Passion for Ocean 2019

I wonder if the cashier reacted to my somewhat strange shopping list last Saturday morning: 1 kg of salt, three kilos of ice and a bottle of food coloring. Had he asked, I’d gladly have told him that I was on my way to “Passion for ocean”, a festival showing off everything that Bergen has to offer that’s related to the ocean; food, music, fishes, starfish, aquariums, organizations, activities, kayaks, boats – and off course research and science!

Nadine and I joined up with Ingunn Skelvan and students from GFI in the Bjerknes Centre tent to set up our demonstrations – it was quite a challenge in the strong wind!


Ingunn showed to anyone interested how blowing (CO2) into seawater lowers the pH (which causes the pH-indicator in the water to change color). When the pH in the ocean decreases it is more difficult for organisms in the water to build their shells.

What balloon will explode first when hold over an open flame? The one filled with water or the one filled with air?

Since the heat capacity of water is much higher than that of air, the water balloon will not get nearly as warm as the air balloon (and hence not explode). That’s also why the water in the lake doesn’t heat up as quickly as the air when the sun is out – and why the majority of the heat that the earth is accumulating due to our emissions of CO2 is stored in the ocean.


Nadine had a more difficult question for the visitors: If you put an ice cube in a glass of sea water and one in a glass of sea water – which one will melt first? Do you know? You can try at home – or visit  Mirjam’s blog to find  out!

Ladies of the ring – Art and science

Imagine yourself wandering around a lake on an early autumn morning, where the mist forms a silky layer over the calm water surface. You watch the fog and wonder how it can create such a mystic mood. A light breeze comes up and the fog starts dancing on the water surface. You like this dance and start blowing more air over the surface to create turbulence. The mist in front of you suddenly wakes up and performs a beautiful dance in the wind over the water.

As part of my PhD program, I – Nadine – recently participated in the summer school FDSE at École Polytechnique in Paris. During those very intense and instructive two weeks of fluid dynamics from atmospheric dynamics to oceanography, glaciology and renewable energy, we also had a short project on quite an unusual topic: Arts! Organized by LadHyX (LadHyX), we dived into the world of arts, where the interplay of water, mist and air inspired our creativity and the perception of reality. Within little time, we made this movie of the shadow of mist dancing over water.


Icebergs for children – and everyone else!

I stumbled over this masterpiece on twitter and I thought I’d share it with you: a book for children explaining the origin and fate of an Antarctic iceberg! Illustraed by amazing pieces of art, nicely told, scientifically correct and on top of all freely available at !

The author/artist Marlo Gansworthy joined a Polarstern cruise to the iceberg alley a few years back – and now we can all enjoy the result! Download and be amazed together with your children (or on your own!) . You can read her blog from the expedition and find more of her art here!


Antarctic podcast in the making!

What’s the role of Antarctica in the global climate system? Why is the ice melting? Where did you go? – and why? What ship where you on? What did you eat for breakfast?

There were many questions,(and hopefully just as many answers) when Nadine and I was invited by Ellen and Ingjald to “Media City Bergen” where we were to make a podcast about life and science onboard an icebreaker in Antarctica. The studio turned out to be the smallest room (without a toilet) that I’d ever been into – but we managed to squeeze in all four of us!

The program will be ready after the summer so stay tuned! And meanwhile, you can listen to previous podcasts from the Bjerknes centre (in Norwegian only for now) and learn about why climate scientists collect pollen (Anne Bjune) to how we can use ocean temperatures to predict cod abundance in Norwegian water (Marius Årthun) – and much more!

Podcast in the making! Photo: Ellen Viste


Ellen Viste preparing to question us about everything from deep water to formation to what you eat for breakfast on a Korean ice breaker. Photo: E. Darelius

EastGRIPninja’s scientific adventures – a comic book about an expedition to Greenland!

Our friend and paleo climate researcher Petra Langebroek is currently on a scientific expedition to central Greenland, and she reports back using EastGRIPninja and his scientist friends to tell the story of how science is done on top of the ice sheet.

For example, EastGRIPninja gets a tour of the camp:

And that’s pretty cool — it’s not too often that I get a look into one of the domes! I don’t know what I expected to see inside, but definitely not this much plywood. And probably fewer flags, too. And (spoiler alert!) would you have guessed that they have a tabletop football game in there, too?

Also super interesting: How does going to the toilet work in the middle of the Greenland ice sheet? That’s something EastGRIPninja needs to find out fairly early on, too. So if you are curious, you should go and check it out!

