Daring Scientists Are Spending Six Months Adrift on an Arctic Ice Floe

By Sarah Zhang on at

A pair of Norwegian scientists are in the middle of a long expedition over the Arctic winter, living out of a hovercraft on a drifting ice floe. There is no sun, it's freezing and yet the scientists seem to be having a grand ol' time doing science.

"People have asked me how I was going to kill the time," Norwegian geoscientist Yngve Kristoffersen told New Scientist in a fascinating article about the expedition. "There is no time to kill. We are working our butts off. And entertainment? As a scientist my entertainment is to see the data come in. This is plenty for me."

As their ice floe drifts northward, the scientists are studying the seabed underneath, taking videos, sediment samples and a bevy of other measurements. Little is known about this remote region, which was 20 degrees fahrenheit warmer and home to many more sea creatures 50 million years ago.

Kristoffersen and his fellow Arctic researcher Audun Tholfsen have been living on a large ice floe in the Arctic since the end of August. It's tough even for icebreakers to get through the Arctic winter, but hovercrafts, it turns out, are perfect for Arctic travel.

A rubber skirt pumped full of air keeps the craft aloft, allowing it to skim over the ice. The researchers will be using their hovercraft, named Sabvabaa, to zoom all over the ice floe to take their samples.

The pair are huddled down with 18 months worth of fuel and food for now. If all goes according to plan, a plane will pick Tholfsen up in March or April of next year and bring a researcher to replace him. Kristoffersen, however, is going to stay for the whole year. I mean, why leave when the Arctic weather is just beginning to look up? [New Scientist]

Hovercraft image via Audun Tholfsen