INTERNATIONAL ARCTIC RESEARCH CENTER — UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA FAIRBANKS

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September 6-9- ice and birds

September 6

Just as I was getting ready to go to bed last night I heard the ‘hit the ice rumble’ but this rumble was louder and lasted longer. When I looked out the porthole all I could see was ice. Even though I was exhausted I bundled up and went up to the helo deck. I couldn’t believe it! There was so much going on it was hard to focus on one thing- the noise of ice cracking and scraping, water slushing, waves lapping, wind howling… And, to think how excited I was when I saw a few ‘bergy bits’ float by. Nothing prepared me for the experience of watching the ice break, not photos, videos, or reading about it. I was awestruck at the magnificence of the experience. After hanging out on the helo deck I went to the bow and as far as I could see, there was ice. This IS the Arctic! I then went down to the fo’c’sle deck, the deck below the bow helo deck, because it is a little more protected from the wind. This deck is enclosed with several rectangular open spaces like windows. This is one of my favorite places to hang out, especially when the ship is pitching, going up and down the swells. I sat behind the open ‘window’ in the middle called the Panama lead. (The Panama lead is used when the ship needs to be towed or lead somewhere. This hole is where the rope or steel wire goes through.) I just listened to the icebreaker doing her job. The rumble was almost deafening. I finally went to bed. When I woke up this morning the ice was gone. It was magic!

NABOS is busy with their second transect. We are headed east passing the New Siberian Islands on our port side.

Yesterday there was an ‘ice’ meeting with Co-Chief Scientist Ben Rabe (TICE). One of PhD Student Jakob Belter’s (sea ice physics) many jobs is working with maps. For this particular project, he is helping identify an ice floe for the location of the ice stations. The purpose of this project is to measure things on, above, and just under the ice. Instruments will be deployed to understand seasonal variability of ice related processes in the transpolar drift between the Laptev Sea and Fram Strait. Surveys of the snow and ice thickness will also be taken. This data is important because even though TICE would like to collect data every 1-2 years, this doesn’t always happen. Ben is expecting some really “cool data”.  There is a similar project happening at the North Pole. Like a lot of other projects and research that is going on during the cruise, this project requires a lot of helping hands. Depending on weather and visibility, the working day could be between 12-15 hours long. If visibility is bad and the crew from the bridge can’t see the operations, the expedition members go back to the ship. For safety reasons, there are two trained hunters for the polar bear watch. To help with the bear watch, expedition members volunteer to be on the bridge for one-hour shifts. There is a special spot for bear watching, and binoculars are used. There are two ice stations, and tents are set up if it is cold and/or windy. A snow machine is used to help carry heavy equipment to the stations. First, a small group of team members will set out to secure everything before everyone else heads out. Ben went over a few safety procedures including reminding crew not to walk anywhere no one hasn’t walked before. And, these ice stations are for work, not ‘tourism.’ He will go into more detail about safety procedures when we are closer to the project site. At the end of the meeting, a list was made for those interested in collecting ice cores, snow, brine, or anything else.

Birds!!! I finally found someone to help me identify and provide photos of some of the birds we have seen so far- Simon Hummel, a sea ice and ocean engineering student. I will be posting photos and information about birds starting with the ones we saw at the beginning of the cruise.

Black-legged Kittiwakes were spotted on August 19 and 20 while we were sailing on the Barents Sea. Genus rissa: Kittiwakes are coastal breeding birds that form large, dense, noisy colonies during the summer reproductive period, often sharing nesting ledges on sea cliffs with murres. Colonies may contain a few to tens of thousands of kittiwakes. Rissa derives from rita, the Icelandic name for kittiwakes. Kittiwake imitates the Black-legged Kittiwake’s call. Black-legged Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla, (three-toed kittiwake). Black-legged Kittiwakes nest during April-July on sea cliffs in the circumpolar region, including Russian arctic islands. They forage at the sea surface, mostly by day, feeding on fish, squid, polychaete worms, euphausiids (krill), and amphipods. They also follow ships and scavenge at fishing trawlers.

