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Men’s scientific adventure

If you ever wondered whether nowadays it is possible to conduct scientific research and experience a true men’s adventure, the one that would be told to your grandchildren, the answer is – yes, it is possible, provided that you follow Fridtjof Nansen’s footsteps. It was last year that Marcin Bujko, MA, went on such an exciting journey.

Marcin Bujko from Chair of Geotechnical and Road Engineering at the Faculty of Technical Sciences is a passionate sailor. He sails not only all over the waters of Masurian lakes, but also tries his hand on the sea. This year he went on the cruise of his life – from Iceland to Spitsbergen. However, he did not decide on the journey for sheer pleasure – he carried out scientific research into ocean waters of a continental glacier. He is the first person that has ever taken up such research.

Everything started with dreams. Marcin Bujko wanted to go on a cruise to Greenland that summer. However, the journey in which he was supposed to be a crew member did not succeed. The captain of the vessel was aware of Marcin’s sailing skills and knew where he worked, so he decided to recommend Marcin to Captain Moczydłowski. Eugeniusz Moczydłowski is not only a yacht captain, but also a Doctor of Philosophy in Biological Sciences, a researcher of the Antarctic fauna, and a long-standing member of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Captain Moczydłowski is currently preparing for the cruise of his life – exploratory winter voyage to Antarctica. He will sail there on his own sea-going vessel “Magnus Zaremba”, designed and constructed according to the idea lying behind the activity of Norwegian explorer of the polar regions, Prof. Fridtjof Nansen. This summer, in order to check the efficiency of his vessel, he went on an exploratory cruise over the northern Atlantic Ocean – from Iceland to Spitsberg, along the coast of Greenland.

A voyage to Antarctica in winter? Why would he do that?

– All of the research into fauna of the Polar Seas is conducted in summer, because winter conditions are too harsh there. Scientists carry out their investigation from large research vessels which are significantly distant from the peripheries of glaciers, mostly for safety reasons. Are the results of such research reliable? No, they are not, because they present only one side of the coin. Thus, any conclusions would be groundless. In order to know what really happens in waters round the base of glaciers, it is essential to examine phenomena that occur there in winter time as well. What is more, the research should be conducted as close to the glacier’s periphery as possible. It has never been done before – Marcin Bujko explains.

Captain Moczydłowski decided to take Marcin on board. He appreciated not only his sailing skills, but also the fact that Marcin was able to support the project with a physico-chemical analysis of water, prepared on the basis of an examination conducted with a special probe. The device was given to him by doctor Dariusz Popielarczyk from the Faculty of Geodesy and Land Management.

Antarctica in winter? Is there any possibility of achieving success?

In the years 1893-96, a Norwegian, Prof. Fridtjof Nansen organized a grand polar expedition on a vessel “Fram” (Nor.” Forward”) . He foresaw that the vessel would be stuck in the frozen ice field, and thus, he shaped the vessel’s hull in a way that the pressure of ice would prise it up. It turned out to be an effective solution. Captain Moczydłowski followed Nansen’s steps, and his vessel, “Magnus Zaremba”, has a saucer-shaped hull that would prise up if happened to fall in an ice trap, which is highly probable on Antarctic waters in winter season. However, “Magnus” looks like a cockleshell in comparison to other scientific vessels. It is a real sailing ship – 17.3 meters long, 5.7m wide, and of 2.8m draught.

This summer, Captain Moczydłowski decided to sample his vessel, its equipment and the crew on a cruise up to the North Pole.

“Magnus Zaremba” set sail from Gdynia in the beginning of July. Marcin joined the crew a month later – on Iceland. At first, sailing went smoothly and effortlessly, almost as if it had been a recreational cruise. The weather was in their favour. However, when they were getting close to Greenland, the winds got turned. They went against the wind, and even though it was not very strong, together with the tide it produced short, yet three to four-metre high waves.

– Once “Magnus” lifted its prow high in the air, it fell down rapidly. We called it “the hell-rodeo”. Sometimes I found myself weightless. It was very difficult to sleep in such conditions, let alone to eat. Even though I had sailed all over the seas, I got seasick. It lasted for one week. I kept watch in such a state. I have no idea how and why I survived all of this – Marcin Bujko recalls the memories, and gets pale at the very mention of the experience.

During the rodeo, a notebook computer used for water examination broke down. The Captain called at Spitsbergen, where the crew were hosted at the Polish research station. They received a new computer that had been sent from Poland, recovered, and again set sail to the Arctic glacier. The weather was already fine. Their vessel sailed forward, chafing against the ice.

– Icebergs are light blue and really huge. They were within our reach, because due to our vessel’s small size, we could get very close to them. They seem more exotic to me than palms on the sea shore. We took plankton samples and water measurements. We are analyzing the results now. However, it was sea smoke that made the greatest impression on me. It is always formed on the Greenland Sea after the sunset. In the disappearing day light, the line between water and sky becomes blurred. When you look forward, you feel as if you entered the heavens . Now I can see why sailors of the northern waters and whale hunters believed that the Earth has its end there – Marcin Bujko says.

He was a member “Magnus Zaremba” crew for a month. His holiday could not last longer. He came back as a different person. He was at a place where nature conquered even the greatest sailors and experienced explorers of the polar regions. At present, he is waiting for Cpt. Moczydłowski’s call. In the beginning of the next year the Captain wants to set sail to the southern hemisphere, so that approaching Antarctica’s glaciers would be able in July 2015, that is, in the middle of winter.

– Whether he recruits me, I don’t know. Whether I’m able to go, I don’t know either. But what I do know is that I want it with all my might – Marcin Bujko ends his story.

Lech Kryszałowicz
Transl. by AP

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