In summer 1893, the “Fram” left Norway and headed for the Arctic. Onboard was the Norwegian polar explorer, Fridtjof Nansen, who set out to reach the North Pole and explore the Arctic Ocean. The expedition would return to Norway three years later, loaded not only with the discovery of a new deep ocean, but also with a tremendous amount of scientifically groundbreaking data on the physical and biological environment of the Arctic Ocean.
The ship, which made these scientific discoveries possible, the “Fram”, was the first ship ever specially built for polar research in Norway. Many other scientific vessels have been built in Norway since, but first now with “Kronprins Haakon” the Norwegian research community has gotten a dedicated icebreaker for polar research.
Hundred and twentyfive years after “Fram” left for its historic Arctic expedition, the new Norwegian research icebreaker “Kronprins Haakon” left Tromsø on August 6, for its first scientific expedition to the Barents Sea. Onboard are 32 Nansen Legacy scientists, eager to kick-off the projects interdisciplinary sampling program on the new vessel, which will host most of the projects >360 sampling days at sea in the coming years.
Like Fridtjof Nansen, the Nansen Legacy scientist will study both physical and biological-chemical processes. Chief scientist, Randi Ingvaldsen from the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, explains that the Nansen Legacy will “focus on comparing the state of the physical, chemical and biological conditions in the southern and northern parts of the Barents Sea”.
More specifically, the Nansen Legacy project aims at a basic first mapping of the bathymetry and the oceanographic conditions of its main study area in the Barents Sea during the cruise. In the northern, ice-covered part of the Barents Sea, also physical and chemical characterization of sea ice will be performed via on-ice and helicopter-based sampling. Nansen Legacy researchers will also assess the state of ocean acidification and the carbon cycle in different environments, as well as determine the concentrations of trace metals in water and sea ice.
The investigation of the composition and distribution of different organisms, ranging from bacteria to fish, is another goal of the cruise. The main aim is to understand the organisms’ relationships to different environmental conditions. Therefore, much effort will be put into measuring critical ecosystem processes like trophic interactions and primary and bacterial production across physical gradients.
Ingvaldsen has no doubt that they will bring home many scientific data and samples. Yet she says, “given that this is the first expedition on the new icebreaker, this cruise also establish routines on the new vessel, and therewith setting a standard for the many Nansen Legacy cruises to come in the following months and years”.
Follow the first scientific cruise of “Kronprins Haakon” on forskning.no!