onsdag 28. april 2010

Fieldtrip turned into arctic adventure

Monday morning a half of my class, 2 teachers and 3 PhD-students started our trip to Billefjorden. We got a late start, it took quite a while to pack all the equipment we needed. When we finally started, the nice weather that appeared early in the morning had been changed with more clouds and wind. But we managed to get to Billefjorden without any major problems, and started to put up our camp. Since some of the samples we wanted was going to be collected at midnight, we were spending the night on the sea ice.

While some started to put up the tent, I started to help with one of the holes we needed to make. We used and ice-drill to get through the ice, and then an ice-saw to cut out pieces and make a bigger whole. Thankfully, the ice-drill had an motor, the saw we had to use our own strength on. We were supposed to make two holes, one small one for a high-technology LCT-device (Light, conductivity, temperature), and then a bigger hole for sampling nets to collect copepods (Calanus sp.), zooplankton and phytoplankton. The ice was a little bit thicker than we expected, so I was working a lot with he ice saw before I got the deepest ice-layer loose. When I finally got it, we were surprised to find ice-algae on the bottom, because it`s too early in the season for them!

Then we started on the bigger hole, but during start of it someone dropped the ice saw! There was not much we could do, except to try to get a new one... Our teachers drove over to the "abandoned" Russian village Pyramiden, to check if they had one. (It was abandoned, until a few Russians came back and started to fix the hotel). They did not have any ice-saw. Though, this might be a question of translation issues, the Russians apparently thought we asked for permission for making a hole in the ice...

On their way back, the spotted a polar bear! So everyone where searching the horizon to try to see it! All of us, except the grown-ups, where quite excited. especially since most of us hadn`t seen a polar bear yet! But even with binoculars we did not see it. It probably went away from the sound of the snow scooters.

We tried to get a hold on the boat in Tempelfjorden, to see if they had an ice saw. Then a few of us could drive over and get it. But as bad luck continued, they did not have one, and we were left with only one option: To get someone from Unis to bring the ice-saw, and meet us half way. I volunteered to drive with the teacher and PhD-student that where going, because I did not feel any tired, and I was confident to drive the way back without much difficulties. As we got on our way, our vission got poorer and poorer. Even though quite close to the one in front of me, there where long periods where I almost couldn`t spot him! Luckily I have been driving the same route before, and I have quite good memory from places I´ve been, so a often new what kind of slopes was in front of me. There was heavy wind and a lot of snow, so not only our view was bad, but it was also more difficult to drive in the newly formed layer of powder snow, especially in slopes! But we got all the way to Tempelfjorden and Fredheim without any problems, and entering Eskerdalen we finally met the guys bringing the ice-saws (2, to be sure). We had been driving about 1 and a half hour in bad conditions, and now we had to turn and go back. The vision had shifted a little during the time we used, so some places we got better view and some even worse. It was getting late too, but that`s not really a problem when you have midnight sun. What actually is a problem is when it got cloudy and we got flat light, not being able to see contours in the snow or differences in slopes! Adding the still fresh powder, it was quite a challenge to drive! But all three of us managed without getting stuck or capsizing, not even in the hatred slope-and-turn after Tempelfjorden.

We finally arrived back at the camp. I even got a comment from the teacher I was driving with, that I was a good driver! (And as I understood on some classmates, this teacher does not give compliments often!) And even though it had been a tricky trip, it was an awesome experience! The rest of the group had been resting while we collected the equipment, now it was our turn to rest as they started to work on the big hole. But I had just got into my sleeping bag, when a friend came and told me that there was a polar bear outside! It was huge! Even though it was quite far away (on safe distance, luckily), I could still see the big animal! It was between us and Pyramiden, and it was going along a line, watching us, being very curious on us being there. It was really cool to watch it through the binoculars, it was beautiful! I tried to make pictures of it, but it was too far away to clearly see it. After walking and watching us, it laid down on the ice and stayed there. Then I went to sleep, and since I had joined the group that picked up the ice-saws, I did not have to wake up during the night to be polar bear-guard!

The next morning we started sampling, both making water samples, ice-core samples and collecting plankton. As it was becoming afternoon, and we started packing our stuff, the bad weather from last night was catching up on us! In the beginning we could not see the glacier that was the beginning of our way home (and mind you, it is a HUGE glacier!), but we could still see Pyramiden (on the opposite side). After everything was packed, we could not even see Pyramiden! We followed a GPS, keeping closely together while driving to Pyramiden. The Russians that stay there was kind enough to let us stay in the Bar-area inside the hotel., The bar was closed, but we could stay there and keep warm and eat our own food, and wait for better weather and get the weather forecast from Longyearbyen by satellite phone. After some food, our teachers told us that we would probably stay there for some hours, so we could get our sleeping bags and mats and go to sleep. Brilliant idea, we were all exhausted!

Not too many can say that they had to seek shelter in an abandoned, Russian village due to bad weather in the Arctic. And now I have slept at 2 Russian hotels up here!

During the evening, the weather got good enough for us to start our way home. It was really windy! And there was a lot of snow-collections that was difficult to see, so it was a really rough ride! Several places along our way, scooters got stuck. Then there´s no other choice than start digging! On one occasion, several scooters got stuck, in such big snow-layers that it took a long time to get them out! It was really difficult to drive! After getting down to Tempelfjorden, we had crossed the most difficult part, and it was more flat. We had a short rest at Fredheim, which is about half way, before we went all the way home. It felt like ages! We finally reached Longyearbyen and Unis at about 02.00/ 2.00 am, and then we had to unpack the equipment, and wash the gear that had been into the salt water. We were all pretty dead at that time...

