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The research vessel “Helmer Hanssen” leaves Longyearbyen for the Arctic today.
Photo: Rudi Caeyers, UiT The Arctic University of Norway
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Much ice may hinder marine scientists in the Arctic

Oceanographer Randi Ingvaldsen heads a large research project with the object to find what will happen when the ice in the Arctic recedes. Ironically, the first cruise seems to be hindered by a lot of ice.

– During the last period, there has been a low pressure over the Arctic Ocean, and thus it has been lower temperatures and wind bringing much ice into the survey area. It limits our investigations. It was actually less ice in these waters in February and March than it is now, says Ingvaldsen.

Strategic initiative

The cruise, which starts today, is the first in a so-called strategic initiative for the Arctic. The areas to be mapped has neither been studied previously nor mapped in the same scope as the Institute of Marine Research (IMR) will do this time.
– We will use the same methodology as during our ecosystem surveys and map everything from phytoplankton to whales and birds. Therefore we use a wide range of tools for sampling, ranging from plankton nets to trawl, we conduct acoustic measurements with echo sounder and sonar, and we lower an advanced instrument in the water to measure temperature and salinity. In addition, we try to analyse nutrients and phytoplankton, and we take samples of organisms that live on the bottom, says Ingvaldsen.
She adds that the previous research in the area has largely been limited to physical and chemical surveys and plankton research.
– This time we, in addition, will trawl at several depths. Among other things, we are going to trawl in the deep ocean north of the continental slope, and we will carry out more thorough investigations on the Yermak Plateau than those conducted ​​previously. We will also take samples of the seabed to find out what lives on and in it, says Ingvaldsen.

 

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This years cruise will be conducted i the area within the rectangle north of Svalbard. (Map: NMD/IMR)

 

Three cruises

Within the project "Strategic Initiative Arctic", there will be accomplished three major research expeditions during the years 2014 – 2016.
– I think this is a very exciting project which can give us many answers. Initially, we learn how the state of the sea is at present, and in turn, we can see how the sea life and the physical environment may change as a result of climate change, says Ingvaldsen.
Researchers from the Institute of Marine Research will work with colleagues from the Russian marine research institute PINRO in Murmansk, from the American marine research institute Woods Hole in Massachusetts and the University of Bergen.