On the 12th of August 2018 we reached the North Pole on board of the Swedish I/B Oden as a part of the ArcticOcean2018 expedition, organized by the Swedish Polar research secretariat. After 2 weeks of navigation we were finally able to leave the ship and step on the North Pole sea ice (the ship stop at 89.89°N), take some pictures in front of the “North Pole stick” installed by the crew and enjoy a nice sunny day. Standing on top of the world and contemplating this breathtaking landscape made me think about the North Pole conquest that saw so many great explorers struggling and fighting to reach this place during the first half of the 20th century, I felt uneasy considering how comfortable our trip was in comparison! Reaching the North Pole is still a complicated voyage: only a few icebreakers in the world are able to open their way through the thick high Arctic sea ice and very good navigation skills are required but as a scientist life on board was nice. I simply had to take care of my instruments and make sure they can handle all the rough movements of the ship.
Luckily this day was not the only exciting moment of the expedition; after reaching the North Pole we moored to an ice floe and drift with it for five weeks to perform continuous aerosol measurements in the high Arctic. During this period we saw polar bears walking around and playing with our equipment, a walrus visiting the open lead and “fighting” with a buoy, we saw frost flowers growing on the top of the water surface and sun dogs coloring the sky. The same variety was also shown from our measurements: we had several different weather patterns and measured very heterogeneous aerosol physical and chemical properties. I’m extremely excited about the dataset that we collected: it will take a lot of time to analyze all the data and put together the various pieces but I’m looking forward for the final results!
Andrea Baccarini is a PhD student at the Paul Scherrer Institut. This field note relates to his trip to the North Pole onboard of the Icebreaker Oden in August and September 2018 funded by a Polar Access Fund grant.