Arctic Sea in Color

A photo essay about the color variants I perceived on the Arctic Sea and from within the Scoresby Sound, Greenland.

August 30th 2018 4:23pm North of Iceland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
August 30th 2018, 4:23pm, north of Iceland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

My job for five weeks between August 10, 2018 and September 12, 2018 aboard the research vessel FS Maria S. Merian was to document the scientists at work and the landscape through photography, blogs and paintings. During the cruise I was drawn daily to the color of the sea in different locations and through various weather events. The color varied from gray to deep blue on the open sea to almost a turquoise farther in the Scoresby Sound.

My scientist husband, whom I sailed with, chose to collaborate on this post by creating a wonderful map representing the locations of the photos.

Location of photos (red dots) taken aboard FS Maria S. Merian in August and September of 2018. Colors represent bottom depth (white shallow, blue deep) and elevations (olive). The dotted line to the north of Greenland is the Arctic Circle. [Map by Andreas Muenchow.]
Location of photos (red dots) taken aboard FS Maria S. Merian in August and September of 2018. Colors represent bottom depth (white is shallow, blue is deep ocean) and elevations (olive). The dotted line to the north of Iceland is the Arctic Circle. [Map by Andreas Muenchow.]
August 21, 2018, 12:28pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
August 21, 2018, 12:28pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
August 22, 2018, 8:50pm Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
August 22, 2018, 8:50pm Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Aug 12, 2018 3:52pm, Denmark Strait with Mubashshir Ali in red. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Aug 12, 2018 3:52pm, Denmark Strait with Mubashshir Ali in red. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
August 21, 4:54pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
August 21, 4:54pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
August 21, 2018, 5:06pm Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
August 21, 2018, 5:06pm Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
August 21, 2018, 4:42pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
August 21, 2018, 4:42pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Aug 28, 2018, 2:19pm South of Iceland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Aug 28, 2018, 2:19pm South of Iceland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Aug 22, 2018, 2:39pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Aug 22, 2018, 2:39pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Aug 31, 2018, 5:08pm, between 70 and 74 degrees latitude on the coastal shelf of Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Aug 31, 2018, 5:08pm, between 70 and 74 degrees latitude on the coastal shelf of Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
August 25, 2018, 3:15pm, Denmark Strait. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
August 25, 2018, 3:15pm, Denmark Strait. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Aug 22, 2018, 2:57pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland aboard the FS Maria S. Merian. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Aug 22, 2018, 2:57pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland aboard the FS Maria S. Merian. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Aug 21, 2018, 4:45pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Aug 21, 2018, 4:45pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
September 7, 2:26pm, Fram Strait. Photo by Dragonfly Leathum
September 7, 2:26pm, Fram Strait. Photo by Dragonfly Leathum
August 21, 8:38pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland. Portait of the author aboard the FS Maria S. Merian by Dr. Andreas Muenchow
August 21, 8:38pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland. Portait of the author aboard the FS Maria S. Merian by Dr. Andreas Muenchow

For more about this research trip please read my earlier posts.

“You may find yourself in another part of the world.”

A lucky artist at sea

Rollin’ on the waves with my scientist homies

So much beauty in the world.

Mostly loving every minute of it.

Coldest Labor Day ever!

Delaware Artist exhibits in Bremerhaven Germany

Newark, Delaware artist Dragonfly Leathrum exhibits in Dragonfly Germany. WHAT?!? Ha ha, seen here enjoying her show through wine goggles. Selfie by Dragonfly Leathrum
Newark, Delaware artist Dragonfly Leathrum exhibits in Bremerhaven Germany. WHAT?!? Ha ha, seen here enjoying her show through wine goggles. Selfie by Dragonfly Leathrum

Newark, Delaware artist Dragonfly Leathrum exhibits new work in Bremerhaven Germany. The artist exhibited seventeen watercolor and colored pencil paintings and thirteen pencil and colored pencil drawings. All artwork was created in an eight-month time span while on sabbatical.

Exhibits in Germany, thirty works created in eight months, watercolor paintings? Who is this person? Me? How did that happen? If someone had read that first paragraph to me two years ago and said that’s going to be you, I wouldn’t have believed them. I would have said that it sounds even more far fetched than some of the goals I set for myself in my sketchbook. If you follow this blog you know how this happened. If not, the cliff note version is that I met a wonderful German/ American Oceanographer just shy of two years ago. We started dating, fell in love moved in together, moved to Germany for a sabbatical, and got married. For the detailed version of that journey see previous posts.

