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!

Day 2

(from travel notes)

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Wednesday 24 / 4 / 2019

Helsinki, sunny, clear sky, +18 (!), wind speed 4m / s, 
visibility 23 km, length of day is 15h 22min.
My Helmer Hanssen adventure starts today. Here. On ferry deck in Katajanokka. It is unbelievably warm day in Helsinki. Feels like going for summer trip, even though spring is not in full swing yet. Only bushes started to have little tiny leafes last day or two and willows are in full bloom. I am sitting on the deck, ferry to Stockholm is just about to leave. It is 17:15 and we are turning our faces towards sun, eyes closed and smile. No small talks about how beautiful weather it is, people’s faces say it all.

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Thursday 25 / 4 / 2019
Stockholm, sunny morning, partly cloudy afternoon, high point +17, 
low point +4, chance of rain 10%.

It was very sunny and summery when we arrived to Stockholm. But wind brought clouds over the city and before I caught night train to Narvik I felt almost chilly without jacket. It is definitely spring time in Stockholm, one step ahead before Helsinki. Blooming cherry trees, mating birds. First mosquito seen in Moderna Museet!

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Friday 26 / 4 / 2019
Umeå – Kiruna – Narvik – Tromsø
Sunny day, again.

I woke up in Swedish Lapland, snow is partly covering mires. But surprisingly not as much as I thought. I am in the train, maybe one hour after Kiruna. I can see from window on the right side, but also on left side, mountains. There is not much of movements in landscape. No people, no houses, no animals, no flying birds. Trees are much much smaller, they look like having hard time, real survivors. Stones, sun, heather, heather color. Sudden change in perspectives and scales make me bit dizzy. Overwhelming scales. Sun is strong, eyes are hurting, that makes me sleepy. It is little bit like time machine. After 18 hours in train we arrived to Narvik, it is about +15. Few hours more by bus and we arrived to Tromsø, it is about +13 but chilly breeze blowing up here.

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Saturday 27 / 4 / 2019
Tromsø, open sea
Sea temperature +6, air +9, windspeed 7m/s, clear sky.

It is morning, sun is shining and I am sitting next to Roald Amundsen statue, Tromsø. First greens and flowers seen – like coltsfoot or snowdrop.
I would like to learn more about arctic birds and winds next weeks. It is 11:30. I am here, on board. Leaving from harbor around 13:00. Bright sun on deck, everyone enjoy, but also keep saying: Do not get use to this steady sunny weather, it is totally opposite from usual! Brand new world. Now I am getting really overexcited. One impression over another. I feel like I need to close my eyes and breath. Because all has been literally breathtaking so far. Warm sunny day, sea is still. It is quite abstract to imagine all research processes on vessel after only few hours. I am puzzled. Slowly collecting small pieces together. And I am sure I will be puzzling whole trip and asking silly questions, and that is (hopefully) just fine! I am like sponch, ready to absorb. Plaster for seasick makes me sleepy. And switched me to dream mode for next few days. Orca family on horizon!

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Sunday 28 / 4 / 2019
Open sea. Sea temperature +7.3, air temperature +6.7.

We crossed sea shelf and had suddenly almost 3 000 metres to bottom of the sea. Another sunny day in row. People are excited to start in first station.
Seaglider was released to water and now its living on its own for next days. We will pick it up before we go to Svolvær on 6th of May.
I saw another orca group on horizon and floating island of birds next to our boat.

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Monday 29 / 4 / 2019

It is maybe first time I am connected to wifi since we went off shore. I need to write this quick before connection collapse once again 🙂
Sünnje asked me to write something for Stressor blog and who knows when it will be possible to post it. Probably when we are closer to land.
At the minute we are on open sea, more then 200m under boat. It is Monday 29th of April, 9 o’clock in the morning. Sun is shining, sea temperature +5.7, air temperature +5 degrees, water is pretty still, only 1m high waves. Half of the group is probably still sleeping because they had night shift on previous station. Others are preparing for next station. It has been sunny, warm and still weather so far. I am trying to listen, hang around and learn. Because there is so much to learn from everyone on board… and everyone out there, in the big big blue.

