October 16, 2019

Postcards from a frozen icebreaker – Part 1

Posted by larryohanlon

Scientist Matthew Shupe (CIRES/University of Colorado Boulder) is blogging from an icebreaker frozen into Arctic Ocean sea ice, so far north that the Northern Lights are no longer visible. Shupe is co-coordinator of the international Arctic climate mission MOSAiC, or Multidisciplinary Drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate. Today, he’s among about 100 people aboard the German icebreaker Polarstern, which is frozen into an ice floe where it will drift until September 2020. Shupe, who also works for the NOAA Physical Sciences Division in Boulder, Colorado, began planning the mission more than a decade ago, with an expanding network of scientific leaders from around the world. In a series of short posts from the ship, he shares his experience during the first several weeks of the expedition, led by the Alfred Wegener Institute. Shupe is aboard AWI’s Polarstern until late December; he’ll return to the ship for at least one more two-month stint next year. U.S. funding for MOSAiC sciences comes primarily from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. Follow the expedition: https://follow.mosaic-expedition.org/ and @MOSAiCArctic.

9/21/19 First day at sea

A day at sea now. Tired. Perhaps it is part of getting my sea legs, and perhaps it is part due to sleeping 9 hours last night. First long sleep in a long time. Turned in early after our launch. No socializing. Feeling a bit melancholy. I think I haven’t yet processed the concept of being away for so long, not having normal life, family, other people…… just so much work for such a long time that I never processed it. And now feeling a bit of loss. All of this hard work for more than 10 years and now that whole part of my life is done. No more preparation for MOSAiC; now we are doing MOSAiC. This is what I’ve wanted, what I’ve been working for, but now oddly, I’m feeling a sense of loss over the “stress of preparation.” How strange.

Leaving Tromsø, Alfred-Wegener-Institut / Mauro Herrmann (CC-BY 4).

9/22/19 Angular and transforming

“Angular” and “transforming.” Amy Richman (a CU Boulder videography graduate student aboard) asked me today to describe the Arctic. Angular >>> so many facets of ice, surfaces, rays of light. Transforming because it is always evolving…. Melting, freezing, drifting, breaking, changing color. It is never the same, never static. Finding my way to a better mood today as well, but also feeling oddly lonely in spite of the many people crammed together in close proximity. The gym was mood-enhancing. A small space, but functional. The seas remain mellow as we cruise through the open Arctic Ocean. We cut through a little stretch of international waters today, and saw some fishing boats but now we are headed through Russian exclusive economic zone waters on our way to the Kara and then Laptev Seas in a straight line. Lots of discussion about the “science of our installation point” today, and the balance between science desires (we want to observe thin ice), and stability (thick ice, please!).

Photo: Juergen Graeser launches a weather balloon on the helicopter deck of Polarstern. September 22, 2019, Alfred-Wegener-Institut / Esther Horvath (CC-BY 4)

9/25/19 Enter Ice

Into the ice today. What a great feeling to be back here! It is always thrilling to cross the ice edge. Here it was very loose as the winds have been blowing “off ice” towards us for a couple of days. Little floes here and there with progressively more appearing on the horizon. And just to emphasize the splendor of the Arctic, a lone bear was there to greet us on a small floe. He then jumped into the ocean for a swim. Just fantastic as usual. My overall mood has improved. Time to settle, to find my space. To get my laboratory container organized. I seem to like order. And of course my mood is made better by the ice. Standing in the stiff breeze of the observation deck, wind so cold and strong that it takes your breath away; these are the times that energize.

Polarstern reaches ice edge. Alfred-Wegener-Institut / Sebastian Grote (CC-BY 4).


More of Shupe’s posts can be found here