Summer travel plans

Today I got the final commitment of my boss, that I will participate the “Arctic Ocean Cruise 1” this year. It will be my second polar expedition with the Norwegian Polar Institute on the research icebreaker Kronprins Haakon. This time not in winter but in June when the sun never sets.

Planning has just begun, so there is not much more to tell. At least there is a first plan about where the expedition will head, if the ice conditions allow.

I’m both happy and very grateful to get such an extraordinary opportunity this year again. What a great job I have!

ℹ︎ This is an updated version of the original post, since I realised that I got more information by email.

Arctic Ocean 2023 – prelude

When it looks like this on my table …

… then I’m going to travel. I love packing lists and I need them so that I do not forget too much.

At 9 o’clock everything is packed (ca. 50 kilos!). At 10 o’clock the taxi fetches me and takes me to the airport in Tromsø. Two and a half hours we are in the air heading north.

It’s very cloudy but shortly before landing I finally can see something different than sky and clouds: Svalbard’s main island Spitsbergen.

Soon we will land in Longyearbyen, where I landed three month before. But there are some differences.

Last time I travelled with Annika and we went on vacation before I worked in Longyearbyen for a week. Now I’m travelling with some colleagues from the Norwegian Polar Institute. Shortly before we land on the airport I take a snapshot:

There it is: the vessel Kronprins Haakon which is more or less the reason why some colleagues of mine and I travelled north: Tomorrow we will go on board on this ice breaker and start an expedition way up north into the sea ice. For three weeks we will live and work on Kronprins Haakon and I’m so excited that I may be part of this.

Today I had some hours in Longyearbyen. I was quite curious how it would look like in late spring. According to a researcher there is a lot of snow for the season this year. But on sea level the snow has melted away and everything looks soaking wet and muddy. While Svalbard reindeer are probably happy I definitely prefer winter.

If everything goes according plan we will leave Longyearbyen tomorrow at lunch time. I guess it won’t be long until we do not have any regular internet. So probably I will not blog anything about this scientific cruise before I’m back in civilisation.

Bye bye – ha det bra!

P.S.: On Facebook a friend wrote to me: “You must have the best job in the world!”. My answer – short but genuine: “Yes!”


Arctic Ocean 2023 I – starting the cruise

1. June – day one

Yesterday I had arrived in Longyearbyen on the Svalbard archipelago, today the cruise Arctic Ocean 2023 I will start. Our ship is the research ice breaker Kronprins Haakon, that I know from last year. It has anchored outside the quay so we are fetched by boat.

On the way to the ship we sit outside. When we arrive at Kronprins Haakon we go into the small boat cabin because the whole boat is winched up by crane until we are on level of deck 4. Time to check in. I get the very same cabin as last year and will share it with a student from India.

Time to say hello to the “Heli deck”, where I spent many hours last winter.

Shortly later I have the opportunity to get a single cabin. According to the cabin list I am a sailor now. Didn’t know that! It’s cabin 468 if you want drop by.

We take lunch at 11:30 and get a safety briefing at 13:00.

Two hours later the anchors are raised and we start our cruise. In the huge Isfjorden mountain chains are everywhere. It’s very impressive. Less the photos of the mountains but the feeling standing there on deck in the sun and have this gorgeous view in all directions while the seagull circle the ship.

2. June – day two

The original plan was to reach station 01 at 84.5° N 18.8° E but the ice situation makes it quite unlikely that we will reach this station. The previous cruise wanted to reach 82.5° N and gave up at 81° N. We’ll try to reach station 05 that is still at almost 84° N. We’ll see, what happens. Travelling in the Arctic is still unpredictable.

While the main research work will take place at the stations that we reach in a couple of days, Ingeborg who amongst others works with microplastics wants to deploy a “neuston-catamaran” that contains two nets collecting microplastic (and other stuff that is large enough). This catamaran will be pulled at the ship’s starboard before brought back on deck again. And since it takes some time, Ingeborg can deploy a buoy for a Finnish colleague by just throwing it into the sea. Then the catamaran is pulled up and the nets look quite dirty.

