17 May aboard the ship Hermes II

Today it is 17 May, the Norwegian National Day. People say “Gratulerer med dagen!” (Happy Birthday!) to each other to celebrate Norway’s Birthday in the year 1814. The rest of the history I won’t tell here, you can read it better in the net, for example on Wikipedia.

While I was in Sweden last year I am in Tromsø today and so I was able to join the celebrations. Last week I got an ad for joining the boat parade on the wooden boat Hermes II, build 1917. That sounded fun and I directly bought one of the extraordinary cheap tickets. Would be nice to be outside on the water this day. And so it was, even in snowfall and sleet and temperatures round 1–2 °C.

Hermes II lies in the very center of Tromsø. I’ve passed it many times, today I entered it at 10 o’clock. Slowly the boat filled up. Some women were clad in bunad. These traditional clothes are very beautiful but I doubt that they provide the best weather protection. Check the video linked below. Other people choose more pragmatic clothes to stay warm and dry. At 10:30 we departed, headed north and met other boats there. In a group of fifteen boats – Hermes II, some SAR boats, the rest private ones – we then headed back to the center. Nothing extreme, just a especially nice way to be outside.

Some photos from today:

Also on board was NRK, the Norwegian TV. I can recommend the video, even when you do not speak Norwegian.

Watch it here: 17. mai-feiring på båt i Tromsø (2:44, Norwegian).

Polar expedition AeN JC3 – maps and numbers

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

Just some short info for the people who like maps and numbers.

This is the route of the icebreaker Kronprins Haakon on the polar expedition Arven etter Nansen JC3:

The northernmost point 82.0474°N
The southernmost point 69.5245°N
The westernmost point 07.6551°E
The easternmost point 34.1262°E

 

And some weather records (when my python script is right):

minimum maximum
Temperature -30.5 °C +2.0 °C
Wind speed 0.1 m/s 32.7 m/s
Wind speed on ship 0.1 m/s 30.9 m/s
Wind chill -48.0 °C +1.0 °C
Wind chill on ship -49.0 °C +1.0 °C

 

And some personal numbers:

Been on the sea ice 7 times
Photos taken 4084
Cakes eaten countless

Polar expedition AeN JC3 – day 7 and 8: a stormy intermezzo

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

Day 7 and 8 · 25 – 26 February 2022

25. Feb 07:00 – testing clothing concepts for extreme cold weather

Another Arctic morning. It has become slightly warmer with temperatures round -24 °C but at the same time a lot of windier. The average wind speeds of 20 m/s and above. So windchill is still -45 °C and I wonder how to dress just in case I will be on the sea ice the first time this night. No, I do not count on being allowed to enter it under such conditions but you never know. Be prepared and wait …

For safety reasons we always have to wear a special suit on the ice in case of someone breaks through. That’s either the Regatta suit, a floatation suit. This acts as a full body life vest giving you buoyancy in the water. However you will get wet instantly. No big issue because we will always be quite near the ship and conditions are ok. If the circumstances are more extreme or the ice is not trusted a survival suit with attached rubber boots is used. It will keep you completely dry as long as the arm and neck cuffs are tight. It is said however that it is uncomfortable to wear and you easily get very cold feet.

So, let’s get dressed. For the first time I put on the Regatta suit. It is as breathable as a rubber dinghy so you should not sweat too much. Over that, more for the fur hood than the warmth the Canada Goose parka. Yes, I can still move ;-)

Dressed like never before I open the thick door to the helicopter deck and stagger outside. Whoa! That’s some rough weather. I instantly feel every single square millimetre of skin that is still exposed to the wind and even that the zipper of the down pants are not completely closed at the bottom although I wear high rubber boots. In my opinion the hood of the Snow Mantra is ingenious but the gusty storm just pushes it aside in all directions and I can hardly see anything. So I do not check if the selfies taken with the Nikon and three pairs of gloves and mittens are in focus. They are not.

