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Surveillance around Jackson Island

The expedition has reached Franz Josef Land. Finally, we have our first reconnaissance flight! We’re going to see how things are with the sea and the ice.

The key principle in getting ready for a flight is simple: more fuel – fewer passengers. An extra (completely full) tank in the MI-8 helicopter means an extra hour’s flying time (making about three and a half hours, in total), but that means this time only six people (apart from the crew) can get on board. That’s enough for us though – the researchers, an operator, and, as they say in these parts, the obligatory “man with a gun”. That’s the man from the National Park authority because – if we have to land somewhere, who’s going to protect us from polar bears, if not him?

Asking where we’re going isn’t exactly pointless, but no one can give a precise answer. Roughly – we’re headed for Jackson Island (where groups of narwhals were found in 2019). But it all depends on the fog – which is pretty unpredictable around here. One minute everything’s clear, then suddenly – everything’s covered in a sheet of fog, and you can’t fly. Ice floes also have an impact. Ideally, you’re supposed to fly right along the edge of an ice floe. That’s where bowhead whales, belugas, and what we most want to see – narwhals – usually come.