Rosetta Update: Yesterday, Rosetta moved from behind her tent (home) back to her comfy corner on the left-hand side below the porthole. She is snuggled under the paper. Today, she moved back to her tent. Simon put her on the honey hoping she would eat a little bit. Not only did she eat, she divided the honey into little bits and ate for about 2 1/2 hours!

Breakfast: semolina porridge, ham and cheese

Lunch: rassolnik (barley, pickle) soup, cod au gratin, rice and vegetables

Tea Time: syrniky (cottage cheese pancakes), honeydew

Dinner: stewed beef with mushrooms and pasta


September 7

The ship is humming. Scientists and students are trying to collect as many water samples and get as much work done as possible with the limited amount of time they have. We are still heading east in the East Siberian Sea.

Student Spotlight: Today, I would like to highlight two NABOS team members, PhD students Naeun Jo and Kwanwoo Kim, both are focusing on biochemistry and studying at Pusan National University in Korea. They found out about NABOS from one of their professors whose professor participated in a previous NABOS cruise. Neither Naeun nor Kwanwoo had been to the Arctic Ocean, but Naeun has participated in research on Korea’s east coastal sea, and Kwanwoo has done research in Antarctica. Naeun is interested in the biochemical composition of phytoplankton. Kwanwoo usually studies the relationship between phytoplankton and the edge of first year sea ice and the intermediate water before the ocean floor.

Their main focus on this cruise is the primary productivity of phytoplankton. Phytoplankton includes microscopic algae. What is primary productivity? Primary productivity is the measure of photosynthesis in the ocean and directly relates to climate change. It is difficult to measure photosynthesis because there is not a lot of plant life (algae) in the arctic water. Some questions of interest are: Does algae grow fast? Slow? What is the rate? To catch the process in the most natural way would take volumes of water. Since this is not easily done, a photosynthesis ‘station’ is set up to mimic the natural environment. Photosynthesis is how the ocean absorbs carbon from the atmosphere. The three crucial components of photosynthesis are temperature, light and nutrients. To get close to the natural environmental condition of the ocean’s water surface temperature incubators were created. Two incubators were set up on the aft helo deck. One is a small blow up swimming pool and the other one is a clear plastic container, both filled with water from the ocean. The water sat for a couple of days so it could adjust to the atmospheric temperature which is close to the ocean’s water surface temperature. Next, tape was put on bottles allowing certain percentages of light to filter in- 100%, 50%, 30%, 12%, 5% and 1%. Then, water collected at targeted depths from the CTD is put in the different bottles and tracers are added, C13 and N15 (inorganic food). What is a tracer? An example of a tracer is:  Put a set amount of food (tracer) in a refrigerator and keep track of how much food you eat and how much weight you gain in a week. C13 and N15 are the inorganic food (tracers) the algae eats. C13 is not pure carbon, it’s normal chemical stuff we use in our lives like baking soda.  And, N15 is not pure nitrogen. The algae take C13 and N15 as food and it is incorporated into their bodies.  Algae is a chemical species that contains and needs both carbon and nitrogen to grow. After the tracers are put in the bottles, the bottles are placed in the incubators for 3-5 hours. When the bottles are taken out of the incubators the water is filtered to collect the algae. The filters with algae, some wrapped in foil, are put in the freezer for future research. Naeun and Kwanwoo are studying the relationship between the warmer water temperature and the size of algae. This is interesting research because we want to get a global measure. This research has been done all around the world, but the Arctic is the last spot to be studied. How does the Arctic Ocean absorb carbon? The Arctic Ocean is the missing piece of the puzzle.

An extra thank you to Marine Ecologist Vasily Povazhnyy (the cool copepod guy) for helping me to understand primary productivity.