Being in again I understand the first time, why the parka hood is not only fur-trimmed but have this thick fleece rim inside. It keeps away the ice dust that the storm blows in.

The combination of Regatta suit is too warm and too bulky. I test another combination with the shell jacket of the Norwegian Polar Institute and ski goggles. Insight 1: if the hood does not fit perfectly it is completely useless in the storm. Insight 2: my old ski goggles freeze over so fast that within a minute I am functionally blind. I have to remove them to find back to the helicopter hangar. While checking this the storm pushes me around on the deck slippery deck. I really doubt if anyone wants to work on the ice in these extreme conditions. On the other side I do not know anything about polar research. Neither about polar researchers. It’s me who is the newbie.

25. Feb 11:00 +2h – planning for the storm

Aside: The day before we changed the ship’s time to take better advantage of the daylight. When I write +2h it means our privately shifted time. Otherwise it means „normal“ CET time zone.  If you don’t care, just ignore it.

We have a meeting before lunch. A storm approaches. We will seek shelter between Nordaustlandet, Svalbard’s second-largest island and the island Kvitøya. Conditions are too rough for an ice station. Although all four ship engines are running we hardly make progress. There is no time schedule anymore. We just have to sit it out.

25. Feb 16:20 – the swell wracks the ice

At 15:20 I take a long afternoon nap while Kronprins Haakon struggles through the ice. I have on of the frontmost cabins on deck 3 –the noisiest ones. The icebreaker is rumbling, rattling, grinding, squeaking and doing many more noises that I do not have words for. I lie in my bed and feel the mattress vibrating, shaking, bouncing. And I love it. For me it is like an Arctic lullaby and as mostly I fall fast asleep.

z – z – z – z – z

After an hour I wake up all of a sudden. Something has changed. The ship is slowly and strongly pitching. At the same time noises and vibrations are absent. Are we in open water? What happened!?

I have to compensate the ship’s movements while I walk to the dayroom. I peek through the ice crusted windows. Yes, we are in open water. J. sitting there tells me that 10 minutes ago swell waves. They broke up the ice within minutes and now the ice has disappeared. Impressive and a bit frightening, too.

Now we are amidst the storm with an hourly average of 24.2 m/s, that’s round 87 km/h. The highest wind speed measured in this hour is 32.7 m/s, that’s the exactly beginning of Hurricane force or level 12 on the Beaufort scale.

Although the ship is stabilised it is pitching, rolling, yawing, heaving and a lot of people have started to get seasick. I feel quite ok, but a bit stressed and tired. After a while I decide to lie down for a quarter. Good idea! I feel better again after that.

I’m in the day room again, watching the dark waves through the ice encrusted windows . Sometimes the spray splashes up many metres. No, I won’t enter any outside deck today any longer!

25. Feb 19:24 – crossing the 80th degree of latitude

I wanted to see on the digital nautical chart how we cross the 80th degree of latitude but I miss it by some minutes in time. Soon I go to bed quite curious how the next day may look like.

26. Feb morning – Kvitøya

06:10 – The wind has calmed down and I stand on the helicopter deck (on level 6) again. Open water, a bit of ice and in the distance a pale scheme. The island Kvitøya. It looks like the spray has reached the deck because everything is coated in ice and the ice on the floor is slippery and feels like soap powder.

After the breakfast I try to catch Kvitøya on the Nikon sensor.

The last photos are crap from a technical view (taken at 600 mm ƒ/6.3 in twilight on a moving ship and a travel tripod). Anyhow they show the glacial coast of this Arctic island which I think is very impressive. A pity that the weather was so cloudy.

26. Feb morning – we reach ice again

While I take these photos another thing happens: we reach ice again. First fields of beautifully rounded pancake ice floes, then a few hours later we are in ¹⁰/₁₀ of thick ice again. There Kronprins Haakon can show again that it is an icebreaker.

