Monday, June 8, 2015

6/8: Wrapping up, packing up, and hopping the next fishing boat south...

The first question asked by a good friend and former colleague, John Hagerstrom of CVA, when I told him I would be heading up to Svalbard for 6 weeks in July of 2012 was 
"Why the heck would you want to do that?"

Having worked many summers in the Arctic since 2002, the question happens again and again, but always from Mainers (and maybe a couple of times from my Nebraskan inlaws). Maybe it's just that they're so happy it is finally spring and the mud has dried up, the daffodils are blooming and they've finally got their hands into the dirt and cow manure but I do certainly have to wonder where their memory is if they have no qualms with 6 months of the picture below, but shiver violently at the thought of 2 weeks in the one above...

My driveway this February
It is our last day here on Ingoya and the last bits of science have been wrapped up with a quick trip here and a small water sample there. Erlend will be picking us up at 0-dark-thiry tomorrow morning (if there was such a thing this time of the year) so we can make the trip across the sea to Havoysund where we will be catching the M/S Finnmarken Hurtigruten and setting sail for Tromso. Please do at some point check out the official Hurtigruten website with the link below:

The site has all of the ships' biographies/fast facts, interactive maps with them buzzing about the Norwegian coast, and everything you need to plan your next Scandinavian adventure (try a Kwikk Lunsch!). We should arrive in Tromso at approximately 11:30 pm Tuesday night and then if all goes well I will be on a plane for Oslo at 8:30 Wednesday morning. Good ole' Newark next, then D.C., then Portland...don't ask why I am going to the capitol first...on to business. 

Packing up camp is always bittersweet as it is nice to see how lush Maine is in June but also there bits of Norway that will be missed, like how walking by these sights are commonplace here at the Sjøhus:
Not even sure what to call this...but a fish and a baseball cap are involved. 

Salmon being smoked as pass by toward the stairs
But there will always be more stories to tell: Like how we got interviewed by Norwegian Public Broadcasting and photographed by a drone. I guess I forgot to mention this earlier; it all happened very quickly (and randomly) in about a 30 minutes from meeting our journalist friend (who happened to be driving by and has a weekend house here on the island). 

Allan K. sets out his drone...we run for cover. 
"And this is my neighbor's Malta berry patch..."
Or how you can even take culinary lessons on the Hurtigruten while steaming down coast: 

If you read closely, you'll see the product can be vacuumed on board!
I think these are the on board chefs...
...or maybe the captains or "Norway's Most Eligible Fisherman" calendar of 2015. 
...Or how the first morning in Tromso, I knocked on Al's hotel door to go down to breakfast and mistook him for a middle-aged Norwegian woman. My apologies to all middle-aged Norwegian women. 
After: Hey, its Dr. Wanamaker!

Alas, all good things must come to an end and I've got my lovely wife, 3 dogs, and 5 classes of students to see back home. It has been real Ingoya, I got to hike your tallest peak today (and I will post video if editing time allows), and thanks to all the readers who have put up with my stream of consciousness blog reporting as it is the only way to conserve at least 5 hours of sleep and be useful for more than my witty cyber reporting (strong like bull, smart like tractor).

In the words of Erlend, "We try!" and now, we go...

Video Edit Finished...Last Day's Hike up Tallest Peak on Ingoya

See full resolution version at the link: YouTube!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

6/7: The Seagulls are mocking us...

The Seagulls are mocking us.
Our view from the boat in the open ocean for one last day of deep-water dredging. 
If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Scratch that, they would enjoying 70-degree weather not 70-degree latitude. If it was easy, all the other wack-o's would be up here trying to get Arctic Islandica from the deep water to assemble long term chronologies of the arctic climate with yearly resolution...but they probably don't share the determination of Al/Maddie of Iowa State, the guile of Erlend the fisherman of Ingoy, or the reserves of Julia today toughing out a return to sea legs while keeping a smile the whole time. So accordingly, we wear the difficulty of our task and our meager returns from the water as a badge of courage and we like it that way. Bottom line, it is not easy to get the samples we are trying for but we keep trying....and are actually getting results.
Morning taxi on its way into the dock 
Erlend's boat provides ideal working condition and looks really cool.
To the seagulls that are mocking us: it was a pretty standard day on Ingoya (our second to last), we worked a full day's shift on the seas (the ground is moving as I write this to prove it), got a handful of live clams from ~500 ft. depth, and even managed to catch a couple of fish during the 7-minute window from when the dredge is released to when Erlend exclaims "We try!" Good day and the sea provides, we abides...
The returns from a ~20 minute dredge at about 500 ft. depth. The area we are trying for is deep and devoid of stones but proving tough to fill the dredge. The bottom type is right for the clams but also seems to be littered with shell remnants and urchins. Every few dredge 'the graveyard' turns up live specimens. 
When done correctly, you can catch science and dinner in the same drift
Every live A. Islandica from the deep water is a cause for celebration.  These deep water clams will tell us information on previously unstudied parts of the the North Atlantic currents as well as how these organisms (at the extent of their habitable environment) compare to the shallow water specimens we can collect in abundance. 

