Wrapping up field work

The last few days of fieldwork were reserved for finishing up mapping of marine terraces, organizing, labeling, and packing samples, and taking one last unsuccessful stab at collecting live deepwater clams.  The weather has been warm and sunny with a light breeze – allowing some of us the unique experience of visiting Ingøya’s lighthouse.  Much discussion took place about next year’s field campaign – what worked well this year and what didn’t.  The trip back to the US started with the southbound Hurtigruten from Havøysund all the way to Tromsø.  On Wednesday we began our journey home by air and arrived back late Wednesday night.  For now, its back to the basement for these researchers!

If you haven’t had a chance to check out Dan Frost’s blog, please do!

Also, Randall Hyman’s second of three Discover Magazine online blog posts is up.


Aubrey sorts and labels beach-collected shells


Southbound Hurtigruten


The crew and gear await the Hurtigruten


Fog rolls in – view from boathouse


Lighthouse at Ingøya


View West from lighthouse


View South-West from lighthouse




The samples have made it safely back to SIPERG lab!

Two little clams

Yesterday and part of today were dedicated to deepwater dredging. Erlend, Maddie, and crew set out for the small shelf break northeast of Ingøy. Thorleif, Al, and crew headed for deeper areas east of Ingøy we dubbed “the bowl.”


(far) Erlend’s boat, (near) Thorleif’s boat


Erlend phones the coast guard

On the way to the shelf break sites, Erlend called the coast guard to inquire about fishing activities in our target area at 90-130 fathoms. Unfortunately, crab traps were set in the exact spots we had identified as potential habitat for Arctica islandica. We headed west a bit to avoid the traps, but a couple of dredge hauls came up with small to medium stones – not the right habitat. We then tried a couple of spots above the shelf break and closer with no luck. After 7 hours and no luck, we headed back to base camp.

Thorleif and crew had slightly better luck dredging closer to Ingøy. A few dredge pulls at 90 fathoms brought up several dead shells and two small live Arctica islandica. Dredging became more difficult throughout the day due to interference from tidal currents at the sea bottom. We revisited the location this morning and were able to bring in more dead shells but no live ones. Interestingly, the live shells we collected appear to be about 10 or more years of age yet they are quite small compared to the shallow water 10 year-olds. This is because less food makes it to the seafloor in deeper waters, meaning slower growth for deepwater clams.

Two little clams from deepwater

Two little clams from deepwater

While there was some disappointment that we didn’t bring in a larger number of live clams from deepwater, it is a significant step forward to have only collected two. We are now confident they are there and simply need to narrow in on the population. It requires some luck, and with the knowledge we have gained, we know we’ll get there. Some dredge modifications and slightly different sampling strategy will improve our chances next year. Also, Thorleif is interested in keying in on the population as well and will continue looking for them after we leave.


Erlend monitors the dredge as it is pulled up


Erlend preps the line at dock


Thorleif monitors the dredge operation

ISO Deepwater clams

Al, Maddie, and Michael accompanied Captain Thorleif today in search of deepwater clams.  Winds were low and weather was good.  We left base camp before noon with a few spots in mind headed toward the northeast.  Thorleif is the true expert when it comes to these waters and we must follow his guidance.  Thorleif and others have brought up clam shells caught in their gear in the past.  His life-long experience makes him wiser about bottom type and depths in the area – just the kind of information we need and can’t necessarily find on a map. Furthermore, he is just as eager to find the clams as we are – it is a bit of a hunt and a challenge for him!

By 12:30pm we had the first dredge pull at about 30 fathoms. Fishermen here, and in many other parts of the world including the Gulf of Maine, only work in fathoms. One fathom is 6 feet or about 1.8 meters. Our target depth for collecting material is 200 meters, but Tholeif suggested we try some shallower sites first. After about 4 hours, we had dredged 5 times in all (actually, the 3rd dredge got stuck right away so it doesn’t really count). Each time we pulled up the dredge we only brought in a handful of material, mostly stones and empty shells, a few of them Arctica islandica. The video below shows the dredge being brought up.

