Rig-work in the dark

As the polar night lowers over the Arctic, RV Kronprins Haakon is leaving the quay in Longyearbyen, heading towards the Arctic Ocean. For the next two weeks, the researchers and technicians on board will retrieve old and deploy new scientific measuring equipment in the sea area around Svalbard.

The equipment contains data on sea temperature, salt content and ocean currents, which is essential important information for understanding the effects of climate change in the Arctic.

On board Rv Kronprins Haakon are scientists, technicians and other crew, as well as a journalist and an artist who will report from the voyage from their perspective.

The cruise is common to three major research projects; The Nansen Legacy, the Fram Centre project A-TWAIN and SIOS-InfraNor.

Cruise leader is marine researcher Arild Sundfjord. In the background, the research vessel FF Kronprins Haakon when the ship arrived at the home port of Tromsø on 21 May last year. Photo: Ann Kristin Balto / Norwegian Polar Institute

On its way to the northern Barents Sea

For the Nansen Legacy, the survey participants will pick up and set out instrument rigs in the northern Barents Sea. Some of these moorings were deployed in the fall of 2018, and therefore containing hydrographic data of the past year. The researchers are waiting in tension to see the data recorded by these rigs.

We are primarily looking for the inflow of warm and nutritious Atlantic water, both from the southern Barents Sea and from the Atlantic current branch that goes north of Svalbard. Some of the rigs also have instrumentation measuring the biogeochemical properties of the seawater, but also radiation, sea ice thickness and ice drift, says cruise director Arild Sundfjord from the Norwegian Polar Institute.

– In addition to rig work, we will make hydrographic measurements from the ship, take water samples for biology and carbon chemistry, and deploy a glider.

Sundfjord is part of the project leader team of the Nansen Legacy, and program manager for the “Arctic Ocean” at the Norwegian Polar Institute.

Continental shelf north of Svalbard

The second part of the survey will be along the continental slope north of Svalbard. There, the A-TWAIN project will be recovering scientific moorings, which have been out in the sea for the last two years. In A-TWAIN, the Atlantic water that enters north of Svalbard is studied. This southern water plays a crucial role in the environmental conditions in the Arctic Ocean. Along the way, new rigs common to A-TWAIN and SIOS-InfraNor will also be deployed, measuring oceanographic properties, sea ice conditions, biogeochemistry and biology in the region during the year to come. 

You can follow the cruise on Nordlys, ScienceNorway, and Forskning.no

Photo: Arild Sundfjord.
Photo: Arild Sundfjord