On board ship, 22 September 2019, by Marcel Nicolaus |
On departure day it once again became clear to many of us just how long the planning and preparation phase for MOSAiC had been. Since the first meeting in 2011, the ideas and plans gradually became more and more concrete and detailed, and the entire international MOSAiC community put an unbelievable amount of work and energy into this unique project. And now, at last the time had come: at 8:48 pm on Friday 20 September 2019, Polarstern set sail from Tromsø. Countless plans and concepts will now be put into practice, and will either prove to be sound or need to be adapted. Our journey to the starting region in the Arctic is a suspenseful one. Unlike Nansen 125 years ago, we’re fully equipped with a wealth of maps and information. That being said, though we have a good idea of what awaits us there and where the sea-ice drift will take us, we can’t know for certain.
We did it: all 64 researchers and well over 1,000 pieces of cargo are now securely on board Polarstern; this in itself was no mean feat. And our second ship, the Akademik Fedorov, is also underway. She had to wait for the very last cargo deliveries, and left the next morning at 10 am. Now we’re heading for the pack ice together, where we’ll set up our ice camp and the network of measuring stations.
The last few days and weeks were very strenuous and filled with hard work, not just in Tromsø, but in the rest of the MOSAiC world as well. Although leaving wasn’t always easy, on the whole we’re excited about the expedition. Our departure was a milestone, which we celebrated with our families, project partners and invited guests. “This time it’s a real expedition,” explained Captain Schwarze during his first address here on board, adding, “There are many more uncertainties than usual, many aspects are new and unique, and even the exact date of our return is unknown.” His words were an apt reflection of the unique sense of anticipation on board.
Though Polarstern was modified for this experiment in a number of ways, unfortunately she couldn’t be made any bigger. The ship has probably never been packed so full of equipment. Loading at the port was like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle – it seemed that no two crates had the same dimensions, and no-one knew beforehand how everything would fit on board, or where we would find the space. But in the end we managed to find room enough for it all. Now we expect to reach the sea ice on 26 or 27 September, after which we’ll ram our way though to the ice floe. In the meantime we’ll be settling in on board, preparing our workrooms, and sorting through all the instruments and equipment. Eight years ago, when the idea for MOSAiC was first born, who would have expected this day to ever come?