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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.