We are on the icebreaker Oden in the Ryder Fjord on the tip of Northwest Greenland. We do not know of any vessel that has made it into the fjord before us. This is a scientific expedition exploring this northern part of Greenland. The landscape here is hard to grasp. Nothing like anything we have seen anywhere before, except during the 2-3 day’s journey to the Petermann Glacier south of here, that we visited 2015. This year’s program is a continuance of the Petermann expedition.
Completed missing data
We left Thule airbase, to where we came by plane, on the 5th of August. We sailed north into Nares Strait, Kennedy Channel and passed the Humboldt Glacier, Hans Island and sailed up to the entrance of the Bessel Fjord south of Petermann. There we had our first station completing some missing data for 2015 and tested that our systems are ok. We also managed to fly our teams working with Sea Level History and Arctic Driftwood to a known site from 2015 for sampling.
Continued to the primary target area
After the station we continued north through Robeson Channel through more open ice up to the north east corner of Canada, not far from Alert, where we started out work in our primary target area. We did a full station with both water column and sediments. This entails mapping of the sea floor with the Multibeam, Sub bottom profiler and EK80. After this mapping we did sampling of water at different depths with the CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth) as well as plankton nets. Next step is sediment sampling from the aft deck with different kinds of corers, like the piston corer and the multi corer. The multicore samples the surface sediments and the piston corer goes deeper. And whenever we move, we will map sea surface, sub bottom and water column. This is a station pattern we will follow through the expedition.
Land groups were flown out
After the first station and a number of ice recognisance flights, Oden traversed over to the main target for our expedition to the Ryder Fjord, taking a station along the way. When within flying distance to the shore, the Sea Level History and Arctic Driftwood group were flown out for their first site in the area. The next day the Land team, DNA and Ecology was flown out with all their equipment. They are hoping for 4 sites during our stay where they will camp and work.
Oden on unknown depths
Oden proceeded towards the entrance of the fjord. Many ice reconnaissance flights were flown to find a way in for Oden. The fjord, inside the entrance, is relatively free from sea ice but inside is a number of gigantic pieces broken off from the glaciers floating tongue. They are practically blocking the entrance and outside there is heavy pack ice for us to pass before Oden can sneak in.
No ships have been here before us. We do not have charts with depths. We have to map our way in safetly. We do that by crossing the fjord using the Multibeam that has a swath at this water depth that reaches up to a kilometre out making it safe for Oden to work our way in.
Daily routines on board
Now we have been working inside the fjord for about a week. We follow our daily work pattern with a morning meeting where the plan of the day is set with the Co-Chief Scientists, Martin Jakobsson and Larry Mayer, the Oden Captain Erik Andersson, Chief Officer Mårten Thuresson, the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat’s Science Support Coordinator Ulf Hedman and Logistic Manager Lars Lehnert. After breakfast a briefing for the science crew is held and operations start right after that. First out is the flight operations with groups working on land and then station work and after that just before dinner we have the land groups back onboard. Evening and night are spent mapping. So repeated day after day.
We are the lucky ones to have the opportunity to see this beautiful landscape. Perhaps a handful have had the chance before us. We are exploring new land and it’s fantastic.
Text by: Ulf Hedman