2003 Expedition Blog - Day 11

Date:

Thursday, 5 June 2003, 18:38

From:

Val Byfield

Expedition:

2003 Expedition

Subject:
Ny-Ålesund
Attachments: 3 images
Measuring the ice thickness using type of radar, drilling the ice for samples and ice cod

We're now in Ny-Ålesund - the northern-most place we will be visiting. At 79 degrees North it is the world's northern-most settlement.

Ny-Ålesund is not as large as Longyearbyen. The main activity here is research. Many countries have research stations here - the Norwegians, the Germans, and the UK among them. The UK station is manned only in the summer, and the scientists had not arrived yet.

We spent the day as guests of Jon-Børre Ørbæk, who is an atmospheric scientist for the Norwegian Polar Institute. He showed us around and explained some of the research that is going on.

High above the town is Mount Zeppelin research station, with instruments that are sensitive enough to detect cigarette smoke two kilometres away. It is used to monitor a number of gases found in very small amounts in the atmosphere - among them the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane.

The air on top of the mountain is not usually disturbed by what goes on in town below - except very occasionally when the wind is from the wrong direction. Because Ny-Ålesund is far away from cities, roads and air traffic, the measurements made there shows you what happens in the Earth's atmosphere as a whole. When scientists detect an increase in carbon dioxide in the air on Mount Zeppelin, it is because global carbon dioxide levels have increased - not just that people locally are burning a little more fossil fuels than usual. Research shows how many different gases from industrial areas in Europe and Asia travel into the Arctic on the wind - among them mercury, nitrous oxides, and halocarbons.

Although it at 79 degrees North the harbour at Ny-Ålesund is ice-free for quite a few months every year. Warm water from the Atlantic runs into the Kongsfjord on the southern side, keeping the access open, often until after Christmas. Some years, the fjord does not freeze properly at all.

Karoline - one of the scientists who is here at the moment, is studying the ice in the fiord - how it forms, how thick it gets, and how it melts. A few of our team got the chance to go out with to the end of the fjord, which is still frozen. Caroline (who is Canadian, and knows how to drive a snow scooter) went along as a driver for the film crew, and took a few snap-shots so we could all see what it was like. The ice is melting now - both from above and from below. The temperature is a "warm" 4 degrees centigrade and it's sunny. Although the sea ice is still strong enough to carry people and sleights, there is a thick layer of water and slushy snow on top. More than enough to make you wet through if you fall through the top crust. Luckily nobody got really wet. Being soaked at these temperatures is no joke. Unless you can get rid of your wet clothes fast - you may freeze to death quite fast.

Tonight we will leave and head back towards Longyearbyen. This time we hope to go inside the island - and take the opportunity to go Walrus-spotting on the way.

Val

Date:

Thursday, 5 June 2003, 18:51

From:

Val Byfield

Expedition:

2003 Expedition

Subject:
The world's most northerly web-cam
Attachments: -

Forgot to say the world northern most web-cam is on top of Mount Zeppelin.

You'll find a link to it from this page:
http://www.iup.uni-bremen.de/ram/ramcam.html

Val

2003 expedition route map