Back in town – the end of the Blog

The CLEOPATRA II field campaign has returned home safe, after a very successful time in Rijpfjorden. Two helicopter flights brought as back as scheduled, half of the team returning at 12:00 (with a lot of cargo) and the other half at 15:00 on Tuesday. After a looong shower and changing to new clothes, we started unpacking and cleaning all the equipment. And of course, had a delicious dinner and a couple of beers out in town.

This marks the end of our campaign blog. Eventually we will replace the low-res pictures we sent by satellite phone with high-res versions and place a slide show on top of the page, but there will be no more new blog entries.

CLEOPATRA II as a project will of course continue, and for updates regarding the project, preliminary results and future plans, please refer to the official CLEOPATRA II homepage: – this page is under construction right now, but will hopefully contain more information soon.

Thank you for following our blog! We hope you had a good time here and please do not hesitate to take contact if you have any questions.


Our home for 2 weeks - soon empty in the wilderness again

Our home for 2 weeks – soon empty in the wilderness again

Quite some cargo - up to the roof - on the helicopter made sitting about as comfortable as on a low-fare airline

Quite some cargo – up to the roof – on the helicopter made sitting about as comfortable as on a low-fare airline

Never mind the lack of space, we were looking forward to a shower and some non-dried food

Never mind the lack of space, we were looking forward to a shower and some non-dried food

And here we are - back at UNIS, after a long shower and with new clothes, waiting for the second flight to land

And here we are – back at UNIS, after a long shower and with new clothes, waiting for the second flight to land


The final day in Camp Cleo II – cleaning up the mess

As you can imagine, the last day was entirely dedicated to cleaning up 14 days of hard scientific camp life. Taking down the lab went – maybe not too surprising – about 10 times faster than setting it up. We decided to bend the “do not leave any traces behind” rule a bit and did not shuffle the 10 t snow which we removed back in place. Guess Sysselmannen will be fine with that.

Malin documented every single piece of equipment with a picture before packing it down, Einar did the scooter stunt of the year, reversing the scooter back in the box, with 1 cm clearance and without chopping of his head, Miriam was extremely excited about finally shuffling snow again, Daniel collected all his cables and electronics, Janne tried to keep control, keep us all busy and tried to eat up all of the remaining chocolate and Josef took care of the LiCores, after a not so successful final light transect in the morning.

Now everything is ready for the pickup tomorrow and we celebrated with yet another fantastic sauna – to be the first field team ever to get back to town after two weeks in the field smelling fresh like Svalbard spring flowers. Now there will be a last extraordinary dinner prepared by Einar – Salmon with vegetables – and Malin – cake – and tomorrow we will be (weather depending) back in town for a beer or two and a looong shower!


Final sampling day – Cleo II goes music [updated 13 may 2013]

Janne Søreide, our project leader and camp master, is a member of the ARCTOS network (, which has a tradition of bringing artists and scientists together in the PolArt project. Inspired by this, another ARCTOS member, Tobias Tamelander, approached the Cleopatra 2 field team with the unusual request to produce an introduction to a music video. Cleo 2 is of course devoted to science, but today, finally, after the end of the sampling, Malin, Janne and Daniel sacrificed their coffee break to produce a soon-to-famous intro to a music video of the soon-to-be-famous band French For Cartridge ( So, at some point after our return, you will probably meet us in a very unusual context. We will let you know when “Cleo 2 goes Antarctica (in Rijpfjorden)” goes viral!

UPDATE 13 May 2013:

Our artistic music video introduction, together with the actual video by French for Cartridge are now online.

Direct YouTube link:

On the science part of life, both team phytoplankton and team zooplankton had the last sampling of this campaign. Several more ice cores, more horizontal under-ice nets, light and CTDs were taken today – all without any hassle. We also managed to give the Lønne-pump a long sampling run, which is probably what it needs. 2h of pumping water from right beneath the ice through a 60 um mesh container produced a beautiful sample of ice alga clogging the net, and plenty of copepods. So, the future of zooplankton and phytoplankton sampling is not dragging endless numbers of nets through the ocean. Just deploy a couple of pumps, have a looong coffee break or watch a good movie, drag them out again, and ready is your sample. Life can be so easy if you are smart!

