Testing Norways new icebreaker

Nansen Legacy PI, Marit Reigstad (UiT), stands on the main deck of Norway’s brand new research icebreaker “Kronprins Haakon”. Cranes and winches are filling each corner of the deck, and the ships bridge thrones entire five levels over the working deck. The ship is majestic as its name. “With the new icebreaker, the Norwegian research community has a fantastic state-of-the art platform for conducting marine research in the Arctic”, says Reigstad.

The Nansen Legacy will head out with “Kronprins Haakon” to the northern Barents Sea in the beginning of August as the first scientific cruise on the new vessel. During the coming five years, the Nansen Legacy will spent over 360 days at sea, most of them on board the new icebreaker. Accordingly, Reigstad says that the “vessel is an essential tool for the Nansen Legacy to undertake its ambitious field program in the Barents Sea and adjacent Arctic Ocean”. The ship does not only provide space for 35 scientists to work in heavily ice covered waters and during the Arctic winter, but it is also stuffed with a suite of high-tech instruments, which continuously measure and record sea-floor topography, water temperature and salinity, current speed, and atmospheric properties. These instruments alone produce approximately one terabit of data each day.

The technical complexity of the new vessel makes extensive testing a prerequisite to ensure a successful scientific cruise in the beginning of August. Therefore, Reigstad and a team of researchers from UiT-The Arctic University in Norway, the University Centre in Svalbard, the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, the Meteorological Institute and the Norwegian Polar Institute were testing the deployment of different types of sampling gear for biological and oceanographic work on the new icebreaker last week. “Most of this equipment is not new, but we need to test how we deploy nets and sediment traps from a large skip like this”, says Reigstad, and explains, “Also the communication between scientists, deck-crew, control room and the bridge has to be tested to ensure a good information flow on board”.

Another system that needed testing is the sample labeling and tracking system, which the Nansen Legacy will take in use. With over 130 scientists involved, the Nansen Legacy is in urgent need for a well-functioning system to record and track all samples and data, as well as system that makes the samples meta-data available to central databases. This challenge, Nansen Legacy chief engineer of data management, Pål Gunnar Ellingsen (UNIS), and work package leaders, Øystein Godøy (MET) and Tove Gabrielsen (UNIS), solved by allocating unique identities to all data sets and samples. A first test of the system during the test cruise last week looked very promising.

Øystein Godøy (MET), Tove Gabrielsen (UNIS), Pål Gunnar Ellingsen (UNIS)
Nansen Legacy data management team from left to right: Øystein Godøy (MET), Tove Gabrielsen (UNIS), Pål Gunnar Ellingsen (UNIS)

“There are many bits and pieces that need to fall in place with a new vessel like “Kronprins Haakon”, as well as a large research project like the Nansen Legacy, but both the vessel as well as the project are run by many incredibly competent and hard-working persons. So, I am not in doubt that both the new icebreaker and the Nansen Legacy will be a great success”, says Reigstad.