After two and a half month, the moment was finally there: 16 march, the excursion to Greenland! Which means that I'll be on a fishing boat for 2,5 week together with 20 other students sailing along the coast of Greenland to do research to seals for my course Arctic Biology. The only problem was that I have never been on a boat over the ocean, not even on the sea. I've only been on some ferries or with a small motorboat over some small waters. This caused some seasickness in the first two days. At first, I thought I could handle it, but if you always have the feeling to be in an elevator, which doesn't stop, your stomach will give up some time. But you can get used to everything, so after two more days we were already in the ice where there were no waves any more.
The first day we already saw some seals, and because March is the breeding month of the seals, we've seen a lot of mother seals with their pups. There are two seal species in that area: The harp seal and the hooded seal. The harp seal doesn't protect her pup as much as the hooded seal. So, when we wanted to catch a harp seal, we had to be lucky that the mother is very brave and stays close to her pup. In that case, we can also catch the mother when we have caught the pup. The first day we already had some succes and we could start the dissection on a lactating harp seal. This means that we open the seal and study every organ the seal has, even the brains and the senses on the head of the seal. We also determine some blood values.
The second day we've been sailing all day to the north without any luck of finding seals. The third day was successful again. This way we've been sailing the rest of the days, while we were dissecting, measuring values and writing reports. Sometimes it was hard work, but we also had enough time to relax and watch movies. There was this one day that it was very sunny and we were in the middle of the breeding area of the seals. There were many seals around us, which were lying in the sun. I found it very nice to see that the seals were chilling in their natural environment and that they could go wherever they want to go.
The solar eclipse was also quite impressive, although it was only an eclipse of 97% at the place we were. The food on the boat was also really nice, and we had pie almost every day! One day we were allowed to go on the ice together, in order to take a group picture (see picture). We've also been sailing along the coast of Jan Mayen which is an island close to Greenland. Jan Mayen is really beautiful with its volcano and glaciers. On our way back, we didn't have any waves at all, so I was feeling fine.
When we came back it was 1 April, which means that the Norwegians have one week Easter vacation in which they go up the mountains and sleep in a cabin with their families. So, it was very quiet in Tromsø and all shops were closed. I went with some roommates and friends up the mountain for a small hike and sleep in a tent while it was -5 degrees outside! It was very cold, but what an experience! We were in a big mountain valley and we could see a nice fjord and wild reindeers. But if you come home after such a cold night, you appreciate the luxury life you have more with a cosy house and a nice warm bed.
In the meantime, the days are getting longer and there is almost no northern lights visible any more. This week I have some lectures but then I go on another excursion with my courses Marine Ecology and Ocean Climate from the 13th till the 19th of April! Same boat, but this time to the Lofoten (a group of islands along the Norwegian coast). This time it will be hard work with shifts of 6 hours, so 6 hours working then 6 hours eating and sleeping, then 6 hours working and then again, 6 hours eating and sleeping. Which is something I will have to get used to...