Expedition Diaries 2017

July 9. Day 2

July 9. Day 2

I woke up very early today. It can be named the record of at least for half a year, because today’s Sunday (and I usually sleep long on Sundays). There is a little tossing, 2 points according to a scale. The waves are not big yet, but still look very impressive. Konstantin Sergeevich tells us that we haven’t yet reached the Barents Sea… 

The recipe for the sea water

We have very busy timetable, breakfast starts at 7.30, the first lecture is already at 8.45. It was about oceanology. Anna Vesman, the leading engineer and PhD student at Scientific Research Institute of Arctic and Antarctic, informed us that oceanology as a science exists for quite a long time: people from ancient Greece had already started studying the surrounding seas. Aristotle had also paid his attention to the seas. There is no surprise that the instruments for marine exploring have been very simple for a long time: the tube with the thermometer inside, which was descended overboard to the sea depths and after it people looked at the results – what this thermometer showed to them. Now we can use the latest scientific inventions but still the work remains difficult and time-consuming. The word “lebedka” (which literally means winch) already reminds us of a challenging work and it is waiting for us in the evening already.

We were taught at school that there are 4 oceans: the Pacific Ocean is the deepest one, others are the Atlantic, the Indian and the Arctic Oceans. But some scientists also reckon that there is the fifth ocean – the Southern one (which surrounds the Antarctic zone).

When it comes to the oceanological fundamentals the sea water on average consists of water (96,5%, 965 g from 1 kg), the rest are various salt, the basic ones are chlorides (55%). The salinity differs in various parts of the world ocean and during various seasons. If I understood correctly then the water of the Arctic Ocean during wintertime is saltier under the sea surface, because the ice which forms on the surface doesn’t contain salt at all.

It is very interesting to hear about how the atmosphere influences the sea surface and other sea components. When the wind blows in the particular direction then the water doesn’t repeat its course but at an angle. The angle depends on the depth of the water. If I’m not mistaken.

The currants look very widescale and even a bit scary in the pictures and videos – it’s clear that we can study them and try to understand how they appear and so on, but it’s a useless idea to try to influence them. We can only use knowledge for example to know where it’s better to go fishing – the latter also feels the currants and knows where there are favorable conditions for it. For example, close to the South America.

We also can’t influence the tidal wave. Especially when we are speaking of such phenomenon as tidal boron. It forms when the tidal wave comes to the estuary against its course and changes the currant backwards. Near the Amazon River it is called “pororoca”, it beautifully and remorselessly destroys everything on its way. The Northern Dvina River’s people call it “manikha”. Together with the north-eastern wind this wave periodically floods lowlands of the Arkhangelsk region, usually kitchen-gardens in summer.

Palsa, Pingoes, Bulgunnyakh

While waiting for the lecture held by Sergey Goryachkin about the processes of landscape formation in the polar regions I was talking to Vlada Peneva, the specialist on nematodes. Once the deputy director of the Russian Arctic National Park scientific work Maria Gavrilo told me that the samples of nematodes from Franz Josef Land are sent even to Bulgaria for studying. I can’t imagine the ecosystem significance of these worms, but it seems like they’re quite important because, according to Vlada, there are many kinds of them and some of those which live at the northernmost archipelago of Eurasia cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. 

- They are very beautiful! – said Vlada. – Though they are very tiny, not bigger than one millimeter. Some of them can even live inside the ice.

Nematodes amazed me. Before I associated them with creatures who invade other animal species and live inside them.

In the Eskimo language "pingoes", in the Yakut one "bulgunnyakh", in Russian "bugor pucheniya" (frost  heaving). It’s about the formation of the arctic landscapes. These are giant hills in the middle of tundra that can be as high as several dozens of meters. They occur in the places where they are crossing the 0o longitude. Because of it there appears a very big something (a hill) made from rock and ice. If there are many small hillocks then in the English literature they are called by Swedish word “palsa”, in Russian one - "bugristyi torfyanik" (uneven peatbog). According to Sergey Goryachkin, the mechanism is the same, but the results (the landscapes) are different.

And just the enumeration of other things that were the part of the lecture: the permafrost, the frosty crushing (when the small and quite big stones with sharp edges appear), ice-wedge trench, frost cracks (it’s a typical phenomenon for the Arkhangelsk roads), frost wedges.

The polygonal tundra looks very interesting to me. It reminds me of polygons (that’s why it is called like this). The Central Russia, Great Britain and Michigan had once tundra as the part of their landscapes. This is known from evidence – the remains of Pleistocene cryogenic polygons there, that are more than 10 thousand years old.

