All back

We successfully finished our cruise on May 12, and today, May 27, also our two autonomous platforms, the SeaGlider and the Sailbuoy, were successfully retrieved by Andøya Space Centre, thereby completing this years field survey.

Day 13

Hi, everyone!

This is Huizi Dong, a PhD student from Shanghai Jiaotong University. I am very happy to be one of 25 members in this STRESSOR cruise. Today is the 13thday in our cruise, and maybe we only have three days left working and staying together. I really want to say thanks to everyone in our ship!

I am interested in the satellite ocean dynamics, and I want to understand the C. finmarchicus bloom in this season from the perspective of marine physical process.

So in this cruise, I mainly responsible for Lagrangian Coherent Structures model, which is guided by Ziyuan from Institue of Oceanography of China. We use near real time Radar Altimeter data to calculate the daily geostrophic currents and the horizontal advections. I send the results to chief scientists every day, which provides real time physical field information such as eddy and jets, to determine the cruise plan for the next day.

During the cruise, two cute oceanic instruments, Sailbuoy and SeaGlider were helping us along our survey. SeaGlider started working before our cruise, and collecting data in the ocean. I feel excited when I saw the Sailbuoy, which equipped with sensors and measured from the surface, was deployed. Both of Sailbuoy and SeaGlider can be controlled via satellite data telemetry. 

Now we have already arrived the station 25, best wishes to everyone for the rest of the cruise. Maybe we can see each other again in the South China Sea cruise in 2020.

Day 10

We cross the shelf break towards the open Arctic Ocean. Weather is not good now, with 2-3m swell and persistent winds from the Northeast. The sea is metallic grey, reflecting a continuous layer of dark clouds covering the sky. As we pull the Movile Vessel Profiler seawards, moving continuously up and down through the water column recording images of the zooplankton and environmental data,  I realise it is a good time to order the samples obtained with the Multinet. This special net has been designed so their 5 mouths can be opened and closed consecutively at different, a priori selected depths. Thus, we will be able to know how many planktonic organisms of different species are located at each particular depth. As I order them in the cardboard boxes, a clear pattern emerges: samples from the coastal stations are full of reddish copepods. Moreover, surface samples present a much more intense reddish color compared to those from deeper layers. This is a clear indication of a surface coastal copepod swarm.

I have also time to go through the photos of some weird animals catched by our pelagic trawl. Deployed at depths around 200 m, we have been catching some krill, jellyfishes and some strange bioluminiscent deep water fish, the myctophids, with big eyes and mouths. With the help of Prof Stig Falk-Petersen and the internship student Guillaume Schuler, we have measured them before freezing them for later analyses once back at the lab in Tromso. But before that there is still much to get from the deep waters in the next 3 days, so we will keep on trawling!

Nicholas Weidberg
Biological oceanographer

Day 9

Hi, This is Zhaoru Zhang, a physical oceanographer working on coastal dynamics and polar oceanography. This is my first open ocean cruise, and it is so nice that we came all the way to the subArctic regions in the Norwegian Sea, with my SJTU colleagues and scientists/artists from six other countries (Norway, Scotland, Spain, Portugal, France, Finland) participated in the joint Norwegian-Chinese project Stressor.

The focus of this cruise is on the aggregation of Calanus finmarchicus, an important species of zooplankton that support the fishing ground in the Norwegian Sea. Our objective is to reveal the locations of the C. finmarchicus assemblages and to find out the coupled physical-biogeochemical processes that are responsible for the assemblages. In this cruise I mainly work with the moving vessel profiler (MVP), which is an towed, undulated vehicle equipped with a AML-CTD, a fluorescence sensor to measure Chlorophyll concentration, and a Laser Optical Plankton Counter (LOPC) to measure the zooplankton abundance. I have been working with a similar vehicle called Acrobat for coastal oceans in China. These towed vehicles equipped with different sensors are really nice in that they could provide high-resolution profiles of hydrography and biogeochemical properties, from which mesoscale and submesoscale features such as fronts, jets and internal waves as well as their relations to biological features can be well resolved. A few days ago I gave a presentation in the daily cruise meeting, which was about our cruise in the Yangtze River estuary and our findings based on the Acrobat measurements. People showed large interests and there were fruitful discussions on the different coastal ecosystems in a mid-latitude estuary environment and in a subpolar environment.

