Stockholm university

Setting up multi-day stations on an ice floe

Greetings from N 80°! The icebreaker Oden has the last week been moored onto an ice floe, to enable easy access to the sea ice and for running long-term measurements.

On the bridge at icebreaker Oden.
On the bridge at icebreaker Oden.

One by one, the different research groups took the ship’s gangway down to the sea ice for a few hours in a coordinated manner, including 9 students and staff from Stockholm University, and headed to different locations across the floe. Last week's snow storm that shut down all activities outside, has been replaced by sunshine, lower winds and crisp temperatures of around -10°C.

 "Multi-day ice stations are set up to allow for measurements that must be taken from the ice, often with heavy equipment and instruments that can take many hours to set up. For these groups short stops at different ice floes would be pointless. It also makes for longer time to collect observations from a single location, which results both in a higher statistical power, i.e. higher degree of certainty, and allows us to continuously follow a development" says Michael Tjernström, Professor at the Department of Meteorology, Stockholm University, and Chief Scientist for ARTofMELT 2023. "The difficulty is to decide where to stop and for how long," he adds.


Onboard an icebreaker in the ever-changing sea ice

A constant feature of the sea ice is that it is ever-changing. Ice floes are influenced by winds, sea currents, tides and collisions with other floes. When negotiating sea ice, one realizes early on that it can never be taken for granted. Mooring an icebreaker that weighs upwards of 12 000 tons onto an ice floe is not without its challenges. Often, adjacent ice floes are pushed against Oden affecting the tension of the mooring lines potentially damaging the winches. The movement of the sea ice is meticulously monitored by Oden's crew to ensure the safety of fellow crew members and scientists as well as finding suitable locations for the researchers to conduct their work.  

While on ice, smooth communication with the ship is vital. Polar bear guards accompanied the groups going on the ice and every participant was provided with a survival suit that not only protects against the cold but also acts as a floatation device, and a radio to contact the bridge in case of any incidents. At the bridge, personnel from the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat (SPRS) coordinated the ice work. Also, the kitchen staff prepared lunchboxes for every person going on the ice.

"The highly professional Oden crew and SPRS staff are an essential part in guaranteeing a successful expedition. Not only do they provide a safe working environment but they also make us feel at home. Their leadership and technical expertise are incomparable and have already helped various scientific projects here onboard Oden. The kitchen staff comfort us around the clock with delicious food onboard but also when working on the ice with the packed lunches, and many other ways of assistance for example craning gear on and off the ship and winching heavy equipment. They are the real unsung heroes!" concludes Zieger.

Text (from icebreaker Oden): Stella Papadopoulou

Read more on the Arctic expedition ARTofMELT at