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SCIENCE NEWS: A year long expedition spotlights night life in the Arctic winter

In a ship deliberately embedded in an ice floe, scientists are studying the base of the food web


published in Science News, by Shannon Hall

08 April 2020



Alfred Wegener Institute biologist Allison Fong (left) and chemical oceanographer Robert Rember of the University of Alaska Fairbanks sample water and ice — to study the organisms within — from a crack on the ice floe on October 10.

Photo: Esther Horvath



Excerpt from the article. Click here to read full article.


Allison Fong dangles over the edge of a “river” running through a massive chunk of sea ice floating between the North Pole and Russia’s Komsomolets Island. The river cracked open in the ice just a few days ago, exposing the Arctic Ocean below. Already starting to freeze over, the river’s surface is a dark scar in the white landscape.

The crack could open further, destabilizing or even cleaving the 3-kilometer-wide floe. To avoid falling into the hypothermia-inducing waters (which hover at –1.8° Celsius), Fong distributes her weight on her hands and knees and is tethered to a stronger piece of ice a few meters away.

She looks at ease as she pulls a chunk of recently frozen ice from the crack and squeezes it slightly. It seems solid, but it compresses like a cube of Jell-O, which means the chunk hasn’t completely frozen and still contains small chambers of liquid water. Those chambers are home to microscopic organisms that will remain trapped in the ice throughout winter — enduring pitch-black days and frigid temperatures from October until March, when the sun finally returns.


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