From Mario Hoppmann und Hendrik Hampe |
As soon as the countless containers are un-stowed and the first instruments have been prepared the scientists are ready to start with their main task: the investigation of the atmosphere, ocean, and sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. Since it usually takes a few days to reach the ice edge, the focus is initially on the investigation of the physical and chemical properties of the surrounding Arctic Ocean.
It is one of the main tasks of the Oceanography group to take care of the preparation and operation of numerous scientific instruments. They are mainly interested in the determination of the physical ocean properties, such as temperature, salinity, and density. By repeating these measurements regularly along transects across the Arctic Ocean, during so-called “stations”, we are able to identify ocean currents and the exchange of different water masses. This knowledge then helps to gain a better understanding of the Earth system, in which the polar oceans play a critical role
Our team encompasses 9 scientists and students from Germany, France, Spain, Russia, and Finland. Our most important device is the so-called CTD-Rosette, with CTD standing for the measurements of “Conductivity – Temperature – Depth“, which is a combination of numerous sensors and sampling bottles. In addition to the basic “CTD” parameters, other water properties such as oxygen content and current velocities are also recorded. In order to measure vertical profiles of the water column and to take water samples, the large frame which carries the sensors and bottles is lowered to a depth of several thousand meters using a giant winch. The water samples are then analysed by the GEOTRACES team to determine their chemical properties.
In addition to these regular stations, there are also several other instruments which need to be prepared and operated. This means lots of work, not much sleep, and cold feet at times. You need to be highly concentrated during your shift, even in the middle of the night, to react to the numerous problems and challenges that arise frequently.
But finally the exhausting work is more than just compensated by the exceptional food, the nice colleagues, and the astonishing views here on the top of the world.
Regarding astonishing views: yesterday we reached the sea-ice edge, and preparations for the first ice station are about to start. In a few days, when the ice is getting thicker and more stable towards the north, we will choose a suitable ice floe to anchor on, in order to take ice samples and deploy autonomous devices. On the ice it will be necessary to always keep an eye open for the kings of the north, the marvelous polar bears, who already have an eye on us.