September 23- ice is nice … and it’s getting darker

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The further west we go, the longer it is staying dark. It is now dark between about 2:30 – 13:30 (1:30 am). There is cause for more celebration, NABOS and CATS completed their last CTD cast today. There were a total of 138 casts, ranging from 60 – 3,000 m (197 – 9,843 ft.) I am sure the water samplers are ready for a well-deserved break.

The least amount of Arctic sea ice is found in the month of September. This is a common time of year for polar oceanographic research to be taking place in the Arctic because both ice and open water are needed.  It is the end of the Arctic summer and there have been noticeable signs of winter coming. I mentioned some ice terms on the August 26 blog entry. I would like to add a few more.

The buzz words this morning are grease ice and nilas.

New sea ice begins to form when the ambient temperature drops to about -1.9˚C (28.5˚F). A thick layer of free-floating ice crystals, or frazil ice, forms on the ocean surface. This congeals into a gelatinous slush called grease ice, which may contain frothy white ice clumps called shuga. Grease ice resembles an oil slick, hence the name. In calm seas, grease ice solidifies into thin, unbroken sheets of ice, or nilas up to 10 cm (4 in) thick, that eventually form a solid layer of new ice up to 2 m (6 ft) thick — (The Arctic Guide Book, Sharon Chester)

We are seeing a lot of grease ice. It is really fascinating because it is thin slushy ice that moves with the swells but is flexible enough that it doesn’t break up. (see photos)

Toward the end of oceanographic cruises, it is common for some expedition members to give presentations. Last night, Chemical Oceanographer Mats Granskog from the Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI) gave a presentation on the Norwegian Young Ice Expedition (N-ICE) that took place in 2015 on the research vessel Lance. The NPI sponsored the multi-disciplinarian expedition which involved scientists from varying scientific institutes from around the world. The focus was to purposely have the RV Lance get stuck in the ice north of Svalbard and drift toward the Fram Strait. They were on the ice from January – June researching the physics, biology, chemistry, meteorology, and oceanography of the atmosphere, ice and ocean of this particular polar region. Matt shared beautiful and informative photos from the expedition that were projected on a wall in the hangar. It was the perfect location because it felt like a movie theater. Everyone made themselves at home by sitting on crates, boxes, camping chairs, and tables. We were only missing popcorn!

  • Breakfast: eggs and bacon
  • Lunch: Solyanka (pickles, olive, salami) soup, lasagna and cole slaw
  • Tea Time: pastries
  • Dinner: stewed chicken and boiled potatoes