September 10, 2018

Into submission

It has been a long month…

I thought I would write about how we stopped short of the North Pole (90.°N) by ~5 miles due to thick ice and because getting to that finite point isn’t required to accomplish our scientific objectives, but we decided to have a party since Stockholm said it counts.

Photo coordinated and taken by Lars Lehnert (SPRS) on August 12.

I thought I would write about my disappointment in that geographical shortcoming, but instead decided focus on how I’ve found myself routinely being surprised by the friendly faces and supportive conversations that I’ve found in the galley at 2 in the morning, or out on the deck in the cold, or occasionally in my lonely little lab.

Where many amazing conversations (with people) have occurred at 2 in the morning.

Those posts were supposed to be called “Where north ends and south begins” and “Don’t forget to count the eggs (before you count your chickens),” but they were never written.

I also thought I should write a “Short but sweet” post entitled “More than words” about how I’ve been finding it hard to write blog posts but have managed to post photos with descriptive captions on Instagram (a photo is worth morethan a thousand words if it includes a caption and hashtags!).

Photo of Walker and me at the Pole, which I had planned to post to Instagram but didn’t due to the hi-res group photo being distributed off the ship.

 I encourage you to follow me on Instagram rather than here—my account is @armargolin or you can find my Arctic-specific posts via #ArcticAndy.

* * *
Instead of blogging, I’ve spent my month getting little sleep analyzing as many samples as I can, and as a result I’ve had little energy and motivation, and have been lacking the creativity that is necessary to write a good post.

My typical view in lab as samples are analyzed, which has progressively become cozier and cozier, as the gurgling of CO2measurements and pumping of alkalinity titrations have become sedative white noise to my tired ears.

I’ve also been preoccupied with a research proposal that I’ve had to write while out here, which was recently submitted from land by someone I am very grateful to have supporting me from afar on this long, challenging, and isolating expedition.

My connection to the outside world is limited to small (200 KB max) emails with exchanges oftentimes delayed by >6 hours, and there is never a guarantee that my emails even go through.

There is an iridium phone that I can use, but I limit my calls to one person on a weekly basis since it can be expen$ive!

Unfortunately, there is no internet access out here so I will not be able to see this post until September 25, along with a number of other things associated with the “outside world” that I have come to miss.

My view looking back from the “outside world” (i.e., on the floe) when helping Philipp mark the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) survey area and measure ice thickness. The red tent is where the ROV is deployed from an ice hole, where I frequently collect water samples.

* * *

On past expeditions, I’ve tried to document my experiences using photography, but I have found that static photos don’t quite capture the dynamic nature of this work and life style, and that they don’t captivate in the same way that video does, which I’ve more recently been incorporating into my multimedia portfolio.

I’ve also found—or I suspect—that few people actually ready these posts, so I thought I’d try to put my energy into keeping a video journal while out here, rather than maintaining photo or web logs (did you know: blogis actually short for “web log”!).

I am proud to say that I have successfully been keeping a video journal while on this expedition, which includes 1- to 5-minute entries every 1-2 days, recorded on my phone, and complemented by footage and photos from a couple other cameras that I have.

Screenshot of me recording my latest journal entry, just after midnight on September 6 (GMT).

Prior to the start of this expedition, my hope was to create a 10-part miniseries on my YouTube channel consisting of 5-minute episodes that documents this expedition, entitled “Tales from a floe.”

Now, in the middle of the expedition, I feel that I have enough footage and photos to create a >10-part miniseries, documenting my experiences, which will likely come out in early 2019 with weekly installations, entitled “Arctic Andy’s tales from a floe.”

* * *

As a scientist, I have struggled with the idea that the most effective way to move my career forward is to communicate my findings laterally—to my fellow scientist colleagues—by submitting them to peer-reviewed journals for publication on platforms that few people read.

I suppose I struggle with that because there clearly are issues with science communication to the general public, the understanding and/or comprehension of human-made climate change, and that variations in climate (i.e., abnormal or unseasonal weather conditions) are devastating life on our planet (e.g., recent and/or continuing forest fires in California, British Columbia, Sweden, Norway, Brazil, flooding in France, India and Hawaii, and a typhoon in Japan and a state of emergency in the U.S. Gulf Coast… my access to news out here is limited so I’m sure the list is even longer!).

