by Josephine Rapp |
During this expedition I planned to do sea ice work for the very first time. However, due to bad weather conditions and very thick fog during the first weeks of the cruise, I first thought that it would be cancelled after all, since both the helicopter and the zodiac require good sight in order to take us to an ice float. Fortunately, we found some hours of better weather and less foggy conditions, so that by now we already completed our third successful ice station.
I want to take ice cores to investigate the microbial communities residing in the ice matrix. Simultaneously, we also sample the shallow and deep water column, as well as the deep-sea sediment from the same station to better understand the degree of exchange between the individual environments.
Work on sea ice has to be very well planned, since you would need to cancel the ice work and come back to the ship in case you forgot to bring something to the ice float. Months before the expedition even started I had to think about which equipment I might need out there while also considering the limited space in the helicopter or zodiac. Luckily, Daniel is helping me with all the ice work. He already joined several Arctic expeditions and is very experienced when it comes to ice coring. So while I was very nervous right before our first ice station, he stayed completely calm and checked back with me whether I forget to pack something important. But even with very good preparation, things can still go wrong: During the second ice station our drill broke, forcing us to drill all ice cores by hand. This took way longer, but at the same time kept us nice and warm, and was probably also beneficial for our fitness.
For the last days the sun has been shining, allowing us to reach our ice stations by helicopter. After searching from air for a suitable ice float, the helicopter dropped Daniel, me and Volker, who did the polar bear watch for us. The helicopter is allowed to stay on the ice for a limited time only and could therefore just stay with us until we finished unloading our equipment. Then it took off again, back to Polarstern, and suddenly we were all alone on an ice float in the middle of the Arctic. In comparison to the noisy and busy ship, it was completely silent. The snow and the ice sparkled in the sun and the only thing we could hear was the cracking of the ice float from time to time. It was beautiful! A few meters further we spotted a trail of large polar bear footprints making me anxious (Photo3). But after the ice work started, the drill broke again and we once more had to drill through two meters thick ice by hand, there was no more time for any feeling of anxiety. Everything worked out fine and we are currently preparing for the next ice station!