The end of the sampling means the beginning of the packing down marathon. ROVi, some nets and some other stuff is already boxed up and ready to for the ride home, but the big de-mobilization of camp Cleo 2 will start tomorrow. Therefore, time for the second last night in Bjørnehiet and Sukkerbiten. Good night civilisation! See you soon!


Todays special: A real science blog! 14 days in the field summarized

Spring arrives Rijpfjorden! When we sampled first time 4 May the sea was still in a «frozen mode». Sea water temperatures around the freezing point (-1.8 °C) with beautiful ice lamellas on the bottom of the sea ice covered by a ~1 cm thick carpet of brownish ice algae. Sea ice was still forming and nice stalactites due to sea ice formation and thus brine rejection was seen from the underwater filming with the ROV. Dominating ice algae were the pennate diatom Nitzschia frigida which is normally the most numerous species to be found in first year sea ice around Svalbard and elsewhere in the Arctic (see picture).
The zooplankton community in Rijpfjorden in May 2013 consists mainly of the large Calanoid copepod Calanus glacialis. Now impressive abundances of C. glacialis females exist just under the sea ice. They have nice green guts – taking advantage of ice algae washed out from the sea ice due to tidal currents. The number of females with green guts has increased steadily from the beginning to mid-May hand in hand with the egg production rates. 6 of May roughly half of the inspected females had green guts while in mid-May almost all (80%) have green guts. The egg production rate started low (mean 3.5 eggs per female per day) but is increasing and has almost tripled (11 eggs per female per day) today with egg clutch sizes of up to 78 eggs per female. In ice free Kongsfjorden maximum egg production rates (65 eggs per female per day) were reached in early May this year when the phytoplankton bloom was peaking. Similar rates will soon occur in Rijpfjorden where the production has been a bit delayed due to algal food limitation. Still the ice algae are holding their grip to the bottom of the sea ice in Rijpfjorden, but as soon as the sea temperatures rise a bit more they will be slugged off and Calanus glacialis will get access to more food. In the sea ice covered Billefjorden close to Longyearbyen, the C. glacialis egg production rates this year have increased steadily from the sea ice algae started to grow in early April (one month earlier than in Rijpfjorden!) reaching maximum egg production rates these days (66 eggs per female per day).


99 colorful balloons – 10. May 2013

Happy Birthday to Janne!

This day started quite early at about 3 am in the morning when Janne`s first birthday visitor stepped into the tripwire and woke us up. Our big yellow-whitish “guest” was very polite waiting at the entrance of our camp-fence area. He (Miriam calls him Felix) couldn`t be bothered to get in since we let him nicely know that we don`t like uninvited birthday guests and Felix left in a smooth walk away to the next party…
When we finally got up later in the morning we surprised Janne with a Bjørnehiet full of colorful balloons and a in-a-waterbath-cabin-baked chocolate cake by Malin. The weather was also beautiful and we had an amazing day here in 80 degrees North. The sauna was the first time in use and believe it or not it is the best sauna in whole Svalbard (whole Nord-Austlandet for sure!) and we felt for the first time washed and fresh again. And as it was not enough of an amazing day, Einar used his magic hands to delight us with a splendid steak – potato – vegetable dinner. The best day ever ended then finally with a game of “Cleopatra 2 memory” (not for sale yet, only special edition 2013 for Janne) and we all went to sleep in a good mood.


Daily life in Camp Cleo2 – an extraordinary blog

Today we present you: An ordinary day in Camp Cleo2.