We have another meeting at 09:00 +2h. We learn that it is more than unsure whether station P4 will have any reliable sea ice to work on. The cruise leader asks: shall we try P5 instead? Yes, all scientists agree. So today we will head to P5 at 80.5 °N 34 °E. That’s only an estimated position. First of all a suitable ice floe has to be found and then this floe will drift on the sea and so change position while ice work is ongoing.

26. Feb 16:00 – checking the ice

Eight hours later. Together with the cruise leader and the captain the ice experts had looked for a suitable ice floe. When they were satisfied the ship stopped and a derrick lowered the ice gangway. Now four people are on the ice. All equipped with survival suits. Two of them carry rifles. We are in the home of the polar bears.

Will I be allowed to enter the sea ice? Perhaps already tomorrow? I doubt it but I’m really longing. I don’t know where this strong relation for the Arctic comes from but it’s definitely there and it grew the last days. And I want to be part of it as much as possible.

Polar expedition AeN JC3 – day 6: sailing through the ice

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

Day 6 · 24 February 2022

We are on our way to P4, our first ice station. P4 lies at 79.75 °N 34.00 °N, round 50 km southeast of the island Kvitøya (white island) that belongs to the Svalbard archipelago. This station is more north than Ny-Ålesund on Svalbard. The estimated time of arrival is tomorrow round lunch time.

However it is not granted that the ice will be safe enough to work on. In addition to that it will become stormy tonight and maybe the whole next day according to windy.com . So even when the ice is safe the weather conditions could be too harsh. So there are several uncertainties. We plan for the station but more we cannot do yet.

Today is a cold day with temperatures maximum of -25.0 °C and minimum of -30.5 °C. I’ve experienced colder temperatures many times in my live in different parts of Lapland, but then the wind was always calm. With the ongoing wind the resulting windchill lies between -36 °C and -49 °C. And windy is right: it starts getting windier in the evening.

temperate in °C | wind speed relative to the ship in m/s | resulting windchill in °C.

I take photos of marine animals, I learn the basics of ice observation but I stand outside quite often today. Watching the icebreaking polar research vessel Kronprins Haakon breaking through the ice. It is a great experience and I’m happy that I may participate.

But now, let the photos speak. The first I made at 3:50 in the night, the last ones at 19:10.

 

 

Polar expedition AeN JC3 – day 5: marine fauna · entering the ice · temperature drop

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

Day 5 · 23 February 2022

12:30 – it gets colder

Over night it has become much colder and windier. Temperature has dropped to -17 °C and the relative wind speed has increased to 17 m/s (ca. 60 km/h). According to the wind chill formula that feels like -33 °C. The taut nets around the deck are covered with ice structures and ice fog hovers over the still open sea.

14:00 – marine fauna

A large trawl net is being pulled up. Scientist are waiting on deck, they look eager. What will the trawl reveal?

The net is up and the haul is emptied onto the deck.

At once the marine biologists gather round the catch and start browsing, identifying, sorting. I know some of the animals, but neither taxonomy nor latin name. It’s a childhood’s memory – me walking along the shore, my eyes glued to the soil to search for shells, jellyfish, worms, starfish. As a child I wanted to become a researcher but live has changed many times. Anyhow it finally brought me here on this polar expedition on Kronprins Haakon. But I digress, back to some photos of marine fauna and scientists:

I would love to know a bit more about the taxonomy of all these species but this will take some time and efforts, nothing you will get for free.

14:37 – the first sea ice

And there it is. The first sea ice is ahead.

The photo is awful. Noisy, underexposed two levels but I want it here in the blog. Not only for you but also for me because it’s the very first photo of sea ice on this cruise.

But there is more. While we continue north, soon the Barents Sea gets covered with pancake ice – called because of the rounded shapes of the ice floes – that soon make place for larger ice floes. That takes only 20 minutes.