It’s algae that has been caught together with the plastic and it is so much, that it would take ages to dissolve it without changing the plastics to measure. So this sampling was unfortunately in vain. But there are other scientists on boards. One of them is Malin who works with zooplankton. She takes the samples and looks for species. And finds a lot of Calanus finmarchicus, a common copepod in the north. We can observe it through the microscope.

While we are standing in the “wet lab” I see, that we soon will reach the ice edge and enter the ice. I leave the lab, grab my camera and my down parka (it’s -5 °C) and take pictures from the observation deck while we leave the open water behind.

While the ship tries to find the best way through the ice to save time and fuel now ice is mostly present. And then, after the evening meeting there comes a loudspeaker announcement: Polar bear at the port side. We see it on the starboard side but it’s quite far away. Anyhow, a photo for the records (600 mm, no crop):

Where we are? Halfway between Svalbard and Greenland. After heading mostly west since yesterday now we changed course and head north. Way up north.

Breaking through thick ice

3. June

Yesterday 6:40. My alarm clock rings. In 20 minutes I will do ice observation together with a scientist. On the bridge on deck 8 there are windows in the floor, where you can measure the ice thickness, when broken ice floes are turned upright by the icebreaker Kronprins Haakon. I look several times, but yes, the ice is thick, approximately 120 cm. Kronprins Haakon is built for 100 cm of solid ice, but can ram though thicker ice on shorter distances.

Deck 3 is pretty low and you are quite near to the enormous ice floes that are aside the ship.  Sometimes an ice floe is pushed beneath another one looking even more turquoise than over water.

Dima, the ice expert is here, too. He checks the ice thickness with a folding rule. He also comes to the conclusion: 120 cm.

We already had moved west the day before in the hope of better ice conditions. That brought us to halfway between Svalbard and Greenland. Now Kronprins Haakon slowly moves north cruising zigzag in the search for breaks with open water. But the farther north we come, the harder it gets. 80° N seems to be an invisible barrier. The captain of the ship heads west in the hope for better conditions. The tools: a slightly outdated SAR satellite map showing a radar image and the ship’s ice radar. It’s hard to navigate like this and we fantasise about drones that we can send ahead to check the ice conditions. I stay at the bridge quite long and so I am one of the lucky ones who see the hooded seal, that stays on the ice until we almost have passed. Just then it glides into the water.

4. June

6:40 – the same time. The info channel on the TV clearly shows that we have hardly moved the last hours. Again I look at the ice thickness on the bridge. Now it is more like 150 cm thick. Today we hardly make process and start talking about changing plans. At 14:30 the captain talks to the cruise leader that they will take a break. The last 24 hours we haven’t come north at all.

While the broken ice aside the ship’s port and starboard looks more and more impressive …

… the solid ice layer looks bleak and dull. It has been cloudy like this since we left Svalbard behind.

We want to go north much further, but we have several issues.

  1. the ice is unusually thick for the region and the season.
  2. the ice floes are too big for being pushed aside by the ship.
  3. the snow layer, varying but quite thick, adds friction between the ice and the bow

All of this makes it hard for Kronprins Haakon to move forward and more and more the vessel backs or pauses.

Wind could help changing the situation but we had calm weather since departure and according to the forecast this might continue for days. So, no help from the atmosphere neither.

So it can be when travelling in the High Arctic.

Where are we now? Right here:

Green shows the first day (started in the afternoon), purple the second day. Blue shows the third day and the black arrow is our current position. I do not have the track of today yet but you can clearly see, that we hardly have moved today.

It’s next to sure that we will not reach any of the stations on the plan, at least not on this way. Tomorrow after breakfast we will meet, discuss about our options and then the cruise leader and the scientists have to make a decision. I don’t have any function is this question.

Stay tuned …

Taking drone photos from the sea ice

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”.

AO2023 – the first ice station

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.

Cruise day – bird watching

After we left yesterday’s ice station we have been cruising. When I woke up today morning I looked out of the window. Open sea, no ice in sight. Flocks of sea birds. And then a puffin flew past the porthole. Give me a moment – a puffin!? I must have been dreaming. Anyhow I got dressed and went to the helicopter deck to take bird photos.

Just a note: I do not know all these sea birds, but on a scientific cruise there are always people you can ask.

