Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Longyearbyen, Svalbard Archipelago - 78° North

We went from a balmy 20° C (68° F) in the outskirts of Oslo, to a chilly 2° C (35° F) in Longyearbyen, on the island of Spitzbergen in the Svalbard Archipelago. Darrell is here to teach a class on amino acid geochronology, and I am here to savor a new part of our planet.

We flew separately to Oslo and I met Darrell in our hotel room near the airport. We set our alarm for a 20 minute nap (jet lag...) and then went for a long walk through the woods and circled two different lakes. This was the quiet one!

Why Norwegians settled in Minnesota - it looked like home!

The other lake had runners, bikers, barbecuers, and kids pushing each other off the dock.

Kids and water are a great mix!
We forced ourselves to stay up until 8 pm and then collapsed and slept until 4 am, a typical pattern for us as we recover from changing time and not sleeping enough on airplanes! We caught a morning flight to Tromsø and then continued on to Longyearbyen.

Norway's west coast is incised by fjords. The Lofoten Islands are in the background.
Pancake ice off the south coast of Spitzbergen

First view of Longyearbyen -  Glacier in background!
Longyearbyen is named after an American. After first arriving in Svalbard as a tourist, John Longyear's Arctic Coal Company started mining coal here in 1906. The mines closest to town are all closed, but there is still active coal mining and I sat next to a geologist that is looking for new coal by drilling through the glaciers and overburden to promising sites under the ice. We won't get into the politics and economics of coal right now.

Signpost at the airport
Longyearbyen is the largest town in Svalbard, with approximately 2,000 residents. We took a walk through town and found the local school.

Note the old coal mine on the side of the mountain behind the school!
There seem to be a lot of children in this town. And there are several child care centers. Note the tiny skis stacked outside this center. I remember one of my friends wanting to know how Norwegians got their kids to be such good skiers - and the answer was, "We just let them ski in the yard". Here's proof!

May 20th, with 24 hour sun, and snow on the ground.
After our walk, we met Matt, a Canadian researcher presently working in Stockholm, and Anna, the professor that invited both Darrell and Matt here, and went out for an amazing dinner of Arctic char. I forgot to take a picture of my dinner, but it was delicious. A great beginning to our time in this special place. More on the University, and why Darrell and Matt are here anyway, in a later post!

No comments:

Post a Comment