I’ve been on board the Russian icebreaker, the Kapitan Dranitsyn, for the last 3 days and in this blog post, I’d like to give you a sense of life on board the ship.

We boarded the Dranitsyn on Monday evening (January 27th) but, as I’ll explain later, we haven’t made much progress towards the Polarstern yet. When we arrived at the dock on Monday evening I was impressed with how large the Dranitsyn looked in the dark, although I’m guessing I’ll have a different opinion of its size if we get into any large seas on our cruise. 

This was my first view of the Dranitsyn – my home for the next 2+ weeks.
This photograph gives a better sense of the size of the Dranitsyn when compared to the people standing on the dock.

One thing that surprised, and concerned me, as I looked up at the Dranitsyn for the first time was the frozen sea spray far above the waterline on the ship. That suggested the Dranitsyn encountered some stormy weather and big waves on its way to Tromsø.

This is one of the lifeboats we’d use in case we need to abandon ship. Notice the frozen sea spray on the lifeboat, which is located more than 20 feet above the waterline.

On Tuesday, the day after we board the ship, we had to clear Norwegian immigration, since once the ship sails we’ll be leaving Norway. The Norwegian border control processed each of our departures in their mobile immigration control van at the dock. This was also the last time that I’d set foot on solid ground until I return to Norway in April.

Me posing in front of the Dranitsyn after clearing Norwegian passport control.

There isn’t much for the MOSAiC scientists to do on board the Dranitsyn since our real work won’t start until we reach the Polarstern. Meals are served at 8:15AM, 12:15PM and 6:45PM each day and provide an anchor point for the rest of the day. Each meal offers soup, bread, a meat dish, pasta or potatoes and some veggies. The galley isn’t large enough to seat everyone at once so there are two 30 minute serving times for each meal. All of the MOSAiC scientists eat together during the second meal serving.

Besides the three schedule meal times we also have an all-hands science meeting at 8PM to get updates on plans for reaching the Polarstern. As part of MOSAiC there are separate science teams, studying the atmosphere, ocean, sea ice and snow, ecosystems and biogeochemistry. Each of these science teams also has occasional meetings on board. The meetings are held in a lecture room / theater on deck 7 of the ship. The Dranitsyn is sometimes used as a polar tourist ship, which is why it is outfitted with a theater. 

The atmosphere science team meeting in the lecture room / theater on the Dranitsyn.

Outside of meals and meetings the rest of my day is free. I spend this free time walking around on the outer decks enjoying the view of the mountains lining the fjord, in my cabin or in the ship’s lounge / bar area.

My cabin on the Dranitsyn was bigger than I had expected. I share this room with one other person.
Many of the scientists spend a lot of the day in the lounge working, reading or playing games.

For those of you that know me you know that I love riding my bike. Not being able to ride for almost 3 months was a part of this trip that I was dreading. Fortunately, the Dranitsyn has a gym with a couple of treadmills and stationary bikes, so I’ve been able to ride every day. But, the gym is in the center of the ship and it is very hot in there which makes my hour long bike rides pretty unpleasant. Fortunately, I can go out on the deck after I finish my ride to cool off, while creating my own cloud of steam fog as the sweat evaporates in the cold air.

The gym on the Dranitsyn.

As I said at the beginning of this post our sailing north to the Polarstern has been delayed. The initial delay was due to the late arrival of the Dranitsyn in Tromsø, which caused us to set sail on Wednesday instead of Tuesday as we had originally planned. 

The two tug boats that pulled us away from the dock sailing back to Tromsø as we start our trip north. This is the last view of a town or city we’ll see until we get back to Norway in April.
The view over the front of the ship as we begin sailing north in the fjord.

After leaving Tromsø on Wednesday we only sailed north for a couple of hours before anchoring near the northern edge of the fjord. The weather forecast shows a storm passing north of Norway, creating large waves. Like many icebreakers the Dranitsyn rolls a lot in large seas and the capitan wants to avoid as much of that as possible. This means that we are spending a couple of days anchored in the fjord before we start our actual push north to the Polarstern.

The view of the fjord, north of Tromsø, where we are anchored as we wait for a storm to pass to our north.

While we are all anxious to reach the Polarstern and start our work this delay, within cell phone coverage of the coast, means that I still have reliable internet access through my cell phone. This is what allowed me to post this entry with photos and is also allowing me to stay in touch with my family at home. 

On our first night out of port we were treated to our first view of the northern lights. This display wasn’t as good as some others I’ve seen but it is always a thrill, for me anyway, to see the northern, or southern, lights. I’ll end this post with a photo I took from the helicopter deck on the ship last night with the northern lights glowing just above the mountains lining our fjord.


4 comments on “Kapitan Dranitsyn

  • Hi John. Thank you very much for the information about your trip and the beautiful pictures. Can you please tell me what kind of a rifle and caliber you take with you when you go out on the ice, for protection against the polar bears? Thank you uncle Jim.

  • Very Cool – pun intended! That boat looks like a hotel on top of a boat. Fascinating. And of course your are in the bar most of the day… like the old days. JK.

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