ROAD TRIP! Watch Out Arctic Circle...the Sorcerer II Sampling Team is Coming Your Way!

After we arrived in Luleå, Jeremy, Karolina and I started packing for our road sampling trip to Lake Torneträsk, a freshwater lake located in the Arctic Circle.  Dr. Erling Norrby had contacted Dr. Christer Jonasson, the deputy director of the Abisko Scientific Research Station, to help coordinate our sampling trip.  The research station is located in Abisko, Sweden approximately 130 miles north of the Arctic Circle and is 1,300 feet above sea level on the south shore of Lake Torneträsk.

On the morning of Monday July 6th, with the rental car filled to maximum capacity including three carboys strapped to the roof, we set off for the 270 mile road trip to Abisko.  During the six hour drive we discussed our excitement about seeing such a unique environment and having some time away from the boat!  No offense to the others onboard but sometimes 95 feet can get a bit small. While driving we enjoyed the view of the snow capped mountains, thick green forests and the signs that warned us of moose crossings.  That is correct, we were in moose country and we were on high moose alert…sad to say there were no moose sightings.

After arriving at the station we were met by Dr. Jonasson who showed us the facilities and our apartment.  The apartment was very nice and had a fully equipped kitchen; we were all looking forward to cooking for ourselves.  The first night we settled into the apartment, cooked dinner and enjoyed our view from the living room overlooking the lake and the mountains in the background.  Since we were so far north in the Arctic Circle we experienced the midnight sun. It was an amazing experience, although it did interrupt our sleep cycles!

The next day was spent setting up the lab and collecting our samples from Lake Torneträsk.  We drove down to the lakeshore and filled 200 liters of lake water from a pier that stretched out 20 meters into the lake.  Lake Torneträsk doesn’t thaw until June so the water we collected by hand was 7°Celsius (44°Fahenheit).  Needless to say it was not the most enjoyable experience.  The water was crystal clear so we thought we would have to sample 500-1,000 liters to get enough biomass for DNA sequencing.  After only 200 liters, all 3 size filters were completely full of microorganisms and had distinct colors.  These filters had more life on them then what we see in open ocean samples when 400 liters is filtered.  The sample collected from Lake Torneträsk is a very unique sample because the lake is a major freshwater contributor to the Baltic Sea.  The data will be very interesting to compare to the other samples collected on our North/South transect of the Gulf of Bothian.

We took full advantage of the long sunny nights by doing hikes up the surrounding mountains and rivers that feed the lake.  The time spent at the station was important scientifically and for crew moral.  It is always reinvigorating to get off the boat, get some exercise and experience these unique environments up close.