After the endless problems of the first week, we’re now happily ticking along quite smoothly. We even managed to sort out a substitute for the failed Vaisala radiosounding system. Axel and Lars, the IT and electronics engineers on board, managed to build a very effective system from an old broad-band radio scanner, some downloaded software (COAA Sonde Monitor) produced by and for enthusiasts to receive radiosonde data in real time, some co-ax cable, a spare 12V power supply, some terminal block, and a capacitor (see below)
While we can’t do all the processing required to generate the WMO standards compliant messages required for use in initialising weather forecast models, we are able to get all the data required for later analysis. It’s amazing what can be achieved by people with the right skills and endless enthusiasm for solving other people’s problems.
Since we don’t have any web access, we couldn’t complete the online registration for the SondeMonitor software; a big thank you to its creator, Bev Ewen-Smith, for sending us a registration ID by email.
It has been a while – nearly two years – since the last post from the SWERUS cruise around the Arctic Ocean on Oden. We had a year off fieldwork last year, but are about to return to the Arctic Ocean, and the Oden, (probably) the best icebreaker in the world and certainly our favourite. We are participating in the Arctic Ocean 2016 expedition – a 6-week cruise that will take us to the North Pole, and down the Lomonosov Ridge towards Greenland.
We join the ship in Longyearbyen, on Svalbard, in a week’s time. There are several very different science projects sharing time on the ship – more on those later. I am leading a small team to study interactions between the atmosphere and sea-ice. In addition to myself and my post-doc John Prytherch we have two early career researchers: Anna Fitch (from the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute) and Piotr Kupiszewski (from ETH, Zurich and the Meteorological Institute, Stockholm University). All four of us will be posting updates here.
Another cruise blog is that of Runa Skarbø: https://runaskarbo.wordpress.com/
When I first went to sea an old hand at research cruises told me that whatever I thought I ought to be able to achieve in a day, I should half it when at sea. This was pretty good advice. In part it is because the working conditions can be physically difficult – it can take a lot longer to do a simple job when the world is moving up and down and side to side. But it also results from the difficulty in maintaining focus and motivation.
After nearly 6 weeks at sea, when every day is pretty much like every other, the tedium of doing the same thing every day – the same routine instrument checks, the same backup jobs, the same routine of meals (and as supplies of anything remotely fresh run down the same foodstuffs*) – can take its toll on motivation. The fact that we’re usually tired doesn’t help. It’s often hard to sleep soundly – too much noise and ship motion. On this trip our sleep pattern is getting more and more out of sync with the ‘day’ as we go on. Although we’ve sailed half way round the Arctic Ocean – we crossed the international date line a day or two ago – the ship has stayed on UTC time. Early in the cruise this didn’t matter much; the sun never set, so day and night had little meaning. Now, however, the sun is below the horizon for about 4 hours in the middle of the day – it was setting as I got up (late) this morning; the darkest time of day is lunch time, and the brightest time is the middle of our ‘night’. This screws up your body clock – we feel sleepy in the middle of the day as it gets dark, and wake up at night when the sun is brightest.
Next week we will arrive in Barrow, Alaska, and have to make the switch to local time. Some of us seem to be drifting that way already.
*The peppered cabbage salad is really very good…but I don’t want to see it again for a long, long time after I get off the ship!
And here are some of the polar bears. This fella was quite unconcerned by a passing icebreaker.
He settled down for a while…
…but eventually decided enough was enough and swam off.
We’ve seen very little wildlife on this cruise, we’ve barely even seen any birds for the last week or two; however, last night we sailed straight past multiple groups of walruses and several polar bears in the last mile or so of marginal ice before entering open water. Here’s a couple of photos of the walruses:
There is a strange rhythm to life on board ship – one that is rather different to, and more rigid, than those of life back at home. Even when the pattern of science work varies a lot there are fixed points imposed upon it. Life seems to revolve around meal times; unlike back home, these are rigidly fixed: breakfast 07:45, lunch 11:45, dinner 17:45, and determined by the watch pattern of the crew’s working day. For most of us these meal times feel rather too close together, and since the galley staff like to make sure no one goes hungry, there is always plenty to eat. Add in coffee breaks at 10:00 and 15:00, often with freshly backed cakes or cookies, and it is very easy to eat too much and start putting on weight unless you’re doing a lot of physical work on deck.
With dinner being early in the evening, and many people working late, there can be lots of us feeling in need of a snack late in the evening, which is why there is a fridge full of leftovers and the makings for sandwiches in the mess. There are usually a bunch of people making snacks between 10pm and midnight. For those working shifts – the oceanography work is going on pretty much 24 hours a day – meals get put aside for reheating whenever they’re wanted.
Meals have a longer period rhythm too. Every ship I’ve worked on has a pattern to the meals through the week – on the UK research ships there is usually fish on a Friday, often curry on Saturday nights, a Sunday roast on Sunday. On the Oden the strongest fixed point in the week is Thursday and pea soup and pancakes, a tradition I remember from my last time on board in 2008.
For those keen to combat the effects of the galley on the waistline, there is a small gym; and for those who just need some distraction there’s an extensive library of DVDs to borrow, or watch in company in the small cinema (seats about 20).
When we finish work for the day – usually about 9 at night – a beer or two in the bar helps to wind down and relax before going to bed.