Association of Polar Early Career Scientists


Ever wonder what happens behind the scenes on an Arctic expedition? I wondered this as I prepared for the 2019 MOSAiC school. What to bring, what I would miss, how would I find the crowded conditions on the ship? An expedition with the size and scope of MOSAiC requires many years of planning, and will yield many years’ worth of data. All of this work aside, how do scientists pass the time? What do our instruments look like? And most importantly, how do you survive for weeks without internet??? Read along to find out more behind the snapshots of the MOSAiC school in 52 seconds.

The Arctic is far!

September 12 and 13, 2019

The port of dRosalie McKay MOSAiC Ambassador Blog 1 Sept 12 13eparture for the MOSAiC expedition was Tromsø, Norway. With students from all over the world, much travel was needed. A small group, including Mauro, Neil, Francesca, Julika and Sam were able to meet and take the train, saving a little carbon footprint for those of us not able to travel this way. Coming from Canada, long travel days were necessary to limit the number and length of flights, I spent many hours in airports between these two days. Happily, myself and all my luggage arrived in Tromsø. After a midnight bus ride, I checked in to my hotel and was so happy to finally see a bed.  

I was relieved to be reunited with these bags at the carousel in Tromsø. They contained precious items like Reese Peanut Butter Cups, Super Nibs and chai tea – important comfort items on an icebreaker


All packed! © Rosalie McKay


September 14 and 15, 2019

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I booked my arrival in Tromsø a few days ahead of the start of the school, in case of delays or lost luggage. This gave me two free days to explore northern Norway. I chose to travel to Senja for the weekend. I stayed at a cozy Airbnb in Finnsnes and managed a couple hikes. The 8-hour time difference was really hard to adapt to and was accompanied by much exhaustion from two days of traveling. The fresh mountain air and exercise were a great cure for jetlag.

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Beautiful Norway (© Rosalie McKay)

In person

September 16, 2019

After months of group emails and skype meetings, the MOSAiC School was finally able to meet in person. APECS sponsored an ‘Icebreaker’ BBQ – everyone was clearly excited to begin our adventure. The love of polar research was a unifying topic and the chat came naturally. How lucky were we to be embarking with such an amazing group of people? 

Rosalie McKay MOSAiC Ambassador Blog 3 Sept 16 credits to Josefine Lenz

Top row: Martha Henriques (media), Daisy Dunne (media), Julika Zinke, Katie Gavenus (education); Middle back: Anja Sommerfeld (AWI), Thomas Rackow (AWI/YOPP); Middle: Gerlis Fugmann (APECS), Ryleigh Moore, Ewa Korejwa, Anika Happe, Tatiana Matveeva, Mauro Hermann, Rosalie McKay, Marylou Athanase, Pierre Priou; Front: Andrea Schneider (APECS), Markus Rex (expedition leader), Natalia Ribeira Santos, Lisa Craw, Francesca Doglioni, Sam Cornish, Neil Aellen, Alex Mavrovic, Josefine Lenz (MOSAiC School leader); Missing: Robbie Mallett, Carrie Harris, Sean Horvath, Igor Vasilevich, Thea Schneider

(© Josefine Lenz)

Making connections

September 17, 2019

It’s a bit overwhelming to meet dozens of new people at once, and knowing that you’ll be living in very close quarters over the coming weeks, you want to make a good impression! The first night, it seemed impossible to remember everyone’s name and I was happy we had nametags at the BBQ. Our first group exercise was to say your name and add an action, which then had to be repeated by the person to your left. We went around in a circle and Alex was the lucky (unlucky?) student who had to recap everyone’s name. Looking back now, it’s funny to remember the anxiety I had about trying to keep all the new faces straight. After so many weeks together on a boat, we know so much more than just names and have developed lasting friendships.


September 18, 2019

Heading in to the Arctic, it’s important to make sure that you have all the right gear. We were fortunate that AWI provided our expedition gear: warm and weatherproof under and outer wear to protect us from the harsh conditions. Before departure, we had to try everything on and then pack the items into sea bags for transport onto the ship. This also allowed us our first close up view of Polarstern. 

The shipyard was a bustling place with the final push to load the ships; skid steers, cranes and people moving all about. There were containers being stacked one after another at the bow, an impressive amount of cargo was needed for the expedition. I had been waiting for this cruise since receiving my acceptance letter in March, it felt like the day would never come. Having our gear made everything suddenly feel very real. It must have been an impossibly long wait for the scientists responsible for the MOSAiC concept…over 10 years of planning.

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Gearing up (© Rosalie McKay)

The Planetarium

September 19, 2019

The Education team made a teaser for the movie that will be made following MOSAiC which will be shown at Planetariums across the globe. Sharing the expedition with the rest of the world is an important aspect of the MOSAiC concept. Changes in the Arctic will affect us all and we have a responsibility to share the science. 

After the teaser screening at the Planetarium, we joined other MOSAiC participants for a toast to the expedition. There was time for a quick celebration and some play with the Planetarium exhibits before going back to the shipyard, where students helped with preparations for the farewell party. Such an important and timely project, the media behind the expedition was (still is!) really important. The farewell party featured talks from lead scientists, with many dignitaries and politicians on the invitation list. We also got our first glimpse of Akademik Fedorov which had arrived earlier in the day.

