Thursday, September 5, 2013

Alaska Wrap-Up - Erik Boudart

With my first trip to Alaska it is time to reflect on my short time there. I enjoyed working in the field and seeing what it truly takes to be a oceanographer! Every day was learning something different and I really liked being able to talk with scientists who had been doing this for many years. It is a wonder that even after all the time that modern technology has been up on the North Slope that there are still things to be learned and discovered. It is this thirst for knowledge that drove me to oceanography and will keep me coming back for me. I was immensely lucky be a part of this experience and can only hope that I will have this opportunity again in the future.


Erik R. Boudart

Sunday, August 25, 2013

MACARENA Trip's Conclusion

Hello again from Riza! Just wanted to say that we are back safe and sound in Mother Bancroft. Doing research in North Slope Borough, Alaska was the greatest learning experience I have had so far as a midshipman. I really am thankful for this wonderful opportunity the Oceanography Department of the Naval Academy has provided me. The trip was what I expected in many ways, but it also presented a nice few surprises.

Arriving to Deadhorse, I was very curious to see how this whole research was organized in terms of who was involved and what we were actually studying. I was very excited to learn that I was going to have the privilege of working with scientists from the Naval Research Labaratory (NRL), Harvard Graduate School, and the U.S. Army's Cold Regions Research and Engineering Labaratory (CRREL). This was an experience I had always dreamed of. I made sure that I asked as many questions as I could to understand the science we were doing as best I could; these people had so much insight and expertise!

The trip definitely opened my eyes to a much better idea of what I possibly want to do in the future career-wise. Now, more than ever, I am excited to expand my knowledge and experience in the topics of global warming, geochemistry, and the arctic regions. A huge thanks to LCDR Woods for teaching me and Erik a whole lot throughout the trip and Dr. Smith for providing me with this opportunity!

Friday, August 23, 2013


Today was probably the most interesting day we've had. It was our major "Boat Ops" day, and the plan was to take several full water samples of multiple rivers and lakes. And, of course, it had to be one of the colder rainier days of our trip. The team split up; one group went to recover samples from past sites, and my group was to execute Boat Ops.

We loaded the truck with our one and only, blue and gray, inflatable boat: the Mariner 3! First we sampled a couple rivers and measured for temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and pH using a YSI instrument. We came upon what seemed to be a large lake and unloaded our boat, hiked over to the water, got in with all our gear and lifejackets, and began to head out with our flimsy paddles... only to find out that nowhere in this large lake did the depth exceed 0.5 meters. There Erik and I were, in the middle of the tundra, all geared up, sitting in a tiny boat that was floating in less than 0.5 meters of water, and freezing our butts off. Even with Erik's rowing experience, it was a challenge to get ourselves back onto shore with the strong wind working against us, so LCDR Woods and Tom decided it was best to meet us on the other side of the lake and pick us up from there.

Our second Boat Ops attempt, this time executed by LCDR Woods and Tom, proved to be not much better. The lake was called Big Lake, and it's maximum depth was a whopping 1.5 meters. We took the samples and measurements, and headed back home in our muddy and wet gear.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


All that can be said about today was that it was quite a adventure! We started strong by collecting samples from Station 4 and did our first sampling from the water. We deployed from shore using a boat that you could find for your own scientific explorations in your local K-Mart aisle. As a midshipman with almost 5 years of rowing experience this may be these worst vessel I have ever had the pleasure of being the power plant of.

From our first lake experience we went off to deploy one of our last stations and at this point in the trip we quickly had it set up and were on our way back to home base when we actually hit a traffic jam. In Alaska we were in a traffic jam.

We eventually found out that it was because of this massive oil rig that was being moved down the road to another site. It was like watching a mountain being picked up and moved down a highway! We spent the next two and a half hours trying to find our way around this gargantuan piece of machinery and finally made it home the latest we ever have after we had thought it would have been one of our fastest days. Just goes to show you that nothing should be expected to go as planned up here in Alaska!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Greetings from Riza! Today we were back on the road by 0900 and got to our first new site an hour later. Pretty long drive? Well let's just say that we had a minor encounter with North Slope security... Nothing serious, just to remind us of the possible wildlife encounters we may have and to be extra careful driving around these roads. Along the way, we ran into a few caribou!

