Permafrost to Mars, Bipolar Oceanography
Leading physical geographer Dr Hanne Christiansen presented an introduction to permafrost science and a review of current research. We proceeded to two sites where Christiansen and her collaborators measure solifluction – the movement of the active layer that arises from the seasonal melt/thaw cycle. We proceeded to have lunch on the sunny hillside underneath the old mining gondola towers whose foundations demonstrated the solifluction process. We then met a Portuguese team at the second site who talked to us about their work comparing the permafrost polygons in Svalbard with peri-glacial structures observed on Mars. Returning to UNIS, Dr Gammelsrød introduced Oceanography with several dynamic demonstrations that showed the plasticity of ice and the stratification of the water column during sea ice melting. A discussion on the Bipolar Arctic Thermohaline Circlulation (BIAC) IPY project followed. Several CTD and ADCP instruments were made available so that we could visualize the cutting-edge methods in the discipline. Another fine dinner awaited us at the SAS-hotel where we continued our conversations about polar science.
Abandoned but not forgotten
Looking at the activity-filled timetable for the IPY polar field school 2010 you will find only two holidays. Therefore they should also be at least as bright and interesting as our lectures and field excursions. And so, when a student Nils Arne invited us to participate in the marine excursion to the Russian abandoned settlement Pyramiden and our mentor professor Olafur Ingolfsson told us how we would proceed through 400 million years of geological history, most of us supported this idea. At 11 am, a tour bus transported us from Nybyen to the Polargirl. While underway, our guide Alan held a safety briefing and demonstrated the proper procedure to don a survival suit. Soon a mountain whose form resembled a pyramid appeared on the horizon, and some of us could see a settlement through the binoculars. The name of the mining town was in honor of the mountain – Pyramiden. Until 1998, this settlement was the home of the northernmost coal-mining operation in the world. After the mine was shut down, the settlement’s infrastructure has been conserved which allow research and tourism activities. Currently there are 20 residents in summer, two of whom remain through the polar night. The area around Pyramiden is strikingly beautiful, with inspiring natural features that include the sea, the surrounding mountains, the valleys and the glaciers. Directly in front of Pyramiden we found a large glacier Nordenskjöld, lumps of which, from time to time, cave and start their new migratory existence as icebergs on the sea. This is truly the most pleasant place we have visited on the archipelago. After the day’s exciting activities, a wonderful grilled salmon lunch was waiting us on the Polargirl.
Authors: William Eucker (USA) and Pavel Aleksandrovich Sultanov (Russia)
The abandoned settlement Pyramiden
A nearby glacier
Some of the IPY students in Pyramiden
Photos: Pavek Aleksandrovich Sultanov (Russia)