Daily life in Camp Cleo2 usually starts around 8 am when the females in Sukkerbiten get a radio call by Daniel in Bjørnehiet to tell them breakfast is ready. The females are normally not awake yet…especially one certain one (but I was asked by Malin not to mention names here…). Then males and females have breakfast together in Bjørnehiet, porridge yammy…and also still polarbrød and hardbread with a variety of spread. After breakfast camp inhabitants are queuing for the superultra plus plastic toilette and making their morning washing, such as Janne and Malin happily brushing teeth together… Once in a while some inhabitants are trying to wash even more than the teeth and this turned at least in Miriam`s case out to get back to the 80ies, when she tried to wash her hair with dry-shampoo (not recommendable!).
Depending on the sampling plan different people heading out for sampling everyday, most often Janne and her zooplankton gang. When it is a long day at the R3 station, the group has dry-tech lunch directly on the sea ice, if not we all have lunch break in Bjørnehiet around 1ish. When there is no field party, the inhabitants follow their other usual duties such as: Miriam filters water (there is always something to filter…), Einar works on the sauna or different other tricky stuff, Malin picks Calanus females, Janne counts Calanus eggs, Jozef fights with the Li-Corer or identifies icealgae and Daniel…well besides lying lazy around on the scooter, he is taking care of ROVi, the blog and different other technical issues. About 8 pm somebody is taking the dry-tech wishes for dinner (the variety of dry-tech decreased, we run for instance out of Chili con Carne and the largest amounts left are Storfegryte, Lapskaus and Steinbitgryte) and makes the food ready. Meaning the one in charge boils water, fills up 6 bags of dry-tech, mixes them a little, closes them again and keeps them staying for about 10 minutes before person in charge calls for dinner in Bjørnehiet. After dinner Daniel is asking his usual question “Who is writing today`s blog?” and everybody keeps in silence… Sometimes there is still need to get some work done in the labtent ehm I meant the Temple of knowledge after dinner time before the clock says again “Good night males and females in Camp Cleo2”!


Another day, another sampling

Today was a rather relaxed day. And a sunny day. Very sunny indeed. Janne, Josef and Daniel went out to the field site for some light measurements at local sun-noon (which in our calculation is around 12:40 Norwegian time). While preparing for another 48h deployment of the sediment traps, we got a curious furry yellow visitor. As it was approaching in a rather good speed, there was no time to get all the gear on the sledges again, so we decided on option B: make it go away. A noisy two-stroke Viking scooter engine and two flares did the trick. Good old Vikings, one more time. Mr (or Mrs., it did not get close enough to tell the difference) Bear did not lose interest, but was obviously not very fund of these noises, disturbing the perfect silence of sunny afternoon on the ice. It decided to watch these funny creatures, that so obviously not were seals, even though they were hanging around something that looked like a gigantic seal breathing hole, from a safe distance. Pleased by this lack of interest in a closer inspection of us seal-lookalike-humans, we continued to deploy the sediment traps – this time with a radically simplified rope construction. It went well. Sort of. Minor problems, but nothing compared to our previous rope experiences.
On the way back to camp (for once we were an hour early instead of several hours late) we spotted another bear, some 2-3 km from camp.
In the meantime, the camp team had been busy with their projects. Miriam had been filtrating half of the fjord, while Malin counted countless Calanus and (in all secrecy) baked a cake for the big tomorrow (why? What for? Well, you’ll have to come back tomorrow to find out). Einar continued in his endless amazing efforts to improve the camp by fixing bits and pieces everywhere, the most remarkable one to install the old cabin oven and two benches in the scooter garage, now turning into the worlds northernmost sauna. By the end of the day, it had reached an amazing 20 C, which was only about 15 C less than in Sukkerbiten and 10 less than in Bjørnehiet. More improvements are scheduled for tomorrow. Under Einars dedicated craftsmanship, the camp is more and more turning into something that could be a permanent settlement. In CLEOPATRA III we plan to bring a dishwasher, washing machine, microwave and a shower.
A looong afternoon coffee break in our market place/parking lot was used for sun bathing and group pictures, and later on we all continued in camp – counting, filtrating, measuring, fixing, mailing, baking, you name it…
After the dinner work in the lab tent continued with filtration and counting of Calanus female eggs after the end of the incubation experiment. Soon Janne will post the first really scientific blog entry with results of the pan-Svalbardic Calanus egg production experiment, coordinated from the remote Rijpfjorden research office, thanks to our good friends at Iridium satellite communication services.
Good news: The GoPro camera functions even after taking a bath in salt water! Apparently the battery pack extension collected all the water, so the camera stayed mostly dry. It is working fine again now.
For the technology nerds: We have swapped the VHF radios for satellite phones – for some funny reason it is absolutely impossible to communicate over more than 2 km distance with VHFs here, so camp-to-field communication is done by phone. Strange to be at the end of the world and still have phones ringing and text messages coming in every now and then.
Now it is bed time. 3 more days, then we will start de-mobilisation of the camp again. Time flies…

