May 26, 2020

Postcards from a frozen icebreaker — Part 23

Posted by larryohanlon

By Matthew Shupe

5/2/20 Quarantine
As quarantines go, it could be worse. Not that I’ve ever been in quarantine before. But here I sit in a modern and spacious (by European standards) hotel room. Full-sized bed. Couch. Working desk. And the best feature is a full wall of windows looking out the end of the room….. out over Bremerhaven, the Weser River, and out to the North Sea. Large ships sailing into port in the distance. The skyline of the Bremerhaven coastline. A canal with some ships moored to the docks. Cranes and wind turbines in the distance. And the daily flow of clouds coming in off the sea, bringing rains, reflecting colors of the day, controlling the lighting. Quite a mixture of the old and the new in my window scene. Bremerhaven is an old, important port city. When I lived in this area nearly 30 years ago it was run down…. In poor shape. But now there seems to be some rejuvenation. Modern buildings. The big “sail” hotel, which looks like a huge sailboat, stands proudly on the waterfront looking out to the North Sea. AWI [the Alfred Wegener Institute] also has a modern-looking main building. We have some time here. Time to allow any nascent infections to reveal themselves. We are on a delicate path here. One that must all but eliminate the risk of us carrying the virus with us out to Polarstern. Thus, it takes these days of isolation, and the full cooperation of the whole team that is assembled here to head out into the Arctic ice and carry forward the banner of MOSAiC.

During quarantine, Leg 4 participants were treated to a spectacular view from their hotel windows. Rainbows arch over Bremerhaven, Germany. Photo: Lianna Nixon/CIRES & CU Boulder.

5/4/20 All Negative
“Negative” usually carries a bad connotation. But not in this case. We’ve just received the great news that all members of the MOSAiC Leg 4 science party have tested negative for COVID-19. This is tremendous news and is the first step towards getting us successfully to the field to replace our Leg 3 colleagues. We still have further tests to go, and many days left in quarantine, but at least we are starting out in the right direction here. This virus is such a large challenge for the global community, yet we are determined to carry forward with MOSAiC in spite of the challenges. This is really our opportunity. The international research community will likely not be able to come together again like this any time soon…. We really have to carry forward with this unprecedented expedition at this crucial time. We’ve taken a great step forward today.

A doctor swabs MOSAiC participant Lianna Nixon in her hotel room in Bremerhaven, Germany, in early May. Photo: Lianna Nixon/CIRES & CU Boulder.

5/8/20 Youthful Energy
The group of people assembled here for Leg 4 is now starting to get to know each other. One detail that strikes me is the youth. We have many PhD students and post-docs, here representing a great breadth of science. Many people have not been to the Arctic before, or experienced anything like the adventure we are about to undertake. While this limited experience does pose some risks, I have a really good feeling about this Leg. Not that we will be without challenges, because certainly the Arctic will challenge us in many ways. It is just that I think the collection of people here have a great energy. Everyone is excited and eager to get to the field. Seemingly ready to put in the hard work that we know will be necessary. And everyone here understands what they are getting into. They understand that the world is griped by this pandemic. They understand the risks and implications of being in the field right now. And they understand that we could be delayed in our return home for any numbers of reasons. Lastly, I believe that they understand that there will be many challenges for us as we play out this adventure. This is a good place to start, and a good energy to carry us forward.

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.