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  • Writer's pictureJean Linville

Thin Ice & MOSAiC

This past week marked the arrival of heavy frosts in the morning followed by a cold north wind blowing most of the day. The wind was strong enough to dislodge even the stubbornest of oak leaves that were left on the nearby trees. Our dock is in a shallow area of the lake and so it one of the first sections to ice up. Just the other day, I walked down the steps, pushed my kayak off the dock and instead of hearing the soft splash of the hull hitting the water, I was greeted with a dull thump followed by the tinkling sound of "picture window" clear ice shattering. Ice season has begun. With luck over the next few weeks the ice will stay thin and I will still be able to crack through it and move out into deeper water and paddle around the lake. Once the ice thickens though my time on the water will be done until the first thaw.

Not so, for the group of researchers who are part of the MOSAiC Arctic Ice Project. In September, the German research icebreaker Polarstern set sail from Norway to spend a year drifting through the Arctic Ocean - trapped in ice! The goal of the MOSAiC expedition is to freeze their ship into the ice near the North Pole for a full year. This means that this team will be the first ever to experience living in the arctic during the polar winter. The data gathered by the researchers, representing 19 countries, will be used by scientists around the globe to take climate research to a completely new level, hopefully leading to a better understanding of the global implications of climate change. To learn more about this amazing project, click the image to the right. On the MOSAiC website you can view their location and follow many of their planned experiments.

The MOSAiC team is following in the footsteps of Fridtjof Nansen's ground-breaking expedition of 1895, but other than completing research as close to the north pole as possible, they will share little else in common. Nansen and one companion sailed in a wooden boat and then set out on foot with thirty days’ rations for twenty-eight dogs, three sledges, two kayaks, and a hundred days’ rations for themselves. In twenty-three days they traveled 140 miles over oceans of tumbled ice, getting closer to the Pole than anyone had previously been. Once they attained the Pole, they returned southwards and purposefully did not stay to experience the cruelties of a polar winter. Nansen's voyage was a high adventure but it was also a scientific expedition as his ship served as an oceanographic, meteorological and biological laboratory. After the expedition, Nansen published six volumes of scientific observations made on his Arctic voyage. We can just imagine how much new data will be generated by the MOSAiC team of researchers who will have a ship full of state-of-the-art scientific equipment at their fingertips and the ability to observe the ecology of the area for a full year.

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