For 10 days scientists from Norut Narvik have wandered with ice drills and zip-lock bags on the drift ice of Svalbard.
For the second consecutive year, the scientists made the trip to Svalbard in order to become a little wiser about the composition of the sea ice and pressure ridges in the area.
Last year only Norwegian researchers participated in the project. However, this year the research team also comprised scientists from the Luleå University of Technology and the National Research Council in Canada.
Researching for the industry
The aim of the project, which currently has a project scope of five years, is to find out how to construct, for instance, an oil platform that will withstand the challenges that cold climates bring, such as solid drift ice.
“We are collecting data about the density of the ice, the composition of the ice in the large pressure ridges and how much force is needed to break the ice,” says Bjørnar Sand, Research Manager for Cold Climate Technology at Norut.
The research group collected many samples in Svalbard, and have taken around 200 kg of ice back to Luleå, where they will carry out further research.
“Last year we took around 1000 kg of ice home, so we are starting to gather a lot of data about the composition of the ice,” says Peter Wide, Project Manager for ColdTech.
When all the information is collected, the scientists will be able to provide the industry specific feedback about the considerations that need to be taken when a platform is being constructed in the Barents Sea.
The coast guard as an experimental object
The research group received solid help from the Norwegian Coast Guard this year too. Not only did the Norwegian Coast Guard place the ship and crew on the KV Svalbard at the research team’s disposal during the entire expedition, the scientists were even able to use the actual ship as an experimental object.
“In order to measure how much force is needed to break through the ice, we mounted measuring equipment on the hull of the ship,” says Sand. “The reason for testing this is to see how strong a construction in the Barents Sea must be to withstand large floes of ice hitting the construction.”
“We don’t get quite the same results by when the ship is driven into the ice as when the ice hits the construction. But given that we don’t have a construction to test this on, we can get a good indication of what the results will be like by doing it in this way.”
This time the research team really got to feel what it is like to stay in a cold climate.
“This expedition was the complete opposite of what we experienced last year when we had sunshine and real Easter weather. This time we encountered winter cold and poor visibility. When it’s minus 24 and it’s blowing a storm, it’s cold to do research work,” says Wide, adding that for most of the time they experienced a wind chill factor of -55 °C.
In order to prevent anyone from getting frostbite, the team focused on being observant and communicating well with each other when they were on the ice and, not least, working in short shifts. However, despite the cold climate, the team collected copious quantities of samples.
“The initial plan was to have a total of three expeditions to Svalbard. But we will now continue to work with the samples we have already taken,” concludes Wide.