Oden, September 8, 2007, Working outside the Oden
Received from Sofia Rickberg, Swedish Polar Research Secretariat
Edited by Jane Holst, Henrik Højmark Thomsen and Torsten Hoelstad, GEUS
Position: 83° 26.57’N, 000° 05.50’E
Weather: -5.2°C, 7 m/s, fair, no snow
Some of the projects require the researcher to work on the ice. The transport to the ice is often undertaken by the red helicopter, which is also used for finding the best route through the ice – so-called ice reconnaissance. The pilots Thomas and Geia and the engineer Mart are always on standby, ready to take off, day and night. The helicopter is a Eurocopter Ecureil AS350 from Kallaxflyg chartered by the Swedish Maritime Administration for the expedition. The pilots have many years of experience with ice and snow. They normally work in the Swedish mountains near the town of Kiruna where they are assisting at rescue operations and giving tourist helicopter rides. Two pilots are necessary for landing on the ice, one for steering and one for assisting with estimation of the distance to the ice-surface.
Especially two projects require the researchers to work on the ice. In one of them Hans Ramløv is working for the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources. He drills cores from the sea ice and melts them in the laboratory to investigate how CO2 is transported from the atmosphere to the ice and the sea. The other is part of the Danish Continental Shelf project, in which René Forsberg by means of a gravity meter measures the ice and sea depths along the navigation route. These measurements, together with the data from the multibeam on the Oden, provide information about the Earth’s gravitational field and the depth of the sea.
Warm boots, caps, mittens and sun glasses are essential when working on the ice. This equipment the researchers take care of themselves, but before they are dropped on the ice they get a special survival suit and a gun. A gun is necessary on the sea ice where the polar bears roam for food. One of the researchers must at all times be on the outlook for hungry bears. The alternative to the helicopter is to use a crane to get down on the ice. If the ship has stopped for CTD measurements or for sediment sampling, Hans and René are hoisted over the ship’s side in a basket.
Many researchers from other projects or crew members often assist with the work on the ice to get off the ship for a little while. It is a nice change of scenery enjoying the free life on the frozen sea when you have worked indoor on the ship for six weeks. The Arctic air feels good.
The researchers taking measurements on the ice often work during the day to keep “normal” hours, so they are able to attend the meals and other social events onboard. They can take ice samples almost anywhere along the route. The researcher taking water and sediment samples do not have this kind of flexibility. These samples must be taken on exactly the right position, so they must get to work when the ship has reached the correct position no matter what time of day it is. When a channel through the ice has to be found, this goes for the helicopter pilots as well. Ice reconnaissance is done whenever the first officer or captain judges it necessary. Last night it was at 0400 UTC.