News archive

The box core team in action Photo: Birte Schuppe

Hardcore science

On the JC2-2 cruise we are visiting the deep basins of the Arctic Ocean. The goal of my team is to conduct experiments with animals from the bottom of those basins, which means keeping deep, Arctic animals alive. If deep-sea diving is an extreme sport, then this is definitely extreme science.

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MSS profiling during one of the ice station Photo: Eirik Hellerud

The Arctic Ocean blender system

The Arctic Ocean is composed of different layers organized on the vertical, and these layers have different temperature and salinity properties. A cold and fresh surface layer caps a warm and salty layer of Atlantic Water. The heat contained at depth (about 300m) in the warm and salty Atlantic Water could melt the entire Arctic sea ice cover if it reached the surface. It does not happen because the cold surface layer caps this Atlantic layer quite well and keeps it at depth. However, in some regions, such as north of Svalbard, sea ice melts in summer even though it is -30 outside. How is that possible?

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Ice ridges (Photo: Adam Steer, NPI)

Ephemeral landscapes

Have you ever watched the colors of the sunset over the sea – then suddenly the beautiful moment is gone, and darkness surrounds you. Arctic sea ice is like that

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Longyearbyen Pint of Science 2021

Polar Pint of Science – a success!

After a long period of not being able to meet up and be together, people welcomed the possibilities to aquire knowledge and attend as an audience at a social event at their local pub. In four cities, 16 speakers participated with lectures about their research work in the Arctic Ocean.

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RV Kronprins Haakon is breaking ice with sediments in the Transpolar drift current (Agneta Fransson, NPI)

The Transpolar Drift current – the largest Arctic river – transports materials into the central Arctic Ocean from Siberian Shelf across the North Pole

We passed latitude 87°N in the central Arctic Ocean onboard the RV Kronprins Haakon, not far from the Lomonosov Ridge and only 300 km from the North Pole, hoping to find traces of Siberian Shelf and river water in the Transpolar Drift current. We are sailing against the current, going northward from the Nansen Basin, north of Svalbard into the Amundsen Basin in the search for this specific water or sea ice transported in this current.

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Seawater seen under the microscope with 1000 times magnification – bright blobs are bacteria and the tiny dots are viruses. There are roughly one billion bacteria and ten times more viruses in 1 liter of seawater

The tiniest do the heavy lifting – Who are they and what do microbes do in the Arctic Ocean?

A microbe? That’s an organism whose body is made of a single cell. Some microbes like bacteria are cells that look completely different from our own body cells, whereas others are built just like our own cells are. The biodiversity in microbes is staggering. Almost all of the genetic diversity we find on Earth is encoded in microbes and their appearance can be as different as worms and elephants! Microbes are everywhere. If you could miraculously remove all other organisms on Earth and at the same time make the microbes become visible with your naked eye, you would still see the contours and whereabouts of all the plants and animals and landscape around them! In the ocean alone, there are a million times more microbes than stars in the entire universe!

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Trawling at 85 d N - 3 Bluhm

The Central Arctic Ocean: No longer the once forgotten no man’s land

Large trawlers are pulling tons of fish out of the deep Central Arctic Ocean. Our cell phones are powered with rare earth elements from the seafloor underneath the North Pole. The ice-free Arctic allows much shorter delivery time of shipped goods from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Coast guard ships dot the vast Arctic coastline and fleets of submarines survey the chilly waters. Will these scenarios soon be a reality? To some extent some of them already are.

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Sampling. Christain Morel/christianmorel.net/The Nansen Legacy

Will the future Arctic Ocean become greener?

On land grass and other plants provide ecosystems with food and play an essential role in binding CO2 from the atmosphere. Microscopically small plants called algae fulfill this role in the world’s oceans. As plants on land, these tiny algae depend on nutrients and sunlight for growth. Rising global temperatures have led to sea ice melt in polar seas, allowing more light to reach the algae in the seawater. Still researchers are unsure if sea ice melt will give a greener Arctic Ocean, supporting more marine life and increased fisheries.

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(Cooking pot lid not to scale)

Cracks in the cooking pot lid

The point of putting a lid on a cooking pot is to prevent the transfer of heat and moisture between the boiling contents and the air above. When you remove the lid from a boiling pot, heat and water vapour flow upward into the air, along with chemical compounds filling your kitchen with the (hopefully) promising smells of an upcoming meal.

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_63B9506_copyright_Christian_Morel

Where food is delivered only once a year

Imagine living at a place where food is available for only a few short weeks each year. What sounds impossible is reality for hundreds of different animal species thousands of meters beneath the ocean surface.

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Khoung_Amalie Marie B Gravelle_UiO

Nansen Legacy post-doctoral fellow received prestigious stipend

Earlier this summer Nansen Legacy post doctoral fellow Khuong Dinh from the University of Oslo received the prestigious Young Research Talent grant from the Research Council of Norway. The Young Research Talent grant is highly competitive and is a 3 year researcher project for scientific renewal.

