We are approaching the mid-point of the TRANSSIZ cruise on the Polarstern and we wanted to hear some thoughts and experiences from members of the science team. We went around and asked cruise participants a few simple, rapid-fire questions, hoping to get responses off the top of their heads. Here is what they had to say:
Tell us about something that you did not expect when coming aboard the Polarstern.
After two weeks of struggling through thick ice toward new sampling locations, perhaps it is not surprising to hear that, for many of us, the thick ice conditions have been a much bigger challenge than originally anticipated – even for a powerful icebreaking vessel like Polarstern. Otherwise, the Arctic itself has not disappointed, except with some of us wondering about the lack of polar bears – you need to be lucky to see one out here! The working environment onboard have exceeded expectations not only with excellent lab and working facilities but also ‘ship life’ facilities such as the good food, and a shop opening during certain weekdays for purchasing essential (e.g., soap) and not so essential items (like candy!). While some people were surprised by the good communication opportunities from this remote location (we use an Iridium satellite connection updated hourly and each were assigned our own onboard e-mail addresses), others are still dealing with the shock of life without the internet for six weeks. Fortunately, we have Deutsch Wikipedia current to 2003 to keep us informed (and entertained).
What is the best thing you have seen or experienced so far?
“A friendly group of scientists and feeling of home!”
“Seeing the beautiful frost flowers”
“The pressure ridge moving so quickly that I could see it with my own eyes”
“Getting transported from the ice in a mummy chair [a metal basket on a crane] and enjoying the nice view from up in the air”
“Definitely the Helicopter flights with the EM-bird instrument”.
“Seeing two narwhal from the helicopter while surveying ice thickness”
“Unfortunately my research does not involve helicopter flights, so I would say the beautiful sunny day on the ice with lots of people helping with the work.
One person also mentioned seeing Svalbard after never having been north of Scotland – which also became a rather disappointing experience after heavy ice kept pushing us back to shore to view Svalbard several times over! Someone also mentioned his cabin mate – actually, the cabin mate answered on his behalf.
What did you bring to remind you of home and what do you regret leaving behind?
A few of us received a package of letters from family and friends to open on specific days. For example, one scientist has a letter for each Friday containing Lego men from his kids so that he would have someone to keep him company. While some brought their own mascots, like stuffed animals, the majority of people had pictures of their loved ones, some taped to the ceiling of their beds. Other, more specific reminders of home include regular football updates and Korean noodles. The #1 item that people regretted leaving behind was their favorite coffee – although some of the more experienced polar researchers have even brought their own coffee makers with them. One scientist had forgotten to bring along a tiny stuffed tiger that has already been on eleven polar cruises. Another scientist had made a list of things she regretted leaving behind during a previous cruise, but on the current cruise, only packed items from her ‘forgotten list’. Now she has two lists that, once combined, should include everything needed for an Arctic expedition. She needs to go on a third expedition!
Where do you spend most of your time onboard? What is your favourite place to spend time onboard?
Perhaps it is no surprise that the most scientists onboard spend the majority of their time at their workstation, including the wetlab, winch room, dark cold rooms and hydrosweep/acoustic lab. Some of these workstations are a bit nicer than others . The sauna after a hard working day on the ice floe was almost unanimously cited as the #1 place to spend the rare free time, with the peil deck (observation deck atop the bridge) coming in a close second. A few people also mentioned ‘secret’ places to get some alone time, including hiding behind shipping containers on deck.
Stay tuned for next week’s Friday blog that will contain some quick facts about our sampling efforts to date. For example, we have now generated over 600,000 images of phytoplankton (algae living in the water column) – and we’re only halfway through the cruise!