By Franz Schroeter |
We are currently in the “marginal ice zone”: the zone right in front of the thick multi-year-ice. Since we reached the sea ice on August 21st, 2015, we have been moving slower. At first, only ice floes drifted by. Soon, however, we approached a white front ahead. We were accompanied by Arctic winds and the ever-shining sun when we entered the bizarre icy desert. Along with the arrival of the sea ice, the sounds changed both inside and outside the ship: as the ice breaks, the boat shakes and the ice booms. The broken pieces of ice rub against one another with a sound like ceramic. After remaining at the same location for 24 hours, all scientists had taken their samples, and we headed further north this morning.
We have already been lucky enough to witness some polar bears approaching the Polarstern. The day before yesterday we encountered a curious bear mother with her big cub. They got that close under the bow that we couldn’t even see them anymore! Yesterday, another bear swung by; it also observed us closely. The news of the bear sighting spread like wildfire from deck to deck, and the scientists, along with some crew members (!), gathered on the main deck to catch a glimpse of/ glance at our guest. This bear was not as curious as the other two and it could not decide whether it should get closer or leave. Eventually, it turned away, sliding on its belly on the ice! It is truly amazing how agilely the largest terrestrial predator moves on ice.
Speaking of ice: yesterday, the “ice watch” started. Parameters such as ice coverage, ice type, ice thickness, and meteorological data need to be monitored hourly. Since this has to be done 24/7, the sea-ice physicists need help from other scientists. Those volunteers, however, have the opportunity to enjoy the amazing view from the Polarstern bridge during their watch!
Here is one of those funny Polarstern stories: since we stayed at the same station for quite some time, my lab colleagues and I decided to use a small net to gather some plankton to look at under a microscope. Each station consists of a sequence of casts in which scientific tools are deployed into the water. Every cast is recorded by the boat’s bridge. The chief scientist determines the order of the casts before we reach the station so that everyone knows when it is their turn. When we came out on the working deck – our small net in hand – a seaman reported the deployment of the net to the bridge, which seems to be compulsory regardless of the tool and the water depth it is deployed to (in our case it was only 10 m/ 30 feet). Well, by doing this, we unintentionally changed the sequential numbering of the casts, since they are recorded in the boat’s log book chronologically. This caused a lot of confusion, because all the subsequent casts were affected (“Am I cast 5?”). Furthermore, many scientists needed to change the labels of their sample vials… There were groans, but also laughs! =) At least we shot some very nice photos of the marine microscopic universe! :)
Aboard Polarstern one always has to be ready for surprises!