Finally, almost 14 months later than originally planned, a group of students and researchers from the FAABulous project were able to take samples from sea ice. Not that there are vast amounts of this in Van Mijenfjorden this year either – but at least the air temperatures during ice formation were lower than last year, yielding a more stable and better to work on result of some landfast sea ice cover. A substantial part of this first field trip was spent on finding an ideal (i.e. mainly not too coastal) sampling site for us – since even our innermost station vMF 1 is still not ice-covered, and checking the sea ice thickness and conditions. After that was settled, a new station was established in 40 cm thick sea ice with 50 m of water column underneath – and sampling could start. Numerous ice cores were extracted to measure temperature, salinity, nutrients – and not the least collect all algae and small animals that were living in the sea ice at that time of the year. We hope to be able to continue ice sampling at least for two more months – and to follow the development of algal communities in this truly special (and in Svalbard almost extinct ;-)…) environment.
The mine in Svea was closed down last year, and the population of the settlement has decreased drastically; we are in a new era of Svea where Store Norske tries to earn some money by providing infrastructure, housing and meals for researchers and tourists. For us this means (hopefully) less coal dust in our samples, and quieter times during our campaigns – but also less maintenance of the main snow scooter track and less flights between Longyearbyen and Svea.
According to plan D (or was it E by now …?), another team should travel over to Svea today for establishing the autonomous sea ice observatories – but due to high avalanche risk and whiteout, this trip (as well) had to be postponed… - to be continued.