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Notes from the Field

MOSAiC: Gearing Up for Leg Three

January 28th, 2020 by Steven Fons, University of Maryland/NASA GSFC

Participants of MOSAiC Leg 3 gather for a final safety briefing before heading out to the sea ice. Photo by Steffi Arndt/AWI.

Greetings from Tromsø, Norway!

A few months ago, we heard from Nathan Kurtz about his experiences on board the German icebreaker Polarstern during leg 1 of the MOSAiC expedition. MOSAiC is now in full swing, having been frozen into the Arctic sea ice pack for roughly 3 months.

My name is Steven Fons, and I’m a doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. I am here in Tromsø preparing to join MOSAiC for leg three of the six-leg expedition. We will leave port tomorrow on the Kapitan Dranitsyn, and sail for roughly two weeks before reaching the Polarstern.Though all of us participating in leg three are in our final preparations before departure, my preparations began many months ago with various required training courses. Having never participated in a field experiment of this scale, it was necessary (and very helpful!) to learn as much as possible before heading out on the ship. The first trainings were Arctic Field Safety and Polar Bear Safety courses, which took place in Denver, Colorado. Here, we learned what gear to bring, how to prevent and deal with hypothermia, and how to spot – and stay clear of – polar bears.

Steven learning to use a safety flare gun during the Arctic Field Safety course. Photo by Kevin Pettway/NSF.

Another required training was a U.S. Coast Guard-approved STCW (Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for seafarers) class, which is a multi-day course where we learn all about safety aboard a ship. Components included first-aid, sea rescue, and even basic firefighting.

Steven in his firefighting gear during the STCW training.

Finally, I made a trip up to Fairbanks, Alaska, to learn how to take measurements required for the MOSAiC Expedition. I focused on taking sea ice cores and sea ice thickness measurements, which is what my main task will be once aboard Polarstern. Temperatures got down to -30 ° F, which was great preparation for being on the sea ice!

Taking an ice thickness measurement in Fairbanks, AK. Photo by Melinda Webster/UAF.

Here in Tromsø, all participants of leg three met in person for the first time, to go over the last bits of information before departing. We collected our polar clothing, discussed the logistics of the expedition, and had even more safety training. One of these trainings involved learning what to do if someone fell into the water. To simulate that situation, each of us donned safety suits and jumped into the icy fjord!

John Cassano (University of Colorado) swims his way to a wooden “iceberg” during the sea ice safety course in Tromsø, while an instructor watches on. Photo by Steven Fons.

All of us here are excited to get out on our transit vessel and make our way towards the sea ice. It sure is tough to leave this view of Tromsø, but I can’t wait to put all this training to good use.

The view of Tromsø from a nearby mountain. The transit vessel, Kapitan Dranitsyn, can be seen as the large ship on the far right. Photo by Steven Fons.

One Response to “MOSAiC: Gearing Up for Leg Three”

  1. Bonnie Lumanog says:

    Sounds like an amazing adventure and I look forward to the updates. Thanks for all the photos as they do tell the story nicely.

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