by Matthew Shupe, CIRES/NOAA scientist and co-coordinator of MOSAiC

The vastness is remarkable. Heading through the North Sea and out into the North Atlantic. Norwegian mountains on the horizon. A modest swell. For a land-locked Coloradoan, the ocean is such an immense open space. And oddly this is where we have come to have less space. After making it through months of primarily isolation at home, highly protected travel to Germany,  weeks in a hotel quarantine, 3 coronavirus tests, and innumerable measures to limit interaction, we are finally now back to a space that does not require social distance. We have put away the masks. We sit next to each other on the couch. I even shook a couple of hands as I met key people around this vessel. But I admit it felt weird, and I felt the need to wash my hands right away. Will we ever get back into a world where handshakes feel normal? I guess that is a question for another time, as now we head north. Onboard the RV Sonne. Out to our own quarantine in the central Arctic. Perhaps one of the safest places on Earth in this time of pandemic. It is such a strange headspace; a mixture of vast openness yet confinement, of freedom with restriction. These next days we have a strict plan, heading to Svalbard to rendezvous with Polarstern. The Sonne follows the Merian; 5 days to Isfjord where we will exchange people and cargo. But after that, the story is much more open ended. We will head out to make our story.

Sailing to Svalbard. Photo: Lianna Nixon/CIRES & CU Boulder, for the Alfred Wegener Institute (CC-BY 4.0).

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