Arctic island isolation

After a one-year delay in our fieldwork due to COVID-19, we are finally getting ready to get back to the Arctic!

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As part of the seasonal Nansen Legacy project research cruises, three Borgå group members Julia Giebichenstein, Khuong van Dinh and Andreas Jortveit will spend three weeks in the northern Barents Sea, on board the research vessel Kronprins Haakon.

We will study how seasonal processes and multiple stressors impact pollution levels and effects in arctic organisms including tiny shrimp-like animals called copepods up to larger organisms like polar cod.

But before we can head out to the Barents Sea to do our research, all 35 scientists must undergo a strict 10-day hotel isolation in beautiful Sommarøy, to ensure everyone’s maximum safety during the research cruise.

The Oslo team on the way to Tromsø. From left to righ: Julia Giebichenstein, Andreas Jortveit, Khuong van Dinh and Thaise Ricardo de Freitas. Photo credit: Julia Giebichenstein

Sommarøy is a scenic island, about an hour drive from Tromsø. Before we started our adventure to the north, we all had to have a negative corona test. During our travel from Oslo to Tromsø we wore facemasks and kept a distance from other people as best as we could.

Upon arrival in Tromsø, we were welcomed by our project leader Marit Reigstad and hopped on the bus to Sommarøy. Each person had her or his dedicated seat, and all masks were on. At the hotel, we had a quick briefing, and each person received their room key. After a very short goodbye to our colleagues, we directly went in our hotel rooms, which have a stunning view over Sommarøy.

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Room with a view: Luckily, the rooms contain everything we need for a super comfortable stay: a bed, desk, bathroom, TV and even a balcony. Photo credit: Julia Giebichenstein

Whenever we want to go for a walk, we sign up in an online spreadsheet to avoid meeting people in the hallways. The wind outside was so strong the past days, that even walking in a straight line posed a challenge, and we had to take care not to be blown away. Luckily we are not out on the boat yet. The sea would be incredibly rough, and our stomachs likely empty.

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Pancake ice forming in a bay on Hilesøya. Picture credit: Julia Giebichenstein

Others, however, enter the waters despite the harsh conditions. It's Skrei (Atlantic cod) season in Northern Norway, which means the fishermen and women are out and about, regardless of the weather! Each year, between January and April, the seasonal wild cod Skrei migrates 1000 km from the depths of the Barents Sea to the coasts of northern Norway to reproduce. As it stores fat in the liver and not in the muscles, it is one of the leanest fish and a Norwegian delicacy.

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A fishing boat out in rough seas. Photo credit: Sebastian Gerland

Between the daily walks, our regular work, and three meals a day which we get directly delivered to our door, we have online workout groups that keep us happy and in shape. Knowing that we are all in this together helps a lot and raises the team spirit.

After seven days in isolation, we will have our second corona test. When that is negative, we will be allowed to board the research vessel and do what we love: science!

By Julia Giebichenstein
Published Feb. 25, 2021 9:49 AM - Last modified Feb. 25, 2021 8:52 PM