Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sikuliaq (“Si-COOL-i-ak” - Emphasis on the COOL!)

R/V Sikuliaq breaking ice in July 2015
Let me tell you a little bit about our home for the next few weeks, the R/V Sikuliaq.  Sikuliaq is actually an Inupiaq word meaning “young sea ice,” which is fitting because the Sikuliaq is not technically an icebreaker, but it is ice capable, which means that it can break some thin or “young” ice, but not thick multi-year ice.  It can break 3 feet of ice, and we are definitely testing that today as we are crunching our way to the site where we are going to deploy an array of hydrophones.

The Sikuliaq is operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks on behalf of the National Science Foundation, and her home port is Seward, Alaska. The Sikuliaq is a brand new ship that just left the shipyard last year, so it has all new state-of-the-art equipment.

At 261 feet long, the Sikuliaq is a pretty big ship as far as research vessels go. The main level of the ship is mostly outdoor deck space, which is great for doing moorings and storing big equipment.  There is also a main lab, a wet lab, a computer lab, an analytical lab (for chemists and biologists) and a Baltic room, which is kind of like a big garage.  They have a great heater set-up in there for when you’re cold on deck and need to warm up quick! 

On the next deck up are the galley (kitchen), mess (dining room) and the lounge, as well as the science berthing. There is berthing space for 24 scientists, and since there are only 12 of us in the science party on this cruise, it is nice and roomy.  The next two floors are berthing spaces for the crew, and then the bridge is up top.  The bridge is where the captain and the mates drive the ship, and it has the best view for watching the ice break.

Also, because the Sikuliaq operates primarily in the icy Arctic, it even has a sauna!  I haven’t tested it out yet, but I will.  Oh yes I will.

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