© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

There Is A Place With No Social Distancing And No Coronavirus

Researchers with the MOSAiC polar expedition inspect the ice in November. Life now feels surreal as they socialize normally, trying to imagine the global pandemic shutdown.
Esther Horvath
Alfred Wegener Institute
Researchers with the MOSAiC polar expedition inspect the ice in November. Life now feels surreal as they socialize normally, trying to imagine the global pandemic shutdown.

How far would you go to escape the coronavirus pandemic?

The MOSAiC expedition is a big, international research project to study the warming Arctic. For a year, scientists from all over the world are taking turns living on a German icebreaker that's frozen into an ice floe while the ship drifts across the Arctic Ocean.

"So, looking around me from the ship's bridge, I can see the ice stretching away to the horizon in every direction," says Chris Marsay, a research associate at the University of Georgia.

He's studying trace elements that get deposited on the surface of the ocean from the atmosphere — some good, like iron and zinc, which feed plankton — and some bad, like lead. He also occasionally takes his turn on polar bear guard duty, though he says none have been spotted since he started his stint on the boat.

When Marsay left for his three-month shift, the coronavirus was only known to be in China. No one on the ship has gotten it.

"We're able to get on with our daily work," Marsay says. "We sit together for our meals, and we sit together to chat in the evenings."

Marsay and his colleagues were supposed to have left the ship last month, but because of the pandemic those flights were canceled.

"It's been kind of surreal to hear of the restrictions on daily life from family and friends back home," he says. "There have been plenty of conversations onboard about how strange it will be to get back and get confronted with a completely different way of life than that which we left in January."

Now the plan is to break out of the ice and meet another ship, so people can rotate on and off. The new arrivals will be quarantined and tested.

Some worry for friends and family back home. But in a way, Marsay says he and the others feel lucky to be onboard.

"I never expected to come to the middle of the Arctic Ocean and have my daily life less restricted than it would back home," he says. "But in many ways that's certainly the case at the moment."

Marsay says some onboard are eager to get back home. Others are just fine staying insulated from the virus, and all the measures to address it, as long as they can.

Copyright 2020 WABE 90.1

Molly Samuel joined WABE as a reporter in November 2014. Before coming on board, she was a science producer and reporter at KQED in San Francisco, where she won awards for her reporting on hydropower and on crude oil.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.

Related Content