Birds! The Parasitic Jaeger, Stercorarius parasiticu (parasitic skua), was spotted on the White Sea after leaving Arkhangelsk on August 18. The Parasitic Jaeger pirates food from other birds; and also feeds on seabird eggs and chicks, and small rodents. Their flight is light and twisting, especially when in pursuit of other birds. They nest near breeding colonies of arctic terns, kittiwakes, and auks. (The Arctic Guide, Sharon Chester)

Rosetta Update: Rosetta is back in her favorite comfy corner taking a nap.

Breakfast: porridge, ham and cheese

Lunch: chicken vegetable soup, Hungarian stew, buckwheat, and red cabbage

Tea Time: hot dogs

Dinner: chicken breast au gratin, fried potatoes, and coleslaw


September 8

I woke up to two of the three islands in a cluster that are a part of the New Siberian Islands- Henriette and Jeanette Islands. We passed Bennett, the third island, very early this morning. Bennet Island is the most northerly of the New Siberian group. The Fram, the ship specially built to put to the test the polar drift-theory proposed by Norwegian explorer and scientist Fridtjof Nansen, was intentionally frozen in the ice not far from Bennet Island. The Fram drifted from September 1893 – August 1896. These islands are significant because Nansen’s transpolar drift theory was based on the three-year drift of the Jeanette after it got stuck in the ice and relics were found across the world on the southwest coast of Greenland. The Jeanette was commanded by American Explorer George Washington DeLong. DeLong’s dream was to lead an expedition to the North Pole by way of the Bering Strait (between Alaska and Russia). The Jeanette left San Francisco on July 1879, stopped at St. Michael’s, then headed northward through Bering Strait toward Wrangel Land. The ship got stuck in the ice and drifted northwest past Wrangel Island, which they didn’t realize was an island. They thought it was a mass of land based on previous navigational records. After 20 months of drifting, on May 16, 1881, Jeanette Island was spotted. “What a poor desolate island….”, according to DeLong. Just after Jeanette, Henriette Island was seen, another barren speck of rock that supported a spreading ice-cap. The day after seeing Henriette Island, June 11, the Jeanette sank. Thirty-two men set out on foot, with the equipment and gear they unloaded from the ship. They reached Bennett Island on July 29. After resting for ten days they headed for the Lena Delta. Even though the story has a tragic ending, new land and islands were discovered and charted (To the Arctic! by Jeannette Mirsky).

Expedition crew members’ birthdays are special occasions on the ship. They are celebrated with a traditional Russian cake made by the chef. The cake has multiple layers of thin pastry dough with layers of custard and fruit. The cake is very popular because we don’t usually have dessert on the ship.

We are headed southeast for more CTD casts.

Birds! The Glaucous Gull, Laurus hyperboreus (gull of the Far North) was spotted between August 19-22, while we were on the Barents Sea. The Glaucous Gull nests mainly north of the Arctic Circle (~66.5˚N) May-August. They winter along seacoasts from southern parts of breeding range south to California, Florida, France, China, and Japan. They feed on fish, insects, mollusks, starfish, eggs and chicks from other birds, small mammals, carrion, trawler discards, seeds, and berries (The Arctic Guide, Sharon Chester).

Rosetta Update: Rosetta flew from her comfy corner to the edge of the porthole. After hanging out there for a little bit, she flew back to her tent. She spends most of her time sleeping.

Breakfast: oatmeal, ham and cheese

Lunch: borsch, beef stroganoff, rice, garlic bread, and pickle carrots

Tea Time: yogurt, apples

Dinner: beef, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw


September 9

We have hit thicker ice, but still lots of open water. Mamma and baby polar bear tracks, and a seal nose were seen this morning. We are headed northeast for more CTD casts.

The ship ran out of fresh fruit, lettuce and tomatoes.

It is so strange, as mentioned before, our night time lasts about four hours and it is in the middle of the day!

