Association of Polar Early Career Scientists


Ever wonder what happens behind the scenes on an Arctic expedition? I wondered this as I prepared for the 2019 MOSAiC school. What to bring, what I would miss, how would I find the crowded conditions on the ship? An expedition with the size and scope of MOSAiC requires many years of planning, and will yield many years’ worth of data. All of this work aside, how do scientists pass the time? What do our instruments look like? And most importantly, how do you survive for weeks without internet??? Read along to find out more behind the snapshots of the MOSAiC school in 52 seconds.


October 7, 2019

Akademik FedRosalie McKay MOSAiC Ambassador Blog 92 Oct 7 1 credits to Rosalie McKayorov arrived at the second L site, L2, the day before, allowing completion of all of the necessary ice assessments. The floe was mapped and the deployment positions planned, meaning that installation could begin first thing in the morning. This made for a very efficient deployment of all instruments and the L2 site was completed in record time!




Setting up an L site (© Rosalie McKay).


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Play ball

October 8, 2019

The Akademik Fedorov was moored to an ice floe to set up an M site, another variation of instruments planned for the Distributed Network. These sites were most often deployed using the helicopter but poor flying conditions meant ship deployment was safer. This ice floe was unstable, so for safety, as few people as possible were permitted on the ice. This meant there was a day off from the ice for students. Having some down time, the competitive sport of “hit the ball” was born. The only rule was to…hit the ball. This became a bit of an obsession in the quest to pass time on the ship. In addition to this new game, we had a handful of card and board games, we played a round of assassin, and devised different games using water bottles and whatever else we had kicking around. We watched movies and tv shows that were downloaded before leaving, and the musically gifted played guitars, ukulele and sang. A lot of reading and writing also went on.

Watch and learn about "Hit the Ball"!


October 9, 2019

Work began on the third and final L site! There was only a half day of work as the ship had to travel to the floe in the morning. The ice was mapped and holes were drilled to place the equipment the next day. Ice cores were also taken, as they were at the previous L sites. 

These ice cores were first sectioned in the lab, then melted, and different parameters will later be analysed, including salinity, biologic components and even sediment. The student team under the guidance of Michael Angelopoulos worked hard to get these samples prepped and the ice data ready for the cruise report. 

The cruise report is an important document needed to catalogue deployment operations so that the data collected can later be used in scientific analysis. Anything that was deployed on the ice was included in this report.

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Collecting, sectioning and melting ice cores (© Rosalie McKay).

The bird cage

October 10, 2019

The great view from this video came from polar bear watch, an important job on the ship. Expedition members rotated duties on the bridge to scan the horizon for intruders anytime people were present on the ice. These two-hour shifts were to increase the number of eyes on the lookout, to keep workers on the ice safe.

There are different ways to get people on and off the ship. Usually, the gangway is pulled out so that expedition members can walk directly down to the ice. This day, a lead (a separation between ice floes) opened up between the ship and the ice floe, and the gangway could no longer be safely used. Instead, the crane lifted people on and off the ice in the bird cage. 

It’s exciting!

October 11, 2019

During the general meeting, Cruise Leader Thomas Krumpen declared the Distributed Network complete! It was a major accomplishment to get all of the equipment deployed in such a short period of time, and we were lucky with weather and ice conditions. Getting all of this work finished allowed travel back to some of the earlier sites to check on the equipment. In all, 3 L sites, 8 M, and 44 P sites were deployed!

Rosalie McKay MOSAiC Ambassador Blog 94 Oct 11 1 credits to Daniel Watkins

Map of the completed Distributed Network courtesy of Daniel Watkins. The Polarstern is located at the Central Floe.

Time to celebrate

October 12, 2019

The Distributed Network was a large, complex undertaking. It was incredible that we had good weather and were able to deploy all of the instruments within the timeframe needed. This meant a lot of teamwork, patience and communication. The plan was constantly changing; it was important for everyone to remain calm, roll with the changes and help each other out as much as possible. Bad weather, faulty instruments or not finding the central MOSAiC ice floe in a timely manner could have been a disastrous start to the expedition. To celebrate this major accomplishment, expedition members had a well-earned party. It gave us a chance to practice our Russian, as Anna Timofeeva and Anne Morgenstern had been trying to teach us some popular Russian songs!

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Singing Russian songs (© Rosalie McKay).

