October 10, 2015
Our time onboard the Amundsen is coming to a close, but the last day was truly amazing.
We met in the morning to go over our presentation, prepared as a thank you to the scientists and crew. It took ages, and by the end we were exhausted. However, there were many last-minute things to be done. Zoe and I set up camp in the officers’ lounge and painted a million postcards. Watercolour sunrises and diagrams of small benthic organisms covered our table. It was a great way of celebrating individual moments: my first iceberg (we named him Lyle); the light, early in the morning; a petri dish of zooplankton. I hope that when the postcards arrive, they capture the Arctic as I experienced it!
After lunch, Zoë, Gabriel and I went to help section box cores. Michelle Kamula, the scientist we were assisting, studies the history caught in sediment. I think it is fascinating that we can see the past by looking at the bottom of the sea floor!
We left to take group pictures on the Heli Deck. The boat was surrounded by ice, both low to the water and towering in bergs. It was difficult to tear my eyes away, but smiling at the camera was easy. I was so, so happy in that moment, surrounded by such a fantastic group!
To celebrate the end of our time on board, we had “Happy Hour” with the scientists and crew. We walked in to blaring accordion music and grinning Denis, the sweetest Coast Guard on the planet, who was holding glasses of orange juice.
Zoë and I decided to survey the scientists, in an attempt to absorb last advice. Our question: “What inspires you about the arctic/what you study, and what message should we bring home?”
Their replies helped provide a bigger picture to all they had taught us. Philippe, the chief scientist, explained that the whole planet is connected to the Arctic. The east coast is the only place on the planet experiencing colder temperatures. Why do you think this is? When Arctic ice melts, currents bring the cold water down the coast, and that water cools the air. Think of this, he said: You have just boarded a plane. You’ve been planning this trip for months, and you are very excited. Before takeoff, there is an announcement. About twenty screws have been found on the runway, and no one knows where they are from. Would you get off the plane?
This scenario shows our attitude around climate change. We don’t know all the details or the consequences, but we have evidence that something is wrong. Will we continue to push our luck?
Marie told us to follow our dreams and not get sucked into expectations. Becky and Cindy said that the benthic layer is important. Large mammals get lots of funding and attention, but the base of the food chain is vital. Laura emphasized the beauty and importance of the Arctic.
We ate our last dinner with Philippe and Captain Alain. They are both so kind and intelligent, and our conversation ranged from silly jokes to careers.
Scientists and crew packed into the officers’ lounge for our presentation. The theme was connections – between all of us, within science, and throughout an ecosystem. I talked about our floating, self-sufficient Amundsen community, and the Arctic ecosystem at large, as well as the connections between the present (holding a living sea star from the ocean floor), the past (climate history trapped in sediment and living matter), and the future of Arctic science (us!).
After a last game of “Werewolf” with some scientists and crew, I crawled into bed, exhausted. Alex, however, ate five bowls of cereal at 1:30 am with a gang of French scientists.
I have learnt so much in the past few weeks. Lectures, fieldwork, and discussions have brought science to life. I feel so lucky to be able to approach a researcher at the source of information, and ask questions the moment they arise. Being involved in real research has given us a sense of responsibility. If we miscount zooplankton species, it will affect a data set that will be built on for years. Through Schools on Board, both my confidence and my passion for science has grown.