To join us for our trip today were some enjoyable wind chills of 25 degrees F. We deployed our VCP pipes at three new sites (doin' work!) before heading back to our cozy shack in town. Our core samples today had plenty of sand, a big difference from the icy ones extracted the other day, most likely from the sites' close proximity to the ocean.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013



Hi there!

So Day 3 is done and in the books and what a exciting day today was! We collected our samples hopefully full of methane from our first two sites and pulled our PVC pipes from the sites for continued use. We also collected sol from these sites for further analysis at the Naval Research Lab. We finished the day with deploying at site 4 with the only issue being the site was more a sponge than actual solid ground. This is most likely because the Arctic Ocean was only over a mile away!

Not only was today full of hard work but plenty of fun to. We saw our fist sign of wildlife other than birds and saw a pair of caribou! It was a pretty amazing experience since they were right next to the truck! We also got to examine the where the start of the Alaskan Pipeline begins its 800 mile journey. After deploying our last site we decided that it was time to get our feet a little wet and walked into the ocean! What a great way to end a packed day. Keep coming back for more Alaskan fun!


Monday, August 19, 2013


So for our second day here at Deadhorse, our little motley group opted for another all-you-can-eat meal at the Prudhoe Bay Hotel for breakfast. Upon returning to our base camp, Erik and I learned how to extract the gas samples from the containers that held the cores we drilled out on Day One. The gas samples were then sent to the lab to determine the Carbon isotope ratios in the methane.

Our game plan for the day was to "deploy," as we call it, more of our PVC pipes at two different tundra sites that were further up north. At these sites, we also took our core samples. This time, the cores came up with some frozen ice chunks... pretty impressive to see! LCDR Woods, with his handy high-tech skills, collected a core piece and made a sweet GoPro video of it melting over a 7-hour time period. Luckily, we had some pretty decent 43 degree weather... Let's see what tomorrow brings us.


So it's Day 1 here in Deadhorse, Alaska! We unpacked all of our equipment and took inventory and then did quite a walk through of each tool. Before we could get ready to head out to the first site we did a spoken walk through about site procedure and what things needed to be done for our objectives to be met. Then we headed out!

Our first site is near a NOAA weather station and was near Sagavamirktok River. The close proximity to the river is thought to be the reason for the above average amount of loose rock, sand, and silt found after boring and because of this we were not able to collect core samples from the site. Riza and I probed for the permafrost layer every 2 meters to get a overall idea how deep the organic layer went down. We were able to stamp down our PVC pipes to collect the gas being emitted from the tundra to later test for the methane content of the site.

We repeated this same process at the second site near the beginning of the Alaskan Pipeline. The only difference is that we were able to core here and collect the samples that we needed for later testing. Overall the first day went very well and I am looking forward to the rest of our time here!


Sunday, August 18, 2013

MACARENA 2013 Team Introductions - Riza Suriben

Greetings to our readers! This is 1/C Riza Suriben, a proud Oceanography major at the United States Naval Academy. I was born in the Philippines, grew up in Japan, and now live in the beautiful state of Washington. I come from a Navy family who loves to do all sorts of outdoor activities and travelling. After graduating, I plan on becoming a Surface Warfare Officer and eventually working in the medical or oceanography field.

Words cannot explain how excited I was when I first read the email about going on this trip. I am so thankful for the opportunity to work with such an outgoing and talented group here in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. This exact experience has always been a dream of mine! All I hope for is to come home with loads of new knowledge and awesome stories that I can share with family and friends and treasure forever.

MACARENA 2013 Team Introductions - Erik Boudart


My name is Erik Boudart and I'm the lucky Second Class that gets to go along for the ride on this trip! I am a Oceanography major and could not be happier with my choice in a major. This field of academia has given me the opportunity to travel and experiences things that I would never be able to anywhere else and I love it! I'm originally from Bear, Delaware and am a active member of Crossfit Blue and Gold at the Academy. I hope to either service select EOD or Navy Pilot next year. As long as I get to keep trying new things and seeing the world I'll be happy!

