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UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA FAIRBANKS | INTERNATIONAL ARCTIC RESEARCH CENTER

October 8 – All hands on deck

Our adventures continue onboard the R/V Polarstern. During the past two weeks we spent a significant amount of time surveying the region for a suitable ice floe with the help of satellite images, the Akademik Fedorov and helicopters from both ships. A ‘suitable floe’ is one that would support not only the science in terms of available space but also the weight of some of the installations. The piece of ice to which we are currently moored has some of the attributes we are searching for, although we would prefer it to be thicker. Much of the ice we found is 15-30 inches thick but also contains areas that are significantly thicker, i.e. ice that survived this past summer (3-4 ft). We searched for the thicker ice so that we could be sure that when dragging heavy equipment across an ice floe it wouldn’t be lost accidentally through the thinner sections. We haul heavy loads with a Piston Bully and super wide track snow machines. Other equipment such as the helicopters were essential for selecting a floe and have now become even more essential as they lift some of the heaviest equipment off the ship to the more remote sites in the (central) observatory surrounding the ship. 

The area surrounding the ship is called the central observatory and will be protected for 8-9 hours per day by polar bear guards so we are free to work within that area without having extra protection. Other sites outside of that protected area will require us (scientists) to act as our own guards. In addition to guards on the ground, we will also have watches on the bridge of the ship. The bridge is also equipped with three scanning infrared cameras for use during the polar night. These cameras scan the ice floe for heat signatures and will alert us to the presence of bears in the distance, hopefully before we can see them on the ground.

In recent days we have begun to build the power grid that will supply all the power to these remote camps (~1/2 mile). By build, I mean we have laid out the flagging, paths and roads as well as the tripods that will support the electrical cables. In addition, we have come to some agreements about where the various cities and sites will be constructed. Some of the sites surrounding the ship will have very specific scientific purposes and will be off limits to foot and machine traffic, one such area is the remote sensing site where processes will be monitored from afar. We will also have a site for a remotely operated vehicle site (ROV, under the ice), Meteorological city (i.e. Met city) and Ocean City where we will maintain access to the ocean inside a covered heated tent. In addition to these larger installations, we have numerous ice coring, snow sampling and smaller under ice installations (sediment traps, thermistor strings). [explore an interactive map of MOSAiC’s planned ice camp]

Late last week we did a test cast of the ships’ water sampling system (called a CTD). We collected water as well as general water structure data from the upper 1000 m of the water column. I collected water for nutrient analyses and have run the thirteen samples from the profile over the past 4-5 days to see how long they can be stored before the concentrations begin to change, something I may need to know when things get really busy around here. I will talk more about these data and how we collect and use them over the next few months. 

In the coming days we will begin the big push to construct the various infrastructure surrounding the ship. It will be all hands on deck to get it done before the Akademik Fedorov arrives to escort some of the installation specialists back home and leaves the R/V Polarstern to drift until mid-December when another ship will arrive to switch out scientists and crew.

Go back to MOSAiC expedition homepage.

  • A helicopter from Federov searches for a suitable floe. Alfred Wegener institute/Hans Honold.

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