November 26, 2020
‘I heard from the ship that two bears were walking directly towards us. I told the scientists to pack up. When they said no, I showed no mercy’
In the autumn of 2019, I joined an expedition to the Arctic. We set sail from Tromsø, Norway, on 20 September, on the Polarstern icebreaker. There were 100 people on board – 60 scientists and 40 crew – but the ship was big enough that it never felt crowded. There were people you didn’t see for days.
The plan was to find the perfect ice floe to anchor to, then drift for one year through the central Arctic Ocean and the six-month long night of the Arctic winter – about which we have almost no scientific data. The study was the first time that this oceanographic, sea ice, atmospheric, ecosystem and biogeochemistry research had ever been done at this scale. On 4 October, the ship turned off its engine in order to become frozen into the sea ice. That was the last day of daylight. The days got shorter very quickly, and the darkness was intense. Mostly it was overcast. You couldn’t see the stars. You couldn’t hear anyone speak, either, because of the constant wind.