ARCTIC BLOG: Setting foot back on land

27 March, 2015

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Diary entry: Friday 27 March 2015

Time: 2200 hrs UTC
Position: 78° 13′ N / 15° 33′ E
Air Temperature: +1.5 °C
Wind Speed: 8 knots

We made it! After 38 days onboard the Norwegian research vessel, the Lance, frozen into the pack ice north of 82º latitude we set foot again on land in Longyearbyen, Svalbard.  What is the northernmost settlement with a population over a thousand appeared to us now like a Southern “resort” with clear skies and temperatures close to 0ºC. Only a week earlier setting free from our last ice floe proved to be a difficult task, but was finally achieved. But the next challenge was to navigate through 100 nautical miles of dense pack ice to reach the ice edge.

An optical phenomenon known as a halo caused by sunlight interacting with ice crystals in the air (Markus Frey)
An optical phenomenon known as a halo caused by sunlight interacting with ice crystals in the air (Markus Frey)

Until early Thursday Plan B remained our last option: leave the ship behind and fly out by helicopter.  At 5am then a sudden jolt of the ship, and “Lance” started moving again in Southern direction, pushing large floes out of the way … then finally we felt the swell of open water.  Leg 2 of N-ICE 2015 had come to an end, with 4 more to follow until the end of June. Our team of 17 scientists had sampled the ocean, down to the sea floor, the sea ice, snow and atmosphere up to the stratosphere, compiling an unprecedented data set to better understand a rapidly changing Arctic.  Working and living together under extreme conditions, exchanging ideas and data, learning about Norwegian food and culture, all forged new friendships and collaborations … truly a N-ICE experience!

Deep into Polar bear territory - this one came within a few feet of the ship to check us out (Markus Frey)
Deep into Polar bear territory – this one came within a few feet of the ship to check us out (Markus Frey)
The N-ICE scientists from cruise leg no. 2 - almost finished! (Markus Frey)
The N-ICE scientists from cruise leg no. 2 – almost finished! (Markus Frey)
The grip of of the pack ice loosens  -  the RV Lance uses any open lead to get closer to the ice margin (Markus Frey)
The grip of of the pack ice loosens  –  the RV Lance uses any open lead to get closer to the ice margin (Markus Frey)
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