Field Science: Part 1

Posted On February 10, 2008

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 We have a laptop computer which is needed to collect data in the field. Yesterday we discovered that the laptop screen is impossible to see outside in the daylight. Even in the absense of bright clear skies or direct sunlight, the reflectivity of the snow makes everywhere too bright. We built a device we call our “mobile lab” out of a cardboard box and a black rubbish bag – a la the old time cameras with hoods. Not very high tech, but it works! We took some experimental photos yesterday just outside the research station.   

Since the majority of our equipment is still on its way, we are using this time to collect samples. Today we took snowmobiles out to an island about 6 km offshore, with Anoop and Hilke (Leeds University) who had equipment to place there.



We found frost flowers today, so now the science can begin. Frost flowers, for those unfamiliar with them, are small (3 cm tall) dendritic crystals that grow on the surface of sea ice (and sometimes fresh water ice). Conditions (e.g. air and water temperature) must be just right for them to form, and they are commonly found on the surface of leads, where the sea ice has cracked and spread before refreezing. Cracks can form as a result of temperature, tides and wind, and are often found where the water meets the land.  Off the east coast of the island, we found leads which had long frozen over. You could see that frost flowers had once existed but had since been covered with falling or blowing snow. The Inuit guide who was travelling with us confirmed my suspicions that a good place to find leads is the southermost point of the island, in the presence of winds from the SSE and preferably warmer temps than we have seen recently. We saw no open leads there today, but will check again out there when the conditions are right.

We found fresh frost flowers near the shore, just off the experimental site, the results of leads produced by tide. We took digital photographs and samples.




Unfortunately the laptop was dead from cold by the time we tried to use it with our portable high magnification camera, despite being kept close to my body. (I have to keep my camera inside my bib overalls, or it dies too.) We have not been able to heat the laptop because some of the heating equipment is in the missing air freight. We will try preheating the laptop tomorrow in a warm lab and then using it out on the ice immediately. We also collected samples from the underside of slabs, which were clearly accretion ice, where we saw dark streaks and patches that may contain diatoms that Helen will study.



3 Responses to “Field Science: Part 1”

  1. Valerie

    Hi Rachel I hope this gets to you as this is my 1st time blogging. I hope you are warm enough and enjoying the fruits of all those years of study? The photos are fabulous and I am reminded of the great wisdom of Nature and its forces and forms – some of the frost flowers look like ferns- Goethe states there are archtypes of everything. Let me know if you got this – I’ll keep checking
    meanwhile stay warm

    Your friend Valerie

  2. Sis

    Those are great pictures, despite the chilled camera!

    p.s. – I’d like to receive a bouquet of frost flowers for Valentine’s Day, please.

  3. Mama Bear

    Pics are just fantastic! We are praying your warm gear arrives soon.

    The blog-site is quite lovely – nice graphics. Keep it coming.

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