Expedition Diaries 2017

July 10. Day 3

July 10. Day 3

Yesterdays’ rainbow has brought luck to us: today there is no tossing, the sun is shining, the color of the water is emerald green, outside +6+8oC, it looks like we’re having a vacation here! We don’t hear the birds singing but we do sometimes see them flying in the sky, following and watching us. Irina Pokrovskaya has begun the all-day watching the sea birds. She should be all the time at the captain’s bridge and trace not only all birds she sees, but even other marine animals, for example whales and pinnipeds.

The memories of Mangazeya

Today’s lectures proceed with the topics of which we had been talking the day before. Eric Hösli showed us a map of the history of building the Russian cities within the Arctic territory (Arkhangelsk was founded in 1584, Mangazeya (the Russian analog of the well-known Eldorado. No one remember where it was situated but almost everyone has heard about it. There is an old vessel in Arkhangelsk which bears the name of “Mangazeya” and goes to the arctic islands despite its size and age. The ones who need to be taken to the mainland from the Arctic are waiting for it especially: it takes them home) – 1601, Yakutsk – 1632, Anadyr (the Chukchi region) 1649. The number of these cities grew very fast! After it there were scientific expeditions. The map of Kamchatka created by the members of the Vitus Bering expedition looks like a photo from the satellite – it is a very detailed one.

The Arctic parrots

If you make your eyes look miserable (like the arctic parrot) and go to the cook-galley you can be given an extra portion of meal or even your breakfast in case you have come late. This bright sea bird has very sad eyes. It should be very offensive when people call you like this (in Russian it is known as “tupik” which is close to the word whichvmeans stupid). I have an acquaintance, she is a designer and she likes these birds and treats them as a symbol of the Arctic. With its black plumage, orange feet and beak it does look like a real parrot. Also, Irina Pokrovskaya told me that tupik is the only bird which can be kept in the zoos. If we are lucky enough we’ll be able to meet these beautiful birds near the Oranskiye group of islands. Their neighbors are guillemots, kittiwakes and other sea birds though their number is significantly smaller.

Of whales

It is a shape, but I have time to read books only during my business trips and expeditions. Since 2015 I had an unwrapped copy of “Dangerous work” by Conan Doyle. This book is a collection of the arctic diaries written by a famous author of Sherlock Holmes. When he was 20, being a student of the 3d year of the medical faculty he went as a doctor on board the whaleboat to the Arctic. I was told in the AFU-2015 that many of the participants had read this book. My colleague came and exclaimed: what a wonderful book it is! I told literally all my friends that I wanted to read it. That’s why I got this book as a gift at once. Now I am reading it and I think I need to be as laconic as the author of the book. The quotation:

"July 10. I think we have made a mistake by taking course back to the north. The southern direction has promising lands with a good catch. We have sent the boat to catch fish but returned with nothing. I was playing card games (the game is called “yukr” in Russian) for 4 hours with my mated in the engine room in the evening. I wonder whom Adam and Eva could have been married to?..” The end of quotation. That’s all for the July 10.

Well I’ll try to write in this way: July 10. We are navigating in the Pechora Sea which is not officially recognized abroad. We turned to the North near Kolguev Island. In the morning, there was the second hydrological station. We managed to fix the winch, that’s why the sampling took twice less time than before. The weather also was good, there was no tossing (almost). The next hydrological station Is planned approximately for 2 am. We had several lectures on different topics, connected to the Arctic, it was very interesting and useful to listen to them. Well, I have already written more that Konan Doyle did in his passage.

Konan Doyle participated in the arctic trip in 1880, when whaling was coming to its end. Franz Josef Land was only discovered at these times and the Scotsman Benjamin Lee Smith went there on his yacht “Eyra”. The repercussion of those times can still be traced there. For example, the Greenland Whale of the Spitsbergen whale population lives near the shores of Franz Josef Land. In the beginning of the XX century this population was considered to be on the edge of extinction. Fortunately, the last species survived and remained only near the Franz Josef Land. It should be noted (it was discovered recently) that they spend winters also near this archipelago with the constantly unfrozen polynias (holes in the ice cover). Greenland Whales of the Spitsbergen population are listed in the Red Book of Russia and in the Red List of the International Conservation Union, but it is quite possible to see them near the archipelago. It’s a pity that they do not jump off the water like the pacific species. You can see only their back, water fountains and tails. Well, this is still magnificent!

