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.
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.
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.
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 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.