zondag 30 juni 2013

Sampling at Kongsfjorden

27-28 June 2013
The field sampling campaign has started. Fortunately with nice weather: mostly sunny skies and not too strong winds. The first day we sampled organisms living in the sediments (shell fish and worms) from the harbour of Ny-Ålesund and surroundings. Both sediment and organisms will be used to assess contaminant concentrations. Buckets full of contaminated sediments were also collected to be used in Ariadna’s exposure study in the lab. The second day this procedure was repeated, only then at a clean reference site on the other side of the bay. The hard work was rewarded by the visit of a walrus, belugas and puffins to our boat and stunning views of ice blue coloured icebergs and magnificent glaciers. All samples are now safe and well in the freezer or cold room, awaiting further process.
Van  Veen Grab used for sampling of species
© Ruben Kocx
Ben and Ariadna working
in front of a glacier

© Bas Bolman

vrijdag 28 juni 2013

Walking on the ocean floor near Ny-Ålesund

28 June 2013

In the morning we had lots of sunshine while working offshore. But in the evening the weather in Ny-Ålesund quickly changed. Heavy clouds rushed in and seemingly endless rain poured down. Nevertheless, Maarten Loonen from the Netherlands Arctic Station took us out for a field trip. First the instructions: check the rifles, flare gun and radio. Then off to the west. Just outside the village the rifles are half-loaded, just to be sure. We walked towards the airport, a 800 meter long gravel road. Along the strip, several scientific observation stations are functioning, such as the large satellite dish of the Norwegian Mapping Authority, measuring the earth’s rotation speed. After the air strip we reached the red river, which is red because of the silt that is transported from the glaciers. After crossing the a small bridge we reached the tundra. Because of the melting upper layer of the tundra, many us of sank into the mud. In the meantime Maarten explained that we were actually walking on a former ocean floor. About 10,000 years ago, just after the glaciers retreated, an ocean was formed. This is proven by the white shells that can be found at many places. After the tundra we reached Kongsfjorden. Due to the rain and clouds we the view was not stunning; however good enough to spot a walrus and some belugas. 

View over Kongsfjorden, 6 km north-west of  Ny-Ålesund
© Bas Bolman

donderdag 27 juni 2013

Shooting course at old coal mine

26 June 2013

Our trainer showing how
to half-load the rifle

© Bas Bolman
Yesterday the most important item on our agenda was a training to learn how to shoot a polar bear with a rifle. There are approximately 3,000 polar bears at Svalbard, some of them are hungry and looking for food. Since the Arctic team doesn’t plan to be on the polar bear’s menu, it was a wise decision to follow the course. In the morning the theory was explained, such as the behaviour of polar bears, number of incidents and distribution. Furthermore the different types of rifles and ammunition were explained.

The shooting cabin in the mountains
© Bas Bolman
In the afternoon the practical part of the course started. With two cars we drove to the south-east of Ny-Ålesund, to the area where a coal mine operated from 1916-1962. The mine closed after an accident, killing 21 workers. After a short but steep climb we arrived at the hut. Under the supervision of the director of Kings Bay AS, the Arctic team learned how to shoot in different positions and with different types of rifles.

In the afternoon preparations were taken to go offshore with the Teisten work boat. The equipment from the lab is ready to be used on board in order to take sediment samples to measure pollution in the Kings Fjord.   

dinsdag 25 juni 2013

Pilot of propeller plane cancels landing procedure close to Ny-Ålesund

25 June 2013

Abandoned Arctic Coal Mine at Longyearbyen
© Bas Bolman

Yesterday morning our flight from Longyearbyen to Ny-Ålesund ended differently than expected. After 30 minutes of flying the pilot started the descent; however due to the mist the pilot decided to cancel landing procedures. Because of the noise of the propeller plane, a Dornier 228, we didn’t understand the pilot’s instructions. After another 30 minutes we finally landed. When stepping out of the small plane, the small airport looked very familiar… Or maybe even a bit too familiar. It appeared that the pilot had actually returned to Longyearbyen because of the bad weather. Subsequently the flights from 15.00 hrs and 19.30 hrs were cancelled too. And thus the Arctic team was left with no other option to find a place to sleep in Longyearbyen. Luckily we were not alone: three researchers from France were also stuck, as well as the Dutch author, actor and poet (Dichter des Vaderlands) Ramsey Nasr. The Hotel "Mary-Ann’s Polarrigg" still had several rooms and also cold beers left.

Ariadna and Ben in
the Dornier 228 propeller plane
© Bas Bolman
Today we made another attempt to get to Ny-Ålesund. This time with more luck: nice weather, not too cloudy, and hardly any wind. On the way the views were truly stunning. One snow-capped mountain after the other, large glaciers connecting to even larger glaciers, one fjord being bigger than the other. After a smooth landing a small bus took us to the service centre where we were welcomed by Maarten Loonen, the station manager from the Arctic Centre of the University of Groningen. After registration and lunch Maarten explained us about the do’s and don’ts in the village. Especially safety is an issue since polar bears might unexpectedly visit the settlement. The instructions: when you step outside the house, do a bear check for 10 seconds first. Stay on the gravel roads and be aware: you’re always bait. Last but not least: do not leave Ny-Ålesund without a gun.

Glacier close to Ny-Ålesund
© Bas Bolman

maandag 24 juni 2013

Travelling to Svalbard

Ruben Kocx, Martine van den Heuvel-Greve and Bas Bolman
23 June 2013

After saying goodbye to our families and friends we checked in at Schiphol airport, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. 
Just as in 2012, this expedition is part of the Arctic Programme within TripleP@Sea, an investment programme of Wageningen UR aiming to develop tools to enable a sustainable use of the Arctic region. 

Svalbard from the air
This year we are a group of five: Martine van den Heuvel-Greve and Bas Bolman  from the Arctic Programme of IMARES Wageningen UR, Ariadna Szczybelski a PhD student on Arctic Indicators from Wageningen University, Ben Frederiks, a BSc student from Van Hall Larenstein, and Ruben Kocx, who is a camera man from HPM Video Productions. Ruben will be filming our research for a film that will be presented during a guest lecture at the minor Oil & Gas in Den Helder later this year. The film is financed by the Maritime Campus Netherlands and the European Fund for Regional Development. 

The flight to Svalbard requested one stop over in Oslo, Norway, where we spend a few hours waiting and discussing the film plan. On our flight to Svalbard Bas arranged that Ruben could shoot some footage of the cockpit, pilots and the first glimpse of the impressive snow-capped peaks of Svalbard.
Midnight sun
We arrived a little later than planned but safe and sound at the windy air strip of Longyearbyen at mid night. As we are a little later in the season than our expedition last year, most of the snow in Longyearbyen is already gone and the bare brown sides of the mountains are visible. The light was beautiful at night when we arrived at our guest house. Instead of a well-deserved bed, Bas and Ruben decided to immediately start filming the surroundings and spotted the first Svalbard reindeer and an Arctic fox.

A short night later we are now back at the airport for our final leg to the Dutch Arctic station at Ny-Ålesund. We are currently waiting for the low clouds to lift before the small Dornier can take off.

Ruben Kocx at work at midnight

Arctic expedition to Svalvard

From 22 June to 6 August 2013, researchers from IMARES Wageningen UR are on expedition in the Arctic. Follow this blog and keep yourself informed.
From left to right:
Ruben Kocx, Ariadna Szczybelski, Ben Frederiks,
Martine van den Heuvel-Greve and Bas Bolman

© Martine van den Heuvel-Greve