Versatile Arctic

The Arctic boundaries can be marked differently. The first way is along the Polar Circle, the second one – along the northern boundary of boreal forests, the third one – the July isotherm line +10oC. These cases are totally different and show the Arctic diversity. Aleksandra Urazgil’deeva from the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute mentioned today the pole of cold of the Northern hemisphere. It is situated in the Verkhoyansk, Oymakon and Minusinsk region. The lowest winter temperature may be around -60OC. The pole of cold in the Southern hemisphere is situated in Antarctic. However, this summer in Siberia is terribly hot. In April I returned from Krasnoyarsk and said disapprovingly that it was very cold there. I had to walk in a hat but my ears were frozen anyway. What one of my colleagues from Krasnoyarsk sighingly said: Ira, it's better then melting asphalt.

In Greenland, northern Russia as well as the Canadian archipelago snow lies more than 40 weeks per year. The Arkhangelsk region at the expense of Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land is always among these territories and it is proved with the snowy June this year.

I would like to tell some information about the White Sea, nevertheless we have already left it. It is the inland sea of ​​Russia. Its area is 90 000 square kilometers, an average depth is 67 meters, maximum depth is 350 meters, and age is 10 thousand years. Quite young sea of the youngest ocean on our planet as well as the smallest- the Arctic. The average depth is about a kilometer. At the North Pole the depth is more than 4 kilometers.

Rescue training 

Seven short rings and prolonged one took unawares. We were told that there would be rescue training but without exact time. I have just decided to drink the fifths cup of coffee because even little tossing is lethargic. It turned up that the rings were effective than a cup of coffee.  Only sitting in a lifeboat I have understood that a life jacket and a photo camera was not a good pair. I had the life boat number 1, lucky one. In the boat number 2 were much more people than in the second boat. Then there are more cabins with odd number than with even.

A real whale but not for everyone

Nikolay Mihaltsov has just started his lecture about the formation of the Franz Josef Land when it was said through the loudspeaker:

- Whale! From the left side.

Everyone ran outside. The whale was on the left side but everyone rushed to the right as there was not sun. The whale was already far away when participants came to the right side. However there were 2 ships on the horizon- both from the left and right sides of the “Professor Molchanov”. 

Irina Pokrovskaya said that it was a humpback whale. She has seen the whale`s blow. Sergey Goryachkin had another variant:  it was Greenland Whale! Truly speaking, I haven`t noticed the whale at all. To my mind, it is a little bit southern to see the Greenland Whale.

Plume or not plume, or the mystery of the Franz Josef Land formation

The day before, Dmitry Metelkin told us how the lithosphere, oceanic and continental crusts had appeared and about convergence and divergence of continents. The continents on Earth gather in a single supercontinent for approximately 750 million years. 280 million years ago they gathered in Pangea, Rodinia was a billion years ago, before it Colombia or Nuna. We just have to wait a couple of hundred million years to see how the earth puzzle will reassemble.

Franz Josef Land is part of Svalbard's ancient continental block. But there are riddles in its origin that have appeared just recently. About 10 years ago it was believed that there are no any mysteries with Franz Josef Land origin: its islands were formed as a result of the action of a plume - a portion of hot substance from the mantle that rises to the earth's crust and at the point where it reaches the lithosphere causes its overheating. In this case, the bark above its hot spot moves. If the plume has risen to a thin oceanic crust, there will be a chain of volcanic islands, e.g. Hawaii. If to the thick continental, then something like the Putorana Plateau will be formed. The rocks are remelted, erupted and a relief appears that is called “trap”. The frozen lava forms stair shape massives as a result of weathering.

So it was believed that such a plume operated under the future Franz Josef Land approximately 130-150 million years ago. But recently there were found solids which under 190 million. And the theory has failed. There are following several variants of explanation: 1) it was a very long-playing plume 2) an oceanic basin opened in one part, lithospheric plates broke, after some time a plume reached almost the same place.  The third hypothesis about which Nikolay said after the lecture: it is possible that the testimony lies and the age of the rocks has been determined incorrectly. Something ancient was mixed up with younger breeds and distorts their age at their direction. But again the situation is atypical one: usually, age is distorted towards rejuvenation.

Tomorrow students will present their work during the expedition. Photo shooting is planned: tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.  Konstantin Zaikov recommended to be very attentive and not to relax watching the calm sea and gentle sun. Storm is always unexpected. That`s why everything that can be broken must be fixed:  test-tubes, phials, notebooks and other devices. And one more announcement: the crew asked not to throw but better to put near bins non-inflammable rubbish, e.g. aerosols. 

July 10. Day 3
July 10. Day 3
July 10. Day 3
July 10. Day 3
July 10. Day 3

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Updated 12.07.2017