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A bigger challenge than expected

Fresher trawler Helga María is now on its way home after a busy research assignment off West Greenland on behalf of the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources. The trawler is expected to dock on Thursday night or Friday morning, after an 81-day trip since leaving Reykjavík.

‘The assignment went very well. This was interesting, but more of a challenge than I had expected,’ said skipper Heimir Guðbjörnsson when we caught up with him as Helga María was getting closer to Cape Farewell, Greenland’s most southerly point.

We spoke to him earlier in the summer when Helga María was in port in Ilulissat in western Greenland. Ilulissat is at approximately 69°N, inside Disko Bay and close to Ice Fjord, which takes its name from the vast glacier that joins the sea there. Large bergs are constantly breaking off it and the waters around it are filled with ice.

‘We were carrying out shrimp research off that part of the coast and there was so much ice in this region that it was difficult to find space to tow. On the other hand, there weren’t too many icebergs out in Disko Bay, but people with local knowledge told us that a year ago that area had been impassable because of the amount of ice. But we had to be wary of the ice all the time. The big bergs didn’t present any problems, as they show up clearly on radar, but the smaller bergs that are practically submerged are the ones that are most dangerous for shipping. It helped that the weather has been good all summer, although fog caused us a few difficulties.’

He said that they carried out three 12- to 20-day shrimp trips and two on Greenland halibut during the research assignment, and the second Greenland halibut trip was in Canadian waters in co-operation with the Canadian authorities. That trip took them as far as 72°30’N.

‘The shrimp and Greenland halibut trips themselves weren’t a surprise, other than how comprehensive they were. For example, we towed a video sled and a lot of footage of the seabed was recorded. There was a special dredge to obtain seabed samples,’ he said, and added that he hasn’t heard if this co-operation with Helga María will continue. The will for this appears to be there among those who organise research efforts in Greenland and Canada, but it remains to be seen if Brim can be without the vessel next summer.

‘We’re on course for Reykjavík and we’re looking forward to coming home. We have a lot of equipment on board for next summer. We have two shrimp trawls and two Greenland halibut trawls on the deck, along with rockhopper footropes and extra trawl doors, among other things,’ Heimir Guðbjörnsson said.


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