R/H SABVABAA 2012 Summer Field Season

 Science team posing outside the hovercraftThe research hovercraft Sabvabaa's 2012 summer field season is currently underway in the high arctic. This expedition, FRAM-2012, is a test run towards the ultimate goal which is to examine the oldest sediments in the Arctic Ocean that an asteroid impact has uncovered in the crestal regions of the Alpha Ridge. FRAM-2012 offers the possibility of obtaining old sediments from the Lomonosov Ridge. If successful, then they are one big step to getting to the Alpha Ridge which is 500 km further away.

After several weeks over the Gakkel doing 3D seismics using an airgun and four hydrophones linked by a WiFi, as well as monitoring small earthquakes with the hydrophones, it will be refueled by the Oden and will progress over to the Lomonosov Ridge (see article (in Swedish) and map). Yngve Kristoffersen of the University of Bergen is accompanied by graduate student Gaute Hope, who is doing his MSc thesis.

On the Lononosov, Sabvabaa will work independently for a month, using fuel supplied by Oden. It has four dart-like free-fall corers and 3000 m of 3/8" kevlar rope (breaking strength 2.8 Tons). It will attempt to sample places where other seismic (see profile in article) data indicates near-surface deep sediments. The rest of the time they will dredge and do airgun seismics. They have a new EM31 ice thickness probe which is reporting first year ice of 1.09 m thickness at 82° 30'. The Oden is carrying the seismic and bathymetry buoys, and other heavier gear that will be transferred. The Lomonosov Ridge work will be part of LOMROG III.

Learn more about the R/H Sabvabaa here>>

Watch a 12-minute video about the R/H Sabvabaa here>>

Learn more about the mission of the R/H Sabvabaa:

The science team has faithfully sent reports via iridium satellite network. The most recent reports are below while older reports are archived.

September 30, 2012 - Yngve Kristoffersen

Position: 83 41' N, 00 18' W. Temp. minus 14 Centigrades, calm, overcast with low clouds and white-out until 1100 hours, then partly clouded with ground fog coming and going.

Polarstern's helicopter came overhead at noon, and Polarstern arrived at 2300 hours after a final struggle for nearly 2 hours with pressure ridges the last 0.5 nautical mile. The hovercraft was lifted onto the helicopterdeck in 15 minutes and the vessel headed southeast towards the ice edge.

No sign of animal life today.

All is well.

September 29, 2012 - Yngve Kristoffersen

Position: 83 42' N, 00 27' W. Temp. minus 12 Centigrades (corrected), calm, compact low clouds and white-out until 1000 hours, also ground fog moved in. By noon the sun was visible throught the fog. Partly clouded the rest of the day, but the fog came and went.

Got one hour of useable light conditions and moved 3 nm i southeast direction, out of a large floe surrounded by a multitude of pressure ridges. The ice is tight all around with a good proportion of old ice.

Found a local area of thin ice and parked to await the arrival of POLARSTERN sometime late tomorrow.

No sign of animal life.

All is well.

September 28, 2012 - Yngve Kristoffersen

Position: 83 44' N, 00 55'W. Temp. minus 11 (corrected), calm, compact low clouds and white-out conditions all day. No possibility to drive eastwards towards Polarstern under these light conditions. The ice drift is due east at 200 m/hour.

No sign of animal life.

All is well.

September 27, 2012 - Yngve Kristoffersen

Position: 83 44' N, 01 11' W. Temp. minus 7 Centigrades (corrected), winds 5-7 knots from northwest, overcast and white-out conditions all day.

No sign of animal life.

All is well.

September 26, 2012 - Yngve Kristoffersen

Position: 83 45' N, 01 44' W. Temp. minus 11 Centigrades (corrected), winds 4-11 knots from west-southwest, clear sky and excellent visibility until 1400 hours when the the sun went behind clouds and from then on, white-out conditions.

Started at sunrise at 0830 hours. Were on a large ice floe about 1 km in diameter surrounded by a maze of recent pressure ridges. Had to manually clear passages across five pressure ridges and was able to proceed 4 nautical miles due east as long as the useable light condtions lasted.

September 25, 2012 - Yngve Kristoffersen

Position: 83 44' N, 02 36' W. Temp. minus 9 (corrected), wind 10 knots from the northeast, overcast and white-out all day. The lower edge of the sun touched the horizon at 1925 hours.

Since the rendezvous with ODEN on Sept. 8th, we have had on the average 2.5 hours per day of useable light for driving. For this reason, the hovercraft has made only 30 minutes of latitude south in 17 days. In addition, a massive rubble field of first year ice not penetrable by hovercraft was met at about 84 N. The last 5 days have been spent trying to find a passage through, but without success.

In addition to visibility during the day, this late in the fall, the length of the day is rapidly getting shorter. Due to lack of southward progress, one option is to settle down on an ice floe and drift south towards the ice edge to be met by NORBJØRN as an extension of the cargo vessel's bi-weekly freight trips to Svalbard. A drift towards the ice edge may take 3-4 weeks and we have food and fuel supplies to meet that eventuality.

However, the fast dwindling daylight is a concern. We have therefore been in communication with POLARSTERN. The German icebreaking research vessel is southbound from the North Pole area and is scheduled to have its last scientific station at 84 30' N, 12 E at the end of this week. AWI has generously agreed to have POLARSTERN subsequently rendezvous with the hovercraft, take it onboard and offload at sea off Spitsbergen.

In the coming days, the hovercraft will therefore, make every effort to proceed east to shorten the deviation from a straight transit south for POLARSTERN .

All is well.

September 24, 2012 - Yngve Kristoffersen

Position: 83 48' N, 01 59' W. Temp. minus 10 Centigrades, calm, overcast, but with a period of broken clouds in the early afternoon.

Had three hours of useable visibility after lunch and wanted to try out a possible path in the field of ice rubble towards southeast, but had to return along the same track and ended up parking on the same ice floe as last night. There is abundant indications of recent pressure ridge formation associated with the period of northwest ice drift over the past two weeks. The ice drift is now south-southwest at 400 m/hour.

I will, on the next opportunity, backtrack northeastwards 8-10 nautical miles to where this field of ice rubble became more pronounced and seach for a way east to the north of it.

Saw a seal in a lead in two different places.

All is well, we are delayed, that is all.