Lots of discussion took place on board and a plan was laid out for tomorrow. We’ve enlisted the help of Captain Erlend and his boat for a “divide and conquer” strategy. We have two large dredges, one for each boat, so we will be able to try many different spots. Additionally, we will be heading out a little earlier in the morning to take advantage of the slack tide. Captain Thorleif suspected that some of our trouble today may have been the outgoing tide interfering with our dredge, preventing us from achieving a steady drag along the bottom. We have two more days to find live material at depth – our hopes are still high!

Unfortunately, Al’s clam dance didn’t bring us any luck.


Al and Michael wait until we are in position before dropping the dredge overboard


The dredge is tied to the deck of the boat


Morning discussion about sampling strategy with Captain Thorleif


Calmer waters today


Al, Michael, and Thorleif sort through our meager catch

Shallow water site: good progress!

Between today and yesterday we collected a lot of shell material that washed up onto the local beach. This “gold mine” of samples will be used to extend the live-caught chronology that Maddie has been developing. We found about 100, well preserved, dead shells near the 6 meter depth site. We will use radiocarbon measurements from these shells to estimate the century in which they last lived. With the process of crossdating, these shells will be linked with the 100-year live caught master shell chronology, using the unique bar-code-like growth pattern in each shell. We intend to establish at least a 400-year master shell chronology to chronicle the changes in ocean currents, namely the Norwegian Coastal Current, and seawater temperatures at this northern site.

Maddie Mette happy as 100 clams.

Maddie Mette happy as 100 clams.

To our delight, Fulbright Scholar Randall Hyman published the first of three Discover Magazine blogs highlighting this work. For this article, click here (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/fieldnotes/2014/08/21/dead-clams-talking-reading-past-climate/#.U_Yf2kgTDVg).To learn more about Randall’s photojournalistic work in the Arctic, click here (http://www.randallhyman.com/).

Search for deepwater clams begins tomorrow:

Michael Carroll, Maddie Mette, and Al Wanamaker have consulted the sediment and bathymetric maps in search of deepwater clams with Captain Thorleif. The purpose of these deepwater clams will be to detail the impacts of the North Atlantic Current on the regional oceanography and climate near Ingoya. Interestingly, the North Atlantic Current flows beneath the Norwegian Coastal Current at a depth of 150 meters or more. Thus we need to establish both shallow and deepwater master shell chronologies to develop a more complete understanding of the relationships among the shell records and large-scale climate.







A day on land

IMG_1463Strong winds kept us out of the boats today (Wednesday).  The day was not wasted, however, as there was plenty of work to do on land.  Rob and Irene worked on servicing the benthic lander.  The lander contains an array of clams connected to gaping sensors to monitor their activity, as well as a myriad of environmental data loggers.  Rob and Irene downloaded data from their instruments, measured shell growth on the lander clams, and replaced a few clams with younger individuals.  Younger clams are preferred because they grow faster – shell growth will be easier to measure in the future.

Meanwhile, Will, Al, Mike, Julie, Maddie, Aubrey, Dan, and Randall piled into a van and drove to the beach where Mike and Julie had done reconnaissance the day before.  The primary goal was to collect clams from the beach face which might cross-date into the modern chronology.  When we reached the beach, we discovered the strong winds and waves had piled up all the shells into nice little deposits – perfect for sorting through.  It was a gold mine! We selectively collected the largest, thickest, best preserved shells with the most potential for long, clean records of shell growth.


Shell pavement near beach face, and a water sample that will be used for an isotope mixing line.


Pile ‘o shells on the beach

The shear number of A. islandica shells found washed up on the beach is just one indicator of the healthy population just offshore. On the walk back to the van, Mike toured us through the terraces, storm deposits, lag deposits, and blowout features present above the beach.


The aftermath of the king crab feast

Upon returning to camp, Thorleif suprised us with some king crab caught on the eastern side of Nordkapp. “Kong Krabb” were introduced there and are now an invasive species. The crab fisheries west of Nordkapp is unlimited, in an attempt to limit the spread.