(The images are not in chronological order for layout reasons)

For more than an hour I stand at the bow of the heli deck and watch the changes of the ice coverage. I love ice, I love the sea, I love cold winter and here I can get it all together. I feel happy! And cold it has become. Temperature -22 °C, relative wind speed 16 m/s resulting in a wind chill of -39 °C. The Canada Goose Snow Mantra parka starts to make sense. It shows what it can: keeping me warm under these conditions.

I use a pair of gloves and two pairs of mittens to keep hands and fingers warm. With one exception: Smartphone selfies. These I take bare-handed. While doing that the pinky of my right hand gets really cold and I will feel this for many hours. I’m lucky, the fingertip has no frostbite but I decide to stop making selfies in such harsh conditions. I love the arctic, but I play piano, too. I need my fingers. All of them.

15:59 – dinner pleasures

The haul caught a lot of animals, amongst others a lot of shrimps. Only some of them are needed for research. I help cleaning them, plucking away starfish and other species while a huge pot with salt water starts boiling. And at dinner we all get shrimps. Freshly caught in the Arctic. Delicious!

19:00 – photo shooting

A. a marine taxonomy expert asks me if he can borrow a tripod, he wants to take photos of some of the animals. Oops – I forgot the mount for attaching other cameras. I make another proposal: I’ll drop by and take pictures by myself. From this day I’m the “official court photographer” of non-microscopic animals. That’s work I really like. The first results are not the best, but I’ll share them anyhow:

Species identification taken from the cruise report of Andreas Altenburger. Thanks a lot!

21:30 – Sailing through the night

It’s dark. Ice has become thicker and you can hear the cracking and feel the vibrations from Kronprins Haakon breaking the ice. Again I stand on the heli deck looking ahead. Two strong spotlights illuminate the ice.

And for some minutes there is even a Northern light palely glowing in the sky.

While I stand there, happily watching the ice and the sky, muffled up warmly in my down parka and pants, temperature has dropped even more. -28 °C, windchill -44 °C.

temperate in °C | wind speed relative to the ship in m/s | resulting windchill in °C.

 

Short sign of life

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

We are at 76°45′ N, 31°08′ E and still have internet. Today we entered the sea ice and the ship is jerking when it cuts through.

After days with open sea and moderate temperatures between -5 °C and -8 °C it got significantly colder today. At time we have -24.9 °C (falling) with a relative wind speed of 8.2 m/s. That makes a wind chill of round about -39° C.

So, why am I alone out at the helicopter deck?

Otherwise: too much interesting stuff going on. This arctic research cruise is definitely one of the most gorgeous things I’ve ever experienced in my life!

I hardly manage to be up to date with my notes and I don’t have time to write more. And it’s dinner time, too. See you …

Four winter days in and round Obbola

OK guys, it’s Sunday afternoon and I’m too lazy to write long texts. I just show some photos of the last days where our German friend Medi joined Annika and me on various excursions with some notes.

Thursday, 6 January – skiing in Västermarks naturreservat

+++ Västermarks naturreservat, 50 km north from Umeå +++ a non-commercial forest made us climb over and under fallen trees that lay across the marked loop trail +++ by the trail a wooden cabin +++ time was too short to fire the oven but lighting candles is cozy, too +++

Friday, 7. January – lunch break skiing

+++ right next to our postbox (500 metres from our house) starts Spåret, a 3600 metre long forest trail +++ we use back-country skis to ski Spåret in my prolonged lunch break +++ we, that’s Dirk – guest for two nights – Medi and I +++ -12 °C, but my Anorak is too warm +++ I tie it round my hip +++ on the photo it looks like a skirt +++

Photo: Dirk Thomas

Me sking “Spåret” – Photo: Dirk Thomas

Saturday, 8 January — cross-country skiing on Olle’s Spår

+++ grey weather, -14 °C +++ the trees are covered with snow +++ black-and-white imagery +++ after some days of back-country skiing it’s nice to use cross-country skis on a real trail +++