Making Snow

October 13, 2019

Did you know that if you toss boiling water into -22°C air you can make “snow”? MOSAiC students played around with this on board. Boiling water readily emits water vapour, whereas cold, dense -22°C air has a very limited capacity to hold water vapour. Therefore, when you throw the boiling water up, there’s more water vapour than what the air can hold and the vapour condenses out by clinging to tiny particles in the air, like sodium or calcium, and forms crystals. This is similar to how snowflakes are formed.

Students tested out several experiments to develop classroom resources based on Arctic science and the MOSAiC expedition. To access some of these classroom activities click here:

Stay tuned for more material coming out soon!

Check in

October 14, 2019


Every morning during the school, students met at check-in to discuss the daily plan and voice any concerns or ideas. This also made sure everyone was awake and ready for the day’s lectures. It was especially important to make a schedule and stick to it during the Polar Night. Otherwise, the hours start to blend together and you can easily lose track of time. 

Josefine, our fearless leader, often had a little challenge waiting for us; something to wake us up and get our minds and bodies working in the morning. These activities also encouraged team work. Today’s game was lowering a pen swinging on string in to a water bottle. With the limited resources on the ship, she had to be pretty creative! 


Only a team will accomplish the challenge! © Josefine Lenz

Fueling a scientific army

October 15, 2019

In order to do good work, you have to eat well. On a Russian ship, this means huge portions, 4 times a day. Breakfast at 7:30, lunch at 11:30, tea at 15:30 and dinner at 19:30. My personal favourite was the sweet pancakes at tea. Many MOSAiC students are actually vegetarian or eat very little meat, so the Russian dietary options were a little difficult to get used to, as they provided a lot of meat. I think this is partly because it is easy to store in the freezer and keeps the crew full. One can’t be too picky, there is no take-out in the Arctic Ocean! However, I was very impressed with the kitchen’s ability to provide us with fresh fruit nearly every day.

The kitchen staff did a good job of keeping everyone fed and kept to a very strict schedule! We were encouraged not to linger in the mess hall, they wanted us to eat as quickly as possible and clear out immediately when finished. This took some getting used to, as many of us were accustomed to meals being very social. However, I strongly recommend following the rules of the person preparing your food!

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Meals on Akademik Fedorov (© Ryleigh Moore) 



The last yogi

October 16, 2019

Keeping our minds and bodies fit during the expedition was important to keep spirits up. Dr. Jessie Creamean was our yoga instructor for the first half of the voyage but left us to join Polarstern, where she will be carrying out scientific work throughout the coming months. We were sad to see her go but were so glad to have her insight while she was here! Saying goodbye to new found friends was a common occurrence with so many people transfers during our leg of the expedition. We wish everyone the best of luck with their work during MOSAiC!

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Jessie Creamean demonstrating use her portable aerosol sampler to MOSAiC School students. There were many transfers during our leg of the journey. While sad to leave our friends, this meant new people to meet! (© Rosalie McKay)


October 17, 2019

Akademik Fedorov is a Russian ship, which can sometimes make communication challenging. MOSAiC students Igor Vasilevich and Tatiana Matveeva were instrumental in relaying messages and requests with the Russian crew. While we had access to translators to make sure important messages were received, it’s both polite and interesting to gain some new language skills. Anne and Anna worked hard to teach us basic Russian vocabulary throughout the trip. They presented a Russian ‘word of the day’ at each general meeting and used free time in the evenings to set up a casual drop-in class. We learned several important phrases and some vocabulary about our work and the environment too! The crew seemed very happy with our progress over the weeks. With 20 different nations participating in the expedition, there was a lot of opportunity for cultural exchange.

да – da – yes

нет – nyet – no

Доброе утро! – Dobroe utro! – Good morning!

Здравствуйте! – Zdravstvuyte! – formal greeting

До свидания! – Do svidaniya! – Good bye!


October 19, 2019

Rosalie McKay MOSAiC Ambassador Blog 5 Oct 19 1 credits to Rosalie McKay

The best respite from the cold Arctic air is a hot sauna. Built in Finland in 1987, Akademik Fedorov is equipped with a lovely sauna room. Sauna days were a favourite amongst crew and expedition participants alike. It was a chance to warm up, relax and share a chat with some colleagues.

баня – banya – Russian sauna

С лёгким паром! – S lyokhkim parom! – greeting after sauna




Banya on Akademik Fedorov (© Rosalie McKay) Note: your metal water bottle gets really hot!!

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