20. June 2023 | Magazine:

Mail from the ice (2) Magnus Asmussen and Dr.-Ing. Falk Pätzold report from Arctic expedition

In May 2023, the research vessel “Oden” set off for the Arctic. On the Swedish expedition “ARTofMELT” (7 May to 15 June), the researchers observe weather, air and water. They want to find out why and when the ice begins to melt and which processes are important for melting. Two scientists from Technische Universität Braunschweig also went on board. Their emails give us a small insight into their work and everyday life during their research trip. The collected measurement data can be used to investigate which processes have which influence. The data is also used to test and improve models.

All episodes: Mail from the ice (1) | Mail from the ice (2) | Mail from the ice (3)

Work on the floe was restricted at times—by curious polar bears. Photo credit: IFF/TU Braunschweig

From: Falk
Sent: 23.05.2023, 22:00

Yesterday was the sixth HELiPOD flight at 800 ft cloud base. Since the helicopter is not allowed to fly over open water and the satellite images were outdated, the flight path planning was again an “on the fly” thing. The data is once again so surprising that there was a lot of enthusiasm.

The weather out there is as usual between zero and minus ten, grey-foggy, with daily polar bear precipitation. However, after leaving the previously sampled floe on Sunday and heading north, things are hardly progressing at all. Satellite images (radar) show two unusually large floes that do not allow any passage between them. The rough plan is to travel to about 81.5° N and play around on a floe there, observing the further onset of melting.

From: Falk 
Sent: 25.05.2023, 19:21
Subject: Snow report

In terms of miserable weather, you guys in Central Europe can hardly keep up with what we have here in the Fram Strait. In numbers, it’s up to 45 knots at -7°C. In the ship, the only thing that bothers us is the wind noise, so all in all it will be a day to relax. We earned this quiet day yesterday with our seventh HELiPOD flight. The flight was actually planned for later After some weather stabilisation, the HELiPOD got into the air. However, the flight ended after about 50 minutes due to the onset of snowfall and rapidly deteriorating visibility. The wind speed at the ship was already at 40-50 km/h. The quicklooks afterwards revealed that we had precisely picked up a change of air mass before the arrival of the storm low, so scientifically the running and shivering from early to late might have been worth it despite a relatively short flight.

Overall, my thoughts revolve around how the HELiPOD can be made even more robust, because fast reaction times are important in this environment. We were in the air about 1 hour after the “GO!”, but there is certainly room for improvement. The number of steps involved is still quite high.

The rough travel plan is to head north after the storm (destination now 80.5°) to moor at a floe to observe the effects of the onset of melting there.

From: Magnus
Sent: 26.05.2023, 13:14

The foul weather is already over again, and the helicopter station has been called up again for today. In the meantime, the departure time has already shifted to “after-lunch” UTC. The pilot is still a little pessimistic about whether we will see narwhals.

We have trained the little Finn, and he is proving to be a real help! Without him, it wouldn’t be feasible in this way. In general, we need quite a lot of people to crane the HELiPOD onto the helideck, launch the helicopter and attach the pod. Without the 3 firemen, there were 6 people in our container at the end.

The mood on the ship is still basically very good, but the first people are slowly becoming unemployed since they have worked up the samples from the last ice station. That’s not too bad, as one of them can play the guitar very well and strums along a bit next to the people working. Movies are regularly played in the small cinema, but they are never the ones the scientists want. And LEGO Batman is unavailable as it’s not a typical seafarer’s film… pffff….

From: Magnus
Sent: 28.5.2023, 12:03

There was another HELiPOD flight yesterday, and there’s another one scheduled for today.
This is working pretty well now. In the meantime, we’ve all got on quite well as a team. After a transit eastwards towards Spitsbergen, we fought our way into the ice at a different spot last night, and have now already arrived at over 80°N. After yesterday’s Fancy Dinner, the amazing density of polar bear tracks on the passing ice was viewed while listening to music on the helideck. The aim is to find a new ice station today, which will be our home for the next 5-7 days. There we will measure diligently again.

From: Falk
Sent: 29.05.2023, 23:05

On Saturday, the ship was already close to the ice edge for the HELiPOD launch, with the 20 NM maximum distance from the ship being joined by the restriction of not flying over open water, but always having floes underneath to land on in case of emergency. During the flight, the ship then also merrily moved more than 10 NM further east, which challenged the on-the-fly flight path planning somewhat. Meanwhile, vertically, there were no weather-related restrictions, so we tested out the helicopter’s climbing capabilities. Having already climbed to 6000 ft on flight 4, we called it a day at 8000 ft.

In the evening we were able to see Spitsbergen from the ship, although after the days in the extremely shallow waters of the Arctic Ocean, anything higher than five beer crates stacked on top of each other already seems immensely high.

A flight was scheduled for Whitsunday at 18:30, which took off on time as usual. Minor problems with the measuring system were resolved before the flight, and everything purred smoothly. However, the weather situation was a bit challenging.

Then today there was increased interest in aerial photography of the floe to establish the positions of buoys that will monitor this floe until it melts away.

All episodes: Mail from the ice (1) | Mail from the ice (2) | Mail from the ice (3)