October 25, 2019

Postcards from a frozen icebreaker – Part 7

Posted by larryohanlon

By Matthew Shupe

10/15/19 Cracked up

The last days have been beautiful. Actually quite light out, although the sun had been below the horizon for about a week now. The sky is a sunset of color most of the day. And there have been relatively few clouds, giving a nice view of the sky….. and the full moon! Large and bold. Arctic full moons are so amazing, really bringing out the deep purple in the surrounding sky. The moon has been tugging on the ocean, leading to big tides that cause our drift trajectory to oscillate, and this causes the ice to have a lot of pressure in different directions and at times to open. Right now there is a fantastic array of leads around Polarstern heading out forward of the ship and to its port side. Fortunately we are mostly working on starboard. I had a totally new Arctic experience today. Standing out at Met City working on our tower…. Chatting for a few minutes with colleagues and then grumble. Our world shifted underfoot. We looked at each other, not sure if we were experiencing the same thing, but indeed the three of us standing there all felt the same thing; we could see it in each other’s eyes. And then, underfoot, a small crack formed, we watched it move its way across the surface and off into the distance. Over the following couple of hours it slowly widened, eventually getting to about 5cm across. Such a cool experience, to feel and see the ice changing! But, this crack will pose a big challenge for our met tower as we intended to install a guy line anchor in that ice that is now on the other side of the crack. With an anchor in place, if the ice were to move away it could simply pull the tower down, or bend it in half. Clearly something to be avoided! So this may delay our tower raising…. At least until we are convinced that the ice is stable.

Perhaps the biggest activity of the day was a crack that passed right next to the eleven-meter tower installation at Met City – the center of the meteorological measurements on the floe. Matthew Shupe felt this crack happen around 2 PM, a grumbly noise and the ground moved, then a crack slowly started to open about two meters from the met tower. The crack grew to about five centimeters by the end of the day. Cracks like this are the results of the constantly moving ice floe we live on and it will be closely monitored. October 16, 2019, Matthew Shupe/CIRES

10/16/19 The sky

Wow, the sky continues to be a big highlight these days. And that big moon lighting up the sky. From the vantage point of Met City, my home on the ice 500m from the ship, the moon approaches the ship as we are heading in for dinner. This is a truly amazing scene. 5:30pm. Fully dark. In the distance Polarstern ablaze with light, looks very cool by itself. But floating overhead is the nearly full moon. Occasionally some ice crystals floating in the air to give everything a shimmering feel. And Met City is peacefully quiet, away from the noises near the ship. Just the sounds of the wind through the ice-scape. This is our little corner of this Arctic paradise.

Full Moon over Ocean City. Alfred-Wegener-Institut / Markus Rex (CC-BY 4).


Cable recovery. A ridge formed between Polarstern and the ROV Site and buried parts of the power cable. In the evening we recovered the cable between the ice blocks of the ridge and with some intuition, we pulled back the cable out of the newly formed ridge. Alfred-Wegener-Institut / Stefan Hendricks (CC-BY 4).

10/16/19 Met City taking shape

Progress at Met City has been good in these last few days. The ATMOS team has been in a groove, getting many things finished for the people that will be leaving tomorrow with the Akademic Federov to go home. Our met tower is mostly functional, although still laid down on its side. The whole installation is taking shape now and is comprised of a truly exciting collection of measurements that nicely complement those made onboard Polarstern. We gave a tour today to a few journalists from Akademic Federov and I was constantly struck, as I explained our instruments to them, by how complementary and well-designed the measurement suite is. Over the course of these many years of planning we actually have done a great job of coordinating a fantastically comprehensive research program.

October 17. Twenty-three participants departed from Polarstern to join Akademik Fedorov for the return trip to Tromsø and 18 participants from Akademik Fedorov moved onboard Polarstern. After this exchange we are now a complete team for the remainder of Leg 1 and also completely left alone. In addition to personnel exchanges, scientific equipment was shifted between the two vessels using helicopters and snow mobiles. Akadomik Federov makes his way to the ice edge and Polarstern stays alone at the MOSAiC ice floe. 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.