Anyway, my hope is that through efforts like “Arctic Andy’s tales from a floe,” we can educate the next generation via “bottom-up” or “trickle-up” climate science education and communication, and that rather than saying “it’s too late” or “it’s nottoo late,” we can say “we did it,” or perhaps my generation and older generations will come to realize that we will be saying “theydid it.”

If you are a school teacher or have children, I hope you engage them in the discussion of climate and the real problem that we have created as a result of our reckless emissions that are driving human-made climate change.

Hopefully I—or “Arctic Andy”—can provide stories to engage in such discussions.

Photo of me (aka SPIDER-MAN) running the AA5K in AntarcticA with friends back in 2013. Photo was used for cover slide of talk given to ~7-year-olds about the (Ant)Arctic and climate change, which they surprisingly(?!) enjoyed.

Please don’t hesitate to email me if you, your students or your children have anyquestions for me while I am out here in the ice—direct email is the best way for me to communicate since I am effectively blinded from the “outside world.”

My email while out here is

I hope this finds you well,
Date: 2018 September 8.
Time (GMT): 14:10.
Latitude: 88°42.08’N.
Longitude: 45°14.34’E.
Air temperature: -5.5°C.
Windchill: -7.9°C.
Wind speed: 4.7 m/s. 

August 8, 2018

Troubleshooting in the dark

Our flight to Longyearbyen was a little delayed, and all ~40 of us arrived there around 1:15 in the morning on July 30.

Once we got off the plane and retrieved our luggage, we boarded a tour bus that took us down the road to a small harbor where we waited for a small boat to take 5-6 of us at a time to Oden, since the harbor was too small for such a big, icebreaking ship.

I was in one of the last groups to catch the boat, so I walked around the area and took some photos.

View of the road back towards the airport, taken at 1:59 in the morning.

The following day (July 31) was spent getting reoriented on the ship, and getting instruments running and ready in the labs.

That evening a few of us took small-boat shuttles back to the harbor and walked into the town of Longyearbyen. On my walk, I stopped by a grocery store to buy souvenirs, candies and chocolate, as well as the neighboring brewery for my last beer on land.

View of Oden from the small boat on its way to the harbor, taken at 6:48 in the evening.

The following day (Aug 1) at 1:02 in the afternoon, a pilot boarded Oden to navigate us through the straits near Longyearbyen, and out to the Greenland Sea on the western side of Svalbard.

As the ship moved, my troubleshooting began, which involved testing a variety of things and solving a number of small problems that presented themselves. Since this is the first expedition that I’ve been on without having a supervisor on board, it was and is my responsibility to resolve any instrumental issues by troubleshooting.

However, I do have the capability to email my lab’s technician, Olivia, who is an expert with all of our instruments, or my supervisor, Elizabeth, who is the principal investigator of my Arctic project. Unfortunately, though, I quickly learned that for some reason my institute’s email server thinks my shipboard email is spam, so I wasn’t able to exchange emails with Olivia or Elizabeth until yesterday (Aug 7) evening! Over the past week, I truly was troubleshooting in the dark.

To take breaks from my troubleshooting, I’ve gone up to the bridge to get a nice view, as well as to focus on reading and writing. A few days ago I began reading The New Yorker’s “The white darkness: A solitary journey across Antarctica,” which seemed fitting for many of the white out days we’ve had so far, despite being about the other polar region.

At the start of our Arctic expedition, a quote from that reading stood out to me, which was actually taken from Shackleton’s The heart of the Antarctic, and it is as follows:

Men [and women] go out into the void spaces of the world for various reasons. Some are actuated simply by a love of adventure, some have the keen thirst for scientific knowledge, and others again are drawn away from the trodden paths by the ‘lure of little voices,’ the mysterious fascination of the unknown.

I’d say that quote probably resonates with everyone on this expedition, scientists and crew alike.

In addition to taking solitary breaks from work, I’ve also enjoyed the company of the people on board, who I’ve shared many delicious meals with so far, as well as coffees, teas and hot cocoas, and an occasional drink at the bar (once our work is done, of course!).

