October 24, 2019

Postcards from a frozen icebreaker – Part 6: cargo & polar bears

Posted by larryohanlon

By Matthew Shupe

10/9/19 A low spot

A bit of a frustrating day today, although perfect conditions outside. We have not had much organizational structure yet and this showed today. There was some planning, where we organized teams of volunteers to work on different tasks such as putting out power cable. But these teams did a great job of completing their work and there was nothing else staged or ready for them to do….. so a bunch of people, ready and willing to work at a crucial time for the project, instead went into the ship to drink coffee for hours. This did not sit well with me and my “happiness factor” was not very high as a result (I’ve been asking the ATMOS team to rate their happiness factor…. 1 to 10, to get a reading on how people are doing in general). I guess these are the growing pains of MOSAiC; figuring out how to organize such a large and diverse group of people with so much equipment crammed into every nook and cranny on the vessel. We will carry on of course, and get better about structuring our work.

Ocean City. After many preparations on board and shuffling boxes and cargo, Team Ocean has selected a site for Ocean City along a spine of solid ice approx. 80 cm thick, with enough area around for further installations. Oct 9 image by Alfred-Wegener-Institut / Esther Horvath (CC-BY 4).

10/10/19 Visitors

A much more productive day. The bottleneck had been getting cargo off the ship and onto the ice, so I took over the coordination of that today, and it really helped to have a scientific liaison to the crew to facilitate this process. The ship’s crew is great at their job, and can lift heavy loads with their huge cranes with high precision…. But they don’t necessarily know what needs to be moved and where. So with me effectively taking on the role of deckhand, we got tons of equipment and supplies put down on the ice to supply the working hands for the coming days. Then this evening the mom and cub showed up again. Meandering across the ice and right through Met City where we had been about 20 minutes prior. They walked the power line and messed with an ice sensor. Then across camp and over to examine one of our power boxes. They hung out right next to the ship, providing amazing photo opportunities… the cub still grunting all the time as it had before. These are the same bears that have been around both ships for the past week. And as cute as they are, we let them get too close and too comfortable with our presence…..


Polar bear guard. October 10 image by Alfred-Wegener-Institut / Anika Happe (CC-BY 4.0)

10/14/19 Exhausted

A few crazy days here with no time to write. Full speed from the moment I wake to the moment I pass out…. Dead tired. Polarstern has this central double stair way…. Up, up, up…. Down, down, down. It’s pretty steep and is quite a trudge for tired legs. Our last days have been spent focused on the build up of Met City, which will be a hub of activity for projects sampling the atmosphere out away from the influence of the ship. The Met hut, pre-fabricated, has now been assembled, has heat, light. This will be our home on the ice for the coming year, an outpost at the end of the ridge road that extends from the ship out along the outer wall of the Fortress. Met City has all kinds of fun science happening. The ARM program has spread out a bunch of instruments to measure radiation and precipitation. Ian Brooks (U. Leeds) has a couple of ground-based remote sensors for measuring wind profiles. Markus Frey (British Antarctic Survey) has rocket traps to catch blowing snow. We will be setting up more instrumentation in the coming days….. And we were visited by some colleagues from the Federov via helicopter. Tim Stanton, a collaborator on our NSF-funded ice thermodynamics and dynamics project, showed up with a team of installers to put in some ocean buoys. They are really an experienced group and it showed with their efficiency. Impressive to watch. Our Univ. Colorado Boulder / NOAA team has been working on our tower, getting the base installed was fun. Drilling holes in the ice to insert long 6×6’s along with some fresh water….. the fresh water will freeze quickly and solidly because the temperature of the salt water is about -1.8C. We put the base in and it was level in both directions. Added the water, and within a short time it was as solid as can be. Nice to have that in place.

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.