Kapitan Dranitsyn reached Polarstern on December 13th, at 350 kilometers from North Pole. He left again on December 18th with the previous team, after instructions, fuel, food and equipment transfer. We all (250 peoples) had a party on the ice the evening before, with hot wine and soccer game!
We are now 100 people on board Polarstern, half scientists, for Mosaic Leg 2. Our little international community (18 nationalities), the northernmost in the world, is slowly drifting north with an incredible network of instruments. I'm part of the logistics and safety team, assisting field work on the ice, watching for polar bears, moving equipment disturbed by the drift, looking for new access to scientific sites... There is a good mood on board, despite the cold (-34°C today, -50°C wind chill) and the permanent darkness which some participants are experiencing for the first time. However far from our families and friends, we celebrated the winter solstice, Christmas and New Year!
The journey on board Dranitsyn was memorable. I was on board before, when we met in Greenland in 2001, and we met again in Murmansk in 2002. At that time, I never thought one day I would embark with a bunch of scientists almost to the North Pole, in the night, breaking thicker and thicker ice... Our speed dropped down to 1 knot in the end! Not sure if the Dranitsyn will be able to come back for the next crew change, mid February, and other options are possible: nuclear ice-breaker assistance, Russian helicopters, Canadian planes... Let's see how far the drift will take us first!
Meanwhile, Natasha and Louis are looking after Vagabond, north of Baffin Island. They are also in charge of the monthly dives and water samplings for the scientific program. They are handling better and better the logistics and challenging protocols in the cold polar night, especially when recovering the data from the loggers set up at 15 meters under the ice, next to the coralline samples. After diving on December 28th, Louis said "it was -20°C (-30°C the previous dive), so good to be too warm when getting ready!".
They also take part in the local social life, with the nearby community Arctic Bay. Traditionally, games are organized every day for about two weeks during Christmas and New Year. It is a very friendly time of the year, good to know each other better, to taste some arctic char, frozen caribou or fermented walrus, join some seal hunters, learn how to make a parka or an ulu (women's knife), repair a skidoo, go out skiing with the cadets...
Happy New Year to everyone!