Portrait of Andreas Muenchow pencil on paper 8x11" in the National Cafe' Bremerhaven Germany. Drawing and photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Portrait of Andreas Muenchow pencil on paper 8×11″ in the National Cafe’ Bremerhaven Germany. Drawing and photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

So here I am in Germany for a year and I have the freedom for the first time in my life to dedicate most of my time to creating art, but my studio and supplies are in Newark, Delaware. I can’t paint in acrylics or oils and I can’t create stained glass windows (or can I?) without a large investment in new supplies, and then how do I ship them home? My solution to this first world, artist problem was to switch to watercolors and colored pencils. This worked well on our research trip in the Arctic and has been a wonderful solution to creating new work quickly that is easy to ship and can also fit in a suitcase.

Studio space aboard the FS Maria S. Merian in the Greenland Sea. Just enough space for a little box of watercolors and some colored pencils. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Studio space aboard the FS Maria S. Merian in the Greenland Sea. Just enough space for a little box of watercolors and some colored pencils. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

My art goals during my stay in Bremerhaven were to 1. Practice a drawing/ painting skill that I want to improve on for future work, 2. Create a new/full body of work with one theme, in one medium that I can exhibit when I return to the States and 3. Icing on the cake, and a dream, to have a show in Germany.

One thing I've improved upon is transferring a small drawing to larger paper using the grid system. I hope this improves my mural painting skills in the future.
One thing I’ve improved upon is transferring a small drawing to larger paper using the grid system. I hope this improves my mural painting skills in the future.

So, what to paint? The blank tablet of watercolor paper asks, “What will it be, ma’am?” I ask myself what would I like to see on the wall? What do other people want to see on their walls? What’s important to document? After a lot of thought I chose to create dining companions. Portraits were my challenge that needed a lot of practice and I enjoy figure drawings more when the background gives some information. I was also a bit lonely. I chose to paint friends, relatives, people from the newspaper, a few faces from online sources and one self-portrait. If the face was interesting and the figures were in a dining situation, I was ready to paint them.

Tourist Diners watercolor and colored pencil 30x40cm. Portraits of Jason and Erin Wright in a Bremerhaven restaurant.
Tourist Diners, watercolor and colored pencil 30x40cm. Portraits of Jason and Erin Wright in a Bremerhaven restaurant.

One theme and all in watercolor with colored pencil. (this is unusual for me) In the few months since I began this project my drawings and paintings have improved with practice which inspires me to keep going.

Now for a show in Germany, I approached a few galleries, some were interested but didn’t have an opening until 2020. By chance I found a gallery close to my neighborhood with an opening in April and I was able to book it. Yay, a show!

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Art Impressions Gallery, pencil and colored pencil 8x11"
Art Impressions Gallery, pencil and colored pencil 8×11″

Uh oh…now I need to matte and frame thirty pieces of artwork and I can’t bring these frames home to Delaware. The Owner of Art Impressions Gallery saved me the matting costs by applying for and receiving a grant from the city for exhibiting an international artist. For frames I did something I would never consider doing in Newark and that was to purchase all the frames from IKEA with plexi windows instead of glass.

These IKEA frames aren't so bad from a distance.
These IKEA frames aren’t so bad from a distance.

(I can hear my artist friends and my framer 4000 miles away screaming NO!!! in unison.) Those were not easy to transport on the 505 bus. I will donate them to the gallery or a school when I leave for student artists.

Gallery owner Fernando Valero hangs the show at Art Impressions Gallery. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Gallery owner Fernando Valero hangs the show at Art Impressions Gallery. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We had the show opening on April 27th 2019, it was a success. Four of the paintings were sold through commission, three sold through social media before the show and two sold opening night. Framing costs covered.

Andreas Muenchow, his mother, Christa in red and our wonderful Landlords from Peace4you at the opening at Art Impressions. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas Muenchow, his mother, Christa in red and our wonderful Landlords from Peace4you at the opening at Art Impressions. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas' father with his portrait. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas’ father with his portrait. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The local newspaper covered the show twice and I’m looking forward to two art classes from the local high school to visit the show next week.

