Field Notes: The Polar Field Services Newsletter

NPEO Near Completion

When oceanfront property isn't a good thing. Photos: Jim Johnson, U Washington

Research is winding down at the North Pole Environmental Observatory (NPEO), the suite of Arctic Ocean measurements collected by National Science Foundation-funded scientists (Jamie Morison, U of Washington, lead).  In fact, the entire Russian ice camp, Barneo, is also winding down—or breaking up, as the photo above shows. 

At a camp known for unique logistics challenges, this has been an outstanding year. Weeks ago, just as the first NPEO researchers arrived at Barneo, the ice floe cracked; a good chunk of the runway broke off as researchers, adventure seekers and wedding parties alike all rushed to relocate the camp’s infrastructure before it drifted away.  Later, the eruption of the Iceland volcano disrupted travel for several NPEO researchers.  While flights from Svalbard to Barneo north of the ash plume continued, the journey to Svalbard was more complicated. Principal scientist Kelly Faulkner’s trip to Barneo had something of the quest about it—a long journey beset by troubles, her trip lasted a week and involved planes, trains, automobiles, and boats—but no dragons (other than the volcano). 

NPEO researchers were able to complete much of their work: They recovered a mooring that had been anchored to the ocean bottom for two years, dropped new buoys and serviced old ones, and completed many water sampling stations. Though they were not able to recover an acoustic bottom pressure recorder, they were able to “ping” it to recover several years worth of data.  Information from the NPEO gives scientists crucial information about the Arctic Ocean’s temperature, chemistry, sea-ice, circulation, and more. 

Men hustle an NPEO tent to safer ice.

Visit the NPEO Web site for the latest news on field activities.

Read the Barneo Chronicles.

If the weather holds, the NPEO group should complete work and clear off the ice camp this week. Turning homeward, they will grapple with whatever travel delays last week’s air travel disruptions from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano still may present.