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Photo: Robert A. Johansen, Sten-R. Birkely
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Marbank Cruise to Forlandsundet and Mount of Isfjorden, Svalbard June 2015

During a week in mid June this year, Marbank conducted a cruise in shallow depth areas of Forlandsundet and the outer reaches of Isfjorden Svalbard. The aim of this cruise was to collect marine invertebrates from shallow areas inaccessible to the larger research vessels commonly available for cruise activity in these waters. Therefore, a seven-days cruise with a smaller wessel, the 50 feet long RV Viking Explorer, owned by the University Center in Svalbard (UNIS) put Marbank in the position to collect fauna in these areas.

Marbank personell arrived in Longyearbyen for this late spring cruise on June 16th. Equipment and sampling gear was already on location having been sent by boat to Longyearbyen beforehand. But, on this cruise as on any other cruise, one ”thing” is missing, and this time the ”thing” missing was rather essential to have onboard in order to get much of the work done. A sieve is of outmost importance when the catch consists of 95 per cent mud. 

Photo: Robert A. Johansen, Sten-R. Birkely

You scarcely find any living things in there unless you are able to flush out the mud so the animals can be exposed. A sieve is the essential tool (apart from the water hose) for this purpose. UNIS personnel had been most helpful in all ways, but a sieve suiting our purpose was not to be found on their premises. Luckily the RV Helmer Hanssen was coming in from the Barents Sea early on the day after the start of our cruise. A short call to them and they saved our work onboard the Viking Explorer by loaning us one of their sieves.

The Viking Explorer arrived at Sarstangen in the northern part of Forlandsundet, the sound separating the island of Prins Karls Forland and south-western Spitsbergen, where we started our sampling. Stunning scenery with glaciers and mountains gave nice views from the deck.

Photo: Robert A. Johansen, Sten-R. Birkely

A variety of benthic invertebrates were collected using triangular scrapes in shallow areas while an Agassiz trawl was trawled in deeper and more regular bottoms. A seemingly great variation over small distances in bottom substrate produced catches with quite different faunal composition between stations. This was quite interesting to observe and made our work here even more fun.

After having sampled Forlandsundet and several stations in the outer part of Isfjorden, we had three really muddy hauls outside the Russian settlement of Barentsburg. The catches here gave various species gastropods and echinoderms. All in all, a great cruise and great result.