The successful ropes-everywhere-and-ROV-in-between-day

Today, among other things, we (field party: Janne, Malin, Daniel) retrieved the sediment traps. Which was interesting. Very interesting. Almost more interesting than to deploy them. A quick inspection by the ROV (now functioning perfectly fine, though 30 m amputated) confirmed the depth (8 and 14 m) and position (perfectly located under the ice). The first retrieval try, with brutal scooter force, ended with the realization that it was not possible to lift up an entire ice floe with a scooter, while standing on exactly that floe. Some adjustments later, after contemplating how a looping rope under the ice actually functions, we tried again. This time only pulling one side of the loop, not both at the same time. Miraculously, the sediment traps came in sight, now located right under the hole. While Janne was working out another sophisticated pulling system, Daniel decided to take some initiative and pulled the whole construction out by hand. Quite excited, Janne informed the other two about plenty of shit particles in the traps. In other words: A real success!
Second on the agenda was horizontal net tows under the ice. While Malin and Janne again struggled with the sophisticated rope construction, Daniel escaped that mentally challenging task by getting the ROV ready to film the net tows. First off was the 63 um net, which ended up in serious entanglement all but one time. It turned out to be very suitable as a buoyancy device for divers, as it would hand under the ice like a balloon. Much to our surprise, the WP2-200 um worked like a charm. Several net hauls in 2-4 m under the ice later, Janne’s excitement reached new heights. A thick Calanus soup in the sampling jars witnessed of a very successful horizontal sampling.
Another quick ROV mission connected hole 2 to the more untouched hole 3 (for hole-terminology see the disaster blog from some days ago) for a horizontal phytoplankton net tow to satisfy the filtration camp team.
Eventually the Lønne-suction-pump was deployed for the first time in history. Turned out that electrician geniuses Janne and Daniel had connected all red and blue cables correctly, and without blowing the fuse, the pump worked fine for 10 minutes in 1 m depth, collecting about 10 Calanus in total. Successes everywhere! Oh what a wonderful day!
The base time had a filtration marathon: 9 sea ice cores were eventually melted and went through the filtration unit. As filtration for particulate organic carbon does not work very well in a tent with smoky multifuel oven running on jet fuel, the oven was switched off for a while and Einar used the opportunity to clean it. In addition he continued on the biggest project so far: The construction of a real SAUNA inside one of our scooter garages.

More about this project, and sampling and camp life tomorrow.

Polar bear count: 0, other wildlife: 3 kittywake, 4 snowbunting, 2 ivory gull. Spring is coming to town!

PS: Some clarifications:
We did not loose any equipment (at least nothing of any particular value)… yet. We did not destroy too much equipment either, only minor value.
We do write a blog every day, but usually in the evening, thus it is not published before evening next day.
We do serious research, although it might not always sound like that. For serious reading, read the 10 scientific papers to be published soon.


Tuesday May 7 – that means we are half way through our field campaign. Time for Bergfest! The whole team stayed in camp in morning, preparing different sets of field gear, taking pictures of Calanus females and cleaning up the camp. A little refresher of the shooting skills was also on the agenda. Instead of a big party in the evening, we had another special meal for lunch: no DryTech, but as a starter a pea soup and then plenty of pancakes with loads of bacon, jam, not white white cheese, brunost, sugar and other good stuff. Namm!
After lunch, a change of field teams: Miriam, Josef and Einar went out on a transect across the fjord, taking ice cores (6 stations, 3 replicates) for ice algae, measuring ice thickness, snow depth and water properties at all stations. Janne, Malin and Daniel stayed in camp, where Janne and Malin continued to work with Calanus, while Daniel was busy to get the underwater suction pump to work, getting yesterdays blog ready and up in the air – and enjoying some quiet minutes in silence in the sun, when the wind suddenly died down entirely for a short time.
The field team came back late (around 21:00) and after another round of our favourite evening game (pick a random DryTech) we decided to take an early evening – 23:45 and everyone went into their sleeping bags.

