Expedition Diaries 2015

Day 3

Age-old stations

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On July 3 the significant work on board the research vessel was held on the stern. At 1 am the hydro-meteorological department started works on one of the age-old stations. It sounds impressive and probably even scary, but actually it is just an almost straight line along which the vessel is moving from one shore to another. There are stations along the line which have been settled long ago. If we speak about the White sea, the stations there were defined in the 1960-s. So the “age-old” adjective doesn’t mean that the work has been conducted in this area during ages, as we already know that it started about 50 years ago. The meaning is different: these stations are supposed to be monitored for a really long periods of time, probably even during centuries. This is an important condition for a relevant data base creation, so it is crucial to conduct meteorological, oceanographic and hydro-chemical measurements here annually.

The stern is the most stable part of the vessel, so we can find there two laboratories, a windlass with the help of which both the motorboats are heaved off for landings and a special hydro-meteorological probe, also known as a rosette with bathometers.

For non-specialists, the probe looks like a combination of a birdcage and a revolver, but the birds or bullets are substituted with bathometers – plastic containers aimed at sea water sampling from different depths, or horizons. The rosette is lowered into the sea and then lifted back to the deck. Water samples are collected into special containers for further dissolved oxygen, pH-level and isotope analysis. Besides, other meteorological measurements are taken at each station: water salinity and water temperature, the direction and velocity of wind, the air humidity and cloud percentage. The water is warmer and less salty at the top, and closer to the bottom it gets colder and more salty. The mean depth of the White sea is only about 90 m. But some stations in the Zimnegorskiy cape and the Ivanovy Ludy Islands area have the maximum depth for this part of the sea – about 300 m.

Next stations will be in the White sea throat (the narrow part of the White sea, close to the border with the Barents sea) between the Intsy cape and the Pulanga cape. And the third group of stations is situated between the Kanin Nos Cape and the Svyatoy Nos Cape.

The head of the hydro-meteorological department and the deputy head of the expedition for science Olga Balakina is planning to cover all the stations by July 5. The total amount of stations is about 45. Olga says: “It is really not that much, in comparison with our previous expeditions when we had to conduct works on 150 – 200 stations. But this time we have a bit different tasks. More landings are planned. That is why we will cover only age-old stations in the White sea and on our way back we will work in another 7 stations which belong to the state network to monitor the level of pollution in the Dvina gulf”.

Underwater farmers 

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Anna Amosova is a post-graduate student from NArFU in the specialty “physical chemistry”. The theme of her thesis is the study of polyphenolic substances in the Arctic brown alga (polyphenolic substances are also very strong antioxidants and that is why they play a very important role in medicine). Anna hasn’t slept for almost 48 hours because before water sampling she was involved in brown alga collecting. This is her fourth AFU expedition. During the first two she studied chemical composition of sea water, then she switched to algae and now she tries to combine both, of course focusing more on her thesis theme.

Anna says: “Previously we collected alga everywhere, both in the sea and during landings. But soon we realized that the White sea brown alga contain the largest amount of biologically active substances. And if we speak about the White sea, the most valuable both in scientific and application terms are the alga collected in the Solovki area”.

Anna works not only on her thesis but also on the scheme of brown alga complex processing. Though the Arkhangelsk region is one of the leaders in this sphere in the world, but a large amount of alga chemical components are still not taken into account, including polyphenolic substances. And now it is really important to extract all possible biologically active substances from this material. And it is necessary to properly separate them from each other. For instance, chlorophyll and carotenoids are mostly extracted together. Chlorophyll and carotenoid mix is made of them and it is used for feeding animals. But if we manage to properly separate the extracted elements, then we will be able to switch to drug manufacturing.

The day before in Solovki 2 kinds of laminaria, fucus and askofillum were collected. Now, they are hung to dry in a special container on the stern.

The fate of endothelium

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Speaking about medicine, this is the first AFU expedition which includes the medical department. Its task is to find out what influence high latitudes have on the human body and on endothelium (the inner side of blood vessels) in particular. The endothelium alteration leads to atherosclerotic vascular disease, atherotrombosis and later to heart attacks and strokes. The medical department is equipped with a brand new method of defining blood vessel reaction to compression. The whole method is called “Endopad”. This is an Israeli non-invaisive research method which seems to be suitable for severe Arctic conditions. The equipment was specially provided for the AFU expedition by the Israeli company “Intomar” to the Northern State Medical University represented in the expedition by Nadezhda Vorobieva, professor of the department of clinical pharmacology and drug treatment of the Northern State Medical University, director of the Northern department of haematological scientific center of the Russian Public Health Ministry.

The research already started before the expedition. 24 participants of the expedition were examined with the help of “Endopad”. On board the vessel the research started on July 3. During the day 10 people were examined including three crew members. The examination takes 15-20 minutes and is absolutely safe. After the examination you can either continue your research or go to the common room and attend lectures. Today the lectures were on Arctic biology, ornithology, as well as Russian Arctic exploration.

Those who have taken part in the research before the expedition will undergo the follow-up examination on July 11 to check how their condition has changed in severe climate of high latitude, tossing, insomnia and, probably, stress. And those who started taking part in the research only in the expedition will be invited to undergo standard lab tests on return to Arkhangelsk to compare the results. 


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