Since we have last checked in with you, we have done our first ice station! Before we could get started, we needed training on how to use the equipment and what we needed to take on the ice to complete our sampling. Initially we helped out one of the other coring teams, but now we are fully trained and even teach others who join us on the floe.
Before the ice sampling can start, the ship needs to find an ice floe that is safe for us to stand on. Depending on whether the ship can moore to the floe or not, we can take the gangway down to the ice or we are lifted onto the ice with a basket on a crane. After the crew has checked that the ice is safe to walk on, we can go out and find a suitable coring site that isn't too wet or too thick and representative of the ice in the area. To get an ice core with a 9 cm diameter, we use a plastic corer which can be attached to a normal drill.
The plastic corer has blades on the end to make its way through the ice. Careful though where you walk because you don't want to ruin the coring site for others by stomping on the snow or you will have to buy some sweeties for everyone. The corer is only one meter long so we often have to use extension poles to drill the whole ice core in sections. It helps to be tall for this part.
We then put the cores into a cradle, in our case made out of rain gutters with a meter stick attached to it, where we can section the core using a saw. We also record general information such as snow cover, ice thickness, meltpond coverage and features of the coring site such as ice age. The Arctic ice is surprisingly versatile such as first year ice which has only formed the previous winter being the thinnest, second year ice which has survived one summer and multi-year ice which has survived two summers or more and can be up to 8 meters thick.
Where we are now close to the North Pole, we mainly have first year and second year ice although we are starting to see more ridges which are characteristic for multi-year ice. Ridges are formed when two ice floes are pushed against each other and can be several meters high. They make a good vantage point for the polar bear guards watching over us but can also be great as a comfy seat for a snack and a nice cup of tea.
Once we have all our cores, we transport everything back to the ship. But the work is not over yet, after a quick dinner we head straight back to the lab where we thaw our ice cores and process them in the lab. Next time we will tell you more about what we are doing with the samples and why we are taking them.
Kim and Birthe