Up until now we have surveyed 8 transects with the MVP, which clearly showed a density front between the Norwegian coastal water and the warm Atlantic water near the shelf break, as well as a jet in the frontal location. These mesoscale features are quite closely coupled with the phytoplankton aggregation. The weather could change a lot during one transect, from sunny to cloudy to windy to snowy and even hails, so really small scale processes.

The work of my SJTU colleagues in this cruise cover CTD cast operations, ADCP/LADCP setup and data processing, LISST/LOPC setup and data processing, EK 60 data processing, water sample collection and filtration for future analysis of nutrients, primary production, particulate organic carbon, biosilicon, biological respiration and gut fluorescence. We also have an underway system to measure the O2/Ar ratio for getting the information of net community productivity. Ziyuan and Huizi sent us the Lagrangian Coherent Structure images every day, which provides very useful information for the chief scientist to determine the cruise route for the next day. We always love the areas with mesoscale eddies and meanders that favor active onshore-offshore mass transports. The SJTU team has been working closely and smoothly with the Norwegian team including scientists, technicians, artists and crew members to recover the secrets of the lovely creatures – Calanus finmarchicus!

Today we went into the fjords of the Lofoten Islands, which has one of the world’s best views. Tomorrow we’ll get on land for a couple of hours to look around the town Svolvaer. The students can’t wait for this! Yiwu will stay on the ship to introduce SJTU and the collaborated project to local middle school teachers, students and artists, as an outreach activity planned for this cruise. Many thanks to Yiwu! We promised to bring good snacks for her 🙂

Best wishes for the rest of the cruise, and there are things to expect every day!

Day 8

Hello everyone!

My name is Sünnje Basedow, I’m the cruise leader and, together with Meng Zhou, leader of our research project Stressor. We are a great team of scientists from Norway and China, who are working together during this cruise to understand processes on the mesoscale, in particularly those that are important for the formation of zooplankton swarms.

During cruises in the last two years, we observed gigantic aggregations of zooplankton, on scales previously unknown. Those zooplankton patches occurred in surface waters along most of the northern Norwegian coast. In general, during research cruises we are looking at many processes in great detail, and this helps to understand mechanisms. But on the larger scale, we are dependent on observations by satellite and autonomous platforms. During Stressor, we combine both approaches, and hope to learn much more on how and why these large-scale surface zooplankton swarms form.

The Moving Vessel Profiler in less than perfect conditions.

Our cruise started out with beautiful, calm and sunny weather, but during the last two days weather conditions were not that perfect. We were not able to deploy some of our equipment at the stations, due to relatively strong winds and high waves. Nevertheless, we sampled very useful data on water masses and zooplankton with an advanced winch (Moving Vessel Profiler, MVP) that is equipped with instruments contained in a silver body that we call ‘fish’. The MVP takes profiles throughout the water column, while the ship is moving. By tweaking a little bit with the settings of this winch, and thanks to the support of our excellent technicians and the ships’ crew, we were able to run it smoothly even during not so optimal conditions.

Path of the ‘fish’ (blue line) throughout the water column. The winch is set up such that the fish during its profiling always stops 10 m above the bottom (red line) and then returns to the surface.
Hans Dybvik, one of the excellent technicians of the University of Tromsø, in front of the Moving Vessel Profiler.

In addition, two autonomous platforms are surveying the waters around our ship, a Sailbuoy that is equipped with advanced acoustic sensors for zooplankton, and a SeaGlider that amongst other things yields very high resolution of water masses. Those platforms can stay out in all types of weather. All in all, so far the cruise has been very successful. This year, it seems that most of the surface aggregations are located close to the coast.

The SeaGider on deck of R/V Helmer Hanssen, before launching it outside the Vesterålen islands.