Click on the image below to read the whole story (which is being updated pretty much daily!). EastGRIPninja, Petra and their team are still there until mid July and I can’t wait to learn more about their adventures!

Is there plastic litter in the Southern Ocean? – A response to AMA

After I got used to solid ground again, I would like to come back to the questions that I got from the Ask Me Anything event. Those questions posed on Reddit are answered directly there and I replied to some questions directly in an email. There was one specific question left that I want to write more about:

Is there plastic litter in the Southern Ocean?

Global plastic production has increased by >500 times over the last 60 years (Thompson et al., 2009). People all around the world are becoming increasingly aware of the big problems that our plastic polution causes to the oceans and to the marine wildlife. Microplastic (plastics smaller than 6mm) comes either as a secondary source from breakdown of marcoplastic, or directly from personal care products like shampoo, soap or synthetic fibres from the laundry. Microplastics are found in their highest concentrations along coastlines and within mid-ocean gyres. The World’s Ocean contain 63 320 pieces per km² and the East Asian seas 1 720 000 pieces per km² (Isobe et al., 2015; Eriksen et al., 2014).

The Southern Ocean is so remote from the sources that it was thought to be mainly free of plastic pollution. However, there are studies that show that microplastic is also found in the Southern Ocean, mainly  in deep-sea sediments and the surface. It is partly transported across the ACC from other oceans and partly caused by ships and research stations in Antarctica (Waller et al., 2017). Especially microplastic can be transported far through the ocean currents as all world oceans are connected to each other.

In total, nobody knows how much plastic there is in the Southern Ocean, as it has only been measured at a few locations. But we know that there is no piece of ocean that can be completely save from plastic pollution. Also, it has not been measured yet how big the impact of microplastic is on Antarctic species; but in other oceans it causes reduction in energy reserves, ability of feeding and reproduction in marine biota (Cole et al., 2011).

Thanks and goodbye!

We had an amazing and unforgettable cruise to the Southern Ocean, but it is time now to leave RV Kronprins Haakon and say goodbye to everyone. Despite the fact that the heavy sea ice prohibited the science close to the ice shelf, we managed to find alternative plans and we got some interesting findings. I am very excited about the scientific papers that will come out of it and new projects. Personally, I learned a lot both about marine science but also about managing and planning a cruise.

I want to thank the crew and the other scientists for great work, collaboration and also an amazing time! During those 7 weeks I found a lot of new friends with whom I am enjoying the last days together in Cape Town now. In the end, I also want to thank my supervisor Elin to make this cruise possible for me, to find the funding and arrange everything!

With that I send you the last pictures of some penguins, whales, seals and ice bergs! GOODBYE 🙂


Photos: Rudi Caeyers, NPI


About RV Kronprins Haakon

Now, our expedition is over and we are docked onto the pier in Cape Town, where we will finally step onto solid ground again. Before saying goodbye here on the blog, I would like to tell you a bit about the ship that we have been working and living on for the last 7 weeks during our Antarctic adventure:
the brand new Norwegian ice breaker RV Kronprins Haakon.

Norway has a long history in polar research. The research institutes always make sure that they have the infrastructure to conduct fieldwork in rough conditions and heavy sea ice. Following the examples of “Fram” and “Maud” on which Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen wrote history, “Kronprins Haakon” has now started to cut through the ice for the new generation of polar explorers. During the last decades, “Lance” was used for polar research although she was originally built for fishing and sealing. However, now she is an old lady from 1978, who has already sailed to the moon and back in distance (860 000km) and has finally retired in 2017 from the duty for the Norwegian Polar Institute. “Kronprins Haakon” was built in Genova, Italy, and is now jointly owned by the University of Tromsø (50 %), Norwegian Polar Institute (30 %) and Norwegian Institute of Marine Research (20 %). On November 17, 2018, the ice breaker was baptized by the Princess Ingrid Aleksandra in a very symbolic way: with a sea ice core to symbolize the use of the ship in polar regions.

The 100 m long ship has room for 55 people including the crew, but most of the space is used for the 14 laboratories, a helipad, hangars for two helicopters and a moonpool to lower instruments into the ocean even with thick sea ice cover. In addition, it has a remotely controlled submarine that goes down to 6000 m depth, an eccosounder to measure the ocean floor and organisms in detail, and many other instruments. Here you can see a youtube video about the ship:

Our team in front of the beautiful ice breaker before going on board in Punta Arenas. Photo: Rudi Caeyers