The picture all of my friends from rural Maine have been waiting to, catching fish for dinner while we work is the least carbon-intensive form of sustenance. There is not much reason to buy frozen fish in Tromso when...
Expert in dissection? 
Experts in digestion. The camp ate well tonight. 
One more full day here on the island...

PM infantry update: The weather was conducive for a day of cleaning up yesterday's recon. mission w/ Mike, Julie, and Sam on the ground while we were out on the boat. They were able to survey the beach terrace elevations we sampled yesterday as a group and also collect more in-situ material for radiocarbon dating. In-situ means in-position and this important so that we can tie the radiocarbon ages of the shell materials to the formation of the landform. We avoid shells that find their way to sites through happenstance, such as piled by birds or dug up by anything other than us, and don't provide any valuable information on the specific of the organism's living environment. 
Sam is either sampling mollusk shells for radiocarbon dating
 or setting the stage for a disastrously hard easter egg hunt...
Mike sights in the elevation of the raised marine beach ridges
"Dr. Retelle, would you be so kind as to jot this down as I voice my field notes in spoken word..."
Sam and Julie for scale as they occupy a divot into the beach ridge

Saturday, June 6, 2015

6/6: Weather Fixed

Harbor on a Saturday Morning
The people of Ingoy are an incredible bunch. Tonight we were invited to a local gathering of everyone on the island (fairly certain everyone that can walk) to promote the 150th anniversary of their lighthouse happening next summer. Artists from Oslo have come in for the occasion and are planning a theater/dance performance based around the rugged landscape (not my just my words but the theme). Being clearly the only group at the event that did not live there, they were welcoming and curious as to our findings/success on the island and even asked if it was ok that they did the talking at the event in Norwegian. We said that would be fine. They also somehow managed to find an incredible mix of the Beach Boys, Cat Stevens, and CCR to melodically guide us through the social event. Good work...
Erlend's boat in town
The event capped off our afternoon of hitting the peats and sands to determine our last objectives on the island with two days of work left to complete. A nagging question for our geomorphic group has been how to put into context the stair-step-like raised beaches on the southern coast of the island. These beaches are remnant from past sea levels, marking the successive stand stills for beach formation as the crust rebounded out of being glacially depressed (sounds like a downer). 
Follow the ridges you can see somewhat parallel to the coastline inland...those are the stair-steps
In reality, they are the type of landscape feature that surficial geologists dream of (very sequential, easy to recognize in person and from aerial photos, just subtle enough that you can still drive people nuts by getting really excited about them). The only problem with them though has been the availability of dateable material (carbon, not romance) without bringing in heavy 'fern gully' destroying-type machinery. Today we were shown a way to get at the samples needed for radiocarbon dating by the rabbits: Rabbit holes. They are excellent little amateur archaeologists and in many locations have found habitat under the massive peat layers. Our systematic inventory of areas suitable for sampling consisted of starting at the first of the ridges, then following them until we found a hole. Q: Are there shells in the bottom of the hole from Petre Rabbitsan? A: Yes...try there. Next ridge. This is in reality a gross oversimplification but suitable for the purpose of finding shells under thick organic material forming for thousands of years. You ain't just digging...

I will let the pictures and captions tell the rest of the story because it is a beautiful night, the midnight sun will be out in 30 minutes, and I have to try and see if I can get FaceTime to wish my mother, Brenda, a very happy birthday. Please feel free to send warm birthday wishes to: Extra points for further distance from Farmington, ME. She'd think it was great! Night...

Shells are found quite quickly beneath the surface but be weary of areas that have already been dug by human hands.  Is that really a viking ship? Don't mind us, just passing through...
Much of the soil here under the peat is comprised of marine carbonates. Many different types of shells are present and in tact just as common as pebbles in Maine
With scale and a bit closer up
The rabbit hole produces...
Sam shows where to find them...
Now Sam shows the pronounced marine terrace of _____ years ago...
Still good luck?
Efficient living...
Rainbows are apparently a dime a dozen here
Time Stamp: 12:01 am, Sunday, 6/7/2015. Happy Graduation Thornton Academy Seniors!

