October 19, 2019

Postcards from a frozen icebreaker – Part 4

Posted by larryohanlon

By Matthew Shupe

10/2/19 The Decision

We now have a decision. Overnight we moved the Polarstern and Akademic Federov together away from the floe and lifted key personnel from Akademic Federov over for a meeting to discuss collective findings. Science and ship leadership from both sides, sitting around a large circular table in Polarstern’s blue saloon. A sharing of results…. Diagrams, measurements, interpretations. We all had similar experiences….. very thin ice, lots of frozen over melt ponds that had been melted through, generally small floes…. This is the new Arctic: thin and fragile. Except that we had found the Fortress. After some relatively quick discussions of options, all agreed that the Fortress is likely the best option to support a year-long project. So after not that many days and ahead of schedule, we’ve made a decision. It’s a trade off, of course. Big, gnarly ridged area was not really in the plan! But this gives us the best chance to complete a full year in the ice, and that is one of the most important details. We actually need to be here if we want to learn anything! And I think there is important science that can be supported by this floe. The contrast between the new Arctic and old Arctic, sitting there for us to explore. Embedded in this one floe, we have the old Arctic giving way to the new, juxtaposed on this, our MOSAiC floe.

Captain Stefan Schwarze and Lutz Peine First officer on the bridge of Polarstern while approching Akademik Federov. October 2 Photo: Alfred-Wegener-Institut / Esther Horvath Grote (CC-BY 4).

10/4/19 Arrival

The journey from our rendezvous with Akademic Federov was quick. A couple hours only. Coming back to our floe was exciting. Evening. Dark. Breaking through different types of ice. We were headed towards a waypoint on the navigation system, but this is hard business because the waypoint is based on ice maps that are some hours old, and everything has been drifting along. As we approached, the captain eventually took over controls from the first mate and ramped up the speed. A bit surreal. On the lookout for anything recognizable. Waypoint getting closer. Anticipation building. Down to ¼ mile and we are flying along at what seems like a very fast speed to me. There, off to starboard, are the flags we put down by the gateway to the Fortress. Flying by quickly! Hit the brakes! We barreled into the floe, just south of the gateway, eventually coming to a stop on a thick chunk of ice….. one nice relic of the ice floe overturned right next to the ship. Must be about 2m thick. I’m feeling energized and nervous already about the state of our floe and where we have parked. Spent the next couple of hours studying our surroundings, figuring out where we were in our maps. It seems clear that we ended up just outside of the Fortress’ outer walls. The captain is happy to be embedded in the floe. Markus is happy. So here we are….. home in the MOSAiC floe.
[no images available Oct 4 :(]

10/5/19 Exploring the floe

Markus, Marcel Nicolaus (AWI scientist, co-lead of MOSAiC), and I went out to explore our new home. Traversing across the ridges form the ship over to the outer wall of the Fortress. Clearly more stability over there, about 200m from the ship. The exploration went well, and was so exciting. It’s like checking out a new home. We used this special map created out of laser scanner information taken from a helicopter survey. It is awesome! Such high resolution that you can make out all kinds of detailed structures and features in the surface. What would Nansen think of such new inventions? I’ve been obsessed with these maps, identifying our locations and drawing in our plans. People are making fun of me for constantly having a map in my hands….. but this is the process of our “move-in” on the ice and it is time to be quick and effective. Our trip helped us set up the general concept for our installations, but now comes the more challenging part of implementing.

Green flags are used to mark the walking path around Polarstern. October 5 Photo: Alfred-Wegener-Institut / Esther Horvath (CC-BY 4).


Read more of Shupe’s posts here

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.