Tomorrow on the agenda: ROVi deployment to get a status on the sediment traps, recovery of traps, horizontal plankton net tow, suction pump sampling in the field and a long filtration session in the lab tent. Rather catch some sleep now!

One of those days…

It began promising. The weather forecast was quite good, although whiteout in the beginning, it should turn sunny and stay rather calm. Early birds as we are, we left already after lunch for the field site. We, in this case, were Janne, Malin, Josef, Daniel and ROVi. That day (Wednesday May 07) an ROV transect under the ice, horizontal plankton net tows and deployment of sediment traps were on the agenda. A second hole for ROV to be recovered through was quickly made, and all systems worked fine. On the way from hole 1 to 2 we got some nice video of a busy under-ice fauna: Lots of copepods and other zooplankton having a great time just below the under-ice surface. At whole 2, the ROV was just out of reach for Janne’s arm, when the system suddenly failed. Manually we pulled it back on its tether line. Back at start, it seemed fine. On the second try, the same result, system failure just an arms length away from recovery. This time, it would not respond back at base either. A quick failure survey revealed that the main cable was twisted and broken. It would run fine on the 30 m extension though – unfortunately that meant we had to make another hole 30 m away from start, not 50 as planned. While Janne, Malin and Josef made another hole, Daniel realized the second failure of the day. The “GoPro” camera, mounted on the ROV to get some HD video, had drowned. A quick rescue operation got the memory card in a warm pocket (turned out later that it was fine!), but the camera is dead, dead, dead.
Reaching from hole 1 to newly made hole 3 was done in a minute or so (as it should be), and Janne began to deploy to here well thought-through horizontal under-ice plankton sampling construction, which Malin and Josef still have not understood (Daniel faded out before even trying to understand what is going on). As it had become pretty late already, we decided to postpone horizontal sampling and only deploy the sediment traps. Easier said than done, as it turned out that Janne lost control over the mechanisms of her construction. A lot of swearing and shouting later, all sediment traps eventually disappeared under the ice, where they still are. Another ROV deployment will hopefully give some information on the actually position of these traps, which might be far from different from the originally planned one.
On the bright side: the sun came out and we had a beautiful evening in the midnight sun. And we had a furry white visitor: a polar fox passing our camp in the morning.

(DV, MD)

The everyone-is-too-busy-to-write-blog-day

Sunday is a relaxing day, also in Rijpfjorden. Our generous field marshall gave us an extra hour of sleep, so today we had breakfast as late as 09:00 *! In addition to regular instant coffee, Daniel served some fresh espresso, and the porridge ration was XXL. Some sampling equipment maintenance late morning, and off we (Janne, Malin and Daniel) went to our site for some zooplankton community sampling, while Miriam, Josef and Einar stayed behind in the camp, busy with their own projects.
Sampling went smooth and many hundred copepods lost their lives in our sampling jars.
On the way home we spotted a polar bear in the far distance, but it was some 5 km away from camp, and winds were in our favor – so far it did not show up here. Returning to base on time, we were surprised by an excellent dinner prepared by Einar – the first day without DryTech for most of us. Sweet!

At the moment (midnight) Malin is checking the vital state of the copepods that are still alive, while Janne is removing the females from their kids before they can eat them. More details from the Calanus world tomorrow. Sleeping time for the secretary now. Goodnight, and welcome to another exciting day at Rijpforden tomorrow. If weather permits, tomorrow will be ROV and horizontal under ice sampling day.

And this time some scientific results:
If you look at our beautiful CTD plot, you will notice that it is still winter in Rijpfjorden. No stratification, temperature close to freezing point and as yesterdays picture shows, ice algae are doing very well.

* Footnote: In contrast to Bjørnehiet residents, Sukkerbiten residents got up half an hour earlier than usually because Miriam heard suspicious noises and informed the rest of the women team about them.


