Lance departs

The Lance research vessel heads northward Sunday after departing Longyearbyen the night before to seek a spot where the ship will be frozen into the sea ice. The vessel is scheduled to remain at that site for about three months while researchers collect data expected to improve their knowledge about climate change before moving to a location further north for an additional three months.

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It sounds like a punchline for skeptics: Climate change scientists are hoping to move forward by getting stuck.

But the researchers are serious enough they’re parking the Lance research vessel in solid sea ice for six months for one of the most ambitious voyages ever undertaken by the Norwegian Polar Institute. The ship departed from Longyearbyen on Saturday, setting a course for 84 degrees 30 minutes north latitude and 25 degrees 0 minutes east longitude, where 20 scientists from ten countries hope to begin the first of two three-month periods in frozen ice.

“The entire system of the polar winter ice will be monitored, from cradle to grave,” wrote Harald Steen, the expedition’s leader, in the (NPI’s blog about the project). “The goal is to obtain data so that future models of climate change in the Arctic give as precise answers as possible.”

The Arctic ice sheet has shrunk to historic minimums in recent years and seasonal first-year ice is increasingly present compared to multi-year ice, he noted.

“First-year ice is thinner, more brittle, and flatter than multi-year ice,” he wrote. “It also drifts faster and exhibits different dynamics. Most of our knowledge about the effect of polar ice on the climate, ecosystems and the weather is based on multi-year ice data, which isn’t ideal for predicting the future of the Arctic Ocean.”

The Lance met up Tuesday with the Norwegian Coast Guard’s Svalbard icebreaker at 81 degrees 27 minutes north latitude. The icebreaker is clearing a path for the research ship until it reaches the designated freezing point.

“The Svalbard sliced through the one-and-a-half meter ice as if it was made of gingerbread, with us pacing after at a respectable seven knots,” Steen wrote. “If we can maintain our current speed, we should arrive at our target location … in approximately two days.”

“Preparations are made for establishing the instruments and running the operation. Everywhere on board, people are discussing, planning, drawing and sharing experiences.”

Researchers expect to spend the first three months drifting southward with the ice until it thaws, at which point the Lance will sail further north to a second freezing point and a new team of researchers will take over.

About Post Author

Mark Sabbatini

I'm a professional transient living on a tiny Norwegian island next door to the North Pole, where once a week (or thereabouts) I pollute our extreme and pristine environment with paper fishwrappers decorated with seemingly random letters that would cause a thousand monkeys with a thousand typewriters to die of humiliation. Such is the wisdom one acquires after more than 25 years in the world's second-least-respected occupation, much of it roaming the seven continents in search of jazz, unrecognizable street food and escorts I f****d with by insisting they give me the platonic tours of their cities promised in their ads. But it turns out this tiny group of islands known as Svalbard is my True Love and, generous contributions from you willing, I'll keep littering until they dig my body out when my climate-change-deformed apartment collapses or they exile my penniless ass because I'm not even worthy of washing your dirty dishes.
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