Archive for the ‘En route’ Category

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Coming home

September 27, 2012
Photo of two polar bears on an Arctic sea ice floe

Two polar bears rest on an ice floe in the Arctic Ocean. (Photo by Julienne Stroeve)

I was sad to leave the ice pack. On our way out, the large swells made for a special treat as the ice-covered ocean pulsed with the waves. I tried to capture it on video, but since the boat was also moving up and down, it’s hard to capture the scale of the movement. Naturally, once we left the ice, I was once again sea sick, though not like I was the first time out. This time it was a more general malaise. I slept a lot the first day back into the open ocean, lulled to sleep by the motion. But happily I was able to eat so overall felt much better. Spent more time on the deck outside, getting fresh air.

We arrived in Svalbard on the 17th of September.  We could see the islands off in the distance for several hours, and I spent hours on deck watching Svalbard get closer and admiring the views of the snow-capped mountains and glaciers. Longyearbyen was our final stopping point. It was great to step foot back on solid ground that evening, and we spent a few hours at the 5 or so pubs in Longyearbyen. The next day I tried to go for a hike with a couple of folks from the boat, but since we didn’t have a gun, we were advised not to leave the city limits. The hill outside of town that we were hoping to climb to had a fatality last year by a polar bear, so we wisely turned around and walked around the town instead. Would love to come back to Svalbard though and do some hiking and camping. I admire the folks though that live there year around, winter is long and dark there.

Looking back it was an amazing experience. It’s always great to have a chance to see in person what you’re studying.  So much of my time is spent in front of the computer analyzing satellite data. It gives me a new perspective. I will be looking into more detail as to why the satellite data was suggesting there would be quite a bit more ice than I saw out there. The Arctic Ocean recorded the least amount of September ice this summer, at least since 1953 when we have reliable observations. The thin, first-year ice we mostly encountered is certainly behind the continued ice loss each year. As the Arctic loses more of its store of old, thick ice, that is replaced by thinner, first-year ice, summers like this will become the norm.

Climate models all suggest that the Arctic will eventually be open water in summer as the planet continues to warm from increases in greenhouse gases. The dates as to when this will happen are continually being revived in the models, with the models now saying sometime around 2050. Yet the ice loss we’re seeing today is still happening faster than many of the models can capture. So perhaps the Arctic will become ice free during summers even sooner. It’s hard to imagine that animals like the polar bears can adapt to such quick changes in their environment. I felt lucky to see as many bears as I did (6 total). I can’t imagine an Arctic without ice and bears.

I hope that doesn’t come to pass.

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Pancakes

September 9, 2012

It’s anticipated that we’ll reach the ice edge at 4 a.m. LST on Monday morning. We are currently at 80.99N, 29.99E. We saw our first sea ice today: pancake ice. Not much though, just five small floes within about a three-mile radius. Air temperature was at 3 degrees Celsius, and conditions have been foggy since yesterday. There are four helicopter flights planned tomorrow if the weather permits. I will be on one of those flights out to a multiyear ice floe, which we plan to land on. KT19 is working fine and collecting SSTs. The ship’s crew has been extremely helpful getting everything set up. Seasickness has finally subsided.

Location: 80.99N, 29.99E

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On our way

September 5, 2012

A helicopter lands on the deck of the Arctic Sunrise before the ship sets sail for the Arctic. (Photo by Julienne Stroeve)

Woke this morning at 1 a.m. and didn’t fall back to sleep until about 4 a.m. when another crew member knocked on the door to wake my roommate for her early morning watch. Everyone goes to bed and gets up at different times on the ship, as watch duties are rotated throughout the night. Though we haven’t left port yet, routine has begun.  The next knock came at 7:30 a.m., just when I was sound asleep.  Okay, so maybe it will take another day before I’m on European time. Keeping my fingers crossed. Could be tonight I’ll just pass out from the meds I’m going to take to help with the sea sickness that will likely happen as we head out into the rough waters. My last post said four-foot swells, what I meant to say was four-meter swells.  That’s a bit more extreme.

Everyone is now on the boat. Met the scientist from Cambridge University, Nick Tolberg and his technician. They will be deploying some buoys to monitor wave activity in the ice pack.  Nice to have another scientist on board.  We also have two journalists with us, Camila Alves from OGlobo in Brazil and John Vidal from the Guardian in the United Kingdom.

Was able to go on a nice walk to town before the helicopter arrived at 4 p.m.  The helicopter is now secured to the boat and we’re ready to fuel up.  Keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll get a chance to fly out on the helicopter over the ice – that will make for some nice filming of the ice conditions.

Lots of anticipation for tonight’s journey.  The chef is cooking up some Thai food to celebrate.  I wonder how spicy food will go with wave motion. Hmm, guess I’ll know soon enough.

Next posts will come via satellite phone. They will be short, but will update on ice and weather conditions when I can.

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Stuck at port

September 4, 2012

Up at 3 a.m. – seems the usual wake time my first night in Europe. I’m sort of relieved we are still going to be at port today. September 4 was originally our departure date, but it’s been postponed until tomorrow. Part of the reason for the delay is that the helicopter has not yet arrived. Another reason is the weather. Waves larger than 4 feet mean this small ship will be tossed around quite violently. The crew keeps mentioning how sea sick most people get on the Arctic Sunrise. At the briefing today more mention was made of sea sickness – now I’m starting to get worried. I brought along the patches, I hope they work!

Today it’s been raining on and off all day. I spent part of the day setting up the radiometer for measuring sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and making sure everything was working. So far so good! Haven’t installed it yet on the rail of the ship since the conditions during our passage will mean the instrument will be wet the entire time. I’ve been told it will take about three days to get to the ice edge. I hope at some point conditions will be better so that I can collect some SSTs.

One thing I will be doing before we are able to get physically onto the ice is making two hourly Ice Watch observations from the ship’s deck using Ice Watch software from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. This will involve recording the ice concentration and type of ice types encountered. First-year ice will be determined from multiyear ice primarily on the basis of topography. I will also try to estimate the fractional areas of melt ponds (mostly frozen melt ponds), sediment-laden ice and biologically rich ice. In addition to the ice observations, photographs and video taken from the ship will help to further characterize the ice conditions. After all the talk about sea sickness I’m not too psyched for the journey out to the ice, but really looking forward to getting to see it!

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Arrival in Tromsø

September 3, 2012

The ship wasn’t easy to spot since it is not very large. (Photo by Julienne Stroeve)

I arrived in Tromsø around 2 p.m. I was expecting someone to meet me at the airport to bring me to the ship, but no one was there. Luckily Tromsø is a small town. Hailed a taxi and headed off towards where I thought the boat may be.  The ship wasn’t easy to spot though since it was not very large.  A quick phone call once we arrived at the port was all that was needed. When I got out of the taxi, a crew member helped me get settled in. Looks like I was the first non-crew member to arrive.  The others should arrive tomorrow, including a scientist from Cambridge University.

I got settled into my berth (#8), which I am sharing with another young woman from Holland who is here for her first time to work as a deck hand. The weather was cloudy and cool (in the 40s), a bit of a change from our unseasonably warm weather in Colorado. Tomorrow I will get my equipment up and running.  Dinner consisted of lots vegetarian options, perfect!  It’s 8 p.m. and time to try to catch up on sleep and beat this jet lag.

Location 69.67947o, 18.99595o

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