The Nansen Legacy Project Blog

Nicholas Szapiro is an Arctic weather researcher at The Norwegian Meteorological Institute. He is currently onboard FF Kronprins Haakon on a cruise around Svalbard.
Nicholas Szapiro is an Arctic weather researcher at The Norwegian Meteorological Institute. He is currently onboard FF Kronprins Haakon on a cruise around Svalbard.

From tornadoes in Oklahoma to Arctic survival training

Published

This is my first research cruise. I am an Earth system modeller from Oklahoma in the USA, a place more famous for tornadoes, dust bowls, and climate change denial than worries about ocean heat transport and changes in sea ice cover. I hope you can join the three-dozen of us crew, engineers, and scientists through daily snapshots of moments along this cruise around Svalbard.

Because I'll be away for a few weeks, I spent most of the weekend working. Debugging atmosphere-sea ice model simulations and reading about the Barents Sea. Phone calls with family are further reminders to make this time and effort worthwhile. After a few hours sleep my duffel bag,backpack and I are on our way through the falling snow in Oslo to the airport.

Everyone on the ship must have certificates for a recent health check and survival training. If someone falls overboard or there is a severe accident during the cruise, we may have to float in icy Arctic waters and wait for rescue. The first advice is to prevent any accidents. The second is to understand the immersion suits. Reducing exposed skin, not floating upside-down, a flashing light and whistle, and the steady bites of cold are stark reminders of the extreme environment that we go to experience.

There is a nervous energy, individuals finishing work before deadlines and making preparations before the cruise leaves. Strangers joining together. We want to meet our responsibilities and make fruits from this opportunity. Some are novices wondering whether they will make mistakes that could have been avoided. Others worry about the mercy of circumstance: Will there be thick, large sea ice floes over the next few weeks that prevent the recovery of some moorings?

About this cruise: The area near Svalbard is central to where Atlantic water flows into the Arctic. This transport of heat is a main factor in the environment, with influences on sea ice cover, carbon fluxes, and the ecosystem. Especially at depth, these ocean circulations are sparsely observed. On this Nansen Legacy cruise, we will recover and deploy in-situ ocean profiling measurements some of which have been fixed to the ocean bottom for years. A hope is that by better understanding the dynamics of the past and present we can better predict the future of the Barents Sea under a changing climate.

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)