On Monday, we will take a short trip to Svolvœr, Lofoten, and take a few pupils, artists and journalists on board for a while to show them a little bit on what we are working with.

Sunset seen from our research vessel Helmer Hanssen.

Wish you all an enjoyable weekend!

Day 7

Hi, I am Paulina, on the cruise I am responsible for sampling eDNA to compare the biodiversity found inside and outside of eddies. eDNA stands for environmental desoxyribonucleic acid. One can imagine it as long molecules that got released from different organisms (e.g. when an animal pees, it releases lots of this molecules) into the surrounding and are then feely moving in the environment. eDNA can be found almost anywhere: in the air, on or in the ground and in the water. During this cruise we investigate eDNA found in the seawater. For that, we manually filtrate 1.5 liters of seawater through a 0.22µm filter (see picture). This, even though does not looks like it, is an energy demanding job! Once the water is filtrated the samples are been frozen and transported to a lab where the eDNA sequences get extracted from the filtrates and analyzed. The analysis of eDNA allows us to tell which species were present in the water at the time of sampling. With this study we hope to get a better understanding about the transport of eDNA in the water, and about the impact eddies have on the species occurrence.

Day 6

Escaping the waves

The weather was unfortunately not on our side today. The initial plan was to sample offshore of Lofoten, but too high waves made this impossible. We instead cruised towards Vesterålen, to hide from the bad weather in Hadselfjorden. I was very excited to hear about this plan B, as my sample subject (copepods) thrive in the fjord communities at the moment. The samples offshore have not been the best in my case, as the community is dominated by the disgusting algae phaeocystis. Not only do they smell bad, they also clog up the plankton net. Few copepods thrive in the surface layers when these algae are around. 

We arrived Hadselfjorden at sunset, just in time to check the light penetration of the water with the secchi disk. I was (almost) screaming with joy when I poured out the contents of the WP2 net into my bucket. Thousands of brightly coloured red copepods, and no phaeocystis! Staying up several hours and picking out copepods for pigment analysis was not an issue. Don’t tell anyone else on board, but I am hoping for more days with wind and high waves! (joking)

Arriving Hadselfjorden.
Using the Secchi disk it is possible to estimate light penetration. I also use the Forel-Ule Scale to estimate the colour of the water. 
I decided to try something new at this station; starving the copepods for 24 hours to see how much their pigments degrade. Here I am adding filtered seawater into 20 containers. Individual copepods will be placed into each container and placed in a cold room. I have read that the pigments are very dynamic, and wanted to test this for myself. 
Sorting out copepods. I will use high performance liquid chromatography to analyze astaxanthin (the red pigment) content.
Copepods! And other zooplankton.

Mathilde Servan
Master student in marine ecology at Nord university

Day 5

Hello! This is Yiwu Zhu, a scientist from Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Happy to participate in the Stressor project and at the cruise!

Last time I saw our research vessel it was called “Jan Mayen”. That was 10 years ago. Five days ago, when I saw it coming into Tromso harbor, I recognized it right away although it is now called “Helmer Hanssen”, rightfully named after the legendary Norwegian polar explorer. I chased this white and blue ship along the shore, taking pictures excitedly. After knowing it for so many years, I’ll finally get on it. And, I came all the way from China to get on it.

R/V Helmer Hanssen from UiT, formerly R/ V Jan Mayer

Northern Norwegian fjords are generally considered having a relatively simple plankton community, which was the reason for my first trip to Tromso 25 years ago. At that time I was working at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in University of California, US. My colleague and I were interested in developing the theory of biomass spectrum to study the marine plankton. The biomass spectrum theory uses the size of plankton as the base to study their growth and mortality and furthermore the energy transfer and food web structure of the ecosystem. We were then looking for an ecosystem with less community complexity to test the theory. The fjords in northern Norway seemed to be an ideal ground for that. Equipped with an instrument, the Optical Plankton Counter, I got on the research vessal “Johan Ruud” from University of Tromso. That survey cruise in Ullsfjorden was so unforgettable, not only in terms of significant contributions it made on improving the biomass spectrum theory, but also it was the first taste of Norwegian spirit to me.

