Expedition Diaries 2017

July 11. Day 4

July 11. Day 4

Kittiwakes are taking sunbathes on the bow and making a dissatisfied cry: we are moving too slowly! On the horizon, there is about a dozen of seiners. Ingo Weiss saw 4 whales from 8 to 10 o’clock, at 11 there were dolphins on the right side of the vessel, about two or three ones. Someone named them “humans”. Today we have something in the middle between “calm sea” (small waves without the sea foam) and slight waving (small crest waves which create a bit of sea foam). We will be on board the vessel surrounded only by sea until the beginning of the next week. We have taken the course to Franz Josef Land.

The "ALDAN" vessel, fishing the cod, flying “penguin” or how to save the world

The main events of today happened at night. Exactly at midnight (ok, maybe a bit later, but still). At midnight under the light of the setting sun we saw the ship in trouble. OK, I’m exaggerating one more time. At night we reached the research vessel “ALDAN”, the crew of which had asked for some help. Their desalter had broken down and they ran out of drinking water. On board the “ALDAN” there are 22 people, including 5 women. Unfortunately, I know what it is when there is no drinking water on the vessel at all. The command decided to share 15 tons of water out of 150 ones. The process of coupling took a long time and it was really spectacular: one of the ropes has broken off, the waves hit the shipboards, the sprays sometimes even touched the 6th deck…

What can disturb the members of expedition from watching how the crew is helping another ship? Guillemot falling down to a deck. While “ALDAN” was reaching “Professor Molchanov” a bird with black-and-white feathers fell from the skies. No one can change my opinion that guillemot is a penguin. I think she flies exactly the way that penguins would have done if they could: sidewise. At first, she was simply flying-by for scouting the situation and during the next round she literally hit the “Molchanov” near the 3d deck. Everyone was surprised. After falling she looked around, cleaned its feathers in front the cameras and gave a thoughtful glance to the sea. One minute later this bird rushed from the deck into the air and vanished. Everyone paid attention back to the “ALDAN”…

“ALDAN” and “Molchanov” successfully coupled together, the hose was given to our neighbor and the rescue operation began. There’s no more fuss, everyone on both vessels is chatting, exchanging the impressions and bars of chocolates. At this time interesting events were happening on the other side of the vessel and on the stern, I think it was the right board (though sometimes I mix the right and the left ones up).

Of fish and birds

“Professor Molchanov” was drifting above the Bank of the Barents Sea and almost all the crew and watchers ran to fish the cod with the fishing line. Members of the expedition who conduct some research was very happy due to such a luck (they could collect samples from the fish). Nikita Sobolev from NARFU commented that liver and flesh of the caught fish (cod and haddock) may contain heavy metals and pesticides and therefore it is needed to be checked. These fish species are one of the most important and key part of the food chain and human is in the head of the chain. In the framework of this project indigenous population of that region will also be examined, because these people feed with these fish. These is a high possibility that heavy metals and pesticides will be found in the samples. There is such a concept as Far Transfer. It is connected to the processes when various substances (including the harmful ones) are found very far away from the places where they are normally located. For example, the substances from China and South Korea may occur in the Eastern part of the Russian Arctic, the ones from Europe may occur in the western part.

The fish which was caught will become our dinner. Even newcomers were able to catch some. I didn’t participate because it’s not my cup of coffee. Besides the fish was very heavy and it seemed difficult for me to pick it up.

Meanwhile our feathered passenger was still on the Molchanov’s deck. When the reporter of the Arkhangelsk regional channel “Pomorye” Nastya Lomakina was passing the boat (which was onboard) with the camera, guillemot jumped right next to her to the rubber board and started posing: twist its head, move wings. While doing it she fell to the deck and pretended that it had been done on purpose.

To be honest, I could not fell asleep for a long time caring about our guest. Irina Pokrovskaya calmed me in the morning and told that the bird is definitely well:

— It simply ate too much fish!

