The expeditions will take place with a specially designed “floating ice vessel”. At the start of the polar winter and long polar night, around the end of October, the research vessel sails deep into the drift ice to start a research program that will last the entire polar winter. The research vessel can be compared to a space station. The ship is self-sufficient and offers a working and living area for a small crew of five to six researchers and navigators (“icenauts”), closed off from the outside world for five months.

Fram Strait

The expeditions will go to the polar ice of the Fram Street, which forms the most important connection between the Arctic Ocean and the other oceans. The “East Greenland Current” flows through Fram Street, which transports the ice from the North Pole to the south at a speed of 15-20 km per day, where it then melts when encountering the warmer Gulf Stream. Every year, ten percent of all Arctic ice flows away through the Fram Street. This ice needs to grow back in the polar winters in order to maintain the ice cap.

Silent Ice Drifts

At the start of the polar winter, the research vessel will sail into the ice of the Fram Street as north as possible. Once in the ice, the research vessel allows itself to drift along with the enormous ice mass. It will be driven by the prevailing north winds and the East Greenland Current. In this way, a large area can be searched in “silent mode”, without the vessel having to use the propulsion. Because an essential part of the research consists of recording underwater sounds, with the least possible disturbance, this silent mode is especially important. After the ship has completed a four to six week trip and has moved about 300-500 kilometers to the south, it is released from the ice and the ship navigates through open water back to the north to begin a second drifting trip. During the polar winter, three to five loops can be undertaken and the entire floating ice zone can be examined.

Fram Strait between Greenland and Spitsbergen with projected research traject by alternating passive drifts and active navigation.



Ice Research Vessel MARVEL

The sea ice in the Fram Strait between Spitsbergen and Greenland is normally not reachable and can only be visited with a specially designed research vessel, called MARVEL (Modular Arctic Research Vessel).

Thanks to an NWO subsidy, supported by Topsector Water, Interdepartmentaal Pool Overleg IPO and Nederlandse Pool Commissie NPC, a Feasibility Study and Basic Design has been carried out by Conoship International (naval architects), TU Delft, NIOZ (client) and Icewhale Foundation (project manager). The results of the design and feasibility study show that the expeditions can be carried out safely with a specially designed compact and rock-solid ship.

The research concept is similar to that of a space station: a crew of six people, icenauts on the MARVEL, drift along with the drift ice for four to five consecutive months during the polar winter night. The crew carry out a research program in which they are supervised 24-7 by a “Ground Control Station”.

The most important research mode of MARVEL is “passive drift” along with the sea ice coming from the North Pole. By drifting along silently and thus traversing the winter habitat of the Icewhales, one can listen to the singing of the whales and examine their behavior and movements without disturbing them.

Triangular measurements follow the positions and movements of individual animals to discover whether Icewhales come together in certain places to mate and reproduce.

The main research method consists of lowering research equipment under the ice through the “moonpool”, a shaft in the ship through which the polar water can be reached from the protected interior of the ship. In addition, drones are used to remotely place hydrophones that send real-time wireless acoustic observations to the central floating ice vessel. Drones are also used to obtain night vision camera images and to collect DNA material in a non-invasive manner.



Science Plan ADMIRE

The Science Plan ADMIRE is being developed in collaboration with Dutch polar scientists and international Icewhale scientists.ADMIRE means: Arctic Drift Multidisciplinary Icewhale Research Expeditions.

In composing ADMIRE, the Icewhale Foundation is supported by the Scientific Advisory Board, composed of six professors from  Dutch universities (RUG, UU, LU, WUR) and institutes (NIOZ, KNMI).