Hunting moorings in the dark
– fieldwork in the polar night
On the JC2-2 cruise we are visiting the deep basins of the Arctic Ocean. The goal of my team is to conduct experiments with animals from the bottom of those basins, which means keeping deep, Arctic animals alive. If deep-sea diving is an extreme sport, then this is definitely extreme science.
The Arctic Ocean is composed of different layers organized on the vertical, and these layers have different temperature and salinity properties. A cold and fresh surface layer caps a warm and salty layer of Atlantic Water. The heat contained at depth (about 300m) in the warm and salty Atlantic Water could melt the entire Arctic sea ice cover if it reached the surface. It does not happen because the cold surface layer caps this Atlantic layer quite well and keeps it at depth. However, in some regions, such as north of Svalbard, sea ice melts in summer even though it is -30 outside. How is that possible?
Large trawlers are pulling tons of fish out of the deep Central Arctic Ocean. Our cell phones are powered with rare earth elements from the seafloor underneath the North Pole. The ice-free Arctic allows much shorter delivery time of shipped goods from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Coast guard ships dot the vast Arctic coastline and fleets of submarines survey the chilly waters. Will these scenarios soon be a reality? To some extent some of them already are.
The point of putting a lid on a cooking pot is to prevent the transfer of heat and moisture between the boiling contents and the air above. When you remove the lid from a boiling pot, heat and water vapour flow upward into the air, along with chemical compounds filling your kitchen with the (hopefully) promising smells of an upcoming meal.
Our scientific crew of 35 people for the Nansen Legacy cruise JC2-2-Arctic Basin will spend five weeks onboard the Norwegian icebreaker and research vessel Kronprins Haakon, with departure on Thursday 24th August 2021. Cruise leaders are Agneta Fransson (NPI) and Bodil Bluhm (UiT).
Waves marching through the sea ice is an amazing view. It is as if a white, snow-covered landscape suddenly starts gently undulating, the solid ground dancing rhythmically. The waves’ wildness from the open sea is tamed and dampened by the ice. Yet, the waves’ energy can break solid sea ice, greatly affecting sea ice drift, formation and melt. Hence, waves in ice are an important - yet not well understood - factor in the arctic physical environment.
For the first time in my life I am going to experience Phytoplankton blooming in Arctic. The vessel is soon ready to take us on board, and we are currently sitting in isolation at beautiful Sommarøy. My thoughts now are on the journey. How will it be?
The ocean is not as endless as we often think it is. It is actually divided into different domains and regions, ranging from the freezing cold polar waters to the hot tropical regions. Within each of the domains, species have evolved to deal with the challenging conditions within their home domain.
Imagine yourself lying on your back in a forest on a sunny spring day watching upwards to the tree tops. Warm rays of sunlight falling through the canopy warm your face and the song of birds echo in the distance. Now imagine all the tree trunks, branches and twigs are gone and just leaves floating lofty above you.
From the last time we collected water, I took a drop to check under a microscope, to get an insight into what is hiding. But no, no universe here. Nothing that swam, floated or hovered. No signs of spring bloom. But then, suddenly, in one corner of this drop I found something. A solitary microalgae, alone in this vast drop universe.
Here on RV “Kronprins Haakon” in the northern Barents Sea we are our own tiny world, living and working together in a bubble almost completely remote from our regular world. In our microcosm we are reminded that we all have to have some place to live, and to also understand how it works, so that the system we live in functions well.
Hello from another fine day from the largest research vessel in Norway - Kronprins Haakon. After having a delicious pizza lunch on board today, I came up to the 7th deck (yes that’s right, this boat has 10 decks), to write this blog in the conference room – a nice, cozy room with a great view. How is a girl from the south of India where winter is 20 degrees, surviving up here in the Arctic, you ask?
On 9 February, R/V Kronprins Haakon departs on a winter process cruise to the Barents Sea to track and measure important processes taking place in the ocean during wintertime. This cruise is led by UNIS professor Frank Nilsen and part of the Nansen Legacy project – Norway’s biggest research project to date.
In times of climate change and retreating sea ice, important research questions are for example: How important are sea ice algae as a food source for organisms such as copepods, krill and fish? Are they affected by the sea ice retreat and if so, how will that affect the functioning of the Arctic ecosystem?
Imaging driving with an open cabriolet car at 90km/h inside a gigantic freezer box at -25 degrees C with all windows opens. This does not sound comfortable and most people would not be part of such a situation voluntarily. But this has been the conditions we had been facing for the first days of our Q4 expedition.