Sunday, 9 January – Northern lights and sunrise

+++ 1 o’clock in the night +++ I check for Northern lights +++ we are lucky +++ Medi and Annika watch the aurora beside of the garage +++ I take some photos from our garden +++
+++ 8:20 in the morning +++ the Baltic Sea freezes over more and more +++ sunrise colours by the sea  +++ and then in our garden +++ watching sunrise while taking breakfast +++

Still Sunday, 9 January – Strömbäck-Kont

+++ just a short walk at one of Annika’s and my favourite places: Strömbäck-Kont +++ looking at the ice ridge by the sea +++

Still Sunday, 9 January – halo effects

+++ after lunch we are taking Medi to the airport +++ strong and colourful parhelion or sun dogs halos +++ the photo is taken at the airport +++ I am questioned by the security and show the taken photos to prove I’m not a spy +++

The last cold morning?

A clear blue sky, -20 °C – this may be the last cold morning here in Obbola. I was up early and went to the coast to catch the sunrise. The sea, where I paddled yesterday afternoon was completely frozen over again. Patches of ice fog drifted by – a clear sign that other parts of the sea are open (and that it’s cold). The fog partly hid the island Bredskärssten.

When did you watch your last sunrise? Do it again! It’s always fascinating to see the sky and the clouds change colours– from soft pink to deep purple, from crimson red to bright orange. The sunrise position has moved more and more westwards. Now it’s behind the larger island Bredskär. The sun illuminated the drifting fog in spots of orange.

Now in mid-March the sun rises much faster than in midwinter and soon the colours went pale. Time to go back and to warm up. The parka and mittens kept me warm, but the ski pants were a bit too thin when sitting on the ice.

Ice fog and hard rime

When it’s cold – -17 °C yesterday morning – and large parts of the Baltic Sea is still open ice fog forms over the sea. When this fog turns to the land hard rime will cover the bare trees making them look like fragile snow sculptures. A wonderful view.

Closing the bathing season in Skelleftehamn?

7 o’clock. The sun was still below the horizon but already colourised sky and sea at Storgrundet.

Some minutes later – looking into the opposite direction revealed another colour impression.

There was thin ice on this bay. It was partially broken. You may already guess, why. I’ll tell you.

I love bathing in the sea and this bay is my favourite beach and bathing place. In mid-August the water temperature had been 18 °C, in September it had fallen below 10 °C and this morning it was only around 0.7 °C.

Anyhow, time for another bath.

I undressed and started wading through the ice. First I stalked like a stork, than the water got deeper and thinner and I just walked normally, breaking the ice with my thighs.

Soon I reached both open water and swimming depth. I love bathing in cold water and think it’s invigorating and refreshing. Bathing before sunrise with these beautiful morning colours is an extra bonus.

Ouchie ;-)After a bit of bathing and some swimming strokes I waded back to the beach. I already had expected cutting my legs at the sharp thin ice and so I did.

As long as the skin is cold, you hardly feel such scratches.

Being still wet I started freezing because the air was not warm neither. -9 °C the car thermometer had shown. Then the great moment came where I realised, that I had forgot to take a towel with me!

I dried myself a bit with my hands and slipped – wet as I was – into my clothes. And warm clothes it was!

This worked much better than expected and I decided to drive to the office directly. Arriving there only the tips of the socks felt a bit damp, the rest (outdoor pants and woollen sweater) felt warm and dry again.

Since the ice will get thicker and thicker every day I guess that this was the end of my bathing season 2019. At least at Storgrundet.

Some random comments

  • It has been quite cold for late October the last days. In some parts of Finnish lapland temperatures had dropped below -25 °C.
  • Later this morning I realised that I had got many more cuts and scratches from the ice than excepted.
  • The definition of a winter bath is a bath in water colder than 10 °C. According this definition I took my first winter bath this season on 9 September. But it was today that I took my first ice bath of the season.
  • While I am writing this blog article I realise that I had a roll of kitchen paper in my car. So I could have dried myself this morning.