Student Spotlight: A quick shout out to the four Master students from the Saint Petersburg University’s Polar and Marine Research program (POMOR)- Ksenia Simonova, Nadezhda Zakharova, Valentina Kubova, and Yana Kirichenko. They are the young ladies that have been scurrying around the ship, working behind the scenes, and giving much needed helping hands to the scientists. What a treat talking to these soon to be scientists! The common thread in the conversation was the enthusiasm and passion for what they are studying and for their experiences onboard the Akademic Tryoshnikov.

*The name POMOR was chosen because of the indigenous people who live in the northwest part of Russia, on the shores of the White Sea, where Arkhangelsk and the Kola Peninsula are located.

Ksenia studied environmental science for her undergraduate degree. When asked what she found exciting about this cruise, she said, first of all, it is not just a trip to the Arctic, but being onboard a ship is exciting. Before, she had only taken the ferry from Stockholm to St. Petersburg. She is also in awe of the colors of the sea, and that there is nothing on the horizon. What surprised her most are all of the comfortable things on the ship, including the sauna. She said it was nice sitting in the sauna with the ship gently rolling. The most shocking moment for her was when there was so much fighting over the water samples- “I need 9.75 liters”, “I need 2.2 liters” (This water is precious because it isn’t too often the scientists are in this part of the Arctic Ocean). The whole cruise has been exciting for her, especially seeing a rainbow in the fog, with small pieces of sea ice floating in the ocean.  Ksenia will study in Rostock, Germany for six months next year.

Nadezhda studied biology of soils and ecology for her undergraduate degree. She is really impressed that people really like to talk with each other. There are many things to talk about with the young people. She is excited about living with Ksenia, Valentina and Yana. They all share a roomy cabin and are constantly joking around, telling jokes, and thinking of new ones. Working with Vasily (Scientist Spotlight, Sept. 4) has helped Nadezhda improve her filtration and sampling skills. She commented that the food is very good, especially the stuffed peppers, and vegetarian soup. After seeing how beautiful the ice is, she is looking forward to seeing more ice and polar bears. The beds are very good and comfortable, not at all what she expected. She likes all the wood in the cabins, the bed, desk, and wardrobe. Her description of the ship is a ‘good hostel on the sea’.  Nadezhda will study biology in Bremen, Germany for six months next year.

Valentina studied environmental science for her undergraduate degree. Her first impression of the cruise is not what she expected. She explained that she has studied everything, seen pictures of scientists and their work, and you have something in your mind, but the reality isn’t the same as your expectations. The reality is even greater. Having seen the arctic, she is looking forward to studying it. With everything she has been exposed to on the ship, she feels like she can pick a topic and start investigating. Now that she has experienced the arctic she feels like she can make some contribution to polar research. Valentina will study in Kiel, Germany for six months next year.

Yana studied environmental geology for her undergraduate degree. This is the first cruise she has been on, and she is excited about everything. It is the farthest north she has been. It is also her first time in the arctic, the first time seeing icebergs and sea ice; and she hopes to see polar bears. The most important part of the cruise for her has been meeting a lot of scientists, and seeing their real work. The experience has been so inspiring, and she is looking forward to working with the scientists. She hopes in the future she will have the opportunity to take part in different cruises. Yana will study in Kiel, Germany for six months next year.

Birds! The Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis (foul gull of the ice, foul referring to the musky odor) was spotted between August 19-26, while we were on the Barents and Laptev Seas. They nest May-September in burrows on sea cliffs of the northern oceans. They feed on fish, squid, and plankton taken at the sea surface. They only lay one egg at a time on inaccessible cliff faces. (The Arctic Guide, Sharon Chester)

Rosetta Update: Rosetta is back in her lovely left-handed corner taking a nap.

Breakfast: fried eggs and bacon

Lunch: Solyanka (salami, olive, and pickle) soup, lasagna, and carrot slaw

Tea Time: pastries, fruit juice

Dinner: fried chicken, mixed vegetables, and purple cabbage

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