1 March 2020
On February 28th the Dranitsyn reached the Polarstern and the MOSAiC ice floe. Everyone onboard was very excited to have finally reached our destination after almost 4.5 weeks since leaving Tromsø.
Starting on the 27th we were able to see the lights of the Polarstern in the distance. The bridge of the Dranitsyn became a very crowded place as most people onboard were anxious to get their first view of the Polarstern and the end of this longer than expected leg of our journey. It was strange looking out from the bridge and seeing something other than the jumble of sea ice we’ve been traveling through for the last several weeks.
As the Dranitsyn drew nearer to Polarstern we had a couple of helicopter flights to transfer some of the MOSAiC team leaders to the Polarstern so they could finalize the details of how the handover from leg 2 to leg 3 would be handled. Two people from the Polarstern came over to the Dranitsyn on these flights and these were the first two new faces we’d seen in almost a month.
The ice floe around the Polarstern is heavily instrumented for all of the different research projects that are going on as part of the MOSAiC expedition. To minimize the chance of the ice floe cracking, and threating the instruments that are on the ice, the Dranitsyn didn’t sail up to the Polarstern but stopped about a half a mile away.
We are now working on having a smooth transition between the leg 2 and leg 3 scientists. Several things need to be accomplished during this time. All of the cargo that the Dranitsyn is carrying, including food and scientific equipment, needs to be transferred to the Polarstern. The scientists on the Dranitsyn need to meet with their colleagues on the Polarstern to get the details of how they’ve been doing their research for the past few months to ensure that the measurements that were being made continue uninterrupted. Eventually, the scientists that have been living on the Polarstern, since December, will move over to the Dranitsyn to start sailing back to Norway and we will move over to the Polarstern and make it our home until sometime in early April. Right now, it looks like we’ll move into our rooms on the Polarstern on Tuesday.
Gina and I got to visit the Polarstern for the first time yesterday and we were both really excited. It was the first time that we’ve stepped off of the Dranitsyn since late January. It was also our first time walking on Arctic sea ice, although to be honest the ice is thick and covered with snow so there isn’t much evidence to let you know that you are actually walking on just several feet of ice over thousands of feet of the cold Arctic Ocean. Our first day at the MOSAiC floe was appropriately Arctic feeling with temperatures in the low -30s F. The twilight we’ve been seeing for the last few days continues to extend through more of the day with every passing day. We are now treated to a sunset sky of orange twilight on the horizon from morning through evening. This glow on the horizon slowly moves across the sky, following the sun far to the south. In the morning the glow is on the eastern horizon and ends up in the western sky in the evening. It never gets completely dark now, even at midnight.
Since our project is just starting on this leg of the MOSAiC expedition we don’t have any colleagues to take over from like many of the other scientists on the Dranitsyn. But, the leg 2 atmosphere team lead, Taneil, is helping us find all of the cargo that we had shipped to the Polarstern before it set sail from Germany in September, helping us find some workspace on the ship and identify an area that will be suitable for our DataHawk drone flights on the ice floe. We started all of this yesterday.
My first impressions of the Polarstern is that it is a much more crowded and much more confusing ship to find your way around than the Dranitsyn. It is also obvious that it is a research ship rather than simply an ice breaker like the Dranitsyn. There are lots of lab spaces on the lower decks, where many of the scientists will spend most of their time. There are also shipping containers on the forward deck of the ship that serve as labs for many of the projects with several of the containers having instruments ranging from radars to air chemistry sampling devices sticking out of the top of the container. The cabins on the Polarstern are a bit smaller than those on the Dranitsyn but they look like they will be a comfortable home for the next month. There are two galleys onboard the Polarstern as well as a couple of lounges and a bar where we’ll be able to relax after long days of working on the ice. After nearly 5 weeks on the Dranitsyn I am looking forward to the change that moving to the Polarstern will provide as well as having lots of work to fill my days.