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Toktledere Agneta Fransson og Bodil Bluhm_foto_Kunuk Lennert_UiT

Into the deep unknown central Arctic Basin

Our scientific crew of 35 people for the Nansen Legacy cruise JC2-2-Arctic Basin will spend five weeks onboard the Norwegian icebreaker and research vessel Kronprins Haakon, with departure on Thursday 24th August 2021. Cruise leaders are Agneta Fransson (NPI) and Bodil Bluhm (UiT).

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Ice floe

Detecting mineral oil slicks in ice covered seas from space

The thinning and retreat of the arctic sea ice has led to increased human presence in Arctic seas. Marine traffic is most likely to increase in the future, as are activities such as fishing, oil and mineral exploitation. All these activities increase the risk for oil spills in ice-covered waters. Yet, the technology used to monitor for marine oil spills in the World’s oceans is not yet applicable for ice-covered seas. A new study presents a first approach to overcome this limitation.

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ice drifting

Is the summer in the Barents Sea hot this year?

The question is not asked because we are curious about the bathing temperature before the holiday season – we know it is quite cold no matter which time of year refer to in the Barents Sea. But because we are trying to understand why climate change has such a big impact on the northern Barents Sea, and what the changes mean for the ecosystem.

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Remus Svea

Start-up

One and half year ago, four young scholars from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology started Skarv Technologies AS, a company delivering software- and hardware solutions for marine autonomous robotic systems. Among the four founders, are Nansen Legacy postdoctoral fellow Petter Norgren and Nansen Legacy PhD student Tore Mo-Bjørkelund.

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Instrument på isen

A handful of suitcases teach us how waves and sea ice interact, and improve weather and climate models

Waves marching through the sea ice is an amazing view. It is as if a white, snow-covered landscape suddenly starts gently undulating, the solid ground dancing rhythmically. The waves’ wildness from the open sea is tamed and dampened by the ice. Yet, the waves’ energy can break solid sea ice, greatly affecting sea ice drift, formation and melt. Hence, waves in ice are an important – yet not well understood – factor in the arctic physical environment.

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Teleconnections affecting the Barents Sea

Teleconnections affecting the Barents Sea climate

Ever heard of teleconnections? The image of a cell phone may pop up in your mind, but for three Nansen Legacy researchers this is all about how currents of air – far up in the atmosphere – connect the Barents Sea, its climate and sea ice conditions to regions on the other side of the planet. These are stories from our truly entangled and interconnected world

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waves Barents Sea

Barents Sea cooling machine slowing down?

Refrigerators are cooled by heat pumps, which transfer heat from the refrigerator’s inside to the outside environment. That way, the refrigerator’s inside is cooled to a temperature below room temperature. A similar mechanism makes the Barents Sea one of the worlds’ largest refrigerators. But how stable is the Barents Sea cooling machine? Can it break down as the fridges in our kitchens, and does it matter?

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Group gliders

Journey across the Polar Front

During the first two days in the Barents Sea, we completed our first crossing of the Polar Front, all the way from the warm, saline Atlantic waters in the south, to the cold and fresher Arctic waters in the north to map the location of the Polar Front.

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17 mai in the Arctic

In the footsteps of Nansen

A tribe of 36 scientists set sail to the Arctic Ocean on board research icebreaker Kronprins Haakon to study the northern Barents Sea in spring as part of the Nansen Legacy project. Despite all the technological advances since Nansen’s time you still need a good mix of skills and characters to make the mission a success. Our tribe certainly had that mix and it was a privilege to lead the tribe on its Arctic mission together as chief and co-chief.

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Labelling sampling bottles prior to sampling is an important and time consuming task

Departure into the known unknown …

We left port in Tromsø on May 14 th. Finally, after 10 days in isolation and meeting other cruise participants only as small faces on a video screen, we were released onto Helmer Hanssen, our home for the next nine days.

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RV Helmer Hanssen Tromsø UiT

First experience onboard the RV “Helmer Hanssen”

For the first time in my life I am going to experience Phytoplankton blooming in Arctic. The vessel is soon ready to take us on board, and we are currently sitting in isolation at beautiful Sommarøy. My thoughts now are on the journey. How will it be?

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The author, Mikko Vihtakari, collecting a sample of under ice algae using a slurp gun (photo: Peter Leopold).

The Deep Blue Arctic Ocean

The buzz and hassle have paused for a moment. I am under an ice ridge in the Arctic Ocean. There is 15 meters of sea ice over me and some 3000 meters of water below. The world around me is deep blue except for some white patches of ice and the blackness of the abyss under me. Silence. Desolation. Love.

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group picture ARCTOS/NL Polar front expedition 2021

Where the Atlantic heat meets the Arctic cold

The ocean is not as endless as we often think it is. It is actually divided into different domains and regions, ranging from the freezing cold polar waters to the hot tropical regions. Within each of the domains, species have evolved to deal with the challenging conditions within their home domain. But what if two domains meet and mix?

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Some of the benthos team labelling and preparing samples before they get muddy. (Photo by Eric Jorda Molina)

Let’s talk dirty

Water, water everywhere on this blue planet. But there is also a dirtier side to the sea, because under the waves is solid (though often muddy) ground. Even dirt from land eventually reaches and lays to rest on the seafloor. The ground beneath the sea is in fact, critical for maintaining a healthy planet.

