Friday late afternoon, in the middle of the pitchblack East-Siberian night, our ship passed Jeannette island at around 76° 44N and 157° 54E, northeast of the New Siberian Islands. Igor, our chief scientist, told us that this island was named after an earlier polar expedition at the end of the 19th century. This expedition was led by De Long, a lieutanant in the US navy, and was aiming to reach the North pole. They started in the Bering Strait (between Alaska and Siberia) to be frozen in around Wrangell island in September 1879.
The ship, named Jeannette, was transported by the ice for two years before it got crushed and sunk. Only one of the four life boats made it to the Siberian mainland, where they could spread the terrible news. The most interesting part here is that a couple of years later, pieces of the mast of the Jeannette were found on the eastcoast of Greenland (!). These findings were one of the first pieces of evidence of the transpolar ice transport, and an important reason for the famous Fridtjof Nansen to set sail with his ship Fram to explore these unknown polar ice drifts. According to Igor, the Jeannette is lying only a couple of miles away from our sampling station.The next morning, we past another island with a story; Bennett island.
Some of the Russian scientists onboard are very interested in this region for methane studies. Some years ago, NASA seems to have spotted so-called mushroom clouds on satellite images. At first they thought that the Russians were doing secret nuclear tests, but when this didn’t seem the case, the sudden release of huge methane clouds seemed to be the only possible answer to the question. A Siberian “Bermuda triangle” was created! It has been observed several times in the same area and it is still not known exactly how this phenomenon is triggered.
Yesterday morning, we took a group picture, with Bennett island on the background. Amazing to see this island growing bigger on the foggy horizon; dark cliffs, remnant glaciers, no trees, no plants, no life and in the absolute center of the middle of nowhere…
Jorien, September 14th