Svalbard Part 3: In search of Sun

The Sun has been absent since I’ve arrived here in Longyearbyen. The islands are deep inside the Arctic Circle; the line of latitude north of which it is possible to have 24 hour nights in winter. But Spring is fast approaching.

When a ray of sunlight was spotted hitting the mountain tops on the other side of the fjord, it was decided that a group of us would aim to get as much elevation as possible over the weekend, and try to catch some elusive light. Temperatures would remain well below -20°C over the two days, so warm clothes and moving fast would be essential.

Saturday morning saw us hiking up to Sverdruphamaren; an elevated plateau to the west of Longyearbyen. There is a real sense of wilderness here, and the view is an expanse of white peaks, sea ice, and reindeer. The sun however, remained just below the higher mountains to the south.

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Setting out from Longyearbyen on Saturday morning

 

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Ice mascara

 

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The Svalbard Cold Feet Dance

 

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Some opted just to get their feet off the ground altogether.

 

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Chasing the sun across Svalbard’s wilderness

 

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Returning back across the plateau after a cold but beautiful day

 

On Sunday morning, we aimed higher, and set out for Trollsteinen; the peak behind which the Sun had hidden from us the previous day. With temperatures at sea level forecast to be around -30°C, we knew we were in for a cold summit. Our route would bring us south of Longyearbyen, up the glacier of Larsbreen, before ascending onto the main ridge of the mountain. The winds were calm, and the skies were perfectly clear, promising excellent views, and potentially some vitamin D.

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Heading south, with Longyearbyen in the distance

 

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Lone hiker on Larsbreen

 

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Beginning to ascend towards the ridge

 

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The Sun! The end of polar night, as viewed from the main ridge of Trollsteinen

 

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The Sun is literally days away from reappearing here in the valley, and the community of Longyearbyen will mark its return this weekend with a festival in its honour. It’s certainly something worth celebrating, but I’ll still be happy to experience a few more Svalbard nights.

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The Aurora over Longyearbyen

 

8 thoughts on “Svalbard Part 3: In search of Sun”

  1. Might be a bit naive here, but what are the chances of a random encounter with a hungry polar bear? ☺. Epic adventures all the same. Always wanted to see the Aurora with my own eyes

    1. Cheers Ronan! There are approximately 3,000 polar bears on Svalbard, so you definitely need to take precautions. This mostly consists of avoiding areas with bears present, or changing your plans/route should you see signs of one. This is their territory after all! If you leave the village, you carry a rifle and flare gun, but these are last resort options. The shooting of a bear is taken extremely seriously here.

  2. Hi Noel, Thank you for the breathtaking photos and narrative. We can almost hear the silence of the wilderness above Longyearbyen. We love the image of the sunrise over Trollsteinen; not forgetting the “feet dance” en route and the “ice mascara”. Anyone for Hot Chocolate ! The folks back home.

    Date: Fri, 6 Mar 2015 14:04:59 +0000 To: eamon.fitzpatrick@hotmail.com

  3. hi noel im Kate Ellens friend in 4th class in st.Josephs N.S. I was wondering did you know if the glaciers will melt soon ?
    You have nice pictures there.
    How much countries have you went to ?
    Bye 🙂

    1. Hi Kate, thank you for reading my blog, and for your questions.

      People like me who study glaciers are trying to work out what will happen to glaciers in the future. We think that if the Earth’s temperature keeps getting warmer, many of the glaciers will have shrunk or disappeared by the end of this century, and some much sooner than that. This is important for lots of reasons. If a glacier melts, its water flows into the sea, causing the sea level around the world to rise higher, and towns near the sea (including some in Ireland) might flood more often. Also, in some countries, the water from glaciers is used for drinking, farming, and making electricity, and this water is very important during the months of the year when it doesn’t rain. If the glaciers melt away quickly, there will be no water supply for these people during the dry months.

      I’ve been to lots of countries; I’m currently living in Canada. It’s great to travel because you learn so much about the World and the people in it, but Ireland is still my favourite place!

      If you’ve any more questions, be sure to let me know.

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