What is IPY
Thursday, the 15th of January
Going north and one day lost
Last view of icebergs (Photo Credit: Ulrich Breitsprecher)
Now we are going north and the sea gets bumpy again. The swell is up to 4 - 5m. We crossed 60° South and the “Roaring Fifties” are back again. Wherever it's possible, we take samples. The weather forecast on board helps to find calm moments for using all devices like the Multinet, Pistoncore, Multicore and CTD.
On Wednesday, we passed the International Date Line and lost one day, so the Weight Watchers Club approaches earlier than I expected. Although the dessert on board is my favourite dish, I didn't plump out. But I think it's only luck at the measurement.
On board now everyone is busy in writing his part of the cruise report. In the evening, we had a lot of talks by the scientists. Sometimes I feel sorry that I was not interested in chemistry in school for there are a lot of interesting methods to analyze the samples. I understand the overview, but the details are sometimes a secret for me. In my next life, I will do it better.
I asked some of my fellow travellers: “What is the fascination of the cruise?”
Daniel answered: “We are on board for two months without reaching a harbour. This is rare in these days.”
Marie answered: “On this journey I notice that I can renounce easily things of the everyday life, no mobile, no Facebook, no shopping. I need only very few things.”
Ling answered: “Although there are people from different countries on board, all are working together without any problem.”
Cornelia answered: “I see how people are acting on board in the way they are. Nobody behaves in a different way for two months. This is fascinating.”
For the guestbook on Polarstern we photographed all the scientists on the helideck.
Here we are:
Science Group (Photo Credit: Ulrich Breitsprecher)
Friday, the 8th of January
Reaching the Polarcircle
Photo Credit: Ulrich Breitsprecher and Matt Konfist
After crossing the polar circle, we are now surrounded by the icebergs we had hoped to see. I counted 35 during my morning whale watch on the bridge. The view is unbelievable and the hard-drive of my Mac is filling up with photos. The sea is quiet. There are both types of icebergs: enormous floating masses and tiny blue-green sculptures. Each of them gives a sense of quietude and calm that carries over the observer. I stop and stare and can hardly turn my gaze away. Only the spray of the bow cuts through the waves and the distant sound of Polarstern's motor breaks the silence.
Ulrich Breitsprecher and Matt Konfist
The Swedish Committee for IPY have produced a report entitled 'Polar Shifts:Sweden and the International Polar Year 2007-2008 ' to inform all interested parties, including the wider public, politicians, Arctic residents, financiers and researchers, about the International Polar Year, with an emphasis on the Swedish efforts. This report, containing some wonderful images, can be downloaded in both Swedish and English. For more information about IPY activities in Sweden, please visit the IPY Sweden website.
For more information on polar research in Sweden, please visit the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat website.
Thursday, the 7th of January
James Cook and us
It is 0 degrees outside, cold and icy, and I am lying on my bed in a comfortable 22 degrees reading a biography on James Cook, the explorer. It makes me wonder how comfortable this cruise on the Polarstern is compared to what Cook and his crew went through in the old days of seafaring.
Cook fared through these perilous seas for the second time between 1772 – 1775 and discovered many of the Southern Pacific islands and archipelagos. He came within 75 miles of the Antarctic coast and crossed south of 71°S. At present (as of 8th January 2010) we are at 66.38°S and have recently left Polar area behind.
Cook writes, “Ambition drives me not only further than any person before, but as far as it is possible for man to be driven.”
With the Resolution, a coal ship, he had traveled 70,000 miles with 123 men on board. There were 462 tonnes of coal to accomplish such a mission. During that expedition, four men had died due to accidents and one died of Tubercolosis. Such were the pitfalls of seafaring, adventurous, yet treacherous, in every step of the way!
Photo Credit: Ulrich Breitsprecher and Matt Konfist
In the southern ocean, Cook spent 117 days without laying eyes on land. There was slated pork, beef, biscuits, and as a special treat for breakfast in the cold regions, a glass of brandy to warm up the seamen. Cook also brought jam made from carrots as protection against scurvy, additionally cheese and oatmeal. All in all, a seaman during Cooks time took in 4,500 calories a day. During his second journey to the south, rations became so short, even sealions made their way into the menu. The seamen didn't find them so tasty.
