In between helicopter flights for the Amundsen’s scientific crew change, the SCAMP (Self-Contained Autonomous MicroProfiler) leaves the ship and pays a short visit to the ice camp, where it is scheduled to be the protagonist of another busy day.
The goal is to acquire a time series of profiles over the length of one tidal cycle, measuring physical properties and fluorescence (indicative of primary production), at the same location under the ice. To do this, we successively deploy the CTD and the SCAMP.
As our instruments get out of sight deeper in the water column below the ice, we follow them with our imagination. In our mind we zoom in on the vigorous swirls and recreate the movements down to molecular scale. We impatiently try to anticipate the data we are collecting, juggling with the different variables and scales that we are observing, eagerly adding pieces to the puzzle.
The CTD data gives us profiles of salinity, temperature and fluorescence over 360 meters of depth. The ‘staircase’ structures we see on the temperature and salinity curves illustrate the effect of meltwater on water column stratification. We carefully watch the intertwining profiles on the screen. Their progression with time suggests the influence of the tides.
The fine resolution temperature measurements taken with the SCAMP over the surface 90 meters help infer turbulence: the dissipation and diffusivity of energy at millimetre scale dictate the lives of the tiny organisms living here.
13 hours later, under the impassive light of an arctic spring night, we prepare to conclude our measurements, as the tide gets ready to enter a new cycle. We watch a snowy owl flow by, majestic as it blends into the whiteness of its habitat. Is it aware of the eternal back and forth of the water below the ice? Tides remind that harmony and balance extend beyond immediate human sensory perception. They drive mixing, helping to deliver nutrients from the bottom to the indispensible phytoplankton near the surface.
Stillness and silence surround us. However, beneath the ice, in the complex world that we are trying to better understand, there is no break. A continuous swoosh of relentless mechanisms drive the dynamics that feed this teeming environment.
The SCAMP is flown back to the ship, already ready and eager for Leg 1B. Back in the village, we see kids playing in the street, their smiles exuding warmth. Time is an altered notion here. It is never late for a game of hide and seek.