Reporter’s diary: Arctic warming

Ahead of UN climate change talks, Tania Page looks at how the sea is being affected.

A team of scientists are testing ways to keep track of fish [Karsten Sondergaard]

In the lead up to the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, Al Jazeera sent a team to the world’s northernmost regions to discover the effects of global warming.


Charging a battery sounds like a straightforward task but as I’m discovering, when you’re at sea, few things are very straightforward.

I’m on board the GO Sars, a ship that’s owned by Norway’s Institute of Marine Research. At nearly 78-metres long and weighing about 4,000 tonnes, it is a state-of-the-art-vessel equipped with all sorts of gadgets.

in depth

We’re currently inside the Arctic Circle off Norway’s coast. There’s a team of eight scientists, about six sailors, my cameraman Karsten and myself. So far, we’ve been getting in the way a lot by pretending to be ship savvy – which generally leads to lots of waving and yelling in Norwegian by the sailors as they try to keep us safe.

My assignment is to report on the effects of climate change. It’s no secret that ice in the Arctic is melting – rising sea levels and the threat to the polar bears’ habitat are well known issues – but there are other, less visible effects that are just as profound.

On board the GO Sars scientists are concerned with monitoring fish stocks.

They’ve discovered that the number of cod is increasing, and that the cod population in the Barents Sea is now at a 20-year high. Scientists believe that’s partly because Norway has a strict management system, but it’s also because the water is getting warmer.

The scientists I’m with are testing ways to keep track of fish.

The battery they wanted to charge is submerged in 250 metres of water. It’s powering a submerged platform that uses sonar to measure how many fish are in the area.

Over time that information, when compared to data collected from other studies, can help scientists to decipher why the number of fish in this particular area is increasing.

But as I said, even with eight scientists and an experienced crew of seamen, sometimes plain old bad luck gets in the way.

The battery was submerged under 250m of water [Karsten Sondergaard]

The mission to charge the battery started off well. The team used an echo sounder to trigger the release of a buoy that was attached to the submerged platform. When the buoy surfaced it was about 500 metres from the ship.

Once the ship was close enough, the buoy was hooked on to a line connected to the ship’s winch, gradually the line was pulled in, taking at least 15 minutes to haul the platform from the depths.

But, only a few minutes after being hoisted out of the water and while hanging alongside the ship the battery lid exploded.

The bang gave us all a fright and although no one was hurt, the platform is damaged and I don’t need to be a scientist to work out that no amount of charging will make that battery work.

It’ll be a day or two before they know how much data can be retrieved from the platform, so in the meantime we’re heading north to a herring fishing ground for the next experiment, but minus the explosion.

Source : Al Jazeera

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