Large flocks of little black-white bird swooshed round the ship. They flew so fast, that the photos mostly only showed blurred shadows. It was flocks of …

Alle alle · Little auk · Alkekonge · Krabbentaucher

I moved to deck 3 to take pictures from a lower angle and played with the focus configuration of my Nikon. That helped a bit. I managed to take some photos from sea birds as …

Uria lomvia · Polarlomvi · Brünnich’s guillemot · Dickschnabellumme

… with the typical white strap behind the beak

Or the …

Fulmarus glacialis · Havhest · Northern fulmar · Eissturmvogel

… that loves to glide just above the sea surface.

Or the …

Cepphus grylle · Teist · Black guillemot · Gryllteiste

… with its red legs.

More or more ice floes covered the sea, we were heading to the ice edge to find a good place for a second ice station.

Still there were a lot of little auks around …

… but more and more the

Rissa tridactyla · Krykkje · Black-legged kittiwake · Dreizehenmöwe

… took over.

After some time at least a hundred circled the Kronprins Haakon hunting for small fish.

There is one photo however that makes me happy. The quality is bad, but I managed to take a photo of a …

Fratercula arctica · Lunde / Lundefugl · Atlantic puffin · Papageientaucher

So, I wasn’t dreaming this morning.

I always wanted to sea these birds, that I have loved since childhood. And today I saw two of them flying around.

The second ice station – drone flying and more

9. June – looking for a floe

We are in the ice again. While D., the ice expert looks for the best floe to work on together with the captain, I use the time to prepare the drone, including a spare one. The rest of the morning I’m mainly on the bridge doing polar bear watch. We are lucky, no polar bears are around and all the people can work on the ice without any interruption.

9. June – drone flying, first try

After lunch it’s time to get out on the ice and do a second series of aerial photos. I prepare the drone, do my preflight check following my checklist and bring the drone up into the air. While the drone is gaining altitude I can feel wind speed increasing and the wind becoming gusty. I fly to the starting point of the area to cover and start doing the first slice of images. The remote control issues a wind warning. I try to continue but realise that flying the way back takes three times longer than flying the way there. This exhausts the battery a lot and it becomes clear that I cannot fly drone today, at least not in 80 metres height.

I use some time to fly the drone in lower altitudes to train a bit and take some photos. The wind calms down a bit and I try to make a so-called “tiny planet” image. Yes, it worked:

The rest of the time I used to take photos from the researchers, including some detail photos.


10 June – following a transect

The next day brings beautiful and calm weather. I will follow D. and C. who will walk a triangle over the ice. D. uses a Magnaprobe to measure the snow thickness each step. C. pulls a sledge with a GEM2, that measures ice thickness with a radar. I just follow. Behind me: the polar bear guard. No group goes out without. Since we move quite slowly – D. has to push a pole into the hard snow with every step – I have time to take photos.

It is really interesting to hear D’s comments on the snow and ice we are traversing. Anyhow I feel guilty. Shouldn’t I have tried to fly again?

10 June – drone flying, second try

I’m lucky. We are back at the ship early and the time to leave has postponed a bit. While D. and C. are calibrating the GEM2 I’m going to the ship and then to my room to fetch the drone. I’m quite sweaty, the water- (and air-)proof Regatta suit is no fun when temperatures are round 0 °C. It’s too warm.

And then I’m back on the ice. I’m lucky, the conditions are good and soon the drone is in the air.

(Photo: Ann Kristin Balto, Norwegian Polar Institute)

While I fly the drone it gets cloudy. This makes the snow on the ice floe a featureless area of white. Instead of looking for visual hints I count seconds, seeing nothing on the display. Will it work?

After the third flight (I have three batteries) I think I’ve covered everything I wanted. Time to take an oblique photo of Kronprins Haakon.

When I’m back I upload the photos and start calculating the orthophoto, which is a photo stitched together with perspective correction and geo information. The first result using a fast algorithm is awful. Positioning on some elements is wrong and we have more people and snow mobiles on the ice than in reality. The slower algorithm works much better. Only some of the ice floes are blurred. Perhaps they turned while I took the photos.

