Friday, August 3, 2018

I Havnen (in the port)

Polarstern entering the port in Tromsø
I got to the port at 7:45 am. The water in the fjord was still, and the sun poked through a layer of cotton ball-like clouds. Out in the water, a giant ship moved slowly - almost imperceptibly - closer to the dock. I could see people leaning on the outer rails on several decks, but I could not yet recognize any of them. As the silent mammoth pulled alongside the pier, crew members on board tossed ropes to men on the dock. The ship was secured with massive, woven lines from the bow and from the stern.

My work station for the day (before everything got spread out)
A door opened on the starboard side, and I could see a woman stepping out onto one of the upper decks. I recognized her immediately - Miriam, a treasured German friend. She waved at me joyfully with both hands, and I did the same. I was very excited to see her!

The reason I came north to Tromsø was to meet a ship, the German icebreaker Polarstern, when she arrived in port after a research expedition in the Fram Strait. My collaborators from the Alfred Wegener Institute had collected samples for me during the expedition, but the samples needed to be sieved, processed, and packed. The task was complicated enough that I didn't want to burden anyone else with it, so I got permission to board the ship and do it myself.

Do you remember the larval traps I spent so much time building in Woods Hole? I constructed them myself out of PVC and laboratory sampling tubes, then shipped them off to Germany for deployment on Arctic moorings. Well, the larval traps I made in 2017 were deployed last summer and recovered this year. They have gone through their full life-cycle and yielded valuable samples!

With friends on Polarstern
I spent several hours camped out on the ship, with my samples and supplies spread around me like the toys of a disorganized child. All the labs were closed, having been cleaned and sealed at the end of the expedition, so I was on my own. Thankfully, I knew what I was getting into and came thoroughly prepared - I even brought my own trash bag. As I worked, Miriam kept me company. We talked about the project, about the expedition, about her upcoming dissertation. She's a great friend.

I actually got another surprise on board Polarstern. Two other young researchers who I had sailed with in years past were on board, and when they heard I was around, they stopped by to chat! One of them I had not seen since 2012, so it was heart-warming to catch up with her. I'm so grateful for the community of Arctic scientists.

By the end of the day, I had three giant boxes of samples and supplies ready to ship back to the U.S. I was glad to reconnect with friends and colleagues, and I can't wait to see what my results yield! It was a good day in the port.

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