An article about the show from Der Nordsee-Zeitung
An article about the show from Der Nordsee-Zeitung

My next goal is to complete at least three more paintings before mid-July and to apply for a grant through the Delaware Division of the Arts.

Traveling Diner, self-portrait watercolor and colored pencil 30x40cm
Traveling Diner, self-portrait watercolor and colored pencil 30x40cm

 

Minimalist Wardrobe Expat Style

How do you know how many clothes you’ll need for a year in a different country? If you only want to move with a suitcase and a backpack which pieces are most important? These are hard questions to answer. Andreas and I wanted to bring the minimal amount that we might need with us to Germany. We had to plan for three seasons, a month in the Arctic and other travel. (The institute Andreas is doing research with provided us with cold weather gear in the Arctic. We didn’t expect that)

Off the coast of North West Greenland in a borrowed jacket and trusty sweatpants. Andreas saysI shouldn't wear these pants in public because they're too American. I wonder what gives them away? Photo by Andreas Muenchow
Off the coast of North West Greenland in a borrowed jacket and trusty sweatpants. Andreas says I shouldn’t wear these pants in public because they’re too American. I wonder what gives them away? Photo by Andreas Muenchow

Today I took a photo of everything we brought to wear and then a second photo of what we’ve actually needed from summer through winter.

Andreas, being a guy and having a job that doesn’t require a lot of dressing up, was better prepared to pack with less choices. He only owns two pairs of shoes and two pairs of pants to begin with.

Andreas' winter gear. A fleece jacket under a wind breaker with a hat. He says he's warm enough... Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas’ winter gear. A fleece jacket under a wind breaker with a hat. He says he’s warm enough… Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

I on the other hand had more options to choose from. Even though I try to have only the essentials in my closet, my life required a few “costume” changes during the day. I used to begin my day as a teacher in a business casual costume, then come home and change into jeans and a t-shirt to go shopping or for a walk. If my private art students were painting or if I was going out with friends I would change again in the evening.

Layers and rainbows is how I roll. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Layers and rainbows is how I roll. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

In Germany I can work from home (sweatpants and a t-shirt) and when I leave the apartment, I trade the sweatpants for jeans. Still a costume change but an easy choice. I tried to only pack the minimal amount of clothing I would want physically and psychologically. I figured that if I really needed anything, I could go shopping. I was mostly afraid of boredom from wearing the same clothes every week. This is why I brought fourteen t-shirts and eight scarves, so I would have variety. Honestly, I’m so happy to be able to wear comfortable clothes everyday that I’m not bored at all by limited choices. My husband isn’t bored looking at me in the same clothes everyday because he’s not paying attention to those things.

All of the clothes that Andreas packed for a year abroad. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
All of the clothes that Andreas packed for a year abroad. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

So, what did we bring and what did we need? Andreas brought: shoes 2, sweaters 3, jackets 4, t-shirts 9, dress shirts 8, pants 2, shorts 4, biking rain gear 1, gloves 3, scarf 1, hats 3. What he actually needed or has worn: shoes 2, jackets 3, t-shirts 9, dress shirts 4, pants 2, biking rain gear 1, gloves 0, scarf 0 and hats 2. So, he was pretty right on. The only things he over packed were dress shirts, sweaters and jackets. He doesn’t feel the cold so much.

The clothes that Andreas has needed and worn this year minus 1 pair of pants, 1 t-shirt, a fleece jacket and a windbreaker. (Things that he wore to work today) Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The clothes that Andreas has needed and worn this year minus 1 pair of pants, 1 t-shirt, a fleece jacket, Birkenstocks and a windbreaker. (Things that he wore to work today) Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
All of the clothes that I thought I would need for one year in Germany. Photo by Dragonfly LeathrumAll of the clothes that I thought I would need for one year in Germany. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
All of the clothes that I thought I would need for one year in Germany. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

I brought: shoes 3, jackets 4, t-shirts 14, pants 3 (1 jeans, 1 sweatpants, 1 leggings) shorts 2, skirts 4, biking rain gear 1, gloves 3, scarves 8, hats 4, bathing suit 1. What I’ve used: shoes 3, jackets 3, t-shirts 10, pants 3, shorts 1, skirts 1, biking rain gear 0, gloves 1, scarves 8, hats 2 and bathing suit 0. Pretty close, but I could have packed less and been happy. We also packed seven pairs of underwear and socks each. The socks are wearing out fast because we walk and bicycle instead of drive.

