The first sighting of ice

By Emily // Saturday 29 Sep // 20:45:06 // No Comments

This morning started with much excitement at the first sighting of ice – at 8.30am everyone was up and taking pictures. It did wonders for the morale on board. The saloon which had been full of soggy gear and sleeping bodies since Sunday became a dance floor. There was much jumping around to ‘Ice Ice baby’ and other cheesy goodness! It is impossible to describe the difference between this and the seemingly endless days of almost everyone on board feeling very ill.

Many a time throughout the voyage so far, I’ve really had to stop and remind myself that we really are sailing (albeit with an occasional helping hand from the engine) across an incredibly remote and very important piece of sea. The Fram Strait, between Spitsbergen and Greenland is the only deep water connection between the entire Arctic Ocean and any of the rest of the global oceans. For this reason, changes in the currents here are strong indicators of change in both the Arctic environment and the large scale circulation of the oceans.

In truth, my first morning this morning started with my 2am watch. The two hour stint of helping to steer and hoist sails with my watch mates Shiro and Simon passed quickly as we were busy taking a sample for much of it. Throughout the voyage, Carol, Simon and I have kept up regular samples to build up a picture of surface currents along the route. Each time, we stop and lower an instrument which records temperature and salinity to 200m, so that we get a profile of the water column. The image shows the first half of this cross section, using our first 6 profiles. Looking south, with Spitsbergen on the left and the Greenland Sea on the right, it shows the cold water at the surface in dark blue, flowing in from the cold Arctic waters that travel north along the west coast of Spitsbergen. The central section in red shows the warm core of the West Spitsbergen Current, which flows adjacent to the coastal current and transports heat northwards from the Atlantic Ocean. As Simon has already explained, there does not seem to be anything abnormal about the properties of these waters this year.

The central and western section of the transect, however, seems to be warmer than has been documented in recent literature, and it is quite possible that this is linked to the abnormal ice patterns that we are seeing this year. I’ll send an update on that one tomorrow, once we have finished the full transect. That’s all for now though, dinner is calling! Love to family and friends, thanks RJV for your comments, it’s great to know you’re reading this :o)

A cross section of temperature (degrees Celcius) with depth and distance from Spitsbergen.

Tags: Emily Venables