Finally we arrived today at the first sampling station although with more than half day of delay. It felt as a rollercoaster since we left Reykjavik heading to the Arctic. After one windy day, the sea state became almost like a mirror, perfect for a transit. The second transit day was therefore used for installation of the labs and discussing the protocols to make sure all teams could collect the samples they need for their research. The integrated approach that we are aiming for requires a smoothly coordination and collaboration for the sampling and processing events. Coffee breaks were used to scan the horizon for birds and marine mammals. Some of us spotted up to 10 bird species such as great shearwater, puffins, northern fulmar, least and little skua, little auk, thick-billed guillemot, harlequin duck and kittiwake, in addition to several killer whales. Approaching the coast of Southern Greenland on the third transit day the first ice started to appear. At first it occurred occasionally, but soon it became increasingly dense. It was clearly old multi-year ice probably coming from the northeast of Greenland as shown by satellite images. The ice coverage in our area was much higher than was expected based the ice charts from the days before but also compared to previous summers. It seemed we had picked the worst timing for crossing this area. It forced the officers to slow down the ship sailing at a maximum speed of 2 knots only, continuous checking the best gateway out of the ice. Despite this unexpected thriller event, the view was magnificent as we were surrounded by ice on a very calm and cloudy sea. Wildlife such as a group of resting harp seals on an iceberg but also killer whales were observed on our slow way through the ice. The ice mass seemed endless until on Sunday evening as quick as it originally appeared the ice margin was reached and we could go back to our originally transit speed. This delay made that we only arrived Monday midday on our first sampling station. By the evening we had already covered two stations at the mouth of the Igaliku Fjord. Tomorrow will be a new day with several challenges since we plan to sample a full station with all our equipment in a row in the middle of the fjord. This will be a major test to see if our sampling routine works for the busy weeks to come. Fingers crossed.
(Picture by Bart Beuselinck)