Monday, July 29, 2013

The Cruise Begins...

We’re back.

Yuribia, myself, and the rest of AG-332 have just returned from an eight-day cruise.  We set sail on the Stålbas on Sunday, July 21st.   I will make one post for each major field site, in the order in which they were visited.  But first, we’ll need some logistics.  This is the Stålbas.

She’s very pretty.  My advisor and I returned from a 33 day cruise aboard the R/V Araon on May 18th.  The Araon is quite likely one of the largest research vessels around right now.  Consequently, I am used to being aboard quite a large ship, and was thus rather unprepared for the seasickness that a smaller vessel can cause.  I am definitely not a hardy seawoman.  When the ship started to pitch in the waves (and oh, did she, though my shipmates would argue that wave heights of 4 meters are pitifully small), my roommate and I headed for the cabin to hide in our beds.
Liz took top bunk – I would have gotten a picture of my bunk too, but the cabins were more ship-sized than I was used to from the practically palatial staterooms on the Araon.  

After we set sail from Longyearbyen, our first view was a long stretch of the mountains bordering Isfjorden:

It’s gorgeous.  Isfjorden is one of the primary drainage outlets of Svalbard.  During the deglaciation of the Svalbard-Barents Sea ice sheet, the major western fjords (Isfjorden, Kongsfjorden, and Bellsund) were massive ice drainage basins for the sheet – basically, as the sheet melted, it used these fjords as channels through which to dump its ice and sediment.  If you look at a bathymetric map of Svalbard, you can see the evidence of these major ice streams in the trough mouth fans (TMF) that have accumulated at the edge of the previously grounded sheet.  Trough mouth fans are massive sediment fans that accumulate at the base of the previously grounded sheet.  They increase in size as you go south, meaning that Isfjorden is the second largest.

I should be starting our field blog tour with Linnedalen, but weather prevented us from visiting this site.  It did not, however, prevent us from seeing walruses.

They’re loud and huge.

Final logistics.  Our class is on a boat.  How to get into the field?
Zodiacs.  Below deck, we would put on our survival suits.  When we are successfully looking like giant orange lobsters, we go up deck and put our stuff into a small orange boat attached to the side of the ship.  This one:

This boat lowers us down into the water, where we move into the actual zodiac and zoom out to land.

It takes three trips to get all of us on shore.  Three trips back.  For me, the trip usually was shorter than actually getting into the survival suit. 

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