Photo by Anastasiya LOMAKINA
The thirteenth voyage of the Arctic Floating University-2021 lasted twenty-one days, during which time the scientific-research expedition vessel Mikhail Somov took the following route: Arkhangelsk – Malyye Karmakuly – Cape Zhelaniya - the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago – the oceanographic incision Cape Zhelaniya – the Salm Island – Franz Josef Land – Arkhangelsk. Some field studies were carried out on Islands Hooker, Heiss and Bell (Franz Josef Land, Russian Arctic National Park).
Northern (Arctic) Federal University (NArFU) together with Northern Department of Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring with the RGS support have conducted a unique marine research and educational project onboard the research vessel at high latitudes since 2012. One of its goals is to obtain new knowledge about the condition and changes in the ecosystem of the Arctic archipelagos coastal territories.
GARBAGE TELLS ABOUT THE CURRENTS
The members of expedition take educational courses and perform research work in the waters of the Barents Sea, allowing them to gain knowledge of the Arctic region in expeditionary conditions of the high-latitude Arctic. The plastic waste pollution of the Barents Sea marine ecosystem (including Franz Josef Land Archipelago) and its impact on various ecosystem components (habitats – coasts, water area; biota – birds, hydrobionts) have been assessed this year. Two landfills on two sections of Zhelaniya Cape coastline (Novaya Zemlya archipelago) were surveyed: from the side of the Barents Sea and from the side of the Kara Sea. According to a special methodology, the search for wastes thrown out by the sea was carried out along the entire width from the water’s edge to the snow line: from macro- to micro fractions, including metal, wood, glass. Six large bags of anthropogenic garbage were collected on the Barents coast. About ten times less they were found on the Kara coast. The composition of the garbage was very different: the Barents Sea garbage consisted of the remnants of fishing gear and bottles from various cosmetic products of European origin, plastic dishes, bottles, etc., while the Kara sea debris was mostly metal, left over from economic activities on Novaya Zemlya.
The research on Bell Island of Franz Josef Land was conducted for the first time. The inspection of the 100-meter landfill on the southern coastline discovered a large amount of plastic waste (two large bags). These were mostly remnants of fishing gear, fish boxes, and other waste from fishing boats; however, there was almost no domestic plastic waste. These differences suggest different sources of pollution and different pathways for its spread, depending on the currents. The description of the garbage collected will be according to the internationally accepted Marine Framework Directive classification and recommendations of the OSPAR Convention and the information may subsequently be added to the international database on marine debris in the North Atlantic region.
HOW THE GULF STREAM IS DOING
The expedition also conducted oceanographic studies of the current hydrological conditions in the Barents Sea and inland waters of the Franz Josef Land archipelago. Their purpose was to understand the distribution of warm waters originating from the Atlantic Ocean, penetrating into the sea from the west, north and northeast. The main task was to probe the water column and take samples from predetermined horizons in the oceanologic section from Cape Zhelaniya on Novaya Zemlya to Salm Island. Nineteen oceanographic stations were established: 16 on the main transect and three in the inland areas of FJL. Water samples for chlorophyll, bacterial composition, methane and other components were taken at 13 stations. The transect was completed in 41 hours, taking into account its length of about 370 km and average depth of about 250 m, this is quite a good result.
The initial data between the eighth and twelfth stations identified Atlantic waters belonging to the Barents Sea branch of AWM (Atlantic water mass). They are characterized by a positive temperature and increased salinity (about 35%), and their upper boundary is at a depth of about 100 meters. In order to trace the water exchange, heat and salt transport of this water mass and to understand how the Atlantic affects this region, a further comparative analysis with the results of past years is required.
The Arctic Floating University expeditions regularly conduct oceanologic and meteorological studies of the current hydrological conditions of the Arctic seas, as well as studies of the processes of distribution and transformation of warm Atlantic waters in the Barents and Kara Seas. Over several years, together with the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, more than 750 oceanologic stations in the White, Barents, Greenland and Kara Seas have been processed and over more than 10,000 samples have been selected for hydrochemical research. They systematized and added to databases the data obtained during the voyages to complete the picture of long-term variability of the hydrological regime in the Arctic Ocean seas. Such data allows to study the regional climatic changes in progress, improve ice forecasts for the Arctic seas, and contribute to the assessment of marine bioresources.
WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH VESSELS (R/V) DO SCIENTISTS NEED?
All previous Arctic Floating University expeditions were held on the research vessel Professor Molchanov, but this year and for the first time the legendary Mikhail Somov research expedition vessel (R/V) was used. It is mainly intended for marine research and delivery of specialists and cargoes to hydro-meteorological stations located on the coast and islands of the Russian Arctic.
Research vessels have to meet specific requirements, which the customer defines. One of the indispensable requirements taken into account when choosing equipment and machinery is the suppression of different kinds of interferences (noise, vibration, etc.).
The design of R/V focuses on providing functional interconnection of shipboard and laboratory equipment. The vessel should be equipped with special navigational equipment for precise positioning at sea, special hydroacoustic equipment, as well as more powerful means of radio communication and radio navigation than on other ships. Research vessels working in the Arctic zone should have high ice class, rooms to place the mobile laboratories quickly, as well as a helipad.
Construction and commissioning of the North Pole Ice-resistant self-propelled platform will enable year-round research in the central part of the Arctic Ocean and will help to increase knowledge about the Arctic significantly.
The Arctic seas and archipelagos, like a century ago, are still in many ways a blank spot on the map of science. The Arctic Floating University continues the tradition of multidisciplinary marine expeditionary research of the Floating Marine Research Institute, and also refines and complements the data in oceanology, hydrometeorology, and biodiversity obtained in previous studies.
Floating universities are a special form of education, where students get practical skills, and at the same time are involved in all stages of the research process together with leading scientists and specialists - from problem formulation to publications preparation. In recent years, the Arctic Floating University has become a calling card of the Lomonosov NArFU and well known outside of Russia. The leading research and educational centers of our country as well as foreign universities and research institutes engaged in Arctic research show interest in participating in such complex expeditions.
North Pole LSP will allow a year–round research