The Oden set a course for Petermann Glacier last Wednesday and after powering through the sea-ice for about four days, we have now reached the mouth of Petermann Fjord. The various research groups onboard the ship have been busy preparing their equipment and safety gear in order to be ready to work as soon as we arrived. Being a land team, our group has been gathering camping gear and 3-4 weeks of food for helicopter delivery to our field site. The rest of the time we have been making the most of our short time on Oden – we’ve been soaking in the views and enjoying the delicious Swedish food; knowing that we will leave it all behind for a cold, barren campsite any day now.
We came upon our first patch of sea-ice the first night aboard. It is mesmerizing to watch the ship break through the thick ice, the whole boat shakes with turbulence. The ice has been thick enough in places to stop Oden in her tracks; on these occasions the helicopters have ventured out to find “leads” in the ice for the ship to follow. This thick ice, plus a few foggy mornings, has made for slow progress. The process is fascinating, and being so encased in ice has lead to some close animal encounters.
We have spotted quite a few seals, and where there are seals there are polar bears. At about four in the morning on Friday, a female polar bear made her way up to the ship and surprised a member of the crew. She was probably drawn in by the scents that waft from a large icebreaker and was curious enough to drop into a hunting stance, dropping low on her stomach in an attempt to sneak up on us. The ships horn was blasted a few times to put her off.
The entire vessel is always humming with activity, and the land teams are engaged in a dramatic game of “hurry up and wait”. Our massive pile gear has been packed since Saturday morning, and is waiting patiently in a storage area to be airlifted away. We have been sitting at the mouth of the fjord waiting for high winds to die down so we can safely airlift our equipment. Despite our delay, there is plenty to see and do — we just received a new satellite image that shows a 2-4 km wide iceberg is calving from Petermann Glacer, just a few tens of kilometers away! The Oden has worked hard to get us so close to our field area, but we will be watching with anticipation for another day before we can up shop.
Update: the weather has changed yet again, and we are heading out within the hour — catch you all in four weeks!
Written by: Melissa Reusche