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!!!

Friday, March 8, 2013

NAICEX: Bancroft to Barrow

Happy Spring Break and Suvat* from Barrow beach! Man, what a long day of travel. We flew into Anchorage yesterday afternoon, and dined at the famous Moose's Tooth gourmet pizza place with the Solmonsons! After a ridiculous amount of grocery shopping and innovative last minute packing, we hit the hay for a few hours of sleep before waking up waaayyy too early to head back to the airport to begin our journey to Barrow!  Stopped in Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay before flying over the Arctic Ocean, throwing a U-ey and landing in America's most Northern city. Stepping off the plane took. Our. Breath. Away. SO COLD! Grabbed our million pounds of gear and headed to the Umiaq headquarters building where we went through orientation and got the lay of the land. We've already made great friends with our Umiaq sponsors; Tony, Glenn, Travis, Nok, and Eric and are headed to Pepe's, the World's Most Northern Mexican Restaurant, for dinner. Tomorrow is our day at the Barrow School Yard where we'll get out all of our fun STEM toys, talk to the kids, and just have fun. So check back in maƱana to hear about our awesome adventures and see more pictures! Quannapaq** for reading and we'll talk to you tomorrow!

Inupiaq phrases

* "What's up!"

** "Thank you very much!"

Thursday, March 7, 2013

NAICEX: Introducing the Team: CDR Carl Hager

My name is CDR Carl Hager and I'm a Permanent Military Professor of Oceanography at the United States Naval Academy.  Although I'm sitting out the in-field portion of NAICEX this year, "we" - to include Ensigns Jonathan Zakoian and Nicolas Schmitt (French Naval Academy), Drs. Steve Wales and Steve Means (Naval Research Lab DC), and Midshipmen Brad Schieve and Will Parker (Naval Academy) spent the last year designing and testing the Acoustic suite for the ICEKID 2A.

Now that John and the NAICEX team are on site, we intend to deploy and prove the functionality of this self-sustaining (solar powered), satellite linked, near real-time, under-ice noise measurement capability. The sensor will transmit quarter hour background noise levels within 1/3 octave bands for the following seasonal analyses: (1) Detection (through spectral peaks) of seasonal MIZ ice fracturing, pressure ridge and associated ice flow events and their correlation to local sea ice coverage (2) Environmental correlation of wind and rain generated noise with ICEKID meteorological and imagery sensors (3) Detection of marine mammal vocalizations for seasonality trending and (4) Detection of anthropogenic noise associated with seismic surveys. With a goal of open and online access to data, this will provide an excellent supplement to current acoustic studies in the area.  Our research is funded by the Office of Naval Research.

The ICEKID 2A's functionality was proven pier side Severn River in November of 2012. The results show direct correlations to local shipping traffic, rain and wind.

Here's a successful field campaign - Good luck up there!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

NAICEX 2013 Introducing the team; LCDR John Woods

   Greetings, and thanks for following the USNA Polar Science Program (PSP)!  My name is John Woods, and I am the coordinator for the PSP.  I am originally from a small beach town in NJ, and graduated from the USNA in 2000.  I am currently a Lieutenant Commander METOC (meteorology and oceanography) Officer stationed as a Junior Permanent Military Instructor at USNA, which basically means that I will spend the rest of my career (until 2020) at USNA teaching.  This is a great deal, since I passionately love my current position, and am excited to see our program grow! 
   I have been married to my beautiful wife for over 12 years, and we have 3 great kids Jack (8 and into dinosaurs, all things oceans, and art), Van (5 all about Karate, Power Rangers, and being a Marine one day like Uncle O’sh), and Nell (5, yes twins, who is a girly girl into ballet, dolls, and being a sassy princess).  We keep busy with kid’s sports, play dates, after school programs, and all sorts of activities that seem to never end!  Both of my USNA roommates and a great group of other classmates all live within a mile from us, and we all seem to have growing families in the same age range, so it really is a perfect world for us around Annapolis.
   The Polar Science Program was born when I realized I would be able to complete my career here at USNA.  I was fortunate to get up to the Arctic for the first time in 2009, when we participated in a US Navy Ice Camp 200 miles NORTH of Alaska.  Yes, NORTH of our Northern Most State!  It was a great experience, and really solidified my fascination with this extraordinary environment.  Jackie, one of my MANY polar mentors, once told me that “The Arctic is a place that draws you in, and once you go there, you just want to keep going back”.  Well I really got that bug, and have been fortunate enough to go back each year since, and have brought students along with me each time.  We got to go to Thule Air Force Base in Greenland, and fly in a NASA P-3s within site of the North  Pole, and for the past two years, have been in one of the ‘coolest’ towns in the US, Barrow, AK.  Barrow is the Northern Most city in the US, and the people here are some of the nicest, warmest I have ever come across.  My goal our program is to get as many midshipmen, and future Naval Officers to experience the Arctic Environment, and to use this experience to help them later on in their careers, because I truly believe that the US Navy will have to deal with the rapidly changing conditions up here in their careers.  The PSP is constantly changing students and the Science and Engineering projects that we bring up here are new and varied each year.  These projects culminate the midshipmen’s 4 years of book work, and let them experience and test ‘in the field’, much more exciting than ‘in the classroom’. 

