Clean, pack, ship!

bottle

Bottles are prepared for mercury sampling in a Class 100 Clean Laboratory which offers a particle-free environment. In the final cleaning step, bottles are rinsed with ultra-high purity water (MilliQ) and sealed inside two plastic bags to prevent contamination during transport and handling.

See that little calendar in the right panel?!? Time is flying by and in just two months we will begin our expedition into the Arctic Ocean. I’ve been busy preparing everything we’ll need to analyze mercury in the ocean over a two month research cruise – this includes packing scientific gear and instruments, calculating and ordering all of the chemicals and compressed gases we will need in the lab, and most importantly assuring that all of our supplies and regents are free of contamination.

Team mercury will use 500 sample bottles made of glass and different types of plastic during the Arctic expedition. Many of these bottles will be re-used as samples are analyzed at sea, and some will be shipped home in coolers for later analysis. Bottle cleaning is one of the most important steps when analyzing trace amounts of mercury in seawater. The bottles are soaked for 12-18 days in strong detergent and different acids to remove organic and metal contamination from the manufacturing process. Cleaning with acid not only removes contamination, it also saturates sorption sites and prevents mercury in the sample from sticking to the bottle walls.

Our gear now sits on wooden pallets in a giant warehouse, awaiting a few more supply orders and any last minute additions. Next week the pallets will be shipped to Seattle, Washington where we’ll catch the ship (U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy) at home port to load gear and start setting up labs. The science crew will fly home from Seattle and meet the ship again in August at a port in Dutch Harbor, Alaska to begin our journey.

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