To see the planetarium trailer visit here.

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RV Akademik Fedorov awaiting us (© Rosalie McKay)

Packed and ready to go

September 20, 2019

We left Tromsø Camping and transported all our bags to the shipyard. There, we loaded everything onto the ship, including all of the sea bags full of Arctic outer wear. You had to step carefully as the gangway steps were open and the metal was very slippery! Teamwork ensured everything and everyone made it aboard without incident. 

We were disappointed to hear that our departure was delayed by a day. Polarstern would leave as scheduled but Akademik Fedorov had to wait until the following morning, as there was one more package due to arrive that was needed for the expedition. Flexibility was important, the schedule changed daily throughout the expedition to accommodate weather, equipment and safety. Alas, our adventure would have to wait one more day!

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Almost departing (© Rosalie McKay)

We didn’t know it at the time but this would be the last time we saw Polarstern for a couple weeks. It had been planned for the two ships to travel together but later storm systems, a buoy mission and the delayed departure resulted in the two ships taking separate courses to the sea ice. This imparted a sense of solitude on our travels. 

Farewell Tromsø

September 21, 2019

Finally, the day we were all waiting for! Much excitement as we left port and began our adventure. We had our first general meeting, learned the emergency protocols and familiarized ourselves with what would be our home for the next 6 weeks. The Akademik Fedorov is a huge ship and the hallways seemed like a maze, this made knowing what to do in an emergency of the utmost importance. There are many dangerous aspects of being on a working ship – heavy machinery, cargo that can shift, and slippery decks to name a few. It’s important to always listen to your crew and leaders, and follow their directives.

Rosalie McKay MOSAiC Ambassador Blog 1 Sept 21 1 credits to Mario Hoppman

Expedition safety training (© Mario Hoppman).

Rosalie McKay MOSAiC Ambassador Blog 1 Sept 21 2 credits to Rosalie McKay

We really only had regular access to a few rooms: the mess hall, a small lounge room, the gym, the dry lab and the lecture room. As the days went on, we became more familiar with the ship and developed a routine. Students shared 3-4 people per room, when it’s more customary to only be two. We got to know each other really well over the following weeks.








Ryleigh showing off our spacious accommodation (© Rosalie McKay).


September 22, 2019

Online, people around the globe were able to submit questions about the MOSAiC expedition and the science behind it. Expedition scientists did their best to answer these questions, and their responses were filmed for posting when we returned to land. Check out this great video from the very start of the expedition from our friends at CIRES.

Maybe you have a question for #AskMOSAiC? This project is ongoing for the entire expedition. If you would like to participate in #AskMOSAiC, you can submit your questions either by video or by completing a form.  Visit this link for instructions for video questions.

For written questions go to

If you would like to look at submitted questions and the answers visit:

Ship Fit

September 23, 2019

It’s hard to stay active on a ship, especially at times when there’s no fieldwork being done. The swells can make it difficult to balance when you’re traveling on the open ocean and some people are very affected by sea sickness. This makes lying in bed far more appealing than jumping jacks! We were on the ship for 6 weeks without a true dedicated gym space, we had only a small room with a ping pong table. Creativity was necessary to keep from feeling stuck inside and trapped in the same routine. Luckily, we had Neil, our local CrossFit guru, who seemed keen to keep us in shape. Julika and Lisa were our fencing coaches; no one happened to pack fencing swords so we made do with sharpies instead. Jessie led yoga sessions and Sam was our martial arts expert. We did some line dancing and devised all sorts of games using a stress ball, pole, water bottles and some notebooks we had lying around. This combined with the ship sport of Ping Pong, created a vibrant set of activities aboard to keep everyone’s spirits high.

Video by Rosalie highlighting fitness activities onboard RV Akademik Fedorov, uploaded on the APECS vimeo channel.

The Bridge

September 24, 2019

TRosalie McKay MOSAiC Ambassador Blog 2 Sept 24 1 credits to Anika Happehe MOSAiC school was invited to the bridge! Chief Mate Grigory provided an informative and entertaining tour. We were able to see what the instruments look like and how they work, gain insight on daily operations and enjoy a bird’s eye view of the day’s large swells. We were also given a quick navigation lesson and demonstration. Our Russian hosts were very keen to make us feel welcomed. The bridge is the control centre of the ship, and our Russian crew worked around the clock to make sure that the technical aspects of the expedition were a success.



Chief Mate Grigory marking our position on the map (© Anika Happe).

There’s ice!

September 25, 2019

It was reported early in the day that we would reach the edge of the sea ice at night. Although many MOSAiC students study polar sciences, this was the first opportunity for many to actually see the sea ice. We cheered at the first glimpse! It was only a few small pieces at first but more and more as the night went on. It was exhilarating to finally get to the ice edge, the whole reason we were there.

Contact APECS

APECS International Directorate
UiT The Arctic University of Norway
Huginbakken 14
9019 Tromsø
Email: info(at)

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