Perhaps I’ll create a visually better version at home. Here I don’t have the time and patience to do that.

This day confirmed again: I have a great job, even though a cruise is only some weeks a year.


Ballooning in the Arctic

This is a balloon. This is a radiosonde.

This is an inflated balloon, filled with helium. This is an unpacked radiosonde, containing various sensors and a transmitter.

To watch the balloon start I leave the container on deck 6 and go outside. And there it comes, the red weather balloon with the attached radiosonde.

First it is stuck in turbulences and the heavy wind. On the next photo you see the radiosonde dangling to the right. It has been blown aside. After having been chased over deck by the wind gusts it finally lifts off and rises into the sky.

If everything goes well it will rise up to 30 kilometres sending weather data via Iridium satellite network.

This is a project of the German Meteorological Service (Deutscher Wetterdienst) where the data is used amongst others to improve weather forecasts.

There’s a reason why I could witness the balloon start today. Normally I would have joined the oceanographers on the ice today, but the whole ice station has been cancelled due to the weather. With wind speeds of 15 m/s, gust speeds of 19 m/s and snowfall with whiteout conditions the whole morning it was just not possible to establish a safe station. Instead of that we did only the CTD-casts (CTD stands for Conductivity, Temperature, Depth – important sea water properties) and deployed plankton nets. This you safely can operate from the ship. Meanwhile the ship was blown southwards with almost a knot (a nautical mile per hour).

Now it is half past eight and the ice guys are looking for a floe. Wind has started calming down a bit and the sun has come out. Perhaps we can start with our ice station tomorrow before breakfast. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

First I’ve been on deck to take photos, now I’m enjoying the view from my cabin 468 on board of Kronprins Haakon.

Drone flying between ice stations

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.

The third ice station – MSS and SUNA

It is 13 June. Kronprins Haakon has approached 6.5° W in the Fram Strait and today we’ll start our 3rd ice station.

The weather seems to be better in the morning so I go out to fly the drone after breakfast. But this time I do not manage to get enough photos for the aerial orthophoto that is supposed to show the whole ice station.

It is probably a combination of wind and drift. The drone uses GPS to keep its position. The ice floe doesn’t. It drifts in the wind and so the drone seems to be drawn off-course all the time. We may have a drift of 0.6 knots, that’s almost 20 metres per minute.

At the same time it is windy in 80 metres height. This exhausts the batteries pretty fast and finally I have to cancel the flight operation. No orthophoto today. Sorry.

Just some non-drone photos from the morning.

In the afternoon I have the opportunity to join Anna and Julie from the oceanography team. Part of their work is done from the ship and part from the ice. Now they will put two instruments into the water: An MSS measuring turbulences and a SUNA measuring nitrates, one of the main nutrients in the sea. Both instruments also act as CTDs and measure conductivity, temperature and depth. I won’t go into detail because I’m not a scientist and this is not a science blog. I only want to mention that conductivity is used to calculate the salinity. By temperature and salinity you can learn whether the water is Arctic or Atlantic. (Is this correct, oceanographers?)


The first thing was to get ready the MSS. It needs some preparation to first connect battery, converter, power adapter, computer and the MSS and then start the software. Some of the connections are quite fragile. The MSS is connected to the computer and sends continuous data that is shown on the display. When it is put into the water, a recording is started. Then the MSS is supposed to fall freely. Therefore there has to be an amount of extra cable in the water but not so much that it would get tangled. The cable is more than 200 metres long and the recording is manually stopped when the depth has become constant. Now it’s exercise time: Bring up the instrument again. The MSS is still sending data but it is only used to know when to slow down with winching up the instrument.

Normally a series of three casts is done in a row. That helps to find and correct faulty measurements.


The SUNA is much easier to power on and to deploy. I’ll help Julie a bit with preparation, then I put the instrument into the water. 50 metres down – nice and evenly – and then 50 metres up again. The instrument is surprisingly heavy even under water. So I’m learning a lot about scientific measurements and get a bit of workout as well today.

While I pull up the SUNA I get informed by other scientists how expensive this instrument is and that there probably is no insurance. Thank you for that ;-)

It happens quite often, that scientists do measurements not for themselves, but for colleagues. So it is the case with the SUNA. The data is collected here and now but then send to other scientists that will process the data later.

