UW News

December 18, 2014

Oceanography undergrads blog from Vancouver Island

UW News

Twenty-four UW oceanography students are aboard the UW’s large research vessel, the Thomas G. Thompson, taking measurements off Canada’s west coast for their senior-level research projects. They left Thursday, Dec. 11 and will get back Sunday, Dec. 21.

students on ship

Oceanography students on the deck of the UW’s large research vessel, the Thomas G. Thompson.

The trip takes them to Nootka Sound, a complex inlet off the west coast of Vancouver Island. UW oceanography professor Charles Eriksen is leading the 10-day expedition. Also aboard are oceanography faculty members Julie Keister, Miles Logsdon and Julian Sachs. They will collect seafloor sediment and water samples, measure water properties and map the seafloor along a remote and rugged section of coastline.

Bryan Swaffield, UW senior, wrote in his Dec. 14 post:

The morning sun rose up and over the heralding cliffs that surround the pristine waters of Nootka Sound. It was a clear morning, and conditions were calm. The storm had continued farther inland, and only a few straggling clouds remained. The region was more picture-perfect than most imagined. Steep hills encompassed us at every turn. Beautiful evergreen trees lay tall upon their faces. Seagulls flew overhead to say a swift hello before returning to their daily activities.


The UW’s large research vessel, the Thomas G. Thompson, in Nootka Sound.Kathy Newell / UW

Students will look at whether carbon dioxide is produced or used up in Nootka Sound, a fjord surrounded by forest. They will also search for effects of a large pulp mill that closed 25 years ago, and see whether any traces remain in the sediment. The group will measure how winter storms mix freshwater and saltwater inside the fjord, and create the first seafloor maps of the area using modern mapping equipment.

The students are lowering large sampling equipment off the main ship and venturing out in a small boat in groups of five to sample in nearby waters. Read their blog to see more photos and get a taste of life at sea: beautiful scenery, changing weather, hard work, and lots of games of crazy eights. See all the posts here.