Departing in early January from Spitsbergen, a Norwegian Coast Guard ship led the Lance back into the ice to break a path, where it began its wayward drift. Buoys, oceanographic instruments, ice-coring drills, air-particle sensors, a weather mast—a full laboratory—were deployed across a kilometer-wide (0.6 mile) floe, its sectors given cheeky nicknames like “no walk land” and “end of the world.”
Curious polar bears, scheming near to working scientists, have had to be scared off with flares shot from a gun. Battling against the polar elements and temperatures plunging to 40 degrees below zero has snapped cables and cripples electronic instruments. But after six weeks of total darkness, the faintest daylight is finally reaching the frozen Arctic Ocean, where a Norwegian research vessel has been drifting through the polar night, tethered to a block of sea ice.
Into the ice is the whole idea. To research on Climate, focusing on oceanography, atmospheric science, sea ice, and ecosystems, to try to understand the implications of the transition to thinner, first-year ice in the Arctic Ocean, scientists aboard the R.V. Lance have embarked on a six-month study, sponsored by the Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI), to closely monitor sea ice across its entire seasonal life cycle—from the time when the new ice forms in winter until it melts in early summer.
Despite for the fact that Norwegians have a long history of polar exploration—This project will bring a new knowledge. In the coming months the Lance should cross the path of the illustrious Fram, the ship on which Fridtjof Nansen and his crew allowed themselves to be locked in the ice in 1893—this is still an unprecedented scientific expedition.
Gunnar Spreen, an NPI sea-ice physicist on board the Lance says, “Most scientific cruises to the Arctic are conducted in summer, and this is where we have the most data. The continuous changes that occur from winter into spring is a huge gap in our understanding, for example, the way the Arctic ecosystem wakes up in the spring or how melt ponds form on top of sea ice.”
The ship will function as a floating research station, and there will also be measurement sites set up on the ocean’s frozen surface. Researchers will study how deep internal waves break, bringing warm Atlantic water up closer to the surface, and how turbulence driven by wind and the ice’s motion then brings that heat right up to the underside of the ice, leading to melting.