November 16, 2019

Postcards from a frozen icebreaker – Part 9

Posted by larryohanlon

By Matthew Shupe

10/20/19 Mellow at Last?
In our daily all-hands meeting last night I was on autopilot. In my mind it was time for an ATMOS team meeting to check in on installations, achievements, and needs. So I scheduled this for 8:45, right after the routine 8:30 check-in for daily activity schedules. But then it dawned on me….. “I’m probably driving people too hard here. Tomorrow is Sunday, people are tired, and everyone needs a break.” So I corrected course and put off the meeting until 11am at least (to some audible happiness from the back of the room). Thus, today, with the first planned activity not until 11am, and not much activity in general, this made for a bit of a lazy day, an opportunity to catch up on mellow. This was actually great for me as well, as I hadn’t been paying attention to the overall exertion, and exhaustion. Out here it is so easy to get caught up in the work. It is never quite clear what day of the week it is…. Or really even what time it is. Now it is pretty much full darkness all day, and each day is just about the same. We are here to make measurements continuously, and thus there is some effort needed every day just to keep us moving forward.

Polarstern in the ice. Alfred-Wegener-Institut / Esther Horvath (CC-BY 4.0)

10/22/19 The Transpolar Drift
It has been windy out lately. And the thing about wind is that it gets us moving. The ice has been trucking along quickly to the north, and with the recent drift we have finally moved north of our original installation position and are now on our way towards the North Pole. For a while there we were a bit nervous about the southerly drift or our first couple weeks. Of course we knew that eventually things would turn around, but it still felt strange to be headed in the wrong direction, towards Siberia, for so long. But now it finally feels like we’ve made our way into the Transpolar drift, starting to move towards our final destination on the other side of the Arctic.

Setting up the remotely operated vehicle for underwater surveys (ROV) site before the ice began to drift, necessitating equipment rescue by helicopter. Alfred-Wegener-Institut / Marcel Nicolaus (CC-BY 4.0)

10/23/19 Deep Cold
We’ve been doing a lot of detail work on our met tower, final checks before we raise it. Little nuts and bolts, setting anchors into the ice, taping up cable connectors….. all of these things require some level of fine motor skills. Thin gloves are sometimes useful, but often when it comes down to it, bare hands are the most effective approach. If you can get the job done in half the time with bare fingers, sometimes it is worth it. But temperature management becomes a more serious issue then. Hands frequently in and out of pockets or bigger gloves. We luckily have a warm “Met Hut” nearby to warm and prepare the next set of nuts and bolts or whatever the task. Without that, the approach would have to be much different, and would take much longer. In the last days, my fingers have been very cold a few times. Always in control, but cold. And combining this with the dryness, the little cracks in the skin on the sides of my thumbs, leads to sore hands.

The “Remote Sensing Hut” appears in the background of this image focused on “Ocean City.” an image of the Met Hut is to come. Alfred-Wegener-Institut / Esther Horvath (CC-BY 4.0)

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: and @MOSAiCArctic.