July 17, 2020

Postcards from a frozen icebreaker — Part 35

Posted by larryohanlon

By Matthew Shupe

6/19/20 Taking things head on
We ran into the floe. Directly. While scientifically we decided it would be best to moor to the floe along the ship’s port side to facilitate CTD operations, others onboard have been concerned about the Polarstern’s ability to hold its position alongside the floe in the face of ice pressure. We’ve, of course, experienced a lot of pressure thus far, which has been a great challenge at times. And so, the decision was made to instead drive straight into the floe and attempt to embed Polarstern. This type of position, the thinking goes, would allow the ship to be effectively protected from some of the ice forces by the floe itself. Polarstern cruised out from our parking spot from the last days and navigated around the floe to the south and then east, then cruised full speed ahead directly into the SE flank of the remaining MOSAiC floe. The ship was eventually stopped by the very thick ice, ridged and chunky. Backed up for another go, trying to embed further, but no such luck. The floe was not allowing such an entrance, and instead a crack opened up to the port side and another chunk of the floe broke off. Ever smaller the floe gets. In the morning the captain maneuvered the ship so that the starboard side was along the ice floe, and we will stick in this position and see how things go.

A rainbow forms over the Polarstern as the ship docks at its final position. Photo: Lianna Nixon/CIRES

6/20/20 Mid-summer
Parties are fun. Particularly on Polarstern when they pull out the barbecues on the working deck and make the web lab all nice inside. Tables, a bar, music, and a fantastic spread of food. Many options for the BBQ, various meats, fish, veggies, potatoes. Each person grills their own. The atmosphere is great, very relaxed, lots of smiles. And as the evening goes on, eventually the tables are moved, the music is turned up, and dancing commences. This is the formula for Polarstern parties. And today was a special party because it’s mid-summer. I like parties, and after some long days of slogging around in deep snow, I needed a break. But this was a bit of a strange time to take that break. We’ve just arrived and have tons to do. On Leg 1 we were racing the setting sun; now we are racing the melting snow and ice…The party interrupted our momentum and required cleaning out a space that is heavily used. On the bright side, it did help us to clean up some things that might have continued to be an issue… Now, even as the melt season is just getting started, the sun will actually be declining in intensity from day to day.

The scene at a typical “Polarstern party” (this particular image from Leg 3). Researchers and crew members take a break and gather for good food and company. Photo: John Cassano

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. 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 of the expedition, led by the Alfred Wegener Institute. 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.