Today I was woken as usual around 5 am as my cabin mate, affectionately known as the ‘One Man Riot’ by his colleagues in the Swedish Air Force Meteorology Group, prepared himself for work. He’s great fun, but incapable of silence. Usually we have a short chat, but this morning I was too tired, and continued to hide behind the curtain separating my bunk from the room, and my bed from the light.

After this first false start a call from a colleague in the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat woke me, fifteen minutes earlier than expected at 6.15 am. We were already on station for our CTD. I was expecting half an hour to prepare the equipment before we arrived. I dressed and hurried out to the CTD container on the bow deck, where Lars was already checking the instrument – a combination of a carousel of bottles for water sampling, and an instrument measuring salinity, oxygen content and temperature of the seawater.

We connected the instrument, opened the winch housed in a container on the deck above and called the bridge to let them know we’d be putting it in the water. We began as the scientist arrived. This group are most interested in Mercury concentrations in the water, as it is a toxic heavy metal that can contaminate the food chain. The instrument can also give you information about ocean currents, and is standard oceanography equipment on research vessels like Oden.

Once the instrument was in the water and on the way down, I fetched coffee and oranges for the three of us, whilst they tracked its progress towards the seabed. As they closed bottles on the way up, I sat next to them and worked on a tricky problem with a spreadsheet formula for a colleague – which is much harder without the internet we’re so used to at home and in the office.
By the time we were finished, around 9 am, the Louis S. St-Laurent was approaching Oden. I knew we planned to pass some rocks to them from our dredging operations at some point, but I didn’t know it was happening today – we had missed the morning meeting for the CTD work.

I stood on deck preparing a couple of water samples for the meteorology group; surface water to be returned to Stockholm University for analysis of greenhouse gas concentrations (carbon dioxide and methane). The Louis pulled alongside as I was doing so, with our deck crew preparing ropes to hold the ships together. We watched her break the ice between us, and then went inside to remove our warm clothing and eat a late breakfast.

The ship which was deserted earlier this morning was now more alive, and people were milling around with a little excitement or expectation showing on their faces. Apparently we may have the chance to get aboard the Louis. It was 26 days since she joined us, and we were about to visit our colleagues for the first time, and the ship that has been either in front of us, over our shoulders or going past the port-holes for almost the past month.

Soon I was signing out on our gangway, and saying hello to a Canadian deck hand at the other end. My first impression of Louis was I have to duck a lot; the ceiling is low. After 26 days of seeing the same faces and hearing the same voices and being stuck on a 100m long ship, it was exciting to see something new.

Darren, a Canadian multi-beam operator working on our ship but familiar with the Louis was giving us a tour. We rushed around, busily comparing everything we saw to Oden, and stopping to talk to a few crewmembers. Up on the bridge I heard a lot of accents that sounded quite Irish – apparently the Newfoundlander accent is similar. Louis’ home port is St Johns, Newfoundland.
We found their sauna – a small box, shorter than my height that can fit two people and sitting in a space that was a cross between our heli-deck store and our gym. I found a bone mounted to a plaque in the ships lounge, apparently kissing it granted a wish. I gave the wish a minute’s thought, and then the bone a kiss, before moving on.

Michelle kontrollerar utrustning

Michelle Nerentorp kontrollerar sin utrustning på Oden. När fartygen möttes, reagerade några av mätinstrumenten på avgaserna. Foto: Åsa Lindgren

We saw their multi-beam station, a space full of computer screens and humming servers. This has been one of the crucial instruments for this expedition – as Canada surveys the sea floor, to help with their submission to the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea programme (UNCLOS), in order to attempt to claim rights over continental shelf in this region.
We had an ice cream in the ship’s mess, and spoke to a few more crew members. Being English I took a couple of tea bags from the mess – I’m looking forward to one this evening, as good tea is sorely lacking on a Swedish ship. We headed to the store to pick up a Canadian Coast Guard T-shirt, and then I headed back to Oden. I took over running our shop, so that a colleague could go aboard. The shop was fun, and gave me a chance to find out more about what people did on Louis and where they were from, which seemed to be all over Canada.

I spoke to the Marine Mammal Observer who will spend the rest of the expedition on our ship as we make our way back to Longyearbyen, Svalbard. He is from northern Canada, so I’m no longer the person on board living closest to the North Pole. I live in Abisko, northern Sweden, where Abisko Scientific Research Station is located.

After a quick lunch I gave a couple of tours, pointing out our two much larger saunas, I sold a few more T-shirts and headed back to the Louis for a group photo. I had stuffed my pockets with Swedish Polar Research Secretariat pin badges, and handed them out to people I spoke to. I was also happy that I could personally return 5 dollars to a cadet in the crew that I had accidentally short-changed in the shop. I gave her a badge too – good for making friends with. Word had got around and a few people were coming to me asking for one.

Later after returning to Oden, I stood outside on our helideck and spoke over the side to two Canadians – the ship’s doctor who had given me a Canadian Space Agency badge in return of my own, and a lawyer working with the Canadian Diplomatic Service, who was working on Canada’s UNCLOS submission. For half an hour we talked about home, work, continental shelves, UNCLOS and countries with and without an Arctic coastline.

Lars and I threw over a few more bundles of Polar badges, brochures and pens, along with our cards, whilst the deck crews used a crane to move boxes of samples to the Louis. We moved higher to the fourth deck to watch as the gangway was removed, and the ships parted. The ships blew their horns as we waved goodbye, and that was my signal to go back to work and prepare for the helicopter fire squad.

By the time I was dressed and helping the scientists load the helicopter for an ice station – sampling from the ice away from the ship – the Louis was off in the distance. We both have another 18 days at sea, but now we’re working alone and slowly making our way back to our respective homes. Our two little communities are separated once more, but we’ll no longer glimpse the red and white ship over our shoulder.