SEAmester – South Africa’s class afloat!

IMG-20180716-WA0001SEAmester is a South African initiative to take students and scientists to the sea. The scientists are sampling the water in front of the south African coast along the ASCA array, to gain more knowledge about the Agulhas current. At the same time, we students have the opportunity to learn right where the science happens! Spotting birds and mammals, taking water samples, doing CTD casts, the program is just as diverse and colorful as the participants.

This year, Isabelle and me have the chance to be on board during the 11 days trip. Having never been to Africa before, for me the adventure began even earlier. Making all the way from the University of Gothenburg (SE) to Cape Town (SA), it was a long journey and luckily I had a couple of days before to discover the beauties of Cape Town. And what a great town it is! Close to the southern end of Africa, it is very exposed to the weather and the climate is influenced by the two ocean currents on either side.
The table mountains and Cape point are two of the places to go in Cape town, and the long powerful waves are a reminder how exposed Cape town lies to the open ocean.

The currents here, especially the Agulhas current are very strong. With a velocity of up to 10 km/h, it is way faster than people can swim. And it is a nice warm ocean current, making the evening on deck cozy even after sunset. The wind and swell, even though being gentle with us, made some of our friends onboard turn green and sick. 😦

I feels good to get some hands on experience with different sampling methods. Even though most sampling methods are fairly easy, I is good to know (as an oceanographer) how a Niskin sampling-bottle works, and not having to learn it when a team of scientist are actually relying on the data and that bit of water that is sampled in the depth using a CTD rosette.

The sea-life here in front of South Africa is amazing! Today we spotted seals, Humpback whales, and a whole lot of different birds already! The scientists, watching the marine mammals, working for the south African weather service or researching the currents are also giving lectures and sharing their knowledge – about the ships weather station and measurements, balloon starts and simple forecast strategies.

During the SEAmester programme, we are also recording a short video clip of the experience. It will be linked here once it goes public, so stay tuned!

Davos, Switzerland – the highest town in Europe, sitting at an altitude of ~1800m, saw the meeting of researchers with a focus on all things arctic, antarctic and the high altitude at Polar2018. The #polarglider team had a busy week, which kicked off with a trail run to 2700m: setting the scene for clear minds and new perspectives on polar science.

A successful SOFLUX (Southern Ocean Fluxes) meeting was facilitated by Dr. Sebastiaan Swart, show-casing the Southern Ocean Observing System tools available of their website,  which encourages collaboration, and highlighting the absolute sparsity of observations in the Southern Ocean – especially during winter.


Dr. Sebastiaan Swart presents on the Southern Ocean Observing System as the COMNAP session during Polar2018

Amidst the 25 000 croissants that were served throughout the week at Polar2018, Dr. Louise Biddle updated the scientific community on the ability of satellite-tagged seals to measure submesoscale processes and Marcel du Plessis presented a poster of his recent work on the role of wind driven submesoscale processes in delaying the onset of restratification after winter in the Sub-Antarctic Zone.


Dr. Louise Biddle presenting progress in the analysis of submesoscales in the Marginal Ice Zone using seal tag data

I attended the Polar2018 meeting as a PhD student at the beginning of my journey in the field of physical polar oceanography. It was inspiring to get first hand exposure to the latest progress, discoveries and plans of the global polar oceanography community. Some exciting technology was presented. Particularly

With new advances in technology, previously inaccessible polar regions are getting closer to the reach of the human mind and our scientific understanding is accelerating as demonstrated during the Polar2018 meeting – ever more important in an era of uncertain climate change.