No paddling in Obbola

Normally when I am in Obbola round Christmas I do some winter paddling. This year I dug out the kayaks from a thick layer of snow on 23 December. On 26 December there was still open water behind the tiny skerry that we use to call Lillskär but I was too lazy to go on a tour. One day later the Baltic Sea looked like this:

Within a single day parts of the Baltic Sea have frozen over – a stripe of 500 metres or more. So much for kayaking …

It took some time until I was allowed to publish the drone photo above. I had ask for permission at Lantmäteriet (The Swedish Mapping, Cadastral and Land Registration Authority) first.

Ärendenummer LM2023/067684

Snowy mountains in the blue hour

I’m lucky. The place where I shot this photo in yesterday mornings blue hour is less than 500 metres away. The snow here by the coast has melted away but as you can see the mountains are white now and probably will stay like this for many months.

Cruise leftovers: a seagull, a map and a tiny planet

This article is part of the series “2023-06: Arctic Ocean cruise KPH”.

One week ago I left the icebreaker Kronprins Haakon in Longyearbyen, Svalbard after a three week cruise. On the same day I took the plane back to Tromsø together with a lot of scientists from the same cruise.

The cruise went a little differently than planned. As you can see on the map below we seemed to cruise in a quite chaotic way.

But every loop was there for a reason. The left loop leading north was the attempt to cruise to station 05 at 83°58′ N. You see the line of planned stations in the upper right. But our attempt was in vain, the ice was too thick to get there.

So we decided to do research in the Fram Strait between Greenland and Svalbard. Since this was never the plan we didn’t have a permit to do research in Greenlandic waters. Therefore we headed south and east to do a first ice station in Norwegian waters and then another one at 80 °N. That’s the right loop.

We were lucky: already after a couple of days we got the permit for Greenland. So we headed south and then west again into Greenlandic waters. Here we still had to zigzag a bit through the ice but there was another effect that made the track a bit special: The ice stations.

The ice floes drifted south with a speed of round about 0.7 knots (as far as I remember). When the ice station lasted 36 hours, that’s a drift of more than 45 kilometres. That’s the small loops to the south at 6.5 °W, 4° W and 2° W.

And since we had some travel time, I could take some photos. For example from the incredibly elegant ivory gull.

And even when I was on the sea ice to make aerial photos with my drone I often had some extra minutes to play around with the panorama function, resulting in so-called “tiny planet” photos.

Oh – I’m longing back to the Arctic. Home in Obbola in Sweden it is really warm and 24 °C inside of our house. A bit too warm for my taste. And rain would be very welcome, our garden is very dry.

Drone flying between ice stations

This article is part of the series “2023-06: Arctic Ocean cruise KPH”.

The 3rd ice station st4 (78°50′ N 006°30′ W), was finished yesterday. Tomorrow we will start the 4th ice station st9 (78°50′ N 004° W) on our scientific cruise. The journey led us to the Fram Strait instead of north of Svalbard. That was because we could not break through the surprisingly thick multiyear ice to get further north.

Right now we are at 78°46’N 5°00’W, engines off. We drifted with almost 1 knot southeast and just in the moment while I am writing this sentence we start actively moving again heading more or less eastwards to st9.

After we had left the ice station we first headed to 8° W yesterday evening and then took a CTD cast each degree in longitude. 8° W, 7° W, 6° W and just now 5° W. A CTD measures amongst others salinity and temperature of the water column and also takes water samples from different depths. Since the last station was in deeper water (round 900–1000 m) the CTD cast took time. Time to use my private drone to fly a bit around. Since I do not need any compass calibration and such to just take some snapshots I could start and land it from the helicopter deck. Of course I asked the captain first.

Here are some shots from the ship in the ice from different directions.

About yesterday’s ice station I will a write later. Tomorrow I might be quite busy.

It is still a bit special to be in the Arctic and have better internet than a lot of populated places in Germany. On the cruise last year we only had a shared email address using Iridium for sending text messages and occasionally a tiny image. Now internet became normal on board. Yes, it makes many things much easier but I also feel a bit of nostalgia. It felt nice somehow to be far away from daily life for a while on last years cruise.

AO2023 – the first ice station

This article is part of the series “2023-06: Arctic Ocean cruise KPH”.

