77°52,18`N and 071°14,92`W – we have reached the northernmost point of our journey. Due to the predicted vast coverage of pack ice, we will not be sailing further north in Smith Sound. Surely we could, but we prefer to use the time and head for the fiords around Siorapaluk and Qaanaaq. We would like to have time to meet up with the people there and in particular to go through with our planned studies.
Before setting off on the expedition, we invested a lot of time with different co-operations. It is our goal to document changes in the oceans and to find out just how strongly this area in northwestern Greenland is affected. In the past the “Dagmar Aaen” and the expeditions undertaken by Arved Fuchs have often offered a platform for scientific research. Certainly today there are more modern and bigger research vessels and studies can be undertaken from outer space. But then again the size of our ship is our advantage – we can enter shallow waters, land in small bays and get to places a larger vessel could hardly reach. The scientific value is therefore given. At the same time we are aware that we primarily document and convey what we find out to the general public.
Besides the topics of plastic pollution and renewable energies in the Arctic – we have already written reports on these topics in the logbook – we want to examine glaciers during this expedition. We are, for example, taking underwater sound recordings with a hydrophone for the ITAP in Oldenburg and are taking soil examples at different spots in Greenland for the Natural History Museum in Copenhagen.
The sound recordings are taken to document just how loud it is under water and what one can hear. Sound travels much faster and further in water than on land. Many marine mammals are driven away from heavy frequented waterways and must leave their nurseries because yet another oil- or gas platform is being built. It is especially loud at the break-off edge of a glacier – it cracks and bangs when an iceberg breaks off and crashes into the water. We will be putting these recordings with the hydrophone on our homepage after they have been edited with the friendly support of scientists in Oldenburg.
The goal of examining the glaciers is to determine how fast they “calve”. Many glaciers in Greenland end up directly in the sea. The glacier tongue swims in the water before ice bergs break off from it. Just how fast this breaking up takes place depends on many different factors. The sea water in front of and under the glacier has a big influence. It is easily understandable that warmer sea water causes the glacier to warm up and melt. Moreover, it is the salt content, the distribution of salt and the temperature in the water column which have an effect on this process. In climate models, these factors are only partly taken into consideration. It may initially come as a surprise that even such inconspicuous details are relevant in a calculation. But the more detailed the input data, the more exact the results of the calculations.
To take readings of temperature and salt content we have borrowed a CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) sensor from Geomar in Kiel. This sensor is a titanium pipe about 50 cm long and weighs about 1,5 kg. We attach the sensor on a line 200 meters in length and lower it into the water. We get as close as seems safe to the edge of the glacier, come about and slowly ease the instrument down in the water. Readings are automatically taken every 5 meters in depth. After retrieving the instrument on board, the data is read.
We are anxious to see the results of the readings. We can in any case – even without the readings – report on the alarming talks we have had with the local people. Again and again old and new friends tell us how quickly and strongly this sensitive area is changing. Especially the missing pack ice is becoming a serious problem for the way of life in these latitudes.
Volker & Justus