The clothes that I've actually needed and worn in eight months. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The clothes that I’ve actually needed and worn in eight months. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

So, how much do you need and which pieces are important? I’d say enough for a week and of course, everyone has different needs. When we travel around Europe, we bring a t-shirt, underwear and socks for each day, a pair of pants and a jacket. We’ve never wished that we had brought more.

When in doubt go rainbow. Easy matchy matchy. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
When in doubt go rainbow. Easy matchy matchy. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

I wrote this blog as a reminder to us that we don’t need to pack so much and that we are just as happy with less. I hope that when we return home, we (we mostly meaning me) will continue to live with a smaller wardrobe and cut down on shopping. Also, a reminder to our traveling friends to relax about packing, and that it’s easier to travel with smaller lighter bags.

Mostly loving every minute

R/V Maria S. Merian headed from Greenland’s ice to Iceland’s green hills to Greenland’s ice again during our third week at sea.IMG_4561 (2)

South of Iceland Surtsey Island is visible in the distance. Photo: Dragonfly Leathrum

We sailed from west to east along southern Iceland to recover ocean moorings from a submarine ridge that separates eastern Iceland from the Faroe Islands. There were a lot of Icelandic fishing vessels in the area most of which left for port as the weather turned bad. Time passed strangely for me when breaking waves at 13 ft and gale force winds of 63 mph hit us. My cabin window is four or five stories above the sea and this sea was splashing up against my window as the ship crashed through the waves. Windshield wipers cleared the windows of salt water on the bridge one level above my cabin. It was intense.

I spent the day sleeping, drowsy from the seasick medicine. My cabin mate was awesome, he left his lab and checked on me throughout the day bringing little pieces of bread and reminding me to drink water. At one point I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom and I noticed that the water was flowing sideways from the tap. I almost called out to my cabin mate before I realized that the ship, the bathroom and myself were all in fact sideways. The seasick medicine makes me dopey too.

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The spray from the storm waves at the bow of the ship. Photo: Dragonfly Leathrum

Eventually the calm eye of the storm found us and even though the seas were still rough the sky brightened. When the fog lifted we saw the mountains of southern Iceland and the Vestmannaeyjar Islands. Cabin mate was excited that Surtsey, created by a violent volcanic eruption in 1963, and the biggest Island we could see, was two years younger than him. Puffins live there, but I saw none through my telephoto lens.

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Icelandic mountains and a glacier on the horizon. Photo: Dragonfly Leathrum

The rough seas soon returned as we headed back to Greenland now to the north of Iceland. I walked around the ship holding on to railings and stumbling from one side of the gangway to the other. To travel anywhere on the ship stairs are involved and depending on whether the ship is pitching, rolling or both gravity shifts a bit. You can time your steps to save energy, that is, climbing up the stairs is easier when the ship is moving down and gravity “feels” less strong. In the cabin I used elbows, shoulders and hips to hold open cabinets and doors while trying to get dressed. I also found myself sitting longer than usual at the dinner table, because the thought of trying to walk across the moving floor with a tray full of glasses and dishes seemed like a bad idea. It reminded me of the first time I was a waiter on a train. Knitting, sleeping and complaining were about all I got up to.

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Foosball (Kicker) and table tennis tournaments below deck. Photo: Dragonfly Leathrum

By Friday we were closer to the east coast of Greenland, a little further north this time. We encountered calmer seas, with a few icebergs. Scientists and crew were competing in Foosball (kicker) and ping pong tournaments below deck when they were not processing data from CTD stations, recovering moorings from the ocean, or running the engines of the ship. Foosball in high seas is pretty unpredictable.

Another storm was on the horizon with high winds. I packed away all loose things laying around the cabin, showered while I still could without being thrown around, and ate a bit more in case the storm made me seasick. I also spent my time on deck taking pictures.

Saturday arrived, but the storm did not. The waves picked up, but the winds did not. Traveling north across Denmark Strait to Greenland, I noticed the temperatures were dropping. Ice formed on deck and we were forbidden to go outside. The mountains of Greenland seemed close and became clear, sea ice appeared, and more icebergs drifted south as we moved north. The week and August ended with an unusual, beautiful sunset behind layers of fog and mountains.

