The Nansen Legacy Project Blog

Spotlights shining into the dark from RV Kronprins Haakon.
Spotlights shining into the dark from RV Kronprins Haakon.

Tales from the deep

Published
RV Kronprins Haakon's position on November 18th, 2019
RV Kronprins Haakon's position on November 18th, 2019

The hull emits a deep rumble as the research vessel RV Kronprins Haakon moves through the sea ice in the northern Barents Sea. Bright beams of light shoot into the winter darkness, drawing up large, white ellipses where they meet the surface of the ice. Scientists and personnel from seven research institutions are participating in a cruise to an area that rarely gets human visitors during this time of year.

The Barents Sea is a remote place, far north on the continental shelf towards the Arctic Ocean. Nevertheless, is is strongly influenced by the global circulation which transports water, heat and nutrients through the world's oceans. Currents from the Atlantic bring warm water masses into the Barents Sea from the southwest, and as a result, there is rarely much sea ice between Bear Island and the northern Norwegian coast. Further north, in the area east of Svalbard where the ship is currently at work, the ocean is generally colder and often covered by sea ice. As a result, doing research in this area poses significant challenges, and only icebreakers can work in this area throughout the whole year.

Ocean mooring being deployed by personnel from the Norwegian Polar Institute and the Institute of Marine Research. Instruments mounted on this mooring will provide information about e.g. ice thickness, ocean currents, temperature and salinity.
Ocean mooring being deployed by personnel from the Norwegian Polar Institute and the Institute of Marine Research. Instruments mounted on this mooring will provide information about e.g. ice thickness, ocean currents, temperature and salinity.

There is a calm, cold quiet in the darkness outside, but aboard the ship there is bustling activity. Data collection, planning, assembly of equipment, and analyses of water samples go on around the clock. There are few existing measurements from this area during the winter season, and the cruise participants are eager to collect as much data as possible. Acoustic transducers mounted in the hull, and instruments which are lowered down into the deep, collect information about the ocean directly below the ship. In addition, ocean moorings are deployed in key locations on the sea floor so that researchers can study variations in the ocean over longer time scales.

The RV Kronprins Haakon steams northward, leaving a gash in the ice cover which will soon close up again. Simultaneously, hundreds of meters below, instrument sensors activate and begin collecting data. Until they are recovered a year from now, we can only guess what these instruments will tell us about their time deep down below the ice.

About the blog

Welcome to a journey through the Arctic!
This blog is writtten by researchers and participants linked to The Nansen Legacy Project.
They will share their experiences and knowledge from research cruises in the Barents Sea.
The research vessel F/F «Kronprins Haakon» gives unique opportunities to explore the rapidly changing climate and ecosystems in the Arctic.
To ensure a sustainable management of the Northern Barents Sea and the adjacent Arctic Basin throughout the 21st century a new knowledge base is required.

(Top picture: Christian Morel / www.christianmorel.net / The Nansen Legacy)