Return to the ice

It is a stark contrast to the conditions in January that meets us now, as RV Lance returns to the Arctic ice pack, and studies on the thinning sea ice cover continue. The polar night has been replaced by the midnight sun, which is now constantly baking onto the surface of the ice and ocean. Temperatures are still below freezing, but the sun will soon awaken the slumbering Arctic marine ecosystem, and the ice pack and ocean will start to accumulate the solar energy.

People prepping helicopter onboard KV Svalbard, with RV Lance in the background.

The helicopter is prepared for flight onboard KV Svalbard. It was used to find an easier route through the ice. Photo: Marius Bratrein / Norwegian Polar Institute

KV Svalbard assisting RV Lance through the ice pack towards the north.

KV Svalbard assisting RV Lance through the ice pack towards the north. Photo: Marius Bratrein / Norwegian Polar Institute

Weather balloon is launched from the side of Lance.

Weather balloons are launched twice a day from Lance to support climate modelling and weather forecasting. Photo: Mats Granskog / Norwegian Polar Institute

And so the seasonal cycle of ice melt will begin – and during the upcoming months drifting with the ice pack we want to study everything about it. How does the thinner ice pack affect the physics, chemistry, and marine ecosystems? Are ice-associated organisms able to adapt to these conditions with less and thinner ice?

We are en route back to 83°N, to start a new journey with a new ice floe. We have loaded the ship with fresh food and supplies, and new scientific instrumentation. We’ve also reorganized the cargo to let us work more efficiently to set up camp on the ice, once we’ve found our floe.

In our mission to locate an ice floe up north, we are assisted by the Norwegian Coast Guard icebreaker KV Svalbard. The ice is at its thickest this time of year, and does not give away an inch for free. With southerly winds compacting the ice fields, the going is even tougher.

Our time waiting onboard has been spent preparing equipment, and doing rehearsals with some of the key equipment. We’ve also had several rounds of safety training, especially with polar bear safety in mind.

Some of the scientific work has already started. We’re observing the atmosphere via weather balloons launched twice a day, and cloud and ice conditions are observed from the ship. The bulk of our work still lies ahead though, and around 20 scientists onboard are very anxious to get out onto the ice and conduct their work, which has been planned for years. We want to collect as much as data as possible, and find the keys to understanding the Arctic system better.