Sunday, May 11, 2008

On the ice - Part 1

Sunday April 27, 2008 (Published on

Coming from the Netherlands – a country with quite rarely snow & ice – my first three arctic days on ‘The Ice’ have been amazing.

After the first day of getting to know the people on the boat and the Amundsen itself, I have joined yesterday and today the scientific fieldwork in the morning. Finally on the ice myself.

Yesterday I have joined a group led by Benoit Philipe, drilling 1,3 meters long ice cores. Our temporary home on the ice was covered in fog, which gave the boat, seen from a distance, a mystical touch. Temperature was –15 Celsius, but there was no wind at all. Cores were taken out of the ice, cut into pieces and put into insulating bottles, to analyze them on the ship. Looking for ice algae – the brownish stuff at the bottom of the ice cores – and for tiny arctic fauna like nematodes and worms. And also for carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, to uncover the arctic secret of carbon fluxes in and out of the ice.

Today the sun was shining in the morning, but it was –18 Celsius and there was quite some wind. Now I know what wind-chill in the arctic means. I have felt my feet the rest of the day. This time our group, led by John Yackel, was digging two snow pits of about 15 centimeter of snow that was lying on the ice. They measured at the spot some physical properties of the snow cover and took samples back to the boat to analyze some other. The thicker the snow cover, the warmer the ice. And that influences it’s physical properties.

At tonight’s scientific meeting John Iacozza reported about his ice reconnaissance helicopter flight of today. The instruments in the helicopter measure ice thickness and by flying low over the area he was also able to see the state of the ice. He noticed much open water and much new, thin ice. He said that it is very unusual to see in April already that much open water in this area.

John Yackel showed three satellite images from 23, 8 and 2 hours ago. The flaw lead in the ice, going from north to southeast, almost touching Victoria Island, is getting larger. At the southeastern tip the flaw lead is extending and curving towards the west. It seems that the wind tries to push the ice out of the Amundsen Gulf. Both the helicopter observations and the satellite images show that the ice is moving a lot. Together with many break ups, it makes the sea ice unpredictable. That’s the reason that the captain prefers to let the ship stay in the ice.

Right now, the ship is attached to the sea ice. And because the ice is always moving depending on the wind, we are also floating with about a kilometer per hour. I don’t know where.