Other measurements

On this ice station we have the luxury to work by the open water and do not have to cut a hole into ice which is more than one metre thick. Soon we get neighbours: other scientists getting samples and measurements. As usual all guarded by a polar bear guard that carries a flare gun to scare off polar bears and a rifle. Today it is Harald, our cruise leader.

An unexpected encounter

Julie and Anna have started another series of MSS casts. Dima and Cora are passing by, doing another transect. Rupert is their polar bear guard. After a while I look into their direction and see the four figures of the transect team near an ice ridge. Three are clad in the usual colourful overalls, one figure – further to the right – is white. Why? Is it a piece of ice? No, it is a polar bear standing on its back legs. All these observations and thoughts of mine probably just took a second.

I directly call Harald: “Polar bear, over there”, pointing in the direction. The bear is on all fours again and hidden between the ridge ice. Harald takes the VHF to inform everyone. So Rupert, the polar bear guard of the team that is nearest to the bear gets the information as well.

Dima and team turn around and come to our place. The bridge has spotted the polar bear soon after I did and now we hear in the VHF, that the polar bear is moving away. Perfect! We stay alert for a while, then research is continued.

I however follow Dima to the ship. When the polar bear should decide to come back it’s one person less on the ice.

Usually it is one of the three bridge watches who spots a polar bear. Then the VHF will be used to inform everyone about:

  • in which direction is the bear (1 to 12 o’clock)
  • how far is it away
  • what is it doing (standing, going away, heading to the ship …)

We will never know, why the polar bear was not spotted earlier. One guess is that it had slept all the time well hidden from view. When Dima came nearer with the Magnaprobe, the “beep” of the instrument may have woken up the bear. But it’s still just a guess.

Later at the daily 6 o’clock meeting we talk about this encounter. Harald shows a sketch that he has drawn on the digital whiteboard.

Personally I felt save all the time because there were two experienced and fully equipped polar bear guards nearby. I think however that my communication to Harald although fast could have been more precise. Well, I’m still learning …

This was an interesting day on the ice. I’m only a bit sulky because I didn’t manage to get the drone photos I wanted to.

Polar bear in the morning

One hour ago my telephone rang. 5:32. I picked up the phone. “Polar bear at the port side” I was told. I put on some overclothes over my pyjamas took the photo backpack and the big lens and walked outside. And there it was: I big polar bear quite near the ship. It had already circled the stern of the ship and was now starboard side.

It sniffed curiously around and was interested in all these smells the ropes emitted. And unfortunately is was quite interesting in the air sampling station as well. I hope that all the cables survived.

When it didn’t find anything of interest it slowly walked away into the fog that had started coming up.

The fourth ice station – orthophoto and ice coring

It’s Monday, 19 June 13:35 and I just started writing this blog article. For two days the weather has been very foggy and on the 5th ice station (st11) only part of the research could be done due to the bad visibility. While I am writing, we have arrived at our next station (st13) and started to lower the CTD in the moon pool that is in the ship. We are 180 metres west from the prime meridian, that goes through Greenwich. But back to four days ago in times were there was no fog at all …

We are at our 4th ice station with the number st9 and the weather looks ideal for drone flying. Soon after breakfast I’m ready to go on the ice but first the ship has to be anchored to the ice floe. Then the polar bear guard enters the ice and after that we do. As usual most of us leave the helmets by the ship. They are mandatory on deck 3 because of the winches but on the ice we don’t need them.

Drone flying goes well. I even have time and battery to get another try, just to be sure. I corrected exposure, exported 94 images and let them be stitched together to get an aerial “orthophoto” of the area. I added some comments on the image:

After that I have time to stay a bit on the ice. Everything goes well, no one needs my help so I take some photos of Cora doing an ice core. With 110 cm the ice is thicker than the ice corer’s length, therefore the core does not come up in the corer. However Cora just grabs it with her fingers and pulls it up.

Later on the day I play with my private drone on the helicopter deck. One thing is to take aerials from above, another one is to chase ice flows. I am quite nervous because now I look onto the drone from above and it’s hard to tell how close it is to the water. I want to keep my drone and so I keep distance but I get a photo from my favourite ice floe.

