From the PlayStation Lab to No Man’s Land

Coming onboard Lance, jumping into experiments that had already been running for several weeks, I had to learn that there is a specific language onboard. Not the question if there is more Norwegian or English spoken onboard, but we use a lot of names and abbreviations that I had not met before, and some I might not need again. They will most likely always remind me of N-ICE2015.

Many places onboard and on our floe got unique names; some rather strange, some more funny. But at least everybody knows where to find people and things – after you learned this new vocabulary and got used to it.

In the morning meetings, the activities of the different groups for the day are presented and coordinated with the other groups. After all, every group needs a PGB (that is, a polar bear guard) to work on the ice. Not to say that PBG is the first abbreviation of the day. After the weather, we start with WP1 to do their TIC checks and certainly various MSS casts in Weatherhaven.

So who is doing what?

Well, WP1, that’s Work Package 1: The oceanography group. They are neither going to heaven nor to hell, but their tent or hut is called the Weatherhaven, simply because this is the brand name and it has a big sticker on the outside. Inside you find a hole where they can lower the Micro Structure Sonde (that’s the MSS), consisting of a suite of instruments to measure water mass properties in very high vertical and temporal resolution – the micro structure.

This will show us how much heat is brought to the ice and might melt it. They also need to check their Turbulence Instrument Cluster (that’s the TIC), which is installed under the sea ice close to Weatherhaven.

Last week, they even did a MSS marathon, meaning running the MSS all day long.

Once they are back onboard, they might disappear in the PlayStation Lab. Originally, or on other cruises, this room was meant as a day room for everybody and it does indeed have a PlayStation. But since a few days ago, the high-precision salinometer got set up there and turned it into the PlayStation Lab.

Weather mast and turbulence and radiation sensors on the Arctic ice.

The Supersite needs to be checked every morning. Main installations are the weather mast and the turbulence and radiation sensors. Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute

Supersite checks are one of the routine things of WP2. That’s Work Package 2: The atmospheric group. The Supersite includes the turbulence mast (a bit like the TIC, but upside down) and the weather mast. The instruments there and their data streams have to be checked daily.

Out on the ice, everybody has to be careful not to cross the Line of Death. Along this line surface radiation measurements are performed and any disturbance or destruction has to be avoided. Hence, a strict no-go area lies behind the Line of Death.

Also out on the ice, The Beast is in preparation. This hot-water drilling system might be used to drill large holes into the ice once the time of recovery comes and it may be important to get the instruments out quickly.

A storage room onboard a ship, with overalls hanging to dry.

No Man’s Land in the lower deck of Lance. Here most outdoor equipment is stored and hung up to dry. Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute

Before going out to the ice, everybody has to get dressed properly. All our outdoor clothing and a lot of safety equipment is stored in No Man’s Land, a room on the lower deck that looks like a huge changing room. All our Regatta suits, these black/yellow overalls, as well as all our shoes, gloves, etc. are hanging there to dry.

So, once you are familiar with these terms, you are certainly ready for a day on the ice and to follow all the radio communication!

Satellite image of the arctic ice with Lance's drift path as of 22 June 2015.

Satellite image, 22 June 2015. Photo: RADARSAT-2 © MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates