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Merry Xmas

The light in the Arctic has been fading more and more in the last months. It is the time when everything becomes quieter on land, but the fjords around Lyngen are full of life, teeming with herring. With the shoals of herring come the whales.


During this time, we tried to get local students excited about the wonder they have on their “doorstep”: the annual arrival of the orcas! They are also interested in sailing. We are happy to teach them and connect them with the elements of water and wind. Thank you Kyrre to make it possible.

From mid-December to mid-January it is dark. But not really! There are wonderful northern lights and Norwegians light up their houses with their fantastic Christmas lights. – Merry Christmas to all of you out there.

Annual Report coming soon.

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Exceptionally stormy

This year was a very difficult year. The weather and sea conditions were special: the permanent high pressure areas over Greenland and Europe forced the extended low pressure areas in rapid succession from the North Atlantic into the Arctic waters between northern Norway, Jan Mayen and Greenland. This special weather constellation not only led to a hot summer in Europe and subsequently to an extraordinary glacier melt in the Alps, it also influenced our route, sampling, clean ups and climbs. We tried to reach Greenland several times and in the end had no time left for Svalbard.

After our anchor winch stopped working after a violent storm, we made it to Skjervøy. In this storm the wind peaked 100 km/h and there were 7 meter high waves off the coast. At the end a huge wave entered our cockpit. It damaged a cell phone and the bracket of our electric outboard “Torqeedo”. Miraculously, the electric engine remained intact.

Peter – Ueli – John – Siri – Peder – Dario

On August 17, we aborted the last attempt to bring our two scientists John and Siri to Jan Mayen. A Norwegian Army Hercules aircraft that was taking them at the time had to turn back due to bad weather. This shows the conditions we faced that year. Fortunately, the flight succeeded later, so at least they were able to take samples ashore on Jan Mayen.

Sea and weather conditions for the crossing were extremely poor this summer. A safe weather window for the approximately 1000 nautical miles from Norway to the East Greenland coast failed due to pronounced low pressure areas, between the massive and stationary high pressure areas over Greenland and Europe. One low pressure followed the next, and in between there was no calming that could have guaranteed a safe weather window for safe passage. The pronounced high pressure over Europe was responsible for the heat in Europe.  In East Greenland it was cold, so that the pack ice on the coast and in the fjords partly did not melt. This temperature difference was certainly also a reason for the stormy seas and after five attempts we did not succeed to make landfall in Greenland this year.

On the other hand, despite difficult conditions, we were able to collect 8 eDNA and 8 microplastic samples and celebrate the 100th sampling. This on 8/27/2022 at over 70 degrees north latitude in northern Norway. The samples were collected from remote locations where we could observe a lot of marine life, such as one of the largest maelstroms in the world or a large population of sperm whales.

A big compliment goes to the entire crew. They showed a lot of patience and held out until the end, even though we could not reach our destinations Greenland nor Svalbard. Many thanks also to the people on Grytøya Island and specially to Halvard, who made everything to comfort us. The same goes for fisherman Dag on the island of Kagen.

We hope that the necessary repairs will not cause us too much headache. We are optimistic for 2023 and are sure that such conditions will not be repeated every year.

Since then, we have been concentrating again on school visits and bringing young people closer to nature and clean up the wonderful Arctic.

Last note: This summer Alegra made second at the Tromsø Sky Race in U18 and we celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary:

TOPtoTOP Jan Mayen Research 2022

Are glaciers on Jan Mayen a source of elements to marine ecosystems? (Jon Hawkings, Jacob Yde and Siri Engen)

This August, myself (Dr. Jon Hawkings) along with my colleague Siri Engen will be travelling with TOPtoTOP on Pachamama to carry out marine and land based water sampling on and around Jan Mayen island. Our project, SMerJM (Subglacial mercury cycling and associated export from Jan Mayen to the North Atlantic), looks to investigate the role of glaciers and volcanism on Jan Mayen for the mobilization of the toxic element mercury. We’re hoping to assess the fate of natural mercury derived from glacial and volcanic processes on Jan Mayen as it travels into the coastal region. By doing this research we will provide an insight into mercury cycling in pristine but climatically vulnerable systems and provide a view of mercury geochemistry across glacier outlets and natural water sources that have never been sampled. We are also collecting samples to characterize the “quality” of meltwater draining glaciers on the island to help assess the impact these waters are having on sustaining the surrounding marine ecosystems rich in wildlife – whether Jan Mayen has an “island mass effect” for this part of the ocean. For the curious out there, the “island mass effect” describes the increase in ecosystem productivity near to remote islands and highlights the importance of these islands as nutrient sources for marine microbes.

Crew: Sabine, Dario, Noé, Alegra, Mia, Vital, Jon, Siri, Ueli, Peder, Peter

Our work on Pachamama with TOPtoTOP will involve characterizing the properties of the marine upper water column surrounding Jan Mayen. To do this we will be using a CTD – a sensor package that measures the conductivity and temperature of the water column at a range of depths. This instrument is a workhorse of oceanography research and also includes sensors for chlorophyll-a (to measure the concentration of marine algae), the turbidity of the water (the density of particles in the water) and the oxygen concentration of the water (to help indicate how productive the water column is). We will also be deploying a niskin bottle, a scientific sampling device used to collect water at given depths. Our niskin bottle is rather special because it was built to avoid contaminating the collected water with metals (metals like iron and mercury are present in very low concentrations in marine waters so we need to be very careful not to introduce these into our samples) and is coated with Teflon – an inert plastic.

