Getting started in the labApril 29, 2009
Well today I woke up for the second time and opened the curtains to bright white snow everywhere! Before we arrived I thought I couldn’t imagine what minus 16 decrees would feel like, but as I got off the plane I realised that I did- it was like stepping into a freezer. Although a freezer at home is only about minus 4, so you’d go in one to warm up here! But sitting here I have had to take off my fleece so with three layers on it is quite warm enough inside. This goes up to five layers outside plus mittens, liner gloves, hat, sunglasses (the snow is very bright with the sun shining on it) and finally a scarf wrapped around my face to keep your face warm. I can only tell people apart by their hat and scarf as you can’t really see anything else!
The EPOCA team arriving in Ny Alesund. Photo: Hannah Wood
Aside from the sightseeing on the flight in where we got some amazing photos, since arriving the majority of our time has been spent in the laboratory. Initially we were busy unpacking boxes to remind ourselves what we sent up last december, and this involved my first ever snow driving experience when we went to collect the boxes. For some reason I was entrusted with driving the AWI lab (thats the German base which is hosting us here) van by Marcus. It has studs in the tyres and 4 wheel drive but you cannot put the handbrake on as it freezes on, and you have to literally plug the car in when you stop to keep it warm! Aside from this my driving experience was uneventful- although reversing down a track banked either side with 10 foot of snow walls involved Helen shouting ‘turn your way, no my way, no your way again’ a fair bit! Now Helen and myself have been working to turn the alaboratories from empty rooms into seawater acidification mesocosms. There have also been several discussions on how best to start experiments when the fjord is over a metre thick with ice in places!
Stood in front of a frozen fjord. Photo: Hannah Wood
For now the divers are collecting what they can by diving through to big holes in the ice. Luckily this includes sea urchins so that I can start at least one of my experiments. The brittlestars must be collected by boat as they are too deep to dive for so that study is on hold until the fjord melts. I have volunteered to be the base contact for the divers too, which means taking a radio everywhere with me and checking in with the divers throughout the day. They like to have a scientist do it so if anything unexpected turns up or changes during the days diving, then I can hopefully update or revise our ‘order’ of anmals to be collected that day.
Hard at work setting up the lab. Photo: Hannah Wood
On a more general,, less scientific note, we saw a bearded seal on the ice yesterday (although it was a bit too far awy so the photos came out like a small brown blob). I am hoping this might bring a polar bear our way – at a safe distance! The last polar bear on base was on Saturday, two days before we arrived, and he or she came and slept on the harbour in front of the marine laboratory for the afternoon. So already we’re overdue a visit by one- I have a mixture of excitement and dread for when we do see one- all depending on how close it is . . . .
The marine lab in the evening sun. Photo: Hannah Wood
So the carbon dioxide cylinders are arriving now so I must get back into the lab to finish setting up and start the water acidification. I’ll make sure several of the photos so far go up later on today to give you more of a flavour of what our surroundings are like.