   I have so much more to share, and am excited for you all to follow along!  Please check in regularly, and I would love to begin a conversation with anyone who is interested to discuss any topics at all!  Just get in touch with us via comments or email at Will stay in touch!  LCDR John Woods, USNA Polar Science Program

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

NAICEX 2013: Introducing the Team - Professor Gina Henderson

Greetings all!

Prof Henderson in west of Ireland

My name is Dr. Gina Henderson and I am very excited about my imminent departure to Barrow, Alaska this coming Thursday as part of the NAICEX 2013 team.  Growing up on the east coast of Ireland, my interest in climate and weather was awakened from an early age having been exposed to the elements through outdoor pursuits including sailing, travel, and hiking. However, I am both excited and a little nervous to experience the extreme conditions in Barrow and out surveying on the ice!

I am an Assistant Professor in the Oceanography Department at the U.S. Naval Academy. Here, I teach courses in climate science and climate change, physical geography and atmospheric processes. My research to date has focused on land-atmosphere interactions using computer climate models, understanding the role of snow cover in the hydrologic and global climate system, and the influence of such elements on atmospheric circulation and climate change. Having utilized snow and ice data records for many years in my research, I am very excited to get my ‘boots on the ground’ so-to-speak, and be involved with the collection of data for a change.

Looking forward to sharing our team’s experiences with you all over the next 10 days. Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 4, 2013

NAICEX day 1

Recued van and sunrise above Barrow

First full day in Barrow! LCDR Woods started it very early due to switching time zones and at 5 am he was already rescuing IceKid from the -50F wind chill. Then on the way to breakfast we drove into a snow-drift that piled up outside our hut during the night and we couldn't drive out of it. First a guy in a bucket loader tried to move the snow and when that didn't help we had to call for help and got pulled out by friends from UMIAQ.

We found out that it had a shorted USB connector to the cameras... not to mention that we did not have a battery lead (forgotten to pack at USNA). Luckily Eskimo friends gave us a hand and we were able to create that part in the local auto-store, NAPA, after miraculously finding a part in the Polaris snow-machine store. We also did some very expensive grocery shopping. While at the local market, some Natives showed us their original crafts made of of whales' baleen and polar bear teeth and fur. Richer in a Wolf Scare, baleen knife and few more baleen plates with drawings we came back to NARL to do some more work on the IceKid.
The Northern Lights Restaurant

IceKid troubles
We finished the day with the University of Delaware group at the Northern Lights - where you can get pretty good Korean food above the Arctic Circle.

You would think that it was a pretty relaxed day but if you take into account the amount of stress we had with the IceKid and the fact that everything runs on Barrow time - it was quite successful!

See you later!

Can we go back to the van?!

LCDR Woods on the beach

                             U-Del student Jesse Samouk getting his Srping Break tan on
Our USNA gnom - meet Frosty

Sunday, March 3, 2013

NAICEX 2013: Introducing the Team - Dagmara Broniatowska

Hello everyone!

I'm Dagmara Broniatowska, friends call me Dee. Like everyone else, I'm a senior at the Academy and I'm an exchange student from Poland. I was born in Warsaw, Poland, lived for few years in Moscow, Russia and I've joined Polish Navy right after high school in 2007. After two years I was selected to participate in the exchange program at USNA and chose Oceanography for my major. When I graduate I will be going back to Poland to get my masters degree and then off to the fleet.

It was my dream to go to the Arctic ever since I've heard about the USNA Polar Science Program when I was still in Poland. I'm very passionate about the role of the Arctic in climate change and I'm very anxious to experience that harsh environment on my own. I'm not gonna lie, even though I'm a skier, I always get super cold so this is definitely going to be a challenge for me. But anything is better than the hot and humid East Coast!

I'm actually on my way to Barrow right now with LCDR Woods to prepare everything for our experiment. We are 24h into the trip and already had bunch of adventures with our almost 800lbs gear load.
Hope you guys will follow our trip and enjoy the daily posts!