When the water makes it back onto the deck of Pachamama we will filter it to remove the particles and fill lots of plastic bottles for different types of analysis. This is rather laborious and time-consuming work when you’re not on a dedicated research vessel, and requires lots of patience! One of the most important things is for us to be as clean as possible while sampling. For this reason, we built a portable chamber in our lab for filtering critical samples on the Pachamama. This chamber pushes HEPA-filtered air (all atmospheric particles removed) over our samples to make sure we have a super clean environment to work in.

We’re incredibly appreciative of TOPtoTOP for helping to support our research. The most important thing for us is to make the most of our time on and around Jan Mayen by collecting as many samples as possible. The flexibility of Dario and the TOPtoTOP team has been fundamental in allowing us to do this. For example, it’s difficult to travel light as a geochemist – just one mercury sample requires 250 mL of water and one sample to measure metal concentrations in water can be up to 500 mL! We need dozens of these samples from both the boat and land work we’re doing. It’s going to be a lot of hard work (and for me personally I’m going to be bobbing around in the North Atlantic on my birthday), but the data will be exciting and important for understanding vulnerable and rapidly changing environments like Jan Mayen. We can’t wait to get started tomorrow!

TOPtoTOP Arctic Base

BASE for TOPtoTOP’s campaign “SAVE THE ARCTIC

Our objective is to build: THE best ZERO-Energy House in the Arctic:

“If we can prove that zero emissions is possible in the high Arctic, it is possible everywhere thanks to innovative products and technologies!”

Like its role model at sea, the TOPtoTOP expedition sailboat “Pachamama“, the “TOP Villa Villekulla” sets new horizons. The TOP Base is simple, functional, attractive, kids-friendly and inspirational. The house is intended as a laboratory for inventing, testing and optimizing top technologies for a more sustainable future. The TOP Arctic Base serves as a hub for our campaign “Save the Arctic” where we support Arctic research to find solutions to adapt to the challenging changes.

In this Future Center, school classes learn about the TOP solutions for a more sustainable approach to our planet, which have been explored on the “TOPtoTOP Global Climate Expedition“. The eco-center “TOP Villa Villekulla” is located in the beautiful Lyngen Alps at 70 degrees north latitude in the high Arctic. “Villa Villekulla” is the name of Pippi Longstocking‘s house, the eternal children’s bestseller by Astrid Lindgren.

It is THE example in terms of energy saving and child friendliness and an inspiration to breathe new life into an old house.

This in the spirit of “reuse”, i.e. not simply demolishing and replacing old buildings, but renovating them with know-how. The TOP project proves that old buildings can be efficiently renovated to a zero-energy standard, even in the Arctic. We want to show that it makes sense to bring back to life a building that is over 100 years old and has so much to tell, and that this can be done with a lower budget than building a comparatively soulless new building. For example, the heating system is based on the sophisticated heat pump from “POLARENERGI”, which is connected to photovoltaics and supported by a wood stove during the polar night. The wood demand grows back around the house.

Our objective is to motivate people everywhere to copy our concept of “living light & less is more”!

An open house for everyone:

The house will be always a welcoming house also for families with children and people in need, but also an “ideas hub” of inventors, pioneers, researchers and artists, where visitors can “grasp” – in this “future center” – the best practice examples we collect on the “TOPtoTOP Global Climate Expedition” (e.g. Vanuatu refrigerator without electricity, etc.).

We experienced so much hospitality in our travels to more than 100 countries. Therefore, travelers such as sailors, cyclists or foot pilgrims are always welcome and have the opportunity to rest, to shower and to wash their clothes!

Empowering a friendship with nature, – to save the planet:

After two decades on the expedition, we have come to the conclusion that outdoor sports is the best medicine for our planet and the best investment, the one in children, as they are the future and will shape our planet. Therefore, children’s ideas are the key to the development of “TOP Villa Villekulla”, that is, to create the best house for children and by doing so to take care of the future of our planet.

Sport in nature creates a deep relationship between human and nature. This mutual relationship of trust is the basis for a sustainable future. – That is why we see our house as a “youth playground” and “outdoor base” where children can lend equipment to connect with nature (skis, kayaks, sailboats, bicycles, etc.) in the paradise of the Arctic, the Lyngen Alps.

A vision without action is just a dream. “Be part of the Future!” Take action and join us!

A Norwegian – Swiss joint venture!

This TOP project is made possible by the following partners:

Overall project management:

BYGGMESTER BERGLUND AS

Partners:

BYGGMESTER BERGLUND AS, POLARENERGI, SKORPION SNEKKER AS, A.J. DESIGN AS, SCHWEIZERISCHER FACHVERBAND FÜR HINTERLÜFTETE FASSADEN, ISOVER, LYNGEN RØR AS, SIGA, NORDAN,

The Sun is back!

Check the latest article “20 years at sea: The Swiss family sailing the globe in search of solutions“, by Anne-Marie Hoeve from fivemedia.com.

News: We experience a cold arctic winter with a lot of snow on board of Pachamama. The days are busy: We are engaged in many sport activities to inspire the youth for the outdoors and nature; we prepare the next “TOPtoTOP Arctic Research Expedition” towards Svalbard, Greenland, Jan Mayen and Iceland; and we try to build an arctic outpost.

Our Torqeedo electric outboard motor works perfect in arctic conditions. Here the article in English: “Uncharted Territories“; and here in German: “Unerforschte Gebiete.”

Watch Sabine and Dario at the start of the expedition with “Swiss TOPtoTOP” on Mount Titlis in Engelberg 20 years ago. Salina and Andri are now studying in Engelberg, where they find optimal training conditions for their ski mountaineering sport. An interview with Salina was published in many newspapers. At the beginning of February she participated in the European Championships in Spain.

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