Since this is my first trip to Alaska all I know what to expect is that it's going to be plenty cold! I am looking forward to witnessing what field work entails in the field of Oceanography and maybe seeing a bear or two. I am privileged to be a part of this team and will be reporting in every other day so be sure to come back and keep up with the excitement!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

NAICEX; The Frozen Leadership Laboratory Part 1

Greetings, LCDR Woods here, and after thawing out for 7 days, I am finally getting around to the 'wrap up' post from our Spring Break experiment up North in Barrow, AK.  What an experience!  Traveling with 5 new midshipmen that have never experienced the Arctic, and Prof Gina Henderson (another Arctic newbie) was challenging, rewarding, tiring, and successful all wrapped up into a 2 week adventure!  Most of the trip was captured in the previous blog posts, so I will not cover every detail, just some of the many highlights.

The goal of NAICEX was to introduce future Naval Officers to the harsh Arctic Environment, and I think this was successful once the midshipmen stepped off the plane in Barrow.  A -40 degree windchill is unlike anything most will ever experience!  Especially when you are just in your 'street' clothes and haven't donned your Arctic Gear yet.  Even getting into your Arctic Gear is a bit of a chore, and attempting to safely navigate the undulating Arctic Sea Ice (and the stairs to our hut) is a whole other challenge.

Scientifically NAICEX was very successful.  Through collaborations with the University of Delaware, University of Washington, Naval Research Lab, US Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab (CRREL), and of course our awesome logistics provider UMIAQ, we successfully collected enough data for years of future midshipmen research projects.  One highlight for me personally was at our daily morning briefing I counted 20 folks preparing to go out on the ice and tundra to go collect data for our experiment.  It was a great feeling that all folks were working together for a common goal.

After a few practice days, we finally got used to operating on Barrow Time, and became more familiar with the collection methods, and we really started to look like a science experiment out on the ice.  We had a shelter called an 'Arctic Oven' that allowed people to warm up in without leaving the ice.  All people got familiar with driving snow machines, and we were a well oiled Arctic Science Machine.

One of the more sensitive parts of the experiment was the constantly changing operating status of our IceKid Polar Observing Platforms.  You probably heard Chuck and Obi talking about their senior capstone project in Aerospace Engineering to build these Yeti coolers outfitted with webcams, hydrophones, and weather instruments.  We just ran out of time for testing in Annapolis, and we sent the IceKids to Barrow with not nearly as much 'test' time as we would have liked.  It seemed like every day in Barrow had a high (IceKid Working) and a low (IceKid stopped working) and then a full night of troubleshooting.  In the end, I know the mids learned some valuable engineering, and even life lessons, on developing and executing a plan.  We collected hours of good data (and found out some interesting 'errors' in our data), and hope to finish out the semester getting the IceKids back up and running in the HARSH Arctic environment.

The USNA STEM office has been one of the USNA PSP biggest supporters from the beginning!  I really enjoy integrating outreach activities into our trips, especially since the kids on the North Slope of Alaska are some of the warmest, most genuine kids I have yet to come across.  The plan came together especially nice this year since our visit coincided with the Barrow High School Science Fair.  In the morning, a few of the mids participated as science fair judges, and in the afternoon we all participated in our own hands on activity booth during the main expo.  Hundreds of kids came by our table, and we even got to participate in a team building exercise that definitely brought some laughs and smiles!  I also had the opportunity to listen to the planetarium show about Inupiat stories of the stars.  Fascinating tales of polar bear hunters in Orion's belt, and the hunter who forgot his gloves!  Another great highlight from Barrow High School was watching two friends solve a Rubik's cube in less than 2 minutes.  The smiles on their faces upon completion was priceless!

Alright, so I do have lots more to share, but want to break it up into parts....I think this is a good stopping point for now.  Check out this great video produced by Nokinba Acker covering our experiment

More to follow, LCDR Woods

Friday, March 22, 2013

The difference between Barrow and Bancroft,

Now that the team has been back for almost a week we have some time to reflect on all of our experiences.