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Testing av nytt autonomt fartøy i Barentshavet Foto: Adam Steer, NPI

Mixing production deep into the ocean

Imagine yourself lying on your back in a forest on a sunny spring day watching upwards to the tree tops. Warm rays of sunlight falling through the canopy warm your face and the song of birds echo in the distance. Now imagine all the tree trunks, branches and twigs are gone and just leaves floating lofty above you.

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36 forskere på vei om bord FF Kronprins Haakon

The spring, a biologically critical time window in Arctic

In the Nansen Legacy project, we investigate the northern Barents Sea and the adjacent Nansen Basin. These important regions of the Arctic Ocean are particularly exposed to changes in our climate with consequences for the marine and ice-associated ecosystems.
To be able to distinguish seasonal variations from long-term trends but also to identify the development over a year –seasonal cruises constitute a key component in the Nansen Legacy project. Three seasonal cruises were already conducted in summer and autumn/early winter 2019 and late winter 2021.

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Our little planet of ice – working on Nansen Legacy process station P6 at 81.5 degrees north (Photo: Adam Steer, Norwegian Polar Institute).

Everything has to have somewhere to live

Here on RV “Kronprins Haakon” in the northern Barents Sea we are our own tiny world, living and working together in a bubble almost completely remote from our regular world. In our microcosm, we are reminded that we all have to have some place to live, and to also understand how it works, so that the system we live in functions well.

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Polar bear checks out equipment on the ice. Photo Andreas Wolden

Tiny Arctic wildlife matters

Hello from another fine day from the largest research vessel in Norway – Kronprins Haakon. After having a delicious pizza lunch on board today, I came up to the 7th deck (yes that’s right, this boat has 10 decks), to write this blog in the conference room – a nice, cozy room with a great view. How is a girl from the south of India where winter is 20 degrees, surviving up here in the Arctic, you ask?

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Water sampling 2021

The hunt for the hidden life in water

Life on board a research vessel has its own and unique rhythm. Time operates a little differently here, both because days are a bit intense with sample collection and analysis, but also because the ship simply has its own time zone. When doing research in the Arctic at this time of year, it is important to follow the sun as best you can. One consequence of this is that the higher powers on board RV Kronprins Haakon have decided that we will be two hours ahead of normal time on the Norwegian mainland. Sun is a precious resource in the Arctic in March, so in order to make the most of each day, we simply define the time ourselves.

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First ice station. Photo Nadjejda Espinel, NPI

Excitement onboard the RV Kronprins Haakon

It’s been a week since we left Tromsø. The Kronprins Haakon has very quickly become our home, and we are enjoying life onboard. After a couple of days through rough seas, things are calmer now. Fast steaming through open water has now changed into slow steaming through ice that needs to be broken for us to pass. Rough seas caused some of us to get seasick, but that is now long gone. Silent rocky seas have now changed into stable noisy ice. Breaking through 40-70 cm thick ice is not noiseless and earplugs are now a must in the lower parts of the ship if you want to take a rest at any moment – day or night – whenever you are not working.

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Glade forskarar fekk attende Harald

An unexpected journey to the seabed.

When Gandalf the Grey was struck by the Barlog and fell into the depths of the mountain at the bridge of Khazad dum, the Fellowship despaired. They had lost and old friend and their guide. When the underwater robot Harald did not return to the surface after a routine mission, the scientists on board the R/V Kronprins Haakon despaired.

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Pancake ice Barents Sea

The perfect front

After almost a week on the Nansen Legacy winter process cruise, we now sail into the sea ice and stay there until we go south to Tromsø towards the end of February. A couple of days ago we saw the sun just above the horizon, and for us living in Longyearbyen it was a great moment of joy, having been four months without the sun!

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ice pancakes in Barents Sea

Pancakes in the waves – a field report from the wintry Barents sea

We left Longyearbyen on Tuesday evening 12th of February and have sailed south and east in search of ice. After four days, R/V Kronprins Haakon has reached 35 degrees east. Pancake ice is the first stage in ice forming and a clear sign that there have been waves in swing. We will measure these waves with a small instrument that stands on a stake in front of the bow. We have tried already, but after two days in open sea, it was covered with so much ice from sea spray that we almost did not get the instrument back on deck.

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Bente Edvardsen sampling in Barents Sea.

Ships full of men are history – at least in arctic marine research

When the first Fram-expedition returned to Norway in 1896, after three years frozen into the ice of the Arctic Ocean, a crew of 13 men was enthusiastically welcomed home and celebrated as heroes, above all the young Fridtjof Nansen. Hundred and twenty-five years after Fram, research vessels are exploring the Arctic Ocean on more regular basis, and onboard are men no longer among themselves. Women have become important contributors to the scientific exploration of the Arctic Ocean.

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Scientist looking at species from Barents Sea

The tiny rulers of Arctic Seas

What do you think of when you think of the Arctic ocean? Belugas weaving through ice floes? Or maybe walruses sunbathing on a chilly beach? How about a polar bear hunting for its next seal snack?

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