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

My work on board: CTD measurements

There were so many exciting things happening on the ship that I almost forgot to write about the main work that I have been doing during this cruise: CTDs! The fact that the sea ice conditions didn’t allow us to deploy the mooring that I brought, doesn’t mean I could lean back and have holidays. CTDs are almost taken all of the time and our team was split up in 2 shifts. I always worked from 12:00 – 16:00h and from 20:00 – 04:00h, which means that we basically only got a few hours of daylight (it was dark from about 18:00 – 04:00 UTC). This can be tiring, but from the CTDs we can learn a lot about the physics, chemistry and biogeochemistry in the ocean, which again is important when studying oceanography and the ecosystem in the ocean.

The CTD team gathered around the CTD frame. Left side up to down: Sebastien M., Thomas R.-K., Asmita S., Agneta F., Kristen F., me, Tore H. Right side up to down: Hanna K.. John Olav V., Melissa Ch. and Laura d.S. Photo: Rudi Caeyers, NPI.

But now a deeper explanation of the work:

CTD means Conductivity (Salinity) -Temperature-Depth. You can imagine a big yo-yo that goes all the way to the ocean floor and up again, measuring those three values throughout the whole water column. Since we already send down those sensors (which can takes about 100 min for 3000 m water depth), we can equally do more measurements on the way down. We had also an LADCP (Lowered Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler to measure velocity), a flourometer, transmissometer, Biospherical/Licor and an oxigen sensor. In addition, there are Niskin bottles attached to the CTD frame (the grey bottles on the picture), which take water samples at different depths. The water samples are used for calibration of the sensors, but also to measure biogeochemistry and chemistry in the water.

In total, we did 65 CTDs and took about 3800 water samples from the Niskin bottles to analyse them afterwards in the lab. Whenever the CTD came up from it’s yo-yo dive, we had to take the water samples, filter them and analyse. It was my task to analyse the concentration of dissolved oxygen in the water samples, which tells about the age of the water and the biological activity. Super exciting! Sometimes we were just done with the tasks, when the CTD came on deck again to do it all over again at the next location.

I am sure, we will have interesting results, once we have looked at the data more closely!

Hanna and John Olav practicing how to take water samples from the CTD.
Winkler titration system “Relou” Metrohm Ti-Touch 916 that I used to analyse dissolved oxygen.

Ægir – observing life at the ocean floor

While most Norwegians associate Ægir with something else, did you know that Ægir is the jötunn (some kind of god) of the oceans? Here on board of RV Kronprins Haakon, we have an ROV (remotely operated vehicle) called Ægir which is some kind of robot that dives along the ocean floor filming and picking up whatever could be interesting to study. It is attached to a winch on the ship and can go down to 6000 m depth! While it films the ocean floor, we can watch the movies live from the ship. Like that, the biologists on board can tell the ROV-pilots which animals, corals, sponges or other plants should be picked up or sucked up with the ROV and brought on board for later studies.

The ROV Ægir6000 with the UiB-crew on board. In the back (left – right): Stig, Patrik; in the front (left – right): Nadine, Karoline, Tone, Anne Helene, Eyvind. Photo: Stefano Ambroso

It was very unclear to us, how the ocean floor would look like in Dronning Maud Land and what to expect, so it was very exciting to watch! Here is a collection of pictures that the ROV took of corals, fish, anemones, sponges, squid, sea stars and jellyfish.

Pictures taken at the ocean floor with the ROV Ægir6000 from the University of Bergen.