5 May, 2013 21:48

Finally: the big day. We were dying of curiosity: what is the actual situation in Rijpfjorden? How thick is the ice? How much snow is on the ice? Will there be any ice algae? Is Calanus producing eggs? Today we would get the answers. We went out to our sample station, about 10 km north from our camp. Here a physical and biological observatory (a so called mooring) is placed in the water column measuring temperature, salinity, fluorescence, current speed, sedimentation and particle movement (ADCP) all year round. The first thing we did was to drill a hole in the ice. A 15-25 cm layer of snow covered the ice. The ice was very soft, and indication that spring is in the air, and about 70 cm thick. And to our great joy a layer of ice-algae was growing at the under ice surface! So we are here at the exact right time of the year! We took a number of ice cores and water samples from different depth. These samples will be analysed for chlorophyll and nutrient concentration as well as DNA and taxonomic composition. Back in camp Jozef and Miriam were busy filtering the water. Meanwhile the rest of us went back to take some zooplankton nets to have a look at Calanus. The females look happy and have green guts, an indication that they are feeding, and we incubated 30 of them to measure egg production. So tomorrow we will find out if they are producing eggs.


Good evening South!

Day 3 in Rijpfjorden just ended with lovely dry-tech dinner freshly made by Daniel Ludwig the First himself. What happened today? After digging million and million tons of snow yesterday…(commentary from the author: I know it was mentioned already yesterday but I just wanted to make sure that you readers truly understand the amount of tons and tons we dug [dogged]!), a hole was free to set up the military lab tent. Military lab tent constructions are not the very best to give to scientists to set up, but good that we have Einar, he figured out what was to do in half of the time as Jozef and Janne. Well, now the lab tent is standing and awesome tables (working bench “Janne” you can see on the picture) were built for filtration, technique stuff and zooplankton equipment. Everything is ready for sampling tomorrow!

Polar bear sights: none…but it was foggy most of the day
Muscles aching: still countless …
Near accidents happening: troubles with super glue and slippery labfloors


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Snow shoveling day (not much else happened)

Today we removed snow. A lot of snow.
After a late breakfast (at least for some people late- turns out that Janne can actually sleep in…) we started to remove the snow next to the container to make place for the lab tent.
It was a lot of snow. It took all day. We also dogged out the scooter sledges and Einar serviced both scooters which was very good because this helped us to transport all the snow down to the sea. In the time between digging snow Daniel got the Iridium-internet to work- eventually.
At the end of a whole day of shoveling snow a hot bag of dry-tech tastes surprisingly good. While digesting our food we suddenly heard a bang which set everyone into action except for Malin and Daniel who did not take this noise seriously. Turned out a polar bear had stumbled over our trip wire that we set up around the camp. By the time we figured that out the bear was already running away. Apparently he found the sound of the explosive more alarming than Malin and Daniel.
Daily sum up: Cubic meters of snow removed: ca. 48; Polar bears approaching camp: 1. Aching muscles: Countless.

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Departure – arrival – digging

Dear blog readers,
what yesterday seemed rather unlikely has come true: CLEOPATRA II arrived in Bjørnehiet, Rijpfjorden! In two flights, one at 09:00 and the second at 13:00, we were transported out by helicopter – and to our surprise together with all our luggage. Some modifications in the helicopter layout (read: removal of seats) and the fact that there are several hundred litres of heli fuel stored here made this possible.
Everything was well in the camp – no polar bear had destroyed the cabin, container or weather station. The first group started digging out the entrance to Bjørnehiet (the cabin) and “Sukkerbiten” (the portable cardboard housing box), which turned out to be an excellent replacement for some hour in the gym. Large amounts of snow, hard as concrete, gave us a really good exercise.
The rest of the day went for digging, digging, digging and general setting up the camp. Thanks to miracle-mechanic Einar, both Viking 540 two-stroke scooters started – after being stored away for 5 years in a container, alone in the wild, without any tender loving care. Impressive reliable stuff these things that look like a piece of junk.
It has been a long day, therefore only a short blog entry before collapsing into a coma. Since the battery in the worlds northernmost phonebooth ran empty, this entry will not be published before tomorrow (Thursday), but it will probably not the last time an entry is not submitted in time. Sorry for that, dear reader, we do our best to keep you entertained. Here are some pictures from the trip and our first day (all pictures are low quality because of limited bandwith – we will replace them once we are back).