You may have read the article “Breaking through thick ice” that I published three days ago. We were west from Svalbard halfway to Greenland with the plan to head northeast to the station 05 north from Svalbard. We tried to get north or northeast, but all efforts looking were in vain. This is the track of 4 June, the 4th cruise day:

You see, that we didn’t come long that day. There was hardly open water, the ice was unusually thick (more than 150 cm) while Kronprins Haakon is built for 100 cm). The ice floes were too big to be pushed aside and the thick layer of snow added additional friction between the ice and the ship. We weren’t stuck but couldn’t had further north.

In the evening meeting it became clear, that we need a plan B. We were still on the Greenlandic side of the Fram Straight but never applied for the mandatory permit to do research there. Next morning a decision was made: Head south and to the Norwegian side and do an ice station there.

5 June – travel day

We travel through the ice until the evening and I do not have much to do. Time to take some pictures.

In the evening the cruise leader and ice experts start looking for the ideal ice floe. When it is found in the night I’m already fast asleep.

6 June – preparations

The next morning the weather is just awesome. Blue sky, -2 °C and hardly any wind. I go to deck 3 in the aft. That means helmet and safety boots. There I can see clearly that an ice station has started being prepared. The two snowmobiles have been moved from the helicopter hangar to the deck, the ship has been anchored by the ice and the ice gangway is hovering above the ice.It must hover so that no polar bears can sneak on board.

After breakfast the teams go onto the ice while I held polar bear watch with two others on the bridge. The things to observe are: polar bears, walruses, cracks in the ice, whether changes. After ninety minutes of watching the ice with binoculars and naked eye I start planning my drone flight route. Now I know, where the stations on the ice are located.

Just before lunch I get the opportunity to get on the ice the first time. I just want to re-calibrate the compass (we are far away from Tromsø) and check that the drone is working. And – it does! I’m able to take three fast snapshots to check the camera. I try to be fast, because lunchtime has already started and when you are on the ice, four more people are needed: not only the three polar bear watches on the brigde but also a polar bear guard with a rifle near on the ice.

Anyhow, the drone works and later I’ll stitch together the three snapshot from pre-lunchtime. Here’s the photo:

6 June – drone flying

After lunch I take another polar bear watch and then it gets serious. Fifteen minutes to prepare, then I get onto the ice. Again with a polar bear guard for safety. We go the the main coring site which suits me best, because it’s quite in the center of everything, Kronprins Haakon included. When I arrive there I even have time to take some snapshots with my Nikon.

You see the red, cylindrical thing? That’s an ice corer to take ice cores. The ice core will either be cooled down or melted on board to do different studies and measurements. When I did ice cores last year it was easy, because the ice was less than one metre. Now extensions have to be used and the core will be taken in several steps. But back to drone flying …

The last weeks I made a long checklist that I now follow to get everything right. When I’m ready to fly I tell the polar bear guard that the bridge shall deactivate the radar. It may interfere with the drone. He informs the bridge using a VHF-radio and soon I can start. Whirrr …

The first photos are for checking the manual exposure:

But now it gets serious. I fly to the stern of the ship and then right. Move the camera straight down and take the first photo. Click! One. Move the drone to the left a ⅓ step. Click! Two. And the same again. Click! Three. Four. FiveNine. Move the drone towards me a ⅓ step. Click! One. And to the right a ⅓ step. Click! Two … . You get the idea.

In the middle I have to land the drone to change the battery. I take 149 photos from 80 metres height looking like these:

It took round about 45 minutes to take these images. On the next ice station I may have to cover a larger area but I’m limited to three batteries. More than 60 minutes of flying is hardly practical. When I was ready the coring people were almost done as well and in groups we walked back to the ship, always accompanied by an ice bear guard with a shouldered half-loaded rifle.

Then my computer got work. Creating a so called GeoTIFF can take some hours. And that is a crop of the result:

I’m quite content with the result. It’s the second time ever I did this and the first time on the ice. The image however is not perfect. The ship is stitched together quite badly, there are a lot of artefacts as e.g. the interrupted yellow circle on the helicopter deck. Otherwise everything went pretty well. That I almost have lost the drone in the sea on the other side of the ship is a story that I may tell some other time …

7 June – leaving the ice station

Today there was still research on the ice. Two ice experts measuring ice and snow and three oceanographers taking MSS (MicroStructure Sensor), both with a bear guard. I however was not involved. Then everyone and everything went back on board including the snowmobile. Round 15:10 the ship has set in motion. Since then we are cruising to the next ice station.