For comparison, let's look at today's menu on Polarstern: Peasoup, Filet of Cod, served "Finkenwerder Art", mashed potatoes, rice, fruit, and of course along with it, your choice of tea or coffee.
Photo Credit: Jürgen Gossler
To compare it with Cooks ship, Resolution, Polarstern is 117,91 m long, 25 m wide and 52,21 m tall at it's highest point. The ship has a draft of 11,21 m and weighs 10.878,52 tons. Polarstern is an icebreaker and the steal hull in the bow is as much as 7 cm thick.
During our travel we have a lot of space and security. Double rooms, hot showers, a gym, a sauna, lounges and a number of specialized laboratories make life and work aboard comfortable. Additionally, we have 40 people less than Cook's ship.
For me, one of the clearest differences is that Cook travelled in as yet unknown region. He didn't know what awaited him and had with him only as the latest technological advancement a chronometer, which could keep precised time while at sea. In contrast, we are using the most up-to-date maps and satellite-supported navigation systems.Polarstern can measure not only the seafloor, but also the depth of the sediment layers with it's instruments. Even when the route has hardly been travelled, we know where we are.
For both expeditions however, one thing remains the same. Only nautical knowledge and the experience of both science and crew are able to bring success to the expedition. Cook had it, we will also.
Ulrich Breitsprecher and Matt Konfist
Well, the phrase “holiday season” signifies, generally to the world population, the time between Christmas and New Year’s. In the last edition, I talked about a fulfilling Christmas celebration coloured with Christmas buddy gifts, chocolates, parties, delicious food and icebergs. The same trend continues this edition into the New Year’s Eve celebration, birthday parties, and Mid-Cruise get-together amidst all the workload, which seemed to have increased. The reason for such is that we were chasing a weather window until the 1st of January, after which bad weather was expected, and which therefore deemed it necessary to finish most of the coring station work before the bad weather came towards us. Hence, the holiday season was hectic with work but also double the fun with all the celebrations. It was almost as the saying goes, “You only deserve to be in warm water if you put your feet in cold water first”.
A very important aspect of marine research is the coring of sediments. There are many ways in which sediments can be brought on board on a research vessel - through the help of a Gravity corer, a Piston corer or a Box corer. All three work with different principles of weight and pressure and provide the scientists with different amounts of sediments to work on. To proffer an example from this research cruise, the Gravity corer was used when we had bad weather and heavy waves, as it falls through the water column under the principle of gravity with a heavy weight on top of the core which helps the core to immerse into the deep ocean sediments. A piston core on the other hand works with a more stable winch system and is used in calmer weather as heavy machinery is used to precisely lower the coring device through the water column and into the sediments. The length of these cores can be anything between 10 to 30 m long.
Photo credit: Oliver Esper
23 December 2009
Today around 09:30 ship's time, two finback whales appeared on the starboard side of the ship. We're now crossed south of 60°G and are required to have whale watchers on bridge when we stop to take samples. We watched for whales the whole night long and into the early morning hours. Nothing! Only after we had steamed quite a ways toward the next station we get the call from the bridge: Whales!!! Dropping everything that we were doing, the whole ship stormed off to the bridge with our cameras in hand. First at a distance, but then coming closer, we could see the spray coming from their blowholes. In the end, the animals were only 150m away from the edge of the boat, and it was a magnificent show to observe them. After a few minutes, they lost interest in the Polarstern and made their way west. What remains are the photos. One of them you can see here. I hope I'll be able to share more experiences like this with you.
Translation: Matt Konfirst
Photo: Ulrich Breitsprecher
Christmas without darkness
I wish you the very best and some relaxed days. Although it's always bright, the temperature is ilk in winter. The christmas tree is still in the refrigerated hold, but the preparations for christmas have already started.
So I wish you merry christmas and a happy new year.
A ship or boat is an extraordinary invention! It could be as simple as a plain wooden or rubber raft with paddles that can tread the seas (albeit with some difficulty) or it could be as complex as a research vessel with multiple engines, winches and holders to put scientific instruments up and down the water column, composite laboratories that hold even more intricate instruments, living facilities that can be compared to a cruise ship and safety control devices required to pace the rough polar waters and ice. I am happy to say that we're on the latter on this expedition, which endures through some jagged Antarctic conditions!
Abhinav Gogoi & Ulrich Breitsprecher