Dear followers of Hyperborea Exists, here is the next post in ‘Every story has a beginning’. As I mentioned in my last entry, after the dressing-down we received from the NTNU’s Expert Commission we had no other choice but to spend the rest of the summer of 2000 working on other projects while we anxiously waited for September to arrive.
When it was finally time to set off on our new expedition to the Niflheim Cave, we were faced with several challenges. First, the limited budget granted by the NTNU meant that we wouldn’t have much room for manoeuvre. However, we called in a few personal favours and used our contacts, finally setting sail on a medium-sized ship, the ‘Ice Dawn’. Once a fishing boat, it had since been remodelled and was now used for research projects.
|Sonar image of the fracture zone of Jan Mayen showing the location of the opening of the Niflheim cave.
Although we had only been authorised and granted the funds to mark out a perimeter around the shipwreck, we had actually succeeded in obtaining the means to do a little more. We had one of the Barracuda submarine robots belonging to Nordic Communications on board. Now it had been meticulously adapted for gathering samples and exploring the terrain. Our plan was to try to spend as much time at the site as possible, although this was weather-dependent.
After several days’ journey, Olve, Geir and I, plus the Ice Dawn crew, reached the coordinates of the Niflheim Cave. The weather wasn’t ideal so we got straight to work. First we marked out a perimeter around the cave by sonar. The region is part of the famous Jan Mayen Ridge and the island of Jan Mayen is 250 miles to the north. As I explained in previous posts, the area around the island would later be one of the main focus points for our research field work. As the image shows, the entrance to the Niflheim Cave was a long opening, like a crack, on the side of an underwater mound that had once been volcanic chimney many years ago.
Once we had taken images of the perimeter, the Barracuda was fitted with the sonar and we launched the first dive back to the cave. At first sight, everything appeared to be just as we had left it on our previous visit.
|Down, left. Sonar image of the strange disk we found in the Niflheim Cave.
We started to take different images of quadrants covering the cave floor and the areas where what we called Odin’s Keel had been found. That was how we spent the first day of work. In the evening, we checked through all the sonar images. Our initial analysis showed that Odin’s Keel was just the tip of the iceberg. Most of the shipwreck lay beneath the surface, protected by layers of mud, earth and rock. This knocked the wind out of our sails. If the project conditions already involved highly complex archaeological prospecting on the surface, at that depth the cost of recovering the wreck would be astronomic. Way out of our budget.
We had almost finished when Olve spotted something in an image taken in the farthest area of the cave from Odin’s Keel. It was a type of mound, an odd protuberance that somehow looked out of place while also appearing to belong to the shipwreck. The sonar image was blurry, but it looked like a circular surface measuring three feet in diameter. Was it part of the shipwreck or a strange artefact from its cargo?
Although we had originally planned to use the Barracuda to gather a fragment of Odin’s Keel, we now decided to prioritise our new discovery. The next day, we got the Barracuda ready and looked on anxiously as it slowly descended through the watery depths down to the Niflheim Cave. The robot was fitted with two arms and a large spade. One of the arms had a pincer and the other held a saw for cutting through rock. When the Barracuda approached the new finding we finally had a better view. It was a circular surface that stood out from the ocean floor. As the robot drew closer it stirred up lots of dust and we saw that it was encrusted with rocks, flora and crustaceans.
The robot stretched out its pincer and the upper part of the object shuddered at its touch. It wasn’t a cube, but a type of loose disc. It appeared to be lighter than we had first thought because it moved slightly every time the pincer touched it. Finally, we groped around its perimeter and started to cut into the rock to try to separate it from the ocean floor. This was just what we had been looking for: an object that could be used to prove the importance of our research. And that we weren’t on a wild goose chase. Unfortunately, the Barracuda wasn’t designed for carrying a load like the disc. We were worried that its pincer wasn’t secure enough for a safe ascent. We would have to come up with another way of bringing it up to the surface...