For me one of the most rewarding portions of our trip to Alaska was doing outreach activities.
While at Barrow High school we were able to interact with 300 students! The best part was when two students raced to see who could solve the rubrics cube first!

In Anchorage we met about 80 more children at Alyeska Ski Resort, they were so much fun to talk with and so eager to learn about science

I have always believed that if you show a child interest and love, then nothing will be impossible for them in the future.  So we really owe a big thank you to the USNA STEM office for providing us with a lot of great activities to do with the kids! From building a catapult to seeing how many drops of water can fit on a penny! It was truly refreshing having this opportunity; we as Midshipman forget how good we have it sometimes. I am looking forward to continuing STEM outreach in the future

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A couple more days in Barrow

What a busy past few days!

Monday (03/12):
We started pretty early preparing the team to go into the field. To our surprise, the weather was actually warm! Well I guess 10F feels pretty balmy after the frigid days we've had. There were huge beautiful snowflakes flying everywhere with absolutely zero wind! Prof. Henderson went for another 300m surveying the line with her magnaprobe, and Dagmara went with her to set stakes. I'm not gonna lie, it was an exhausting evolution. To reach the ice surface, we had to dig into the snow for about 1.5m and then another 50cm with the drill. Not to mention falling into a snow pile and hearing water splashing underneath. A little nerve-racking to say the least. 

Dagmara digging through the snow

Molly, Mike, and Chris (Guys over at CREL) worked on surveying different sites around the ice ridge with the LIDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging. What a cool piece of equipment! It takes a 360 degree scan of a designated area and produces a 3D image onto a corresponding laptop. The scans taken today will be compared to the LIDAR scans taken from the Twin Otter turbo-prop that should be surveying the area later this week. This kind of technology is not only useful for surveying the Arctic terrain, but also useful to the military and law enforcement communities for reproducing, in extreme detail, areas of operation and crime scenes either back at base, or in a lab.

Molly stands on top of a ridge working with the LIDAR equipment

Wendesday (03/14):
Today was a whole new kind of least for some of us.  We started out the day at -20 degrees Fahrenhiet with a wind chill of -45 degrees. We had to be extremely careful when we went on the ice, because any exposed skin for more than a short period of time would quickly result in frostbite. 

We got to experience a new vantage point of Barrow today. Toni was able to hitch a ride in the twin-otter plane that NRL  (Naval Research Laboratory) has been flying over our survey site! We were able to get some cool aerial shots of the ice we've been working on for the last couple weeks.

Toni and Professor Henderson checking out the NRL plane
A shot from the ground of the NRL fly-over

Today was also Brower's birthday! Brower is the head bear guard with UMIAQ, the organization that works with us for our logistics. We celebrated with a barbecue on the ice: some hotdogs, hamburgers, baked beans, and a birthday cake. Oh yeah, and don't forget the whale skin and blubber that Travis brought over for us to sample.

Chuck and Obi deliver the cake for Brower's birthday
The highlight of the day though definitely had to be our trip to Point Barrow.  We all boarded snowmobiles and went on a 20 minute ride to the northernmost point in the United States. At the point,we came across the infamous whale bones that are sitting there, along with the recent (as in, less than 24 hours ago recent) polar bear prints in the snow. Luckily none were to be seen...although it would have been nice to catch at least a glimpse of one.

The entire team getting ready to head out to Point Barrow

Fresh Polar Bear tracks!

No one is looking forward to tomorrow, as we will all be heading away from Barrow...a trip so far that for some of us will be the only one of its kind in our lives. The bright side is a stay in Anchorage, Alaska for a couple days for some STEM outreach. We will still be in Alaska, but with the current temperature of 30 degrees in Anchorage, it might as well be summer after our stay in Barrow.

Please continue to follow our blog and if you haven't yet, check out our website ( and like us on Facebook ( Stay tuned for a post about our trip to Barrow High School and Anchorage and the awesome chance we had to teach the kids there about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

Monday, March 11, 2013

Eskimo Stories--Why Travis doesn't wear a jacket

We have made a lot of friends over at UMIAQ, and we'd love for you to get to know them in the same way we have! Travis Carducci was one of the first members of UMIAQ to greet us during our orientation upon arrival to Barrow. The one thing we noticed about him, is that all he was wearing was a t shirt and a vest. It was -30 with wind chill...

