Ice Edge

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This morning we reached the edge of the sea ice. At bottom left is the dark grey of open surface water. The white patches above and to the right are older, thicker patches of ice where snow has collected and the dark areas are where the sea has begun to freeze again as temperatures drop overnight and the short northern summer draws to a close. (photo by Chris German, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

We had a quiet weekend as we sailed north about 600 miles from northernmost mainland Norway, across the Barents Sea, and then up the east side of the Svalbard Archipelago. We passed very close to the islands of Nordaustlandet and Kvitoya as we crossed 80°N late afternoon yesterday (Sunday), but it was so foggy that my photographs showed only gray, even though I was pointed in the right direction to see land.

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And So to Sea

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Departing Tromso, Norway. (photo by Chris German, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

The last of our shore-side team left ship late yesterday evening around 11:00p.m. Tromso time. This included Jeff Seewald from WHOI, who had flown out specifically to help set up our vent-fluid geochemistry laboratory and to make sure his special “Seewald samplers” are functioning properly and will work as expected with our NUI robot when the time comes, a few weeks from now. He will be on his way back to the U.S. by the time you read this.

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Hurry Up and Wait

Unpacking NUI (photo by Chris German, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Unpacking NUI (photo by Chris German, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

As with all research expeditions, some of the trickiest moments come while getting all the equipment you need for weeks away offshore to be delivered to the ship and installed in time for sailing. You can’t really run to the store mid-cruise if you forget something.

This is particularly the case when heading into such a remote setting as we are, and the chances for things to go awry only increase when working with a ship of one nationality (in this case, Germany) and staging the expedition out of a different country (Norway). And when you are bringing a prototype robotic underwater vehicle to sea, the complexity gets that much greater.

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Coming Soon!

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Check back in mid-September for information and posts from the field as an international and multi-institutional team of scientists travels to within 200 miles of the north pole to search for life at hydrothermal vents along an unexplored segment of the mid-ocean ridge.