Irminger Array Successfully Turned 8th Time

The Irminger 8 Team successfully wrapped up the eighth turn of the Global Irminger Sea Array on 26 August when the R/V Neil Armstrong docked in Reykjavik, Iceland. After a few days of demobilization, the 10 members of the science party were free to head home after showing proof of a negative COVID test 72 hours before boarding a flight back to the U.S.

Chief Scientist John Lund led the science party of 10 in completing all of the expedition’s objectives. Over the course of 26 days at sea, they recovered four moorings and deployed four new moorings in their place. The team also deployed three gliders—two Open Ocean and one Profiling—and recovered a glider that had been in the water since 2020 and whose battery supply was rapidly depleting.

The Irminger Sea presents challenges of high winds, strong waves, and icebergs as shown here with the R/V Neil Armstrong in the foreground. Credit: drone video, Croy Carlin SSSG.

One highlight of the trip was engaging in scientific outreach with a class of fourth graders. The team connected with the students while out on the open ocean via Zoom. The oceanographers aboard the ship each had a chance to share what it’s like being on an oceanographic voyage and explain the purpose of the different instruments and sensors on the arrays. Another highlight of the expedition was the OOI team’s ongoing collaboration with OSNAP (Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Program). While OSNAP participants were not onboard the Armstrong as in the past, their shore-based presence was clearly in evidence.  Expert hydrographer Leah McRaven worked with the onboard team to adjust CTD (Conductivity, temperature, depth) sampling to ensure that new CTD equipment was calibrated and sampling properly.

The science team also added a novel twist to the regular shipboard sampling that supports field calibration and validation of the platforms and sensors in the arrays. During Irminger 8, the shipboard team worked with OOI’s onshore data team to make collected CTD data available online in near real-time. As an added bonus, McRaven shared her insights about CTD sampling in regular blog posts here.

The Irminger 8 Team took full advantage of being in this critical ocean region, which is sensitive to climate change. During transit from Woods Hole to the array, off the southeast coast of Greenland, the team deployed surface drifters and ARGO floats for the Greenland Freshwater Project, which is studying the impact of freshwater runoff from Greenland’s melting ice sheet on the North Atlantic and Arctic climate. The team also deployed a biogeochemical ARGO float for the Global Ocean Biogeochemistry Project, and took a series of CTD casts on behalf of OSNAP, to add to long term data collection efforts in this critical region. In addition, the team deployed two RAFOS floats for the Madagascar Basin Project to measure deep water circulation and 15 Sofar Spotter buoys to measure wind, wave, and temperature data.

“In the ideal, science is a collaborative process,” said Chief Scientist John Lund. “During transit time to and from the array, we were able to help our scientific partners get their equipment in the water. The data provided will help advance understanding of this critically important region, which is equally difficult to sample. The region has high winds, large, steep waves, strong currents, icebergs, and consequent equipment icing.”

Given the challenges of the ocean environment at these latitudes, the eighth turn of Irminger Array included equipment improvements. The newly deployed surface moorings included wind turbine modifications to help it withstand strong, volatile winds, and it also incorporated other structural modifications to strengthen the mooring, while easing refurbishment. Similarly, design modifications were made to the subsurface moorings to help ensure consistent, long-term data collection.

The team experienced some of these challenges of high winds and strong waves while on the cruise, but the rough conditions were compensated by the gorgeous scenery of the region. Added Lund, “One afternoon, the sun came out as the ship transited further up Prince Christian Sound. Everyone was awed by the beauty of the landscape. We saw glaciers, icebergs and the occasional whale.”

Prior to leaving the Sound, the team secured all the items for the transit to Reykjavik, the demobilization of the ship, and finally the journey home to Woods Hole.