Tide pool near base camp


Blue mussels on the shore near base camp


Blue mussels – we collected some of these and steamed them up for an appetizer


Sunset from base camp


This empty shell was brought up in a dredge. Note the borehole near the hinge made by a predatory gastropod.


The “little dredge.” For use on the small boat in the bay.


The small boat


One of the “big dredges.” These are too large to pull up by hand and so are limited to the big boat and pulled up by a winch.


This is base camp. Our apartments are on the second floor.


Mike, Will, and Al discuss beach deposits


Geese block the road home


Al poses with the king crab

The action begins…

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Michael, Maddie, Irene, and Randall in the small boat

Tuesday began with much excitement.  We had to get ready quickly as the good morning weather was to be followed by strong winds blowing up out of the East.  Michael Carroll, Maddie Mette, Irene Ballesta, and photojournalist Randall Hyman left dock at 10:30am in a small boat intent on collecting clams from the shallow (6 meters depth) bay.  Irene will bring these samples back to the Netherlands to carefully measure their body mass and other parameters.  Irene’s project explores the dynamic energy budget of A. islandica, in other words, how the clams use energy throughout the year for tissue growth vs. shell growth vs. reproduction and how it relates to environmental variables such as temperature, salinity, turbidity, etc. The shells from this project will then make their way to Iowa State University, where Maddie Mette will examine the shell growth increments in more detail. Maddie’s project involves cross-matching shell growth records to create a multi-century Master Shell-Growth Chronology (similar to how tree-rings are studied) as a way of reconstructing sea surface temperature and salinity beyond the instrumental record.

Two dredge pulls produced 50+ individuals, enough to fill our research needs for the shallow-water site. We were surprised to have collected two juvenile clams (4 to 5 annual markers were visible on the exterior). Usually these individuals are not large enough to stay in the net that is connected to the back of the dredge. They are particularly useful for two reasons: 1) they indicate the population here at Ingøy is healthy and recruitment has most certainly occurred in recent years and 2) by microsampling the carbonate material from these specimens, we can get a very high resolution oxygen isotope record to match to our temperature and salinity data.

The “big boat,” operated by our camp host Thorleif, set out a couple hours after the first crew and contained Alan Wanamaker, Aubrey Foulk, Will Ambrose, Rob Witbaard, and Dan Frost. Their mission was to retrieve the benthic lander (think lunar lander) that contains live A. islandica attached to gaping sensors (more on this later) as well as the observational buoys that have been recording temperature and salinity every 30 minutes for the past 2 years. Winds started to pick up around 2pm, so both crews headed back to camp pleased with the day’s progress.


The “big boat” heads towards the observational buoy

A third crew traversed landward to the beach near Tower Bay, the bay where the boat action was happening. Michael Retelle, accompanied by Julie Retelle, began the reconnaissance mission to sort out the post-glacial history of the island through mapping of the raised beaches and other geomorphological features. Later in the week, more of us will visit the beach to collect fossil shell material for future projects. Tomorrow is likely another stormy day. We will all probably hunker down for more planning and discussion.


Tower Bay


The “big boat”


A sunken boat in Havoysund


Irene next to the benthic lander


A church in Havoysund, wind turbines in the background


Dan takes some shots en route to Ingoy


Aubrey and Al en route to Ingoy


Maddie and Aubrey in Havoysund


Maddie poses as a hand model


A large (likely more than 100 years-old) A. islandica next to two juveniles

Arrival on Ingøy!


Lugging our gear from the Hurtigruten to the Masøyespressen

The Hurtigruten dropped us in Havøysund (translates to “sea island sound”) where we spent the day waiting for the Masøyespressen ferry to take us to Ingøy. After carrying all of our gear to the ferry, we parked ourselves in a nearby hotel lounge/restaurant to talk science for a bit, leaving time to explore the beautiful town.

Wind turbines on Havøysund

Wind turbines on Havøysund

Arrival on Ingoy at 6pm. The picture below shows the cabins we stayed in last year – this year we are staying in the boathouse apartments (pictures to come). Not much to do that evening so Julie and Irene prepared dinner and we all celebrated our arrival!

The geese in these picture were hatched this spring. They are being raised for food.