We’re making ripples into the void spaces of the world, taken on Aug 4 at 1:50 (GMT) in the afternoon.

My lab space is in good shape after a week of troubleshooting, taken Aug 7 at 1:53 (GMT) in the afternoon, while analyzing melted sections of a sea ice core for alkalinity and dissolved CO2.

Hopefully by the next time I write you, we will have reached the Pole. Whether we make it there or not, it’s nice and cool up here at 86.75°N :)

July 30, 2018

Poleward bound (a quick goodbye)

After mobilization in Helsingborg, Sweden, I enjoyed a two-week tour of Scandinavia as the Oden’s crew finalized the ship for its steam to Longyearbyen, Svalbard (Norway).

My last stop on the Scandinavian tour was Oslo, Norway, and I enjoyed an afternoon at the Fram Museum, learning about Norwegian polar legends such Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen, and the Framitselt.

As I walked around the museum, seeing relics of polar oceanography’s past, my travel companion said, “Our careers are built on all of this history,” which filled me with pride.

Oceanography—ranging from polar seas to the tropics—is a fascinating field of study.

A copper 'Nansen bottle' used to sample water, which is what today's Niskin bottle is based on.

As a scientist and communicator, I hope to tell stories of the upcoming expedition that will fill you with pride as well. 

On the deck of the Fram.
My flight to Longyearbyen will be boarding soon, so wish us luck on the expedition that is nearly underway, and please share the stories of our Arctic adventure.


July 18, 2018

All over again

Last week started out rough.

After Olivia and I were dropped off at the Richmond airport on Sunday, we learned that our instrument weighed 124 lbs. — 24 lbs. over the maximum allowable weight — so we were in trouble.

Me and our luggage and instruments at the Richmond airport.
The airline instructed us to take the instrument to cargo flights and that we could get there via airport shuttle, but the shuttle drivers did not know how to get to cargo and they instructed us to go back to the ticket counter, which was a good thing since cargo is actually closed on Sundays.

At that point we were getting concerned about not having enough time to get through security, so we asked to speak to a manager to sort out or weight issues.

Eventually, I realized that a part of the instrument that weighs ~20 lbs. could be removed from the case, which brought the weight of the case down to 100 lbs. and Olivia had the great idea of buying a small suitcase for the part — crisis averted!

After our two flights, we arrived in Copenhagen without issue, receiving all of our checked luggage and instruments.

Me and our luggage and instruments at the Copenhagen airport.
Getting to the train was also not an issue, since the station was only a minute walk from baggage claim.

Olivia and our luggage and instruments on board the train, crossing the straight into Sweden.
Once we boarded the train it was a 1-hour ride to Helsingborg, during which I enjoyed a nap through the Swedish countryside.

View of the Swedish countryside from the train.
Once we arrived at the train station in Helsingborg, Olivia and I took the elevator up to the bus terminal and we were greeted by familiar faces that we knew from previous expeditions we had been on, and we all waited for the shuttles to the Oden together.

Once we arrived at the Oden we had a quick orientation on board before instruments and supplies began being loaded onto the bow.

Being oriented in the galley on board the Oden.
Video clips from loading the Odenusing its crane.

Taking a break with Paty, the co-chief scientist of the expedition, and Jack and Petey, who I know from a 2013 expedition in the Ross Sea, Antarctica.
The following day, our two containers filled with supplies, instruments and spare parts arrived after being stuck in customs for a week.

The rest of the week we spent going over lists and unpacking supplies from various containers, as well as doing some safety training.

Paty pointing to chemicals for my group that have not arrived at the ship yet.
Palette of coolers shipped from the University of Washington, which I moved into the lab van that we’re using.
Evolution of our lab space. Photos taken 1) Tuesday morning, 2) Tuesday evening, 3) Thursday evening.
Video clips from our fire safety training for the expedition.

On Friday last week, all of our equipment was organized and secured on the Oden, and once that labor was done I made a video giving a quick tour of Oden.

A quick tour of the icebreaker Oden.

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be taking a holiday in Scandinavia before flying to Longyearbyen and beginning the expedition.

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