Talking about the processes occurring in the Arctic and Antarctic, they are quite similar as well as their landscapes. For example, in the Arctic and on the Antarctic peninsula. But the middle Antarctic has its own unique landscapes, the Antarctic ones. The Antarctic deserts don’t have any flora and fauna, there are no liquid precipitation, only snow.

Vlada Peneva, who had a seat next to me, quietly but solemnly said:

- And it’s a place where nematodes also live!

As the finishing point, there was a lecture by Sergey Goryachkin from which we learned that the tundra may be situated far more to the North than the polar desert. On the Cape Zhelaniya (Cape of Desire) on Novaya Zemlya – it’s approximately 77 parallel – there is a typical polar desert: the rocky surface with the small number of vegetation. The Cape Flora (Northbrook Island, Franz Josef Land) has the real tundra, and it’s beyond the 82o!

The first samples

It turns up that a hoist should not be spun. Today was the first hydrologic station in the White sea.  A rosette with bathometers was put down for 45-50 meters. Anna Vesman said that it was not deep. Research parameters: temperature and salinity.

On the way to Novaya Zemlya it is planned to take samples more in two or three places. There will be hydrological section on the way from Novaya Zemlya to Franz Josef Land. Streams in this part of Barents Sea are examined much worse in comparison with the west side. New discoveries are possible!

After rosette was picked up in was a turn to throw a net.  The net for planktons catching is very small as well as the planktons that we have taken up. All the work was controlled by a thick gull. It had a scientific approach to the feed issue.

How to go down and up on the staircase and why there is a whistle in a life jacket

Today the captain’s assistant told us how to use rescue means in case of emergency.  In every cabin there is a life jacket. In case you have to jump overboard it is important to pull it down in the neck area. Otherwise it may be dangerous for our jaws. Each life jacket has a lamp and there are three possibilities of its operation. It may be turned on automatically in water or with the help of taggle-switch. The third way I have forgotten as I thought I would not be able to push it down in case of jumping. The whistle should be used in order not to lose voice. In case of emergency alarm, it is necessary to find a life jacket in a cabin, put on warm clothes as well as a life jacket, take the diving costume, keep calm and go to the life boat.  

Irog Mazkevich, who will protect us from polar bears, demonstrated how to put on the diving costume. I don`t remember standard time of putting this bright orange diving suit but Igor have done it less than for 3 minutes.

Why do people do it so quickly and easy in films? Actually it is a very difficult task and no one else would like to repeat it.  However, everyone can practice and make a new record in the cabin.

Aleksandr Saburov has found the analog for the Russian phrase which is usually said before sailings. It is “Fair seas and forward wind !".

Shortly about two lectures: Europeans tried to find a way to China and discovered Russia. That is how Arkhangelsk was founded. This lecture was held by Hösli Eric. After dinner Dmitry Metelkin told us about the birth of the Earth, continents drift and that Arctida is not a myth but a part of the Rodinia supercontinent about 1 billion years ago. 

Polar initiation ceremony

In the evening there was a traditional polar initiation ceremony. In order to be a polar explorer participants of the expedition had to make an oath and drink seawater.

Nikita Sobolev was Boreas. I am not sure how should it look like as well as I don`t know about Annick image. However, Nikita reminds me an arctic Captain Jack Sparrow. As a result, it was very persuasive and there was a queue to drink seawater from hands of the head of expedition. Some participants said that they have been already several times in the Arctic.  But Konstantin noticed that in each expedition on the way home we cross the Arctic Circle one more time. That`s why new polar initiation is needed.

It was surprising that sea water is not salty but bitter. It depends on type of sea.

Border Miracles

As future polar explorers were drinking seawater the bird flied close to the “Professor Molchanov”. It is quite unusual for such places in the Arctic. Ornitologist Irina Pokrovskaya said that  it was solan. Its usual places for nidification is the North of Kola peninsula. The solan is  a “gannet`s sister” cause of its big size.

- Crazy summer, - a bit later said Irina.- Birds hang around everywhere, some birds miss even the nidification.

I just imagined: a solan reached Kola peninsula and there is a blizzard in the middle of June.

"Oh God! – thought the bird, - do I really need to nest? Then it decided just to fly through the region.

By the way, as we were waiting our turn to level down the net with the plankton we had one more guest. It was a butterfly! Someone said that it is a moth. Then it was a very big moth!

Near the border of White and Barents Sea we saw a solar halo. It looks like a bright gates and very effective entrance to the Barents Sea. Participants of the expedition were very optimistic and noted that it was a good sign.


July 9. Day 2
July 9. Day 2
July 9. Day 2
July 9. Day 2
July 9. Day 2
July 9. Day 2
July 9. Day 2
July 9. Day 2
July 9. Day 2
July 9. Day 2

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Updated 12.07.2017