2004 Expedition Blog - Day 4

Date:

Monday, 13 September 2004, 11:58 (CF2 time)

From:

Michèle Noach

Expedition:

2004 Expedition

Subject:
Reductive World
Attachments: 2 images
The Noorderlicht Laser at the German research station

Three days ago in a fit of practicality and with a grand Napoleonic gesture we altered our time zone and went three hours forward. This kind of solipsistic foolishness shows how autonomous we have begun to feel on this elegant mini-world, gliding through the ice. A certain amount of confusion and sleep deprivation has arisen out of this. As a result, asking someone the time can bring tears to their eyes, as they announce that it's "Three thirty in old money". This means that our general sense of time is now squiffy and has added to the overall timelessness and strangeness of the environment. On top of this is the difficulty in reading the scale of our surroundings so that the usual reading of one's context is gone. The air quality is possibly another destabilising element. An awful lot of oxygen about.

Passengers, m'lud, have reported feeling high.

Today we came to know Ny-Ålesund. This involved walking along the monument-dotted shoreline and climbing the futurist airship launch tower used by Roald Amundsen and Umberto Nobile in 1926. This rusty beauty tapered to a tiny perforated platform that gave us 360o view of the icy bay and all the science facilities that make up this wooden-housed isolated village. The green and brown houses stand on bricks just off the ground and all the pipelines are also raised out of the permafrost. We could see some polygons too, a natural phenomenon caused by ice doing something fancy and the soil reacting in an even fancier way resulting in metre-wide raised circles of gravel. The sun sank along its shallow arc and the mountains turned the colour of peach yogurt. Polar bears remained absent. Penguins stayed in the Antarctic.

We watched the daily German weather balloon get released and wobble up through the blue air to infinity, giving radio'd data every second of its suicidal journey.

Later in the evening, or should I say at 3am Ship time, we were invited to view, close up, the laser used by the German science station to measure air pollution.

We clambered to the tiny open roof from which the laser emerges and peered at the thin green line ascending into a passing cloud. Venus appeared between two cloud banks and the sky slowly cleared and darkened at the same time. One of the scientists told us that yesterday was the first day you could see a star up here; the first night-sky dark enough. I thought this would have been a slightly dull event, watching the laser, but as the small electric green explosions of ice crystals and dust in the laser's path crackled away it was utterly entrancing. Even dangerously so, as I felt as if I could suddenly do both everything and nothing. No doubt the extreme lack of sleep and constant adrenaline also kicking in.

I walked back to the ship with Sarah, also known as KrillGirl, also this is inaccurate as she's an oceanographer, not a marine biologist. But it's too late for name changes now, as we decide we haven't got the energy to make cocoa and are not in need of its soporific powers. I stagger down to our cabin and lie in the cosy top bunk deciding that the best policy is to embrace the time change and not lead the revolt of the Hourites. 3.30 am it is and that's just fine with me. In fact, lying here on an old Dutch schooner in this icy floating world of the High Arctic with its perpetual dusk; I can't imagine feeling any better than this.

Michèle Noach

Date:

Monday, 13 September 2004, 21.39 (CF2 time)

From:

Sarah Fletcher

Expedition:

2004 Expedition

Subject:
Ny-Ålesund lasers
Attachments: -

Today we headed up into Ny-Ålesund to visit some of the scientists working in the town. Our first stop was the German research station to find out what they were doing and see if we could get involved in any of it! The scientists there study atmospheric conditions and ice cover. Everyday they launch a weather balloon to measure temperature, humidity and pressure up to 36km above the surface of the earth! The balloon they use is 2m in diameter and full of helium. The scientists can see the data appear on their screens whilst the balloon is going up. We did some filming with them and had Emily give them a hand getting the balloon ready.

This afternoon, we visited an air monitoring station on the top of a nearby mountain. The trip included a 20 minute cable car ri de... which was cosy! The scientists there are measuring CO2, methane, trace metals, PCBs, carbon monoxide, radon and ozone. After that we went to see Amundsen's tower and headed back to the boat for some dinner.

Tonight, the German scientists are coming aboard and then we're watching them fire a laser straight up into space - to a distance of 65km - to get a detailed spectral analysis of the composition of the atmosphere.

But, that's all for now!

Sarah Fletcher

2004 expedition route map