Polar expedition AeN JC3 – day 4: let the science begin!

This article is part of the series “2022-02: Winter cruise KPH”.

Day 4 · 22 February 2022 (part II)

18:14 on the bridge on deck 8. Some metres south of the 76th degree of latitude. People stand by the window, they are staring outside. Outside it’s dark. What are they looking for? What’s happening?

The activities for which we are doing this expedition have finally started. What activities do you realise on a scientific cruise? Collecting samples and data. For yourself and for others.

1 – Seaglider recovery

The very first activity is the recovery of a seaglider, an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV). It sends its position but still you have to locate it with your own eyes so that the icebreaker Kronprins Haakon can approach it. The recovery is much faster than excepted, already 15 minutes later the glider is on board. Anyhow it takes much more time to deactivate it, clean it thoroughly and most of all to dismantle it so that it fits into its huge plastic boxing that looks like an alien coffin.

To be honest, I don’t know for how long the glider drifted through the Barents Sea until we pulled it up. I don’t know neither what it measured and who will process this data. There is so much happening on this cruise that I do not manage to keep track of everything.

2 – CTD and water samples

There are a lot of abbreviations used on this cruise. One of them you hear frequently is “CTD”, which stands for conductivity, temperature, depth. A CTD is an electronic device that measures these three parameters constantly while it is winched down and up again. The conductivity is used to calculate the salinity, the relative amount of dissolved salt in the water. I will not go into details in this article because I’m not a scientist and I don’t want to write nonsense.

We have to talk about two more terms: “Moon pool” and “Niskin bottles”.

A moon pool is an opening in the floor of a ship deck to have access to water from inside the ship. Where this name comes from no one could explain.

When the moonpool is opened and the winch is ready the CTD is lowered into the water of the moon pool. And then it’s time for waiting – a quite common activity on the cruise. Time for discussions or just watching.

You see this “rosette” of dark, numbered cylinders? That’s Niskin bottles, used for sampling water. They can be opened and closed remotely so that it is possible to fetch water samples from different depths. These samples are used by chemists and marine biologists for different purposes. Since the chemists do the most delicate analysis they come first. The CTD rosette of Kronprins Haakon has 24 bottles. Today 22 of this bottles are filled, each one with water from a particular depth.

3 – plankton nets

It’s half past eight, when parts of the ship’s starboard hull is moved aside. Now it’s time for the first plankton nets. Marine biologists will work till long after midnight to bring down different nets for collecting zooplankton and phytoplankton. And there are many net types with different net sizes for different purposes. I have already worked with marine biological data so I know the names as bongonet or multinet. But now I see them first time in real life and learn about the different purposes and methods. Each net has not only its own construction but needs a distinct speed for being lowered and another one for being pulled up again.

Not all plankton nets are taken from the starboard. Some are so heavy, they need the more powerful winch at the stern of the ship. One of these is the multinet, a combination of five nets for collecting plankton from different depth intervals.

The activities continued the whole night. According to the data the last one was finished at 6:31, one hour before breakfast. I however decided to go to sleep at half past twelve. It was not relevant for my work to watch every activity and I was really tired. I’m a morning lark, not a night owl.

And since this blog article is already quite long I make it optically even longer by finishing it with another photo featuring the multinet.

2 comments to “Polar expedition AeN JC3 – day 4: let the science begin!”

  1. Annika Kramer 2022-03-15 20:35

    Völlig abgefahren. Wie auf ner Bohrinsel, Mondfähre, Arktisexpedition gleichzeitig! Und alle diese Wörter!!
    Das Bild mit dem Suchscheinwerfer ist toll.

  2. way-up-north 2022-03-15 20:36

    Auch verrückt: Ich fotografiere Menschen und Zeugs und nicht Schneeberge und Eisflächen.

Write a comment: