Waiting for Us at the End of the Cruise
We finally found the ice, on the last day of the cruise coming into Nuuk harbor. A number of the crew had remarked that there were very few icebergs along the cruise track this year, which was good for us because we didn't have to slow down and finished almost every CTD station on the Principal Investigators' (PIs) wish list. Watching the 2nd and 3rd mates maneuver the Knorr through the gauntlet of growlers -- a term for small bits of icebergs, too small to show up on radar, that make a nasty growling sound as they slide down your hull and rip it open -- in broad daylight brought home just how much slower we would have had to go if we had run into a patch during nightwatch, even with the Knorr's shiny new ice lights.
Many kudos go to the crew for making the Davis Strait '09 cruise successful. The back-to-back nighttime Seaglider recoveries, the mooring deployments in high seas that went on for days and days, the terrible things we did to the CTD in the name of science... none of that would have been possible if the crew hadn't been there for us 100 percent.
After a mad dash making sure that all the data we got during the cruise was copied to USB drives and burnt on DVDs, packing, saying our goodbyes... we hopped in Dash-7s, the backbone of Greenland Air's domestic fleet, and flew from Nuuk to the international airport in Kangerlussuaq, where the domestic flights are at Gate 1 and the international flights are at Gate 2. It was snowing pretty heavily and the temperature around noon sank to -11°C.
A little over 4 hours later we were in Copenhagen, where some of us are taking saturday off to explore before continuing the long flight home. This is a light-boat we found tied up in the canal by Nyhavn, not far from a series of adorable coffee shops and pastry houses. Need I say how incredible that first double-tall hazelnut soy latte that I had after a month at sea was, or how delicious an actual Danish danish is? Or how bittersweet it is to go home when your heart is at sea?
What Comes Next
My adviser is concerned that observational oceanography is a field in jeopardy, that far too many of today's physical oceanographers are content to let someone else fetch data for them to use without consideration for the effort and skill required to collect quality measurements. It is true that satellites, robots and electronic sensors on moorings have revolutionized the field, and without a doubt this is where the future of ocean observing lies -- but there is so much that happens during even a deployment and recovery cruise that requires an in-depth understanding of the physical processes of the region and the ability to adapt a program to the reality of the environment you find yourself in, that it would not be possible without years of training and experience in the field. I truly hope that every graduate student who would do oceanography makes the effort to go out on an observational cruise at least once in their career, because reasoning and theorizing about the world we live in is not science unless it begins and ends with seeing that world clearly and carefully.