Svalbard Part 1: Arrival in the Arctic

It’s a matter of latitude. 78° 13′ N; approximately twelve degrees, or 1,334 kilometers north of the Arctic circle. This is the realm of twenty four hour nights and days, of the Aurora Borealis, of polar bears, of windswept landscapes of snow, sea ice, mountains, and glaciers. It’s a part of the world I’ve wanted to experience since I was a kid, and it’s the place I’m going to for the next six weeks.

My destination is Svalbard; an archipelago of islands in the Arctic Ocean. I’m taking part in a glaciology program run by the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), which is located in the regional capital of Longyearbyen. Sixty percent of Svalbard’s surface is covered by glaciers, making it an ideal location to study their processes.

The first leg of my journey takes me from Vancouver to Oslo, where I have an overnight stay before my flight to Longyearbyen. The stopover gives me a chance to join up with a friend who is also taking part in the glaciology program. I met the aptly named Aurora last summer in Alaska (see North to Alaska), and catching up over some much need food that night, we’re both equally excited about the trip ahead. The next morning, we soak up the last sunrise we’ll see for a few weeks, and board our flight to the Arctic.

Svalbard_Touch_Down
Touchdown at Longyearbyen Airport, Svalbard.

 

Arriving in Longyearbyen just after 1pm, the usual bustle for hand luggage when the plane stops takes on a more practical air. Down jackets, balaclavas, and mittens are being pulled on before the exit door is opened. Stepping out into the blue semi-darkness, we are greeted by a biting wind that draws streams of fine snow across the tarmac. It’s already below -20°C, and I couldn’t be happier.

The following are just some initial shots from my first few days here, including some from the training we underwent. As always, images can be clicked on to view in full size. More updates coming soon.

Svalbard_Range_lineup
Protect our glaciers. Rifle handling is an important component of the safety training at UNIS, but is very rarely drawn upon. Temperatures on this evening were around -25°C, adding the additional challenges to target practice of bulky gloves and shivering.

 

Svalbard_range_guns

 

Svalbard_Flare_test
Flare testing

 

DSC_1158
Snowmobile training

 

Svalbard_scene_snowmobiles_heli
Longyearbyen

 

Svalbard_dog_sled
Dog team

 

Svalbard_reindeer_calf_brighter
Reindeer calf

 

Svalbard_reindeer_calf_mountains_brighter

 

Svalbard_sea_ice_mountains
Mountains and sea ice

 

Svalbard_tepee

 

Svalbard_sea_ice_mountains_me

 

DCIM100GOPRO
A wild day

 

Svalbard_storm_building
Shelter in a storm

18 thoughts on “Svalbard Part 1: Arrival in the Arctic”

  1. Hi Noel,
    Many thanks for the great photos and the pen picture of Svalbard.
    The gentle winds and rain that we get in Sligo, will feel like heaven after this. Continued success to you and your adventure !
    The folks back home.

  2. Unreal Noel! That looks epic, looks like you’re getting the full Arctic experience with all those photos of your training. Very cool stuff.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s