According to the bird’s full stomach and clumsy movements, Irina was right. I’m afraid by the time we reach Franz Josef Land I will be as fat as that guillemot. The meal menu is very rich, as it should be in the middle of the sea. And I’m already hiding from the cakes. But it is in vain, for not eating today’s gateau with cottage-cheese I even put on my lipstick and ran to the open deck as far from the delicious food as I could. But then… then I found myself enjoying the taste of this wonderful treat in the bar…

In the morning, we didn’t have network for several hours.

First presentation

Today the scientific blocks represented their future work and projects during the expedition.

The most emotional presentation was shown by Simmen Chantal Aline.  She will study phytoplankton and how climate change influence it. In my opinion, she will have an incredible amount of work: if I understood correctly, every sample will have to be passed through 4 filters.

The sociological group is the most diverse: here is the history of geopolitics regarding Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land as well as the study of attitude to global warming of those who live in the north of Russia and the journalistic works after the expedition.

The hydrological and meteorological groups are already traditional in the Arctic Floating University. Another one is hydrochemical. This time they will study zooplankton and impact of climate changes on it. It is obvious that there will be a number of ornithological observations which have already begun. We were shown how to distinguish gulls from each other. As for me, I can hardly distinguish puffins from little auks and guillemot from penguins.

Geologists as well as soil scientists have a very large amount of work. For example, Sergei Goryachkin said that they will study the "breathing of soils". The way they will do it I will tell you tomorrow.

The results of all groups work will be presented during the last week of the expedition.

Magnetic memory

Nikolay Mikhaltsov from the Novosibirsk State University continued to talk about paleomagnetism. The audience have their ears flapping. However, the further I listened the less I understood. A magnetic field is a mysterious thing. It exists and protects our Earth from cosmic radiation. Otherwise our Earth will turn into something like Mars and we will die. The origin of its generation is not clear yet. Most likely, this process occurs somewhere on core-mantle boundary. It is not possible to get there and check it.

Still everyone knows that the magnetic poles of the Earth do not coincide with the geographic one and such a thing as inversion. As I have understood, it may occur one day that the pointing to the north arrow of the compass will suddenly show to the south.

What I understand about paleomagnetism: rocks at the time of their "birth" become magnetized and retain this magnetization in time. It's kind of magnetic memory or a magnetic birth certificate. But they determine not directly magnetization but the direction to the magnetic pole at that time. There are several assumptions, e.g. you can choose both the north and south poles because it is unknown what pole was at each moment of the Earth's history.  Also, it is possible to determine how a particular fragment of the earth's crust moved along the earth's surface. Thanks to the magnetic memory of rocks, it is possible to restore the latitude of the continental block and its orientation but not longitude.

Therefore, other data should be also taken into account whether paleontological or some other.

Samples are taken with a special drill. It is needed to take rocks from a large number of points of the same age: a group of samples is called a site, usually one site consists of ten samples. It was truly noticed that quality is more important than quantity. You need to be sure that the samples are taken of the age you need.

Further they are studied with the help of high-sensitivity equipment placed into magnetically shielded rooms.

All became interested in inversions which little upset Nicholas. The media is in fault of everything. A few years ago it was that the magnetic poles were about to change and something would happen. However, nothing was changed. Nikolay told us that the last inversion was 780 thousand years ago and on average they occur once in a million years as well in the history of the Earth there were periods when the poles remained in their places for tens of millions of years. So we have to wait a little.

Investigations of lakes bottom sediments were conducted according to which after which it was possible to understand what happened during the inversions. The transition of geological measures is almost instantaneous thing - dozens, maybe hundreds - up to 10 thousand years (in the sediments the data are slightly smeared). Firstly, the magnetic field weakens - accordingly its protective properties decrease (cosmic radiation will be stronger, the aurora will become a common phenomenon in Switzerland and will get bored), it becomes unstable, changes rapidly, acquires a complex configuration, then its intensity again increases – in the next moment field is stable but with a different polarity.

In the evening clouds began to be drawn towards Molchanov. I hope, out of pure curiosity.


July 11. Day 4
July 11. Day 4
July 11. Day 4
July 11. Day 4
July 11. Day 4
July 11. Day 4

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Updated 12.07.2017