September 15, 2020
By Matthew Shupe
8/8/20 Rare scene
Another of those fantastic Arctic moments last night. A party. Antonia’s birthday was a great reason to have a party, and there always has to be some sort of party to mark the end, and our days are numbered now. So a party, on the working deck. Music. Benches and tables. A make-shift bar. Some decorations, some snacks. And the people. Our Leg 4 people. Scientists, crew, all together. Our work is mostly done and we will soon depart. So it is starting to feel a little interesting inside. Already starting to miss this place and we are not gone yet! And standing here on the working deck, feeling a bit sentimental, looking out from the side of the ship: A mixture of open water and small chunks of ice floating around as we all sit here embedded in the diminishing ice pack. It is misty and foggy. Variably. Kind of coming and going. Occasionally a little sun sneaking in, giving this crazy texture to the scene. And my favorite part, the ice sculptures. Many of the small ice floes around are mostly submerged, and thus blue ice, with only a couple of large, oddly shaped white blocks sitting on top. These looked like trays at a restaurant passing by to display the chef’s latest creation. I thought to myself that sometimes there are places that have large TV screens on the wall showing fantastic scenes from an exotic location. But here for us, this is not a screen; it’s this scene all around and we are sitting right in the middle of it during our farewell party. The scene itself was not too out of the ordinary for our recent experiences here, but with the emotion of the moment the feeling really set in for me that this would be one of those moments that I would always remember about the Arctic.
These moments are always noteworthy. Two ships passing in the night… The Akademik Tryoshnikov is now here. Red hull. Large, twin cranes on her cargo deck. Two helicopter pads. It’s a nice looking vessel. And now our task is to conduct an orderly handover and exchange process. These interactions are an interesting time as there are two large vessels coming together, each with a captain and crew, each with unique characteristics and capabilities. But speaking different languages. So there is this process of getting to know each other….. kind of like when dogs sniff each other. Thus, after holding our distance, today it was time to do some of that “getting-to-know-you” process. Captain Wunderlich, Markus, and I flew over in a helicopter, landing on their large, rear heli pad, and were swiftly taken up to the captain’s lounge. Some snacks, some niceties, some drinks. It was a relaxed process really. Technical discussions about the timing and implementation of the maneuver, the bunkering and cargo shifting, handing of personnel, and so on. Overall agreement, and no major challenges. Even the language situation was not really a problem as the captain and officers of Tryoshnikov have a reasonable English vocabulary. Leaving the meeting, I have the feeling that our time on Tryoshnikov will go just fine. I’m sure there will be challenges with communication at times, but there seems to be a lot of good will and good attitude, which I guess goes a long way.
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.