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Ice And Pressure In The Arctic

NEAR THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE – Overcast today but lots of sizable ice floes to brighten the atmosphere. It's Sunday, so the Coast Guard crew is wearing their dress whites, and there'll likely be something special on the menu tonight. Mark and I have been invited to the captain's supper, so we'll see how that goes. I hope my dad will be there, too. I'll have to find him this afternoon when he's finished working to see if he got the secret summons. I also managed to get a decent sleep last night, mainly because we weren't carving through nearly as much ice. Plenty more ahead though.

Chloe and I participated in a fun little experiment last night, which involves writing names and notes on Styrofoam cups and then lowering them thousands of meters into the ocean. Sure, it's kind of a basic example of how pressure compresses objects and squeezes out any air in the material, but it's an essential rule of thumb for any deep-sea researchers when they consider the durability limits of their equipment.


The scientists, crew and media have gotten to know each other fairly well at this point, and of course that's what happens when you're in close proximity for nearly two weeks. It's actually a rare experience for journalists to hang out with their interview subjects so long after talking with them. (Of course we have other interviews ahead, too, but you get my drift.) It's not unlike being embedded with the military, except in that case the story is a little more linear or situational. Not that it's easier, don't get me wrong. In both situations there's a level of social interaction and, let's say, 'personality management' that's not part of the typical reporting scenario. But so far, so good.

We spent most of yesterday tagging along with scientists like Ed Hendrycks from the Canadian Natural History Museum, who's onboard to examine the creatures that live in the Arctic seabed. He scoops up several samples at various science stops. Some of what he collects is millimeters in length or smaller, some several inches long like the brittle starfish. We also interviewed a few other researchers onboard, including Diana Varela from the University of Victoria, whose biggest challenge at the moment is preserving her phytoplankton samples in plastic tubing on the upper deck. It's actually quite cool, since she's recreating the different light and temperature levels of the ocean column using photographic film wrapped around the tubes. She and her graduate associate, Ian, then inject certain chemicals into the tubes and leave them for 24 hours to see what happens. We'll explain the significance of all these experiments in the upcoming stories on the CBS Evening News. We hope to air them in mid- to late August.

By the way, word is we might be going up again in the helicopter tomorrow (weather permitting) to fly to an area filled with maritime history and wildlife. Don't want to say too much at this point in case it doesn't happen... fingers crossed.

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