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Welcome aboard our expedition to the Arctic Ocean. From Svalbard we adventure northward towards the sea ice aboard R/V Lance, a Norwegian research vessel. We’ve got loads for you to explore – Dispatches about life and science at sea written by Dallas Murphy as well as podcasts, videos and pictures about our expedition. You can also take a tour of the ship and read our email exchanges with the five schools that followed along. To get started, click the "Our Journey" button below.

Thanks to Rob at Feral Equipment for supplying us with equipment.

Our Journey


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What follows is a multimedia portal into a seldom-seen, largely unknown world. The practice of oceanography—particularly in the High Arctic—takes place in isolation aboard small ships far beyond the sight and ken of the shoreside public. This website seeks to reveal that world, its special way of life and work, as well as the science and its relevance to those who remain ashore. [read more...]

A sign beside the post office door in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen reads: “Please leave your rifles outside.” It isn’t directed at hunters but at hikers and skiers who come from everywhere to experience the glaciers, snowfields and black-rock wilderness lying just beyond the town’s dead-end roads. You’re not allowed into the wilderness without packing a rifle, to be used only in a last-ditch act of self-preservation against polar bear attack. The bears are protected on Spitsbergen; you’d better not shoot one unless its jaws are just about to crush your skull and you have witnesses to the peril. [read more...]

It’s an exquisite day up here a tick south of 82° N, dead-flat seas, bright sun and azure sky after days thick o’ fog. If you didn’t know better, if you ignored the GPS coordinates, the flocks of Arctic-adapted fulmars parked like ducks on an urban-park pond, the passing formations of guillemots and little auks with their frenetic wing beats, you’d think we were afloat in the Gulf Stream. It’s not so surprising that we’ve had gentle weather here north of the Atlantic storm track, but sun—that’s surprising and invigorating. [read more...]

I like to think of these Arctic oceanographic cruises as exploration. What we’re doing is different in every physical sense from the grueling, perilous, scurvy-ridden expeditions of the past, but the modern oceanographic expedition partakes of the same tradition and spirit, I contend, and not merely because my heroes have always been explorers. We seek to understand how the Arctic works and how its workings relate to the lower-latitude world. But, then, there’s precedent in the 19th century scientific expeditions. [read more...]

It snowed last night, and it’s cold and slippery on deck. The mooring ops complete, Lance is quiet, hardly anyone topside. In several days, we’ll head for Tromsø, her homeport, a three-day steam from our present position. She’s been parked on that position for the last 24 hours of repeated CTD casts in order to measure local tides. Though of small moment to mariners, tides ebb and flow in the open ocean, but they only become visible when they encounter land features like bays and fjords that constrict and accelerate tidal flow. [read more...]

The mountains, islands, and headlands on the north coast of Norway hove into sight at 0930 Monday, the last day of September, 2013. Shall we call that the end of our cruise, though we’re still 24 hours from the dock at Tromsø? When does an oceanographic expedition end? When the science is complete? When we pull within cell phone range of civilization? When we pose on the bow for the group photo? When the heaving lines arc over the rail onto the dock?
We ran the final CTD section on Friday, across a deep trench trending north-south, another likely conduit of warm Atlantic water. Then we turned onto 180°, Tromsø bound. But the “tourism” was not complete, some fantastic sights still to see on the northeast coast of Svalbard. [read more...]