Question Special: Answers to Questions

Thank you for all the questions we’ve received over the weeks! I’ve let a bit of a backlog build up, so several of us have teamed up to answer them all at once.


How fast does the ship go? How many kilometres do you go a day? Where will you end up?

The maximum speed of the Amundsen is 16 knots an hour (a knot is approximately 2,025 yards or 1.852 kilometres ), when she isn’t breaking ice. How far we travel depends on the science schedule. Sometimes we go many hundreds of kilometres a day, but often we spend days on end working at stations and not moving at all.


How does money work? Do you participate in a ship-sized economy while you’re on an expedition?

In general, at sea, we buy very little. Meals, served 3 times a day, are paid for by the expedition budget, and not much else is for sale. The two things we spend money on are alcohol and canteen items. Alcohol is served 4 times a week – 3 times a week at the ship’s bar, which is open from 20:00 to 23:00, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and once on Sunday, when we often have a glass of wine with ‘formal’ (that is to say, fleece-, goretex- and Carhartt-free) dinner. In the canteen, we can buy small comfort items – toothbrushes, cigarettes, chips, chocolate – and also expedition clothes that have the Amundsen on them. It seems that almost everyone on board now has a jacket with the Amundsen embroidered on it – they’re quite nice.


Who cooks?

The ship has a fantastic team of professional chefs. Their names are Gino, Pierre, and Carole, and they’ve been making us wonderful meals 3 times a day under considerable logistical constraints, such as the fact that we haven’t seen a fresh vegetable in weeks. Meals range from mac and cheese to smoked salmon profiterole, and there are usually vegetarian options as well. Sunday dinner is much more fancy than regular meals, and includes an appetizer and a cheese plate. It’s very pleasant to sit down for a nice meal once a week, and some of us look forward to the cheese plate for days in advance…


Does the ship have an Instagram account?

Sadly, no! Our Internet is quite slow. However, one of the ship’s officers is also a cartoonist and illustrator, and she makes rather cool things that she puts on her own Instagram account, which is here [] – she’ll likely have her magnificent sketches of the ship on it after the expedition!


How do you dispose of the contents of your sanitary tanks?

The ship generates a good deal of waste and has very efficient ways of dealing with it – no solid waste is ever dumped overboard. Most trash is simply burned in the incinerator. Glass and metal is recycled. The ship’s greywater – used shower water, used cooking water, and the like – is treated in the grey water tank before being released into the ocean from the hold. The blackwater – human waste- is stored in a special holding tank for several days, where it goes through a microbial breakdown treatment before also being released into the ocean.


Which novels are you bringing with you?

To answer this, I did an informal survey of everyone in my immediate vicinity right now:

Clara Hoppe – “[Love and Darkness] by Amos Oz – Growing up in eastern Israel as the son of a Holocaust survivor dealing with a messed-up family. It’s funny and sad and I really recommend it”

Isabel Courchesne – The Last Viking, a biography of Roald Amundsen

David Janssen – “I didn’t have much packing time, so the only leisure reading I brought were scientific articles about beer. This one is called “The Microbial Diversity of Traditional Spontaneously Fermented Lambic Beer.” I wholly recommend it.”

Tereza Jarníková – “Tove Jansson’s Winter Book, which are strange sad funny stories about her life in Scandinavia. I also have Philip Pullman’s Golden Compass, which is probably the best children’s book about the Arctic ever, and also great for adults, and also possibly the best children’s book period. It was the first book to make me excited about the Arctic.”

Nina Schuback- “Future Arctic: Field Notes from a World on the Edge by  Edward Struzik – It’s about ecological and economic changes to the Arctic region. It’s a very interesting book about the Arctic. It’s disturbing.”

Martine Lizotte – “The manual for my gas chromatographer – the Varian 3800 PFPD manual, and the Getting Started Manual. Many times. I also read a lot about Valco valves.”


Is the deck of your boat higher than the upright reach of a polar bear?

Yes – the ship’s main deck is 6 meters above the sea surface. The ship’s bridge -the highest deck of the ship where all navigation happens – is 15 meters above the sea surface. It’s a moot point, though, because we still haven’t really seen a polar bear.

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