Today's journal is written by Rebecca Siegel, an REU student from Hampshire College.
Hi. My name is Rebecca, I’m from Massachusetts, and my project is about iceberg calving. I’m going to explain my project, and then I’m going to tell you what a day in Svalbard is like.
Rebecca driving the boat
I’m looking at how factors such as tides, weather, water salinity and water temperature influence iceberg calving off the glaciers. When icebergs break off from the glacier, they either fall in from above or pop up from below. Either way, they generate a little tsunami wave. We have these little sensors called Hobos that can be anchored in the water near shore. They record pressure differences over time, so we can use them to note tides and when icebergs break off. I check my hobo every day and download the data it’s gathered.
Here is what a day in Svalbard looks like:
7:30- breakfast. The entire community (150 people) eat together in a big dining hall. The REU group all pack sandwiches.
8:30- group meeting. We plan who will go in each boat, and what each boat will do all day. We consult tide charts to decide when to do CTD casts. We think about what equipment is most functional to decide who will take box cores. I always ride in the smaller boat (known as the "HW"), because that boat visits my hobo.
After group meeting, we head to the boats. Each person is responsible for making sure different group gear, such as rifles, flares, CTDs, GPS, and radios. George always loads gear into a bike trailer and hauls most of it down to the dock. Other people carry down survival suits.
At the Docks- We stow things in boats. In "HW", we keep all our things in waterproof drybags, and clip many of them into ropes or one another, because everything in our boat is exposed. Then we wriggle into our survival suits. These are very large and somewhat cumbersome. I think that they feel like space suits. They are super waterproof and warm, and they keep the wind off us. They also are basically giant pockets. At the end of the day, I’m always amazed by how many things I’ve stuffed in my suit- ski goggles (to keep my face warm during the windy ride down to the glacier), camera, powerbar, binoculars, extra gloves… By the end of the day, many of these things have worked their way down my suit, into the legs.
Our daily struggle to get into our survival suits.
On the way to the glacier- On a calm day, it takes HW about 30 minutes to get to the glacier. On a windy day it can take much longer. Last Saturday, I was driving the boat, and it took us 1 and a half hours to reach the ice, because the waves were large. Waves would splash over the front of the boat and land everywhere, even all the way in the back where I was standing. When someone else is driving, I like to ride in the bow of the boat. I can lie down and watch all the glaciers in the mountains along the fjord, as well as the Northern Fulmars (little brown seagulls) flying around the boat (they do this because we make a calm patch in the wind for them)
At the ice, we do things in a different order every day, depending on the tides and our plan for the day. So here is what we did today:
1) CTD casts. It was low tide when we reached the glacier, so we used the CTD to measure the temperature and salinity of the water at seven points that make a line going straight out from where the stream enters the fjord at the south side of Kongsfjorden. This lets Daksha make a cross-section map of the temperature and salt content of the water in this area. Mark did the winch (it was his first time!), while Liz drove. I lifted the CTD (named Hans) in and out of the water, while George wrote down the coordinates of each cast and directed Liz to the location of the next Cast.
Mark at the winch pulling up a box core sample
2) Hobo visit: We paid a call to the delta hobo next, because we were in the neighborhood. Since we have to go onto the beach for this, one person always has to have a half-loaded rifle. It’s always a big relief to find that the last hobo has stayed in place overnight. I haul it out of the water, load its data into the computer, reprogram it, and then we climb back into the boat and back straight off the beach, so that the engine’s propeller doesn’t get tangled in the 120-foot rope the hobo is tied to. When the rope is stretched out all the way, I throw the hobo into the water.
George holds the boat steady while Rebecca uploads the Hobo data and Mark stands watch for Polar Bears.
3) Box Cores, round 1: For her project, Liz needed some sediment samples from the area around the delta. These gave us some trouble. It might have been that the seafloor is sandy (the boxcore is made to pick up mud), but we only got one good sample during several hours of trying. At least Mark got a good workout on the winch. It’s hard to feel down in times like this, though, because whenever we look up, we see more than 10 glaciers in the surrounding mountains, icebergs, and birds.
Liz driving the boat
4) Birdwatching: This happens throughout all other activities. whenever I have a moment where I’m not doing something, I like to watch the birds here. Last night I saw a puffin. Usually I see kittiwakes and terns chasing each other around and perching on icebergs. There are Fulmars everywhere. They tend to float on the water like ducks. There are also silly little black birds called guillemots. They look like puffins. When our boat was coming towards them, they would get confused about how to get out of our way. Many would take off and fly right in front of the bow of the speeding boat before realizing their mistake and diving underwater.
Birds at an upwelling plume
5) Box Cores, round 2: We headed into "Bearded Seal Bay" to get more cores. To get there, George had to drive us through an intense iceberg field. He did a great job. In the bay, we had a much easier time getting cores. By then, it was 4:00 and time to head home for dinner.
The ice field we drove through this afternoon to get home
Heading Home- It took a bit longer than normal to drive home, because George had to drive us around the icebergs. By the time we arrived, I was ravenous. We unloaded the boats, sprayed the salt and mud off our survival suits, refilled the gas tanks, and headed up to dinner.
Dinner- Everyone eats together again. Tonight, we had fish, potatoes, bread, fuitcake, steamed broccoli and carrots, and stuffed peppers for the vegetarians. Yum.
Evening- Tonight, a woman who had lived for a year (summer 2009-summer 2010) in a tiny cabin in northern Svalbard showed pictures of her experiences. She worked as a trapper, trapping arctic foxes, and she had to hunt for a lot of her food. The trapping season is from October to March, when the sun never rises, so she and her helper spent a lot of time travelling around on skis, checking traps in the dark. Many of the pictures were of polar bears around her house. She had flares, and guns, as well as dogs who were trained to bark and alert her when they saw a bear, so she felt pretty safe.