As it turns out, the “rally” was short.
The Lance research vessel, which was nearly forced out of the sea ice a week ago until a major storm reversed its southward draft, is now in loose ice and needs to be escorted north again to resume its six-month study of the ice, Svalbardposten reported Saturday.Scientists and crew are packing up equipment deployed around the ship, and the Norwegian Guard Guard vessel Svalbard is on its way to escort the Lance back to the same latitude of the ship’s original freeze-in on Jan. 14.
The ship was pushed out of solid ice at at 81.2 degrees north latitude, slightly further south than where the ship was last Saturday when participants feared they were only a couple of days from being forced to pack up camp.
“A cruise leader’s mood is like that of a stock broker,” wrote Harald Steen, leader of the Norwegian Polar Institute project, in a post at the expedition’s official blog at the time. “When the market goes down – in this case: if the drift goes south – one feels uneasy.”
A storm last Sunday pushed the Lance northward again, but only temporarily. The ship was scheduled to remain frozen in solid ice until late March or early April, at which point it would return to Longyearbyen to take on a new crew and team of scientists before heading back north to freeze into the ice for another three months.
Twenty scientists and ten crew members are aboard the ship, with the original team of scientists replaced by new researchers during the past week. The expedition’s mission is to study the sea ice “from cradle to grave” in order to development more accurate models of climate change and assessments of its impacts on the Arctic.
The Svalbard, which has icebreaking capabilities, will escort the Lance back to its original freeze-in position of 83.2 degrees north latitude, Svalbardposten reported. The Svalbard will also deploy sonar devices in a 20-kilometer radius around the Lance, as happened at the start of the expedition.
The voyage, and moving the measuring equipment and other gear on the ice, means several days of research work will be lost, but Steen said that is not a serious setback for the project overall.
“It is a pity that we’re losing some data, but there is no crisis,” he told the newspaper “We have four good weeks of important data collected on the state of the ice system that nobody else has collected.”