August 12, 2020

Postcards from a (formerly) frozen icebreaker: Part 50

Posted by larryohanlon

By Matthew Shupe

7/25/20 Round and Round
We are just spinning in circles around here. Around and around. Our floe just keeps on turning. Over the many days that we’ve been here the orientation of our floe didn’t change much, the ship having a robust SW heading. But in the last two days we have spun in two full circles, including about 410 degrees in just the last day! This is really remarkable, and I have no idea how it happens. Is it somehow drag on the floe due to the ship, or just dynamics in the ocean? There have not really been many winds to speak of. No one else understands this either. But it has a fascinating effect on our perspective. Standing out on the short of the floe, you look out and so many other floes go drifting by, seemingly moving quickly. While some of these floes are likely moving in reality, our spinning floe gives the impression that everything else is moving very fast. We are not used to that, as typically our floe just drifts along with everything else. Another one of those Arctic mysteries.

After drifting away, the Polarstern returns to its original parking spot. Photo: Lianna Nixon/CIRES and CU Boulder.

7/26/20 A Walk with the Captain
Captain Wunderlich asked if he could join me on the ice today… perhaps to get some fresh air. So he joined Jackson Osborn and me on our daily walk-about around to our different stations. I decided to show him some of the other great areas on our floe as well. For me, the central part of the Fortress, now the desert scene, is the greatest place to go. Our walk revealed this fantastic network of ponds and drainage channels, winding through carved surfaces. At one place we tracked a winding channel for probably 300 meters, curving back and forth, linking ponds. It looked like this network eventually made its way to the floe’s edge, all connected. It is really quite like a river network. There was also a balanced piece of ice in the middle of a pond. Round, perhaps 2-3m across, it has melted out underneath almost entirely. Just a little flying saucer sitting there hovering above the melt pond. So many fascinating structures.

Our journey ventured to the far side of the floe, along the coast for a bit, and then along a ridge to a high view point looking back towards Met City, many other science installations, and onto the ship in the background. People all over doing science. From that point we journeyed through an area that I had not yet explored, back along the rugged area beyond what has become known as Mystery Pond and over towards Met City. Around Met City we were able to check out the different groups of people and hear about their science….. the tower, the radiation suite, the ocean profiles, the drone people, gas flux samplers….. so much great science and what a nice walk through the floe.

A scenic shot of the floe taken earlier in the MOSAiC expedition. Photo: Andi Preusser/Alfred Wegener Institute

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: and @MOSAiCArctic.