Our Northernmost Point

I feel like we keep having these turning points in the expedition, and we just had a literal turning point – we hit the northernmost point of the expedition! We reached nearly 85°N latitude (have a look on a globe how close that is to the very top), which was also the end of our latest transects. (New readers, a transect is when we travel on a straight line, from shallow to deep water, and deploy instruments along the way to measure water conditions.) We went out to see what the top of the world looks like, and to watch the latest CTD cast, which was headed down 3500meters (more than 2 miles down), and was the 97th of the expedition! (CTD, as my regular readers will know, stands for conductivity, temperature, depth, and we “cast” the instruments into the ocean to take measurements of the temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen levels, and more, at different depths – from the surface to the bottom.)

Our northernmost point, nearly 85°N latitude (and 90°E longitude) – we’re literally “off the map!”

Our northernmost point, nearly 85°N latitude (and 90°E longitude) – we’re literally “off the map!”


This HUGE gear and pulley system just lowered the CTD instruments into the ocean.

This HUGE gear and pulley system just lowered the CTD instruments into the ocean.

The Sun barely and briefly peeked through cloudy skies, and ice floes were scattered in most directions – from our perspective, it appeared that one of the ice floes had an iceberg sitting in the middle of it, like a castle surrounded by an icy moat. When the CTD came up, and after the scientists gathered the water samples they needed for their experiments, they allowed me to come and take a sample of my own as a souvenir! So, several of us will be lucky enough to bring home water from the BOTTOM of the Arctic!

Our breathtaking view from nearly the top of the world. Photo from Florence van Tulder

Our breathtaking view from nearly the top of the world. Photo from Florence van Tulder

One of the coolest souvenirs you can bring home from anywhere: several of us have gotten Arctic water samples from the CTD. Here, Rob from the International Arctic Research Center is helping me collect a water sample from 1000meters (two-thirds of a mile) down!

One of the coolest souvenirs you can bring home from anywhere: several of us have gotten Arctic water samples from the CTD. Here, Rob from the International Arctic Research Center is helping me collect a water sample from 1000meters (two-thirds of a mile) down!


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34 Responses to Our Northernmost Point

  1. Ashley Vega says:

    Have you encountered any salty whirlpools (eddies or “Meddies) on your trip through the Arctic similar to the eddies or “Meddies” in the Mediterranean sea?

    • lindsay says:

      We have not seen any eddies ourselves since we have been here, as that has not been our specific research focus, but eddies can occur nearly anywhere, whenever there is a difference in density between water masses (and one moves below another), or a coastline or underwater ground features that causes a swirling effect.

  2. Sharon Vazquez says:

    Hi This Is Sharon Vazquez From Leomhs Asking How Are Your Tools Different From The RAFOS Floats ? Have You Thought About Using It ?

    • lindsay says:

      Dear Sharon, we have not used the RAFOS instrument in the Arctic, according to one of the scientists here, because it is used for acoustic navigation, and sea ice covering the water makes it difficult to do that. Our tools mainly use instruments that measure temperature, salinity, oxygen content, etc, of water at different depths (like the CTD instrument). But it has been used in the strait of water between the Arctic and Atlantic! :)

  3. Sharon Vazquez says:

    Goodmorning This Is Sharon Vazquez Coming To You Again From Leomhs Wondering Is There Any Part Of The Ocean That Compares To The Mediterranean Sea ?

    • lindsay says:

      Hi Sharon, fun fact from a scientist onboard – the Arctic Ocean for a long time was considered to be a part of the Atlantic Ocean, because of its size. Some scientists still call it the “Arctic Mediterranean” since it is surrounded by land with only one main entrance/exit. But really, they are comparable in density, because the Arctic is colder (cold water is denser than warm water), but the Mediterranean is saltier (salt water is denser than fresh water).

  4. Twanisha Terry says:

    In The Mediterranean Sea scientist use RAFOS float to measure important ocean properties do you and the other scientists use RAFOS ?

    • lindsay says:

      Dear Twanisha, we don’t use the RAFOS float here, because the sea ice would make it difficult to use the instrument for acoustic navigation. It is a really expensive and specific tool, but it has been used in the Fram Strait, the pathway where the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans meet and interact. But we have not used it here.

  5. Twanisha Terry says:

    Meddies are orginated from the Mediterranean Sea is their a similar feature found in the Artic ?

    • lindsay says:

      Hi Twanisha, in the Arctic and the waters surrounding the ocean itself, eddies, or swirling regions of water, also exist when there is any kind of density gradient in the water between one place and another, which makes one water mass dip below another, causing a swirling effect. So they may occur for multiple reasons, but you can have eddies nearly anywhere.

  6. Shirley John says:

    Hi Lindsay,
    Is the CTD the only instrument you and your fellow friends use if not what other instruments and how do they work?

    • lindsay says:

      Hi Shirley, the CTD is one of the main instruments onboard, and it is continually used throughout the entire expedition because it is such a useful tool. And even though it looks like one instrument, there are MANY tools on it that scientists use for different reasons, like the chemical composition of the water, how water currents move, or how organisms grow in the water. But we also have lots of other equipment onboard, like the moorings (in which we drop anchors to the bottom, attached by a cable to instruments that take water measurements even after we left, or the equipment to deploy the buoys (like the ice-tethered profiler, the ice-mass balance buoy, O-buoy) onto the sea ice itself, to continually measure ice and water conditions. So there is a lot onboard!

  7. Yennyfer Jimenez says:

    What are some of the changes between the top of the world to where you started the expedition?

