I’ve been referring to the Arctic long-term ecological research station by its proper name, Hausgarten, but I’m curious if any of you know that that word translates to. The closest English equivalent is “backyard,” and yes, that’s meant to be ironic. My German colleagues who founded the research station actually took it one step further by planting a garden gnome, a staple in every German garden, on the seafloor. The gnome has stood since 1999 right next to the long-term settlement experiment that was just recovered. He’s now quite alone. Of course there are other long-term experiments in the immediate area, so the gnome with be visited every few years.
As ironic as it is to name an Arctic deep-sea observatory “backyard,” reality is, the Hausgarten is a backyard for many of my German colleagues. The scientists who monitor the ecosystem up here every year feel quite at home in the Fram Strait. With practice, the annual expeditions become familiar experiences. After my third expedition to the Hausgarten, I’m quite comfortable here too, among the ice and the wind and the polar bears. Believe it or not, the European Arctic is my favorite place on Earth.
We’re now steaming back to Tromsø, leaving the Hausgarten behind. I’ve spent my last few days packing my things, arranging to ship samples back to WHOI, writing my part of the cruise report, and cleaning the lab. There’s always a lot to do at the end of a cruise, so I’m actually glad for the free time during transit to get everything done.
This cruise has been an overall wonderful experience for me. I am deeply grateful to my German colleagues who invited me along and trusted me with the analysis of such a rare and valuable dataset as the long-term settlement experiment. I am thankful that the experiment was recovered successfully, glad I was able to count all the plates already on board, and excited for the data analysis that lies ahead of me. It’s been a wonderful trip.