Coldest Labor Day Ever!

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Sea ice on the Northeast Greenland Shelf. Photo: Dragonfly Leathrum

BERGFEST! celebrated the midway point of our expedition. The cooks outdid themselves last Bergfest Sunday with incredible meals that I can’t describe without upsetting my vegan friends. All on board contributed to a seriously eclectic, playlist with almost three hundred songs of dance music from around the world. I think it went on until three or four in the morning. What a great beginning to week four.

This was the coldest, iciest week as R/V Maria S. Merian sailed beyond 80̊ North latitude. The goal was to recover a mooring in front of the 79̊ N Glacier on the east coast of Greenland. Unfortunately, the Merian is not an icebreaker and there was too much sea ice to get close enough to the glacier and mooring. The scientists were able to take CTD measurements in the area, though.

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Scientist Ellen Werner points to our location just about 500 miles from the North Pole. Photo: Mubashshir Ali

Labor Day morning there was snow and ice on the ship. No pool parties and bar-b-que for us Americans on board this year, but who misses those things when sailing among icebergs along a coastline with snowy mountains. Yes, it did SNOW, on Labor Day, how cool, literally! At sunset the glassy sea mirrored the moon’s reflection in front of Greenland’s glaciers. The temperature was below freezing and you could hear the deep booming sound of the icebergs crashing around in the distance.


SNOWING! Photo: Dragonfly Leathrum


The moon’s reflection. Photo: Mubashshir Ali

That was the good news, unfortunately this northern location prevented us from receiving internet or satellite signals. That made ice navigation difficult. Visually you can see about twelve miles ahead, if it’s not foggy. It was foggy.

The next morning Scientists Mubi and Luisa spotted a polar bear swimming near the ship and I missed it! I was disappointed, but happy that others were on watch and shared a few images.

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Polar bear looking for ice and seals. Photo: Luisa von Albedyll, enhanced by the 4:00 am CTD shift

Midweek, moving east away from the coast, we encountered larger waves and swells again which did not make me feel so great. The sea eventually settled down when we sailed up to bands of sea ice. The Arctic sea ice flows with the cold, fresh East Greenland Current from north to south and we had to cross it to get back home. The band is made up of very old ice. It’s an interesting change from the more scattered sea ice near the coast as thin bands of dense thick ice stretch out for many miles along a sharp drop of bottom depth. After watching ice float by all day and getting cold doing so, I warmed up at an evening birthday party for two of the crew.


A band of Arctic sea ice moving south. Photo: Dragonfly Leathrum

As the week drew to a close there was much work to be completed for the end of the voyage. Some people were busy deploying and recovering moorings and others processing final data and composing expedition reports. The cooks surprised us again with an awesome Bavarian meal which included a Bavarian white beer. A welcomed change from the Jever Pilsener that my cabinmate likes. Also, Dr. Andreas Muenchow won the ping pong tournament in a smashing final match, the winner of foosball is still to be determined.

These weeks aboard the R/V Maria S. Merian (the original Maria S. Merian was a famous botanical artist) have been an unforgettable experience. Not just because I have taken over two thousand photos to remind me, but because of the friends I’ve made and everything I’ve learned about Oceanography and living on a ship. I’ve been to places and seen things that most people won’t have the chance to experience and I’m extremely grateful to those that asked me to be a part of the voyage.


Dr. Andreas Muenchow winner of the MSM 76 Ping pong tournament. Photo: Dragonfly Leathrum

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