    • lindsay says:

      Dear Yennyfer, if you grab a map or a globe, you can see just how far we have gone (or click on the “Expedition Route” page of the blog website). We started the expedition at the very top of Norway, and went all the way around the Arctic (on the Russian side), to the edge of the East Siberian Sea. Our highest latitude we reached was about 85°N, and that latitude looks a lot different than the northern coast of Norway! We have seen lots of beautiful sea ice and open ocean, and animals too. The 5 weeks of the expedition was not long enough for us to see any changes in conditions due to seasons or the climate, but this place definitely looks different from anywhere else I’ve seen!

  8. Ian Navarrete says:

    Hi I am a student from L.E.O.H and I have a question about your tools. Do you something called the RAFOS float? If you don’t do you use something similar? Does it make a difference in the cold water compared to normal water or hot water temperatures? Thank You

    • lindsay says:

      Dear Ian, we do not use the RAFOS tool in the Arctic. It has been used in the Fram Strait, which is a pathway between the Arctic and the Atlantic. Since its main purpose is for acoustic navigation, RAFOS has not been used in the Arctic, since the presence of sea ice covering the water would make it hard to use. We use other instruments like the CTD and moorings to study water properties and currents. A mooring is when we lower an anchor down to the ocean floor, with a cable running up almost to the way to the surface. We put floatation at the top to keep the cable vertical in the water, and scientific instruments along the cable tell us about water conditions. The CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth) is a set of devices that is lowered into the ocean at multiple locations, and then raised up with water samples so we can run direct experiments.

  9. Damari Marichal says:

    There are Meddies in the Mediterranean, that measures the sea surface temperature, color, and height; is there any similar features that has been found in the arctic ocean?

    • lindsay says:

      Hi Damari, we have not observed them here in the Arctic, as it’s not part of our research program, but they do exist, in the Arctic, on smaller scales. They can exist anywhere there is a density gradient.

  10. Audrey Houston says:

    Hi Lindsay, I was wondering how the experiments the scientists conduct with the samples of water they collect, work? Do they involve comparing water conditions with other areas and if so, what have they concluded/learned about the water conditions from their results?

    • lindsay says:

      Hi Audrey, absolutely, you are right, one of the most important things is to do those chemistry experiments on the water samples at multiple locations. That way, we can see how the chemical properties of water change over time and distance, to see how water from different parts of the world flow into, around, and through each other. It is also a great way to see firsthand that the entire Earth is connected through the oceans and atmosphere.

  11. Audrey Houston says:

    I’m also curious to know if experiments are conducting in labs on board or stored for further testing? And how would you expect the water from the bottom of the very top of the world to differ from the deep parts of other areas, maybe where there is a warmer climate?

    • lindsay says:

      Hi Audrey, once you get to the bottom of the ocean, the temperature is pretty much the same all over the world, only about a couple degrees above freezing. And there are lots of experiments to study water samples back in the lab! They study the growth of phytoplankton, the chemical makeup of the water to learn how water currents move from one ocean to another – and there are other experiments yet to be done, so scientists will be doing those back at their home laboratories, but still working together. I’m posting some of the expedition results so far, so check back on the blog!

  12. Jennifer Darias says:

    Wow, it must have been so cold given the very high latitude! On your expedition so far, have you been able to gain any new insight as to what roles natural forces play in the current global warming trend and how global warming is affecting sea levels in the arctic?

    • lindsay says:

      Dear Jennifer, that is something that scientists are working on right now. There are so many factors, like wind, temperature, chemical content, ocean, ice, atmosphere, that there are computer models working more details out all the time.

  13. Dedric Hill says:

    Hi Lindsay! How are the RAFOS made? When were they made and how do they work?

    • lindsay says:

      Hi Dedric, we have not used the RAFOS instrument, so I’m not sure how it is made, but I learned from a scientist onboard that it is used for acoustic navigation purposes. It is difficult to use in the Arctic therefore, because the presence of sea ice makes it difficult to communicate with the RAFOS instrument.

  14. Nicolas Perez says:

    Hi im Nicolas Perez, how much do the equipment cost and do you know how to use all of them??

    • lindsay says:

      Hi Nicolas, to be honest I am not sure of the total cost, but I know that the entire helicopter deck of the ship was covered with equipment on the day that we left, and it took a crane all day to lower it down, so I’m guessing a lot. And also, I’m not sure that anyone onboard knows all the equipment – everyone has their specialty!

  15. Luiggi Aranzales says:

    Hi lindsay, I’m from LEOMHS and i was just wondering if you could drink the water that you guys got as a souvenir. Would you guys have to filter it first or can you just drink it like normal.

    • lindsay says:

      Hi Luiggi, I am bringing back water that was sampled from thousands of feet under the surface, so I don’t think I’d want to drink that, as that is salt water. But I also am bringing back water from sea ice on the surface, which is fresh water, so I could drink that in theory, but I’d rather have it as a souvenir!

  16. Esther Evora says:

    Hey, this is Esther from L.E.O.M. I was wondering about what school or collage did you attend to before you went on the expedition? I was also wondering who or what encouraged you to become a scientist and go on such a big expedition to the Arctic?

    • lindsay says:

      Hi Esther, I have always been interested in science, when my parents and grandparents took me to a science museum and told me about the Sun and planets. Thinking about the huge scale of the universe I thought was so inspiring, and I wanted to learn what else was in the world. So I went to college and got my degree in Physics and Astronomy, and then I went to graduate school to earn a Master’s degree, also in Physics and Astronomy. And it’s still fascinating!

  17. Esther Evora says:

    When you were talking about how your team and you are almost, or are, on top of the world, do you feel that the oxygen pressure changes around you or do you feel that it is the same as if you were to be, lets say, here in Florida?

    • lindsay says:

      Hi Esther, what you have to remember is that although we are on the “top” of the world, we are also right at sea level – so there is a difference between “north” and “up.” The Earth is a sphere, and we are at the far northern latitudes, but we are still at surface atmospheric pressure. :)

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