics. Dogs with bandanas. Friends. Family. These are the things I think about when I think of celebrating the Fourth of July. However, this year is a little different as we continue our transit to the Chukchi Borderlands.

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  • Unique Recognition for a Unique Expedition

    July 2, 2016 | By Caitlin Bailey

    The science team poses with The Explorers Club Flag 61 on the helicopter deck of the USCGC Healy.

    It is a privilege and an honor to be a member of any exploration team, whether you dive into the depths of the ocean, climb the highest peaks, or fly to the stars. The Hidden Ocean: Chukchi Borderlands 2016 expedition is no exception.

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