Two more images and additional text about the drone flying you can read in the previous article Taking drone photos from the sea ice.

Taking drone photos from the sea ice

This article is part of the series “2023-06: Arctic Ocean cruise KPH”.

Yesterday night we started our first ice station on our research expedition. Today I was on the sea ice twice. Once just before lunch to calibrate the compass of the drone and then in the afternoon to really fly it.

After informing the bridge to deactivate the radar to avoid interferences I took 149 pictures in 80 metres height with the camera showing straight down. I had to switch batteries in the middle. The computer will need hours to stitch together the images. Only then I do know if I covered the whole ice station area or if there are “holes” – areas that I forgot. It’s not so easy when you fly a drone manually and do not have a lot of practise. In addition to that the ice is drifting and so the GPS positions constantly change.

I took some “normal” drone shots as well. The photo I just want to show here I took in the beginning to check if the manual exposure was correct. This photo is slightly edited but I hope that I do not have to edit all 149 photos for the stitched “orthophoto”. I’ll know later, either in the evening or tomorrow morning. Then I’ll write a bit more.

The next images show first some of the researchers and me – with the red helmet – in the foreground. The other image is a map that shows where we are right now.

More about the ice station in general and the drone flying in special you can find in the next article “AO2023 – the first ice station”.

Taking orthophotos on Kvaløya

That’s me, nine days ago, near a parking place by the lake Finnvikvatnet on the island Kvaløya.

I just got a drone from the Norwegian Polar Institute, a DJI Mavic Pro 2. Since it is forbidden to fly a drone in Tromsø (too near to the airport) I chose a place on Kvaløya to check out the drone and practise a bit.

What you may expect from drone flying is photos like this:

What I actually did that day was taking a bunch of photos like these:

Back at home let the computer do some heavy work. That’s the result:

What I wanted to achieve is creating a so-called orthophoto. That is a stitched image that also contains geographical information. You need quite a lot of photos to get good results. In the map above it is only 9 photos and 11 photos in two distinct groups.

I used two softwares: First OpenDroneMap to create the orthophoto and then QGIS, an open source Geographic Information System, to present the orthophoto in a geographical context.

This afternoon I took a trip to Kvaløya again, this time to the way to Sommarøya and stopped by the lake Kattfjordvatnet. Here I pulled up the drone to an altitude of 80 metres and tried to navigate a rectangular zig-zag pattern with a lot of overlapping between the images. Beside of the fact, that the images are underexposed (and I was too lazy to correct them) I’m quite content with the result. The first image is an oblique shot, the second image is an orthophoto calculated from about 80 images and then placed into QGIS.

Plan for the next two weeks: getting more practise!

Kronprins Haakon in between

Yesterday

Yesterday I took the car to the northern tipp of Tromsøya to get my tyres changes. When I drove back I had my studded “Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9” tyres in the car’s back and brand new summer tyres on the rims. On my way back I passed the port and there lay the ice breaker Kronprins Haakon.

I continued to the shopping mall Jekta to fetch a photo collage printed on a hard foam board. The photo show scenes from the expedition I joined last year with the very same icebreaker Kronprins Haakon (KPH or even KH for the lazy ones). At time it stands on my dresser. With 75×50 cm it’s larger than expected.

Today

Today I took the car to the port, parked it outside, went to kai 25 and went on board of Kronprins Haakon. Not to join a cruise but to meet my colleague M. on the bridge. Nice to be there anyhow. M. already had installed some GIS software plugins on a computer there. I configured another plugin on my computers that can show the ship’s position in realtime together with other map layers.

In three weeks

The ship’s position in realtime however works only when my computer is connected to KPH’s network. No use to have it home. But in three weeks I’ll enter the vessel again, then in Longyearbyen. Then I’ll join my second arctic cruise with the Norwegian Polar Institute that will lead us to the Arctic Ocean north of Svalbard. There’s a lot to do and I’m nervous because I have some tasks there that I never did before but I’m looking forward to it very much.

 

 

 

Arctic preparations

Have a look at these two images. They have something in common.

Both are related to my participation in the Arctic Ocean cruise in June. After the Nansen legacy cruise last year this will be my second scientific cruise to the Arctic with the Norwegian Polar Institute. And this time I’ve got extra tasks.

