Returning to Svalbard
Received from Daniella Gredin, The Swedish Polar Research Secretariat
Edited by Jane Holst, GEUS, web-edition Torsten Hoelstad, GEUS
At 16.30 hours on 7 September, at 81°N 13°E, we left the fast ice and headed into open water. It is hard to describe the feeling of seeing something else than the never-ending ice cover that has surrounded us for the past five weeks. Suddenly I realised that Longyearbyen and the end of LOMROG II are not far away. Early this morning the ice margin, which we had been following, disappeared just as the drifting ice disappeared from the dark blue waters.
After a magnificent approach on a glassy ocean between mountain chains, we are now at anchor in Longyearbyen. There is no wind and the sun feels warm after a much colder period. During the first half of the expedition the temperature stayed close to 0°C, and then it decreased for the past few weeks to -2 to -5°C. A few times the temperature dropped to -8°C, and on deck with the wind blowing it was difficult to keep warm even in our warm clothes. The openings in the ice and the sweet-water ponds froze quickly and icebreaking was at some times very difficult.
Life on board has been characterised by hard work from morning till night. The return trip to Svalbard was started a week and a half ago, but both measurements and work in the laboratories have continued. Before we left the fast ice, we stopped for a day while maintenance work was carried out on the ship’s engine. Just before we started again a male polar bear visited. It was an old bear far too experienced to be photographed close us. Instead, on a safe distance, he sat down, lay on his stomach and swam in the open water. This was my seventh polar bear, but others have seen even more on helicopter trips and late at night.
The expedition has been very successful and several researchers have acquired more and better data than they hoped for. The spirits and the pace on board are high just before we fly home. All reports from the expedition must be submitted, the washing machines are running warm and on each deck a vacuum cleaner is heard. It has been six fantastic weeks with a wonderful mix of people! I think that all of us will leave Oden tomorrow a bit sad…