Hi from 78°N! Some of us have been here for a couple of days now so we are updating you all on what we have been doing. During the long flight from Oslo we were lucky to have clear views of the sea ice and southern Spitzbergen. Amazing! In Svalbard, we are staying in the student accommodation in Nybyen about 3km from UNIS in old mining barracks. Unfortunately this means a 30 minute walk to UNIS, not a pleasant experience in gale force winds and sub-zero temperatures, although it gives an opportunity to get to know the 22 other people from 11 different countries!
Whilst waiting for the field school to begin we took advantage of the good weather and went hiking up Longyearbreen (the local glacier) near our accommodation (with a rifle in case of polar bear encounters!). Part way up the glacier we went searching for fossils amongst the rocks where the ice had melted. The next day, after a short introduction to the field school, we climbed up the side of a mountain to visit a long-abandoned mine. Luckily, after a scary climb up ice covered steps and a walk along an unstable, decrepit wooden walkway, we were rewarded with fantastic views over the valley and Longyearbyen.
The first day of the field school involved participating in a safety course. The safety courses in Svalbard, however, are particularly unusual. Due to the threat of polar bears we were all trained to use rifles, shooting 16 rounds to make sure we could deal with an attack. Later we returned to UNIS and were fitted with bright orange emersion (survival) suits. We then went to a small boat harbor and jumped into the freezing cold Barents Sea and then attempted to get back onto the dock. It’s not as easy as it looks! Later, whilst relaxing in the barracks we noticed that it was beginning to snow (in mid-June, not as unusual as it seems we later found out), the wind soon picked up considerably causing the buildings to shake violently. It was our first arctic storm!
What an introduction to the high arctic!
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Wednesday, 17 June 2009 14:47
IPY Polar Field School- First few daysWritten by lizthomas
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