At 20:00 I go out onto the ice again, this time to help the oceanographers with the MSS and SUNA. It is really nice that another researcher and I are allowed to help because without us they probably would be faster. Everything takes a little bit the first time. The oceanographers made it clear: You are here to do things and not to take photos. And so this “trip” was very special to me: I didn’t take a single photo! Unbelievable, isn’t it?

Back to the present: The winch with the CTD is still going done, now at a depth of 1800 metres. The bottom depth is shown as 2587 m, so there is a bit to go. The vertical velocity is 1 m/s, so we have almost another hour until the CTD is up again.




Travelling from ice to summer

This photo was taken three days ago:

These photos were taken three hours ago:

Quite a contrast, isn’t it?

18 June (four days ago)

I stand on the sea ice for the last time as part of the polar research expedition with the ice breaker Kronprins Haakon. It has become quite foggy and we will close the ice station earlier due to bad visibility. If you cannot spot the polar bears it is not safe and we had quite a few of them the last two weeks.

19 June (three days ago)

Today we stop the ship several times for the usual CTD casts to get the salinity and temperature of the sea water in different depths. For science it is always interesting to get comparable measurements. One way is to do a transect, a series of the same type of measurements in different locations, mostly in a line. Today we do CTD casts at 2° W, 1° W, 0°, 1° E, and 2 °E. So today we have crossed the Prime Meridian.

For doing CTD casts the ship must stand still. At 1° E I use this to fly my private drone from the helicopter deck for the first picture above. (Memo to myself: do not fly a drone in fog, it is hard to land.)

20 June (two days ago)

After four days of fog it finally clears up in the evening. And for the first time in 18 days we can see land again, the long and narrow island Prins Karls Forland.

We can get a lot of information about what’s going on on the TV. On channel 9 there is OLEX, a navigation system. I see, that Helmer Hanssen, another research vessel owned by the University of Tromsø is nearby. The ships are getting closer and closer and I go up to the helicopter deck to take some photos. There’s a reason for the ships to meet. Malin, a researcher in the field of arctic and marine biology is transferred from our ship to Helmer Hanssen by boat. She will join another cruise.

21 June (yesterday)

In the morning we have approached Adventfjorden, where the main city Longyearbyen is located. Due to the touristic cruise ships occupying all dock places we will stop in the open water. From there we are transferred to land by boat as well. I’m in the first boat because I want to meet people in Longyearbyen at Forskningsparken. There UNIS, the university of Svalbard is located and a department of the Norwegian Polar Institute, too.

We get a car transport there and I meet Vegard, that helped me with drone flying and Luke, that I have worked with quite a bit. Luke and I have even time to get some outdoor lunch in the summery town. It’s sunny and more than 10 °C. (Too warm for me.) He mentions that it got quite green in Longyearbyen. And I spot the first flowers.

At the airport there are long queues everywhere. It is not build for large groups of slightly disorientated tourists. But we arrived early. Shortly after half past two we lift off. I glue myself to the window to see the fjords, the mountain chains and the glaciers of Svalbard passing by.

Amidst between Svalbard and Tromsø I manage to spot the arctic island Bjørnøya in the haze. For the first time in my life! The photo is heavily processed to make Bjørnøya visible.

And then we land in Tromsø where the vegetation just has exploded in my three weeks of absence. Everything is green and there are flowers everywhere. I am lucky and get a lift home. (Thank you, Tore!)

22 June (today)

I drop by in the office to meet my colleagues. Good to see them in real life. We talk about the cruise and many other things. But after work I take a bath in the sea. So refreshing when it is summer and 25 °C! That’s more than twenty degrees warmer than four days ago when I navigated my small drone to take a photo of Kronprins Haakon in the sea ice somewhere between Greenland and Svalbard.

23 June (tomorrow)

Tromsø is my work home, but Obbola in Sweden is my home home. Tomorrow I will travel there. If everything goes well it “only” takes 18 hours. And then I finally will be united with my wife Annika again in our cosy house by the Baltic Sea.

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

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.