ARCTIC BLOG: Climbing to the Crow’s Nest

13 March, 2015

Diary entry: Friday 13 March 2015

Time: 1400 hrs UTC
Position: 82° 52.1′ N / 21° 15.1′ E
Air Temperature: −25.6 °C
Wind Speed: 4.9 knots

Since more than two and a half weeks we are moored now to “our” ice floe in the Arctic winter pack ice, not far from the North Pole.  A storm from the South last week brought warm temperatures of up to -2ºC and led to dramatically fast ice drift: tons of ice was pressing against the steel hull of the former sealing ship “Lance”, raising it about 1 meter out of the sea water.

View from the Crow's Nest on RV Lance
View from the Crow’s Nest on Norwegian research vessel Lance (Markus Frey)

Since the “Lance” is not an ice breaker we need now another storm to free ourselves from the chilly grip of the pack ice and make it back in time to Svalbard before the end of leg two of N-ICE. Meanwhile all scientists assisted by a very experienced crew go about their research tasks on the sea ice. My own routine involves twice daily a climb up to the “Crow’s Nest”, some 18 m above the main deck of the  “Lance”.

Climbing up to the Crow's Nest on Norwegian research vessel Lance (Markus Frey)
Climbing up to the Crow’s Nest on Norwegian research vessel Lance (Markus Frey)

Up in the airy heights I have installed some of the instruments with which we intend to unravel the secrets  of blowing snow and what small salt particles it may release to the atmosphere. Frequent checks of the continuously recorded data are needed to assure that everything is working fine and to be ready for the next storm to come. The climb up a steep ladder has become now a routine, only in strong winds I pause more frequently to assure myself of my hold onto the wooden steps and that safety harness and carabiners are well attached to not get surprised by a sudden gust. From aloft I have a stunning view of the ship and the ice floe, with pressure ridges, thin ice fields, newly formed open leads and new ice to the horizon.  All magically illuminated by a faint Arctic winter sun, which rose for the first time above the horizon on March-8.

The weather forecast pinned to the wood wall on the bridge promises up to 50 knot winds, -20ºC and some snow fall for Sunday. Bad news for most of my colleagues, but I am happy: this might be “my storm”, the one I have been waiting for … I am ready.