Friday, June 5, 2015

6/5: Want a better view of the island and Base Camp?

Want a better view and idea of the extent of the island of Ingoya? Here is a video edit from the Mtn. area that I got pictures from yesterday. Included are my handy labels that point out the location of points of interest.

Base Camp Update: Friday Morning
The ship's mast flags are out straight out due to a stiff west wind, there is a mix of rain/sleet blurring berating the glass and obscuring our view out of the windows, and the tundra gnomes and beach trolls  have retired to their hobbit holes in favor of hot tea and continuous streaming of "Frozen" on Amazon Prime. 
The flag atop Thorleifs mast
Accordingly, the team has opted for a data management morning and watching the weather at I've included below a little section in the blog below titled: What does a fully functioning base camp look like? 
The west wind ripping across the island, notice the small boats are in to camp and so are our neighbors...
Minor Commentary: As far as base camps go, the Sjøhus, is an excellent base camp that is a luxury resort compared to many of the field accommodations I've experienced in the Canadian Arctic (or places I've lived in Maine). Thorleif's place has all of the amenities needed to be out in the field "getting science done" and come back to a warm home and kitchen worry free. In short, we can't complain a bit. 
Dr. Retelle gives the thumbs up to data managements when the weather is poor.  
Trapezoidal stairway to the 'ground' floor (honors geometry had to
calculate the board feet used to build these stairs last month). 
This area is usually buzzing with fisherman turning fresh cod into filets around the clock 
There are many trap doors throughout the bottom floor because the entire Sjøhus is built on posts above the coastal bedrock and tides. 
Sjøhus foundation of posts

Walkway connecting the Sjøhus to the road

Thursday, June 4, 2015

6/4: Standing on a Mtn., Watching the Rain Roll In

View from the mtn. peak of the rainbow in front of the Ingoy Long Wave Radio Transmitter, the tallest structure in Scandinavia. 
Geomorphology = Geo (earth) + Morph (shape/form) + ology (the study of) = the study of how the earth changes, specifically, how do the various processes of our our dynamics earth sculpt the landscape and leave us with both our modern environment but also clues as to its evolution through time.

A complex sequence of marine environments combined to produce the landscape at Sanden. Notice the undulating boulder ridges in the center of the image at low tide. 
One of the major tasks of the infantry is to figure out the sea level history of Sanden, a coastal preserve here on Ingoya, through evidence left in the complex landscape of raised beach deposits. The clams within those ancient beaches may serve as indicators of past climate change when their annual rings are compared but also equally importantly be little post cards with radiocarbon time stamps to help us understand the evolution of their surrounding environment. We are geomorphologists. To some, it may look like we walk, take/draw pictures, dig holes, and tell bad jokes...but those are all standard geomorphological techniques.

A view of our base camp, Thorleif's Sjøhus
Today both groups pounded the Scandinavian sands to inspect the landscape, gather more biological clam samples, and check out a potential lake for coring. Coring a lake is basically a big version of  putting your thumb over a straw and then into milk shake. When you take the straw out (core) imagine that instead of delicious Giffords ice cream, you've got hundreds to thousands of years of sediment ready to tell the story of their deposition. There are videos floating around out there of me eating lake mud for grain size analysis and my students shrieking in advice...unless you care about the %clay vs. %silt fraction, stick to the Vanilla Frappe. 

The sky is clear of storms for the moment...
On the way to today's outing, I took advantage of a brief stop in the road (I think Mike was admiring some geese) to hop out of the van and take the high road (rare) over to our meeting point on foot. That meant up and over the knife edge of the mountain which would off some excellent views and a new perspective to try and put some of our puzzling geomorphic features into context. Got caught in a rain/sleet storm but had a blast stretching the legs. On the way back, Julia and Sam joined me on the mountain pass...and of course we got caught in another storm...on a mountain in the middle of the to the tallest structure in all of Scandinavia (Ingoy Long Wave Radio Transmitter). The guy from the Central Maine Power Ads would kill me, but he wouldn't have gotten these pictures. Enjoy:
A lower elevation looking at the paleo-beach ridges of Sanden
A look in the other direction out to the modern beach
As with many peaks in Scandinavia, there is a cairn with a guest book to sign at the top. 
So I signed it...
Storms coming through Trollsund
An elevated view of the group cruising the shoreline
Sam and Julia heading up the mtn. and into the storm
Julia taking in the sights
Sam, just before he tried to throw his phone over the cliff
Watching the storm clouds and isolated rain squalls pass over the Barents Sea
The northernmost manned (when built it was manned) lighthouse in the world