I spend waaaaay too much time in the office of this ship chained to my laptop, but sometimes sitting here in the office of the Arctic Sunrise has its benefits.
Take two minutes ago when Arne Sorensen, our ice pilot, came into the office. Arne's job is to maneuver the ship through ice, which may sound simple, but trust me, it's not. It takes an intimate knowledge of and experience with wind, weather, the ship's abilities and the many states and behavior of the ice itself to chart a safe course from point A to point B. Just as importantly, Arne can use his decades long experience piloting ships in polar conditions to predict in advance and avoid any hazards that could trap, slow or jeopardize the well being of the ship.
The ship is too far north to have a connection to the internet, so Arne has arranged for Willem Beekman in the Greenpeace office in Washington, DC to download and then send via email daily weather charts from the Canadian weather service. (You can see the site at weatheroffice.gc.ca) The charts cover North America and Greenland, with curved lines and circles called isobars that show equal lines of barometric pressure across the region. Isobars outline high and low pressure systems, which in turn generate wind and weather. Wind and weather affect not only the sea ice, they are also major forces in the impending break up of the Robeson Channel ice bridge at 82 degrees north that we visited on June 29, as well as the disintegration of the Petermann Glacier floating ice tongue that we are here to document. Arne can look at the daily weather charts, and along with satellite imagery that he's also having sent to the ship, get a sense for when the ice bridge will break and the glacier will disintegrate.
The information on the Canadian weather service charts comes from sources around the world. Since leaving Amsterdam on June 12, the Arctic Sunrise has been uploading weather information every six hours to the Dutch meteorological service. The information we provide is then fed into a computer network, which connects all major weather service agencies around the world.
At any rate, Arne clicked to open today's Canadian weather service chart and noticed that the weather information the Arctic Sunrise is providing appears on the chart. Our little dot on the Canadian weather service chart is identified as "PE6851". Why is this cool? Well, without us the information would not be on the charts. This is such a remote place, it's unique to have a ship here at this time of year providing data. And given ice records for Nares Strait only go back 32 years, having a handle on the ice and weather conditions in this area is a fairly new occurrence. Last, and perhaps this is completely juvenile, I always get a charge out of looking at a map and pinpointing our location. Given our chances were 50/50 of even reaching this place, I was trying to temper my optimism in case ice blocked our way.
In keeping with the luck we've had so far with weather, wind and ice, Arne's report from today's ice chart is good – no dramatic weather in our near future. That's a good thing given all of the scientific work Dr. Jason Box and his team have planned for Petermann Glacier and the fjord it drains into.
Melanie is a campaigner on board the Arctic Sunrise