Today we had to work with the samples we collected, and being exhausted, it`s not really easy to stay awake waiting for some filtering or picking up tiny copepods to registrate them... But it was a really cool field trip, and an awesome adventure!

Oh, btw, the last 2 nights there has been polar bears in town! Sysselmannen/Governor of Svalbard had to chase them out!

søndag 25. april 2010

Scooter/ski trip to Drønbreen glacier

Yesterday me and 2 friends packed our skis, sleeping bag, mats and some food and clothes, and drove out to the moraine of Drønbreen glacier. Some friends of us had put up a basecamp about 10 kilometers up on the glacier, and we wanted to visit them and stay the night =) And for the first time I tried skiing with a pulka! (before I have only been sitting in one, being dragged up to my family`s cabin when I was a baby =P) [For those of you who don`t know; a pulka/pulk is kind of a sledge where you can put your luggage, instead of having a big backpack. The pulka is attached to you by some long metal tubes and a harness. It is easier to drag heavy luggage than to have to much on your back.) Since we had a tent with us, we wanted one of us to take a pulka, and the rest could use backpacks. Since I haver never been on a trip with pulka before, I decided to try it out.

We had a really nice ski trip up the glacier, mostly in sun. We came across a campsite where a dog sledge team had been, and there we lost the tracks of our friends that where already out there. We followed the dogsledge tracks for a while, walking a long time in shadow. When we finally reached the sunny side again, we also discovered our friends skiing tracks =) On the next top, we could see the camp of our friends!

We put up our tent, and made a cold pit inside the tent for trapping cold air. We also build a snow-wall around us to protect the tent from wind. After that, we made a hot meal, and all was gathered in our tent having tea, chocolate, snacks, and brownies that I baked. It was really nice =)

Hehe, you will not believe me, but during the night we all woke up being too warm inside our sleeping bags and tent, even when it was about -18 degrees outside =P Luxury-problem when you are camping in wintertime ;-) Other than that, we had a really nice "night" and slept very well =) I say "night", because it`s so light during night-time because of the midnight sun. But the sun was hidden for a few hours behind a mountain, so we had at least some shadow for a while.

After breakfast, we boiled snow for water, and packed everything. On our way back to the moraine and our scooters, we had mostly downhill and used about 1 hour getting back! We used 3 hours getting out to the camp! And it was such a nice trip, we had the wind in our backs, and sun all the way! After putting all the equipment on the sledge, we decided to take a longer scooter trip instead of going directly home. We drove out Helvetiadalen valley and De Geerdalen vally, and enjoyed the view at Elveneset. We also went to Diabasodden spit, where we had a great view over Sassenfjorden and Billefjorden! We went over Knorringbreen glacier and through Hanaskogdalen were we all got surprised to se Svalsat and eventually Longyearbyen! And the view was amazing! It was so cool to drive along the shore of Adventjorden, instead of reaching the town from Adventdalen valley!

So now I`ve been to my first real overnight skiing trip, and also used a pulka for the first time! It was really a great trip!

And now I am getting ready for the fieldtrip tomorrow, we are driving scooter to Billefjorden and are staying there overnight, sleeping on the sea ice! Hopefully we see some seal-babies, maybe even a polar-bear! Hopefully not too close though, and hopefully not in our camp... But it`s anyway going to be a great trip!

fredag 23. april 2010

Skiing into the first night of Midnight sun!

From Monday 19th of April to Tuesday 20th of April was going to be the first night of Midnight sun! I wanted to see it for myself, so I asked around to see if anyone wanted to join me in a midnight skiitrip =) Two of my friends did, and at 23.20/11.30 pm we started to ski up Platåfjellet mountain. On the way we passed 2 reindeers who where lying in the snow, relaxing =P

Arriving at the top stunned me, the view was so amazing! And and the sun was there! My first Midnight Sun =D

We decided to ski up the next top too, since it was such a nice "night", and the view would probably become even more spectacular! When we came to the top, we even saw the student cabin in Bjørndalen, and far into Isfjorden and Adventdalen!

We had a really cool trip skiing down the hillsides again, passing the same reindeers as earlier (now gracing). After all that uphill, we could ski downhill for ever (it felt like)! It was an awesome trip!

We arrived Nybyen at 04.00, and I fell asleep before my head hit the pillow =P

So now there will be no more night up here, not before late September or early October! Only daylight all around!

Btw: Thanks to Calle for giving me his pictures, and letting me put it out on my blog!

Relaxing stay at Bjørndalen cabin

Last weekend 3 friends of mine asked me if I wanted to join them on a trip from Bjørndalen valley to Grumant, a Russian ruin that is quite difficult to reach. As me and 2 other friends recently had been having a small cold, we decided to join cabin trip, but instead of skiing we stayed at the cabin, keeping the fire going and relaxing =) it was fairly windy when we arrived, so we were quite happy with our decision =)

We arrived the cabin Friday evening, after attending the Friday Gathering at Unis. I was driving my scooter out there, picking up coal on the way, and the rest would get there by car and walking. It was still icy on the way over the river valley, but I managed to get to the cabin without any problems. I immediately got the fire going, as it was minus degrees inside when I arrived. When everyone arrived, we had something to eat, and had a nice evening/night.

The next morning, it was sunny (and windy), and some went off to Grumant. The rest of us stayed at the cabin. We sat outside in the sun, which was really nice, and had a walk down to the sea shore. We were looking for seabirds in the cliffs and curious seals in the water. Sadly we did not see much, but it was still a really nice trip.

Staying at the cabin in peace and quiet, doing nothing more than relaxing (or a bit nitting), it was such a nice start on the weekend!