Travis has been living in Barrow for the past 24 years; he was born in Alaska but grew up in Las Vegas and attended school in California, lived in Washington, Arizona, and Wisconsin before coming back up to Alaska. He is an Administrative Assistant for the Science Support Division with UMIAQ. During the little free time he is allowed, he spends his summers in Seattle and fishing in Arizona in the winter. He calls himself a "smart Eskimo."

So after nearly losing our breath from the cold upon exiting the plane, we had to ask Travis; where the heck is your coat?! Here's what he had to say: When he was little, he used to sleep walk all the time. One night during the winter, he walked outside, fast asleep, only in his pajamas and crawled into a snowdrift where he stayed until morning. His grandfather found him the next day completely unharmed. He said he hasn't been cold since.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

NAICEX--On the Ice

Happy Sunday friends!

IceKid 2A's first time on sea ice

After losing an hour somewhere in the middle of the night (totally spaced Daylight Savings Time), we woke up a little late, made some muffins and biscuits and got ready to head out on the ice! Chuck and Morgan were especially excited as this was to be their first time out in the field. IceKid - 2A was taken out to a remote piece of ice just shy of the edge, near open Arctic waters.


Hole drilled for the hydrophone

We cut an eight inch hole about four and a half feet deep to place the hydrophone (underwater microphone to record the sounds of the ocean; ice movement to whale songs) into the water. It was an exciting first deployment, but more troubleshooting needs to be conducted before the final deployment on Wednesday.

Our team deploying the hydrphone

The other group consisting of Prof. Henderson, Molly and Dagmara and UD students were laying out the one of the survey lines. The lines are going to be used by the NRL (Naval Research Lab) that will be flying over them on Tuesday in their Twin Otter turbo-prop plane collecting the snow data. "Ground troops" measure the real snow depth along those lines to validate NRL's data. Prof. Henderson walked in a straight line for 600m measuring snow depth with the magnaprobe and a few people behind her were marking 25m increments with whippy flags. In the center point, where the lines cross and where we set up the base for our experiment with the heated tent, Molly, Dagmara and Tracey DeLiberty (UD) were guiding Prof. Henderson using the laser tape. 

Is Chuck a new bear guard?!

After that quite rich in data, but not very eventful, early afternoon, we all went to check on the IceKid. You can imagine everyone's excitement when we saw little heads popping out from the water and watching us. A whole bunch of seals came over to see what all those bundled up people were doing on their ice!


NAICEX-Sunday Mornings in Barrow AK.

Good morning from the top of the most Northern part of the US! Wow, we have only been here a few days and there is  just so much to share!

When we arrived here on the 8th, we went out to dinner at the worlds famous Pepe's (Most Northern Restaurant) and I must say they had some pretty decent enchiladas.

Yesterday March 9th Molly, Professor Henderson, and myself(Toni) had the opportunity to use a MagnaProbe; essienatly an instrument that uses acoustics and electromagnetic pulses to measure snow thickness! We walked in what we called 'spirals of death' for approximeatly 30 mins and collected anywhere from 300-700 data points. Some of us had more trouble walking than others. . . Check out Molly below.

To the left is a picture of us with our guide Chris, he taught us how to use the MagnaProbe! He is a great guy minus the fact that he was not carrying a gun to protect us from the POLAR BEARS and RABID ARCIC FOXES!!!!!! Needless to say we did not tell LCDR Woods about that. . .
Above is Professor Henderson with the MagnaProbe!!!

To the left and right are Molly and I playing dress up!

After spending and afternoon in the -50 degrees Arctic tundra, we made the trek out to Point Barrow! The absolute most Northern Point in the USA. . .On March 9th 2013 we three were the most Northern People in the country!

We also got to see a Bowhead Whale bone pile. . .which to be honest as a little scary since Polar Bears can smell the oil in the bones and like to munch on them!


Thats all I've got for today. . . .  .LIKE US ON FACEBOOK AND TWITTER USNA PSP!!!