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Sunset behind fog and mountains on Greenland’s eastern coast. Photo: Dragonfly Leathrum

So much beauty in the world

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The R/V Maria S. Merian creates gentle waves on calm, sunny day in Scoresby Sound. Photo: Dragonfly Leathrum

Land ho. Greenland. We glimpse mountains that peek through low-lying fog with clouds above as the ship slowly approaches the coast. Scoresby Sound is one of the largest and longest fjord systems in the world. My telephoto lens is working overtime to focus closer on the snow and glacier covered peaks. Before entering the Sound, we took measurements at the mouth by way of moorings and CTD stations. Only then our journey into Scoresby Sound began. We determined how much warm water enters the Sound and how it travels to reach the melting glaciers that produce the many icebergs we saw.

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Greenland barely visible through the fog as we approach the mouth of the sound from the Demark Strait. Photo: Dragonfly Leathrum

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My favorite iceberg of the many I saw. I really like the bright blue ice intersecting the white. Photo: Dragonfly Leathrum

At first, we could see a few icebergs in the distance. I took photos of every one that passed. I would try to go back to my cabin to process photos and another even more interesting iceberg would appear just outside the porthole of my cabin. The mountains along the Sound appeared wild and unspoiled. Some peaks were covered by snow, some were not, some had waterfalls, others were dry. It is August after all, the height of summer with 20 hours of sunlight. My favorite feature, besides the distinct layers of sediment, were the many small and steep glaciers that had found their way to the Sound and the paths they create by carving the mountains. The passage of time is easily read here.

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A tidewater glacier making its way around an obstacle shaping the landscape. Photo: Dragonfly Leathrum

I’m intrigued by the changing colors of the ocean from almost black to bright blue. The color morphs each day and even during the day as we change our location and clouds filter the light. About 200 miles into Scoresby Sound we entered into the Nordvest Fjord. One day the water was still, almost glassy. The ocean reflected mountains and icebergs alike which created an image of peace, tranquility, and awe. The next moment winds picked up, creating waves that smashed into icebergs. Another day the water looked a deep turquoise and later changed with the sun to a bright turquoise I have not seen before. Pictures taken this day look like we were in the Tropics instead of the Arctic.

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A bright day aboard the ship in the Nordvest Fjord with a turquoise sea. Photo: Dragonfly Leathrum

Despite the distracting, dramatic landscape serious work was to be done. Mapping the rugged seafloor, Ellen’s instrument revealed a new science to me. She discovered that many of the islands in front of us were in the wrong place on the maps we had. I learnt a new word, “bathymetry” for this science that Ellen Werner of the University of Munich explains in daily meetings. I always look forward to her segment and watch her slowly evolving maps with new discoveries. Also, in our nightly meetings the scientists give short talks about their current work at home, because not all students work on Greenland Oceanography. They even let me give a talk about my artwork. No graphs or charts in my power point, folks.

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Ellen Werner discusses newly mapped bottom topography near the Denmark Strait. We call the Sea Hill, Ellen’s Hill. Photo: Dragonfly Leathrum

My seasickness retreated and I feel more surefooted on the ship. I am conquering my fear of heights as I get more comfortable standing closer to the ship’s railings when taking photos. Calmer seas also allowed me to paint again:

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Watercolor and colored pencil of an iceberg in the Scoresby Sound. 24cm x 17 cm by Dragonfly Leathrum

 

Written by Dragonfly Leathrum 8/28/18

 

 

Rollin’ on the waves with my scientist homies

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Sort of ready for the safety drill.  Photo by Andreas Muenchow

Seasickness comes and goes. I was hoping to be okay after five days in, and most of the time I am, but I’m still reliant on the seasick pills. There is nothing in my adult life that can describe what this feels like, but there are two experiences from my childhood that match it well. The first is riding backwards in the way back seat of a full-size station wagon in West Virginia. West Virginia is full of roads with sharp turns in the mountains where the road will also “drop” you for a second if you drive too fast over a rise. The second is swinging on a swing. The particular swing I’m thinking of was connected to my babysitter’s swing set. It was two benches connected to each other by a metal frame that you could pile a lot of kids on. We would pretend that we were either pirates at sea or for more drama, escaping the pirates. Of course, there were always alligators, sharks or both underneath, so you couldn’t just jump off when the swing got too high and the poles started to pull out of the ground.

