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Reports from Ryder Glacier 2019

Start August 5 in Thule
Follow Oden's position online here https://oden.geo.su.se/map

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25/8–9/9 2019: Bye Bye Greenland

The expedition has come to an end. We are now on our way back to Thule and nearly everything has been packed and secured for a safe journey over the sea back to Sweden.

The expedition has been a real success. I think all work-packages have retrieved more data than they had ever hoped for. Analysing retrieved water and sediment samples will keep many researchers busy for a long time that’s for sure! The only data that is still being gathered are from the sonar systems, which will be pinging all the way back to Thule. Everyone onboard have worked hard, and I think we all are looking forward to getting some well-deserved rest.

As I wrote in my first blog entry, this was my first expedition. The experience has truly been amazing, and I have learned more than I could ever learn from the classroom. Being onboard Oden have been a pleasure, I have loved every day and every single moment. I have really fallen in love with the landscape, and I will really miss the stunning view that I have woken up to the last 6 weeks. I will even miss the shaking and the sound of breaking ice during the night!

I truly hope that this was not my last expedition, the experience has really motivated me to keep on working hard so that maybe I will have the chance to attend more expeditions in the future!
 

Sunset over the ocean in Northerngreenland

 

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Second week 18/8–24/8 2019: Halfway point

Another week has passed by. Time flies onboard Oden, I can´t believe we have done half the expedition already!

This week I had the opportunity to fly out with the helicopter and join the land-team at their camp. To see the landscape from above is just amazing and there are no words that can describe the beauty of the landscape outside the helicopter window. Below is a photograph that may give a hint of the magnificent view, but even a photo does a rather poor job compared to the reality…

Sea ice in northern greenland

We flew over two groups of muskoxen, but there were no wolves in sight (which I guess was good considering that the camp was situated nearby, even though I had hoped to get a glimpse of them). After landing I helped the land-team to collect willow plants. Their growth rings will be analysed and used as climate proxies. While I was collecting willows, another group was trying to deploy a gravity core in a lake close by – from a helicopter! The skilled(!!) helicopter pilot deployed the core with an amazing precision. The manoeuvre was just stunning to see!

A giant iceberg has been blocking our way to reach the glacier front, but in the beginning of the week it rotated slightly, and we could just make our way past it. We were thus able to map in front of the glacier tongue, which of course was a big success!! I think the captain was a bit nervous though, and I bet it was a relief when we finally went back to the safer side of the iceberg! Almost the entire fjord has now been successfully mapped, and we will soon be heading out of the fjord to Lincoln Sea. Our hope is to continue mapping and do more coring outside the entrance to the fjord, but in this area the sea-ice is particularly heavy and might hinder us. This evening the helicopter will fly out to do ice-recognisance, with the aim to find the best way forward. Every step forward must be thoroughly planned, but the weather and ice-conditions might force us to abandon the plan and find another one – you must be flexible to be able to succeed in these conditions!

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Second week 10/8–17/8 2019: Science in progress

We have now been onboard for almost two weeks, and a daily routine has sort of developed. The surrounding still takes my breath away, and I think it will keep on doing so until I'm home again. I think everyone feels the same, even though most persons onboard have been on Arctic expeditions several times before.

We have reached the Sherard Osborne fjord in which the Ryder glacier floats out, and detailed mapping of the seafloor slowly but steadily reveals very exciting seafloor features, typical for a glacial environment (as expected). The bathymetry is already telling us some hints on ice-flow direction, but of course a much larger area must be covered before any advanced interpretations can be made. The depth to the seafloor is completely unknown, and Oden have to move carefully to avoid grounding. At places where the seafloor gets shallow, we have to stop and turn the ship 360 degrees in order for the multibeam sonar to cover a “large” area of the seafloor, without moving forward (and so avoiding grounding). The procedure is called a “rosette”. It sure is exciting to sit and watch the multibeam slowly ensonifying an increasingly larger area of the seafloor, keeping track of the depth in case the seafloor suddenly gets shallower.

Not only unknown depths are challenging for Oden's captain and his crew, some days the fog is so thick that it is almost impossible to see ahead of the ship. Large icebergs are also moving around in the fjord, and could potentially block our way out, and so their movements are closely followed via satellite images. There are many challenges with an expedition in this environment, and I am very impressed by everyone involved in making this a safe journey for all of us onboard.

The first cores that were retrieved have been analysed in the multi sensor core logger (MSCL), which measures petrophysical characteristics such as gamma-ray density, magnetic susceptibility, and resistivity. They have also been split and detailed descriptions have been made. Some interesting layers have been found in the sediments, and it will be very interesting to hear the interpretation once more results as dating etc are available.

The land team came home yesterday after almost one week out in the field. I have not had an opportunity to speak to them myself, but I've heard that they had a close encounter with a wolf pack, three grown-ups and a couple of puppies. There are more than polar bears to watch out for in this barren landscape, that’s for sure! Next week I hope I will have the opportunity to join the land team, more about that in my next blog!

Ice bergs outside Ryder Glacier, Greenland. Photo by Emelie Ståhl
Three in a row.

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First week 3/8–9/8 2019: Overwhelmed

Since this is the first thing I am writing in my blog, I am going to start with a short introduction of myself. I`m a master student in geological sciences at Stockholm University. I finished my bachelor in Earth Science in June earlier this year. My bachelor degree project was in marine geology (Subaqueous landslides in Lake Orsa, central Sweden), supervised by Martin Jakobsson. I was almost swept off my feet when he earlier this year asked me if I was interested in joining the Ryder expedition, I just couldn’t believe my luck!! And here I am, 6 months later, writing this blog.

We boarded the I/B Oden in Thule, a US military air force base in Greenland. To get there we had to fly from Stewart International Airport in Newburgh (about a two-hour drive from New York) with a C-17! How cool isn’t that? Seeing I/B Oden upon arriving the harbour in Thule was incredible. To see her in this surrounding, for which she is constructed, can´t be compared to when I first saw the ship in the harbour in Helsingborg during the mobilization week (one week where personnel makes Oden ready for the expedition, installing equipment etc, as well as having safety training) which took place earlier in June this year. The impression was a bit overwhelming really!

It did not take long until the journey to unknown waters begun. After a short info meeting and introduction of people onboard, I was informed that I were to join the “multibeam team”. The multibeam (as well as other sonar systems) must be monitored all the time, and thus persons in “the multibeam team” are divided into shifts. Each shift is 4 hours long, and we have 2 shifts per day. I was assigned 0408 in the morning, and 1620 in the evening. This makes it easy for me to see and learn things from the other working packages onboard, which are mainly operating during daytime, so I was very pleased with my shift.

The first week has been successful so far (at least to my knowledge). The echo-boat (a small boat which can be remotely operated, installed with a multibeam) has been deployed and tested in the Bessel fjord. Everything went well and everyone seemed happy. The land-team has made plentiful of findings of shells (used to determine past sea-levels), driftwood and also archaeological findings. Two gravity cores have been retrieved, as well as two multicores (containing a set of eight smaller cores). The coring operations seemed to go well, and the cores are just about to be prepared for different types of petrophysical measurements and chemical analyses.

There have been three polar-bear observations, two from the boat and 1 from the helicopter. So, to make a short summary of the first week on Oden – it sure has been exciting!

Deployment of gravity corer. Photo by Emelie Ståhl
Deployment of gravity corer, 9/8-2019.

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