28 August, 2001
Tuesday, 23 August 2001
Life on Board
We arrived in the tiny Norwegian town of Longyearben on the island of Spitzbergen yesterday afternoon after seeing the last ice about noon on Sunday. This town, the largest settlement in the entire Svalbard archipelago, has a history of whaling, hunting, coal mining, and now tourism. Also, scientists now come here and use the facilities to do research. The permanent population is about 1400 and they have to endure months of darkness each winter. We saw our first sunset in 2 months last night about 11 pm. It was beautiful with a few clouds and wonderful reds and oranges. The sun crept along, moving from left to right, just under the horizon for a few hours then started to rise again, so we got to enjoy the sunset for quite awhile if we could stay awake.
Everybody wanted to get off the ship as soon as possible so a big group of us got ready to go on a hike as soon as we docked. In Svalbard, you must have a gun with you whenever you leave the town perimeter due to the high concentration of bears here, so we went into town to rent rifles (we weren't allowed to take the ship's shotguns) and then headed up the steep plateau behind the town. From the top, the views are incredible across the fjord, and the glaciers that surround the town are beautiful. We saw several Svalbard reindeer, a subspecies of the reindeer that we are more familiar with, and they don't seem to be afraid of people at all. They have adapted to the extremely harsh climate here by being very small and compact, with their backs only coming up to about the middle of my hip. After our 5 hour hike, we stopped in town for dinner at a superb restaurant called the Huset (house). Even though we weren't really dressed for it, they let us in anyway and I had one of the finest meals of my life. OK, don't anybody have a fit about this but our appetizer was smoked reindeer heart (and it was pretty tasty). And, (don't shoot me) one of the people in our group ordered whale steak and I had to taste it. At first, it just tastes like beef, then there is a slightly fishy taste that creeps in. Not bad, but I was happy with my fresh North Atlantic halibut although my judgement of food may have been skewed after 2 months of ship fare.
Today, the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat arranged a guided bus tour for us through Longyearben. Keep in mind that you can walk around Longyearben in about 15 minutes so I was pleasantly surprised when we headed away from town past the head of the fjord. Along the way, we saw scientist's huts and research facilities for various things. We arrived at our destination about 10 kilometers outside of town which was a sled dog training and breeding camp. All 70 dogs were all incredibly friendly to people and wanted you to pet them for as long as you would. They were all what the owners called "Alaskan huskies," but they looked like a total mix of mixed breeds, from Greyhound to Akita to Malamute. One litter of young pups was running around underfoot and another group of "teenagers" had their own special pen. What an interesting life! What a ruckus!
We will be flying out of Longyearben on a huge C-130 military cargo plane called a Hercules. Apparently, it is really loud inside and there is no food, drink, or toilet for our 4 hour flight to Stockholm.
Where Are We Now?
We are sitting at the dock in Longyearben, Svalbard, about a mile's walk from town center. Our coordinates are 78o14' north and 15o36' east. The weather has been beautiful! (Where was the sun when we were at the North Pole??)
Scientists at Work
Now the next phase of hard work begins for the scientists. They have a massive amount of data which they must try to coordinate between all of the groups, make inferences and hypotheses, perform statistics, draw conclusions, write papers, and finally present them to the scientific community and the world. This process will be ongoing for years and they will meet again and again at workshops to discuss the data and its significance. It is quite a commitment and a difficult journey but the end product of understanding will be worth it. If they didn't feel that it is important and valuable, why would they do it? I hope that I will be included in some of these discussions in the future because the Arctic is a place that gets into your heart, grabs your interest, and makes you think.
This will be the last journal entry for my expedition to the great north. I want to thank all of you that followed my journey and sent emails and good wishes. I also want to thank my sponsors, National Science Foundation, Rice University, Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab, and the American Museum of Natural History, and also my Principal Investigator, Patricia Matrai from Bigelow Labs for Ocean Sciences, for giving me the wonderful opportunity to be integrated into the real science on the Oden. As you can see from my journals, the Arctic is a remote and desolate place that is still being explored. The possibilities are endless and I believe that through information and knowledge, we can use this wonderful, pristine platform as a place of peace and research to learn more about our great planet. Adjo and farewell.
Vi ses! (See you later!)
From Deck 4 on the Icebreaker Oden, signing off and heading home, Dena Rosenberger
Contact the TEA in the field at .
If you cannot connect through your browser, copy the TEA's e-mail address in the "To:" line of your favorite e-mail package.