1. Drone flying

A scientist asked if I could fly a drone to map the ice stations. I didn’t have any experience in drone flying so I bought a private one to practise some weeks ago. In addition to that I made the Norwegian online course in drones (class A1 and A3) and the exam. Now I’m registered as a drone pilot in Norway, both in private and for the Norwegian Polar Institute. That was the easy part.

The interesting part starts when I shall take photos with latitude and longitude information from a drifting ice floe. But I’m not there yet (and quite happy that I have another month of preparation).

The drone photo above was taken in Norway. In Sweden it is a lot of paperwork to get permission for the publication of photos, especially when they show the sea as well. In Norway this is not the case, as long as you know the legal rules and restrictions.

2. Ice chart and weather info

To help both the cruise leader and the crew with planning it will be my job to provide them with current information. That’s ice charts coming from a SAR satellite and weather forecasts for e.g. wind, temperature and pressure. The data will be presented using the Open Source Geographic Information System QGIS. The screenshot above is just from a small learning session where I loaded in quite unrelated data as a topographical map of Svalbard, an ice chart from two days ago and current wind information.

The interesting thing will begin when we head north, leaving Svalbard behind. Then we do not have internet access anymore except sending and receiving emails through the slow and expensive Iridium network. So I cannot use all the cool QGIS plugins to gather data directly but I’ll have to send data requests per email and then receive the data later. This will be both interesting and challenging. I’m somewhere in the middle of being quite excited and pretty nervous.

Anyhow I wanted to have jobs and tasks and I’m glad I get the opportunity in a more active role than last year, were I was more like an observer. I guess, I’ll learn a lot.

Arctic Ocean, soon I’ll come!

Like ice in the springtime …

In the rare cases where the temperature rises above 0 °C something special happens: Ice and snow melt and become a liquid known as „water“. One of these rare occasions is called „spring“ and this is what has started happening right now. In these days many things happen that are related to ice, snow, and water.

8 April: Vattenplasket in Malå

Last Friday Annika and I visited our friends Lasse and Martine in Kusfors and stayed over. Lasse is a journalist and had a job in Malå the next day. There was a very special ski competition named “Vattenplasket” – the water splash. A ski hill and instead of a finish line a large basin with knee deep water. Is it possible to downhill on ski or snowboard and have enough momentum to cross the water? Let’s see:

Most of the competitors failed, two actually managed it. True sportsmanship showed a small boy that did not get enough momentum with his sled and just walked into the water. Kudos!

9 April: almost a kayak tour

On Sunday Annika and I tried to do another kayak tour. Five days ago the ice was stable, this day it had got holes and was not reliable anymore. While Annika stood on safe ice I tried to cross the old ice to the island but **splash!** broke through several times. No biggie, the water is quite shallow and we have drysuits but it is exhausting. When Annika started breaking through as well, we decided to return. Another time …

10 April: winter bath

Finally. Annika and I. Twice. And then: sitting on the rocks in the wet bathing clothes without freezing because the sun is so warm. Springtime!

12 April: ice work

This is a piece of ice seen from the side. You can see the different horizontal layers that accumulated over time.

This is however no glacier ice nor Arctic sea ice. It is a piece of ice from our way to our house. Annika and I have been chopping the ice bit by bit for many days and today was the day: the way to the car and the road is free of ice and snow.

12 April: another “almost” kayak tour

There are other parts that are free of ice: Most of the weak ice between land and the island Lillskär is gone. After work I tried to paddle around the islet. We had low water (-30 cm) and some of the stable ice was grounded while large parts of the sea were open.

The first part was easy but when I almost rounded the island I came into an ice field. I already had seen it before starting the tour and thought I could paddle through. In theory this was possible, but the wind and the layers of ice made it near to impossible to steer the kayak.

So I got off the boat, jumped into the 60 cm deep water and while standing turned the kayak back to course. Now I could continue my island circumnavigation. Anyhow I consider exiting the kayak on the tour cheating, that’s why I say: I almost circumnavigated Lillskär today.

Even though the ice floes may have been 7–8 cm thick you couldn’t stand on the ice any longer. The ice was “rotten”. Many tiny vertical channels had weakened the ice and made it sensible to vertical stress. You can see it on the next photo. The piece on ice is standing, the bottom part of the ice floe is on the left.