R/V Johan Ruud

I still have vivid memory of what the crew on that little research boat “Johan Ruud” had done for me. I was told to tie myself up in sleep to avoid rolling off from the small bunker bed. I was fed with the tongues of cod cutting by labor of young boys. I was taught to operate the winch like a fishing man. I was asked to teach Chinese words to them which was a mission impossible. I was invited to their homes which are far away. … In the end, of course, I was fallen in love with that Norwegian spirit.

As I kept coming back to Tromso and “Johan Ruud” for the next 15 years, “Jan Mayen”, the bigger and newer research ship from University of Tromso, was frequently mentioned. Many times I saw it from the shore and imagined someday I would be on it.

The project leaders Dr. Basedow from UiT The Arctic University of Norway and Dr. Zhou from Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

I’m so glad that my wish became true. I am now working in Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China. The collaboration with scientists from UiT The Arctic University of Norway is carried on. With efforts from both sides, our Sino-Norway collaborative project, Studies of Two Resource Ecosystems in Shelf, Slop and Oceanic Regions of the Norwegian and South China Sea (STRESSOR), is jointly funded by National Science Foundation of China and Research Council of Norway.

The Chinese team of the STRESSOR project in front of R/V Helmer Hanssen

The R/V “Helmer Hanssen” is taking 12 scientists and students from Shanghai Jiao Tong University onboard for the project, in addition to scientists from Norway. At this moment, “Helmer Hanssen” is surveying the shelf break of the northern Norwegian Sea, just outside the Lofoten islands. My excitement of getting on this ship is now transformed into absorbing the hard working spirit of people on this ship, and witnessing how oceanographers from all over the world can work together to make our ocean a better and more sustainable place.

John-Terje Eilertsen, chief technician of UiT, gave the SJTU team an introduction to the ships’ instrumentation

Day 4

My name is Rui Meng, and I am a graduate student at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in Shanghai.  I was born near Beijing area and got my M.S. degree in Qingdao, China before coming to Shanghai.  This is my first international oceanographic cruise, so things are very different from what I am used to in China.  This blog is to give my impressions about how things are on the cruise from my perspective. 

            I study phytoplankton, the microscopic photosynthetic organisms that support the entire food web off the coast of Norway. Without knowledge of their abundance and growth, we cannot understand how to manage the removal of fish from the coastal waters.  My job at sea is to sample the water, and measure the concentrations of phytoplankton in a number of different ways. We measure chlorophyll, as it occurs in all photosynthetic organisms, and we relate the chlorophyll concentrations to the abundance of phytoplankton. We also do a number of other measurements that measure different aspects of the numbers of phytoplankton.  When we sample, we use a CTD – conductivity, a temperature, depth sampler (conductivity is converted to salinity). The instrument is lowered by a wire through the ocean, and temperature and salinity are measured continuously and the data sent to the ship.  When we get to a depth we want to sample, water bottles are electronically closed, and when we are done, the instrument and the sampled water is brought back onboard.  We then collect our individual samples and process them in the lab.  For chlorophyll we filter a known amount of water through a filter, freeze the filter, and analyze it in the lab.  We do this for every depth – ten depths per station. Each filter takes about 15 minutes to complete, and one entire station takes about 3 hours to finish, since we have to do different types of samples.  And then we do it again.  And again. And again.  So it is not too exciting and becomes routine, but it is the only way we can understand the distribution of phytoplankton and how they control the food web.  The picture below is me and my supervisor filtering a sample in the lab. And Michaela said the filtering instrument looks like a line of wine, like we all in a bar. Interesting!

I work on a 12-hour shift, meaning I work for 12 hours in a row and then can sleep.  That means I get to eat two meals a day, unless I get up specifically to eat the other meal.  And I usually do that!  The food is good, but I miss Chinese food, I had tried Western food in China, and never thought it was that good.  But the food on the ship surprised me at how good it tastes.  The one dish I miss from China is a hot pot – where you cook your own food at the table and where there is a lot of variety that you can have.  I really like the cod that we have had.  