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Rock and roll childhood

This is what being on the ship feels like to me only besides swinging from side to side the ship can swing in any direction, sometimes all directions so you feel a bit stirred up. Imagine that you’re swinging high on this swing but there is nothing to hold on to. Now imagine that you are doing this taking a shower, carrying a tray of food, reading, typing or doing anything that you need to do in a day. I thought that it would be a nice motion for sleeping, and sometimes it is. When it’s not, like last night, it reminds me of the scene in the early surfer movies where a girl would be thrown up in the air on a blanket on the beach, caught falling and then thrown up again. Okay, I didn’t mean to write thrown up, but you get the picture. The movement of the ship never stops. You can’t get out of the car, jump off the swing or ask the hunky surfers to please, for Christ sake, put you down. This morning was a rough one, I saw spray at my window over four stories above the ocean and the ship is moving quite a lot. This very green Dragonfly stayed in bed hoping that sleep, dreams and a seasickness pill might make it better, it did. Knitting, staring at the horizon when it’s visible and peppermint tea help as well.

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View from the galley porthole.

Not everything about the ship being in constant motion is bad as I discovered watching a Star Wars movie the other night. The ship was rocking in the same motion as the land speeders racing through the forest. It was really cool. People pay money to have this experience in theatres. I’m going to watch the Phantom Menace tonight for the pod race, unless it makes me sick.

A lucky artist at sea

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Dragonfly Leathrum on the main deck of the R/V Maria S. Merian in Scoresby Sound, Greenland. Photo by Simon Wett UHH

I am neither scientist nor sailor but an American artist living in Bremerhaven, Germany looking at Greenland beyond the rails of R/V Maria S. Merian. How I got here is another story, but my purpose is to convey work at sea to a broader audience with support from the U.S. National Science Foundation. Dr. Torsten Kanzow of the Alfred-Wegener-Institute is leading scientists from Germany, England, Greece, India, and the USA in their various projects. We are all collecting ocean data in the Denmark Strait between Iceland and Greenland and in Scoresby Sound in Greenland. Even though I have been seasick on and off this first week of four, observing students, technicians, engineers, and crew working together is an eye-opening adventure.

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The Maria S. Merian docked in Reykjavik Harbor. Photo by Dr. Andreas Muenchow UDEL

The research vessel R/V Maria S. Merian is all work all the time. Different groups fill every minute of twenty-four-hour work days. They collect and process data, prepare instruments for year-long deployments into the ocean, and recover instruments placed in the water in prior years. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I document what is happening from an artist’s perspective using photographs, drawings, paintings, and blogs. My first assignment was to photograph all members of the science party so a large poster could be made to help everyone get to know each other. Two days later I was seasick and missed a good photo opportunity when scientists, technicians and crew recovered a first mooring from the Denmark Strait. Dr. Andreas Muenchow from the University of Delaware covered for me and probably took better photos because as a seasoned sailing scientist he is more comfortable with deck operations.

The next day we saw an iceberg: My First Iceberg! Little did I know there were thousands of icebergs just beyond my horizon that I will write about next week.

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Iceberg in the Denmark Strait. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We sailed back and forth across the Denmark Strait between Iceland and Greenland to map a massive plume of dense water cascading cold Arctic water down the sloping bottom into the Atlantic Ocean. The ship stops every hour or so to lower a metal frame called a CTD that has many sensors and bottles strapped to it. This measures temperature, salinity, velocity, and oxygen levels. The scientists and crew also deployed and recovered moorings which measure similar things. The moorings are weighted down at the bottom with old train wheels. A nice bit of upcycling. All scientists meet every evening after dinner to compare new data and ideas that were collected and processed during the prior day and night. They organize all this in graphs and charts. It is fascinating to see the information visually. As a lucky artist I receive somewhat unexpectedly an advanced tutorial in physical oceanography without taking a single class in mathematics or physics.

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Mooring deployments in the Denmark Strait August 2018 from aboard R/V Maria S. Merian. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

It was a good first week even though my sea sickness pills are all gone. The scientists, mostly students, are extremely bright, nice, and working hard at their stations. The weather has been fair during the week. We enjoyed some unexpected sunshine and we huddled through a few cold and foggy days. I photographed sunsets, moon rises, whales, dolphins, and many of the different sensors, scientists, and science work. Calmer seas here and there allowed me to complete two paintings of Iceland as well.