Michaela Casková

Day 1

Hi everyone, Guillaume here (right, that’s my name), the 21 year-old french intern of Mrs. Basedow. I’m honoured to set things off with this blog, which is going to handle the STRESSOR project trough everyone’s point of view, day after day.

Since yesterday, everyone is busy with loading stuff and equipements on the boat. Nothing has to be forgotten for this long-time prepared cruise. To set up and unpack things, Sünnje did call everyone to meet at 9 o’clock at the boat. As she wrote the time in bold letters (as I did here), I felt a bit stressed about arriving late and leaving a bad impression. Maybe that’s a relevant way to start a project called « STRESSOR ». Finally, I was into it even before it began. As I couldn’t find a bus, I hitch-hiked and a really kind doctor took me to the Helmer Hanssen, where I could finally discover what would be home for me and the crew for the two upcoming weeks.

At the end, I arrived early, considering the fact that the boat was leaving at 1 pm. As nobody needed my help to unpack or tidy up equipements, I started to explore the boat. This is my first cruise like this ever, which actually means longer than one day. Starting from a point where I knew no one, I rapidly found out which was from the scientific team and which was from the crew onboard, as only people from the crew were speaking to me when I somehow found myself in forbidden places (like the engine room). I then found the food storage room, which allowed me to exchange with Sven, the head cook onboard. Now that I was reassured about my survival for the upcoming cruise, I started meeting with people and everybody was kind and really nice with me, so I felt very comfortable.

After the boat left, the first real challenge was to pronounce each other’s name. With people coming from different continents and cultures, it’s hard to both pronounce and remember foreign sounds and names. So I was relieved when my roomate Zhiquiang Su told me that I could just call him Su. Maybe I should find myself a more easily surname to pronounce for him in the upcoming days, although he’s trying hard to pronounce and remember my name.

After the meal (which tasted really good), we had our first meeting all together, learning to know each other a bit more and planning what to do for the beginning of the cruise. I didn’t really understand much, as the names of all the sensors were still unknown to me. Everybody got organized and planned potential backup for teams who would have too much work. Every team (mammals, fish, CTD…) then met up to organize themselves, so I was given to rewrite a protocol for all the people who’d have to trawl and sort fishes during the cruise. We then had some free time, as we would reach the first transect to sample only the day after at around 9 am. We all took advantage of it to hang out together, and I personally went on the bridge with some other people to look after marine mammals. We were both lucky for the great weather (and the great weather forecast for the upcoming day) and for all the activity we witnessed in the sea, as we were sailing over a big underwater canyon, where there are plenty of squids, which attract orcas, sperm whales and surely other big mammals we haven’t been able to recognize.

As especially fascinated by orcas as I am, I had the eyes litteraly stuck to my binoculars. It’s a grace to witness how beautiful nature is in the wild. It’s really exciting to observe a flat water surface too, imagining there probably are huge mammals just under it. They say hello from times to times by projecting water in the air, which we are able to see from far away.

We stopped this activity not to miss our eating window (30 minutes, not one more !) to actually eat… whale steak. But minke whale steak, which has been a part of Norwegian coastal culture for centuries.

We finished the day with a meeting about security onboard from a crew member. I was given the opportunity to try wearing a life-saving suit, which is supposed to maintain you alive for six hours in the cold norwegian’s water. After everyone surely got amazed with how great I looked in this post-mortem Karl Lagarfeld alike outfit, we tried all the possible ways between our cabins and the meeting point, where everyone got cold waiting, a few minutes only. It is barely imaginable waiting here under bad weather hardly seeing anything and being completely stressed out. Considering that, this kind of security information really can save lives if you acquire some reflexes.

The day finally ended up with a beautiful sunset. As it has only been the first day of cruise, I’m really excited about getting the several samplings started and learn about all the sensors and the studies going on onboard in the upcoming days. For all of this, I’m feeling grateful and looking forward to know everyone a bit more too. God natt !