People are very nice, and that is good because we eat, sleep and work together in small spaces. My room is especially small, and I share it with two other students.  So we are crowded, and we all have different schedules, which means we often disturb each other when we come and go from the room.  But it works out, and we all try to be thoughtful of each other. 

I am impressed by all of the researchers on the ship, because they are experts at their own fields and have extensive knowledge of the ocean.  It is a great chance for me to learn about their work and how they do their work, as well as the value of their research.  We also have talks at night by various scientists where they describe their work in more detail, which also is a great learning experience.  

The sampling plan changes with each day, and that gives us a chance to relax some when we are not sampling the water.  The cruise is still beginning, and we have another two weeks to go.  I look forward to learning much more as we continue, and being able to experience more Norwegian food!

Day 3

Hi everyone! 

My name is Sofia Aniceto and I have a VISTA fellowship for a postdoc at the Arctic University of Norway. 

We are now close to Lofoten and will soon do a stop by Svolvær to meet up with some high-school students. This ship has a great working environment, and it’s really inspiring to see the great work everyone is doing within the STRESSOR and connected projects. So much knowledge inside one ship!

This is not my first time onboard Helmer Hansen… it’s my second! The first time was 2 or 3 years ago to Svalbard during my PhD when I was doing aerial surveys from drones. It just took me a day or so to get in sync with the ship again (slightly sea sick) and now I am ready for adventure. Some of the crew members are the same from last time I was here, and it was really sweet that some of them still recognize me!

Now, as to why I am here.

Contrary to what we would often believe, the sea is not a quiet place. There are many types of sounds in the ocean. Boats often produce a lot of it, but we also have fish, whales, dolphins, storms, and even earthquakes! I work with marine mammal sounds, and focus on how the whales of northern Norway are distributed in relation to the surrounding environment. Marine mammals depend on sound throughout their entire life. They produce and listen to sounds to find food, to find a mate, to scare away competition, and just to socialize with each other. Whales often spend more time underwater than they do at the surface, so it’s important for me to estimate what is going on while they are making sounds. To get this information, scientists normally use hydrophones that can be attached to the seafloor in cabled observatories or to moving vehicles like gliders. Once we get the sounds, we can identify species and discriminate different types of behavior, so we know what they are up to down there.

Over the next few weeks I will be basically doing whale observations with my binoculars, to see what whales are around this time of the year. We were fortunate to get a Seaglider (Kongsberg, supplied by the GLIDER project) for this cruise, and at the end I will find out if I can identify the same species using both methods, and if not, get a better perspective of their distribution. The Seaglider was put in the water two days ago and will follow a transect back to the Hola trench, where it meet the LoVe cabled ocean observatory (Equinor/IMR). A normal day for me looks like this:

Wake up at 3:30
Survey from 4 to 6:00
Breakfast (nutrition is important!) at 7:30
Computer work/nap until 9:45
Survey 10-12:00
More computer work or help out other scientists in station work until 14:00
Lunch (who can say no to a delicious Helmer Hansen lunch?) at 14:00
Survey from 14:30 to 16:30
Break/more helping people around until 19:30 (yesterday was helping with eDNA sampling for example)
Dinner! 19:30
Survey 20:30 to 22:30
Bedtime (need to catch up on my Zs)!

I try to cover the sun rise and sun set, which is slowly increasing here as we approach the midnight sun, and get some extra shifts in between. So far, I got some sperm whales while we were passing the Bleik Canyon, some orcas here and there, and this morning (at 4:30AM) I saw a breaching (jumping whale)! Hard to say which species, but definitely a baleen whale. This was a tricky one because it was far away (about 1km) and the only time I managed to get a good look with the binoculars, the darn whale jumped with its belly up. I just saw a white underside and the mouth ridges that expand when this type of whale eats. Most likely a minke whale, the only whale species hunted in Norway. They don’t jump very often and are actually quite tricky to see since they are very evasive in relation to boats (a natural response since they are hunted). 

Overall, so far so fun! Lets hope it keeps going like this and keen an eye on that horizon!