The last Saturday on the cruise was spent dismounting most of the equipment, while the ship laid still and drifting near the ice edge (where the transition from open water to ice is in the sea). The rest of the gear will follow the ship to Helsingborg, and be taken off during demobilization later in October. For myself, my equipment consisted of some cables and a laptop, so I managed to bring it with me in my bag.
On Saturday evening, we had a big end-of-cruise dinner, not unlike the fancy dinner we had the first Saturday. Everyone got dressed up, and there was speeches, good food and, as always, good company. We got our official “North Pole certificates”, a nice diploma confirming that we have reached the top of the world on icebreaker Oden. It will certainly be framed on my wall.
Midnight before Sunday we started the transit from the ice edge towards Longyearbyen. The timing was a bit unfortunate, as there was a low pressure passing by our exact path with high speed. This meant high waves and winds. We had winds over 30 m/s (more than 100 km/h – imagine sticking your head out the window when the car goes that fast) and waves of 5-7 metres. Oden is an excellent icebreaker, but this also means that she is designed to handle ice and not waves (like most ships). Thus, her movements in waves are harsh. On Sunday, there was hardly anybody out and about, as everyone spent the day in their cabins, trying not to feel to sick. Nicke posted a video taken from the bridge, 30 metres above the water line. Large forces at play!
Large waves also means it can be difficult to walk in a straight line:
After a long and stormy night, we arrived in Longyearbyen early Monday. Docking at the quay is apparently expensive, so Oden anchored in the middle of the fjord. This meant that the only way of getting to shore is by a small shuttle boat, taking six persons at a time. Fortunately, we got some visitors on board; some Swedish VIP’s and the new crew. Thus, we got to utilize the opportunity to go to shore with the shuttle while they were on the ship.
The last night on the ship, the night before Tuesday, felt strange. Everyone had packed their bags, ready to be shuttled off to shore early the next day. The night culminated with everyone in the galley. The crew had caught five “hyse” (haddocks) earlier, and cook Raj Raj filleted them up and fried them fresh in pieces for everyone to taste. The guys got excited, and were out on deck trying to reel in more. And with great success! I believe there was at least seven more haddocks being caught, cut and bleed out in the sink in the galley.
Tuesday, we were shuttled in to Longyearbyen from early morning. I was on the first shuttle, and spent some time in the University Centre of Svalbard (UNIS), waiting for the others. I remember anxiously checking my email and social media channels. After six weeks with hardly any contact with the rest of the world, it suddenly felt strange to have “everything” available at my fingertips and notifications demanding my attention. When the others arrived, we spent some time in the city looking around, going to the Svalbard Museum (we even had some time to relax) and doing some shopping.
When it was time, were all in shuttled out to the airport to catch the 14:45 flight to Tromsø, and onward to Oslo. I had a connecting flight in Tromsø to Trondheim, and had to say goodbye to everyone with tear-filled eyes.
It was with a heavy heart that I left Svalbard, the Oden and the people with which I have spent the last six weeks at sea. The Arctic Ocean 2016 research cruise have been one of the most amazing times of my life. I have had so many amazing experiences, learned so much and made friends for life. To say goodbye to these friends without knowing when or if I will see them again fills me with sorrow. Of course, in these days, we have Facebook and internet and all things connected, but it will not the same. Being on a ship for six weeks, doing everything and experiencing something so unique together leads to a special connection. I will forever be grateful for this experience, and am truly happy to have met all these amazing people, both crew and scientists on the Oden during Arctic Ocean 2016. Thank you all, you will forever have a special place in my heart.