News from Svalbard

Hey guys

Sorry for the delay getting these posts up, we know how anxious you all are to hear how we are doing up here in the far north

. Starting with the trip over, all flights went smoothly and we ended up in Longyearbyen on Svalbard Sunday afternoon where we were instantly taken aback by the allure of the surrounding snow covered mountains. However we were surprised to see a thermometer actually read -20° C. Longyearbyen is a small mining town actually founded by an American who’s last name was longyear (byen is Norwegian for city). The town is pretty small only having about 40 km of roads and is set up with a main street running through the middle of the town with most housing just a short distance away.

After entering the airport, we saw Mark(professor at Cal Poly) and Geir(professor at NTNU/UNIS) waiting for us with their NORUS sign where the rest of our company also gathered. The group ranges from the Rutgers undergrads to graduating seniors mastersand post doc students from Cal Poly and NTNU and the accompanying professors. Later that day Geir and Mark took us on a tour of a near by mountain where we saw a greater view of the surrounding area along with fish and seal drying racks, sled dog kennels, giant satellite dishes, the Northern Lights Observatory, and Santa’s house! Unfortunately we were all a bit under-dressed so we weren’t too keen about leaving the van for long periods of time. Starting that night we had the first of many meals from the Kroa restaurant where we have had a variety of local dishes including grilled and raw whale, stockfish, fish cakes, venison, and reindeer. On Monday we had our safety training session for snowmobiling, but we were all disappointed to find out there wasn’t enough time to go to the shooting range where we were supposed to learn to defend ourselves from possible polar bear attacks. Afterwards Geir gave us a tour of the UNIS(University Center in Svalbard) building and we got settled into our conference room where we were given a quick overview of what we would be doing over the course of the week. Tuesday we met back in the NORUS room and each of the professors, Mark(Cal Poly), Geir(NTNU/UNIS), Chris(Cal Poly), Jorgen(UNIS), and Oscar(Rutgers) through teleconference gave talks on their backgrounds and what work they are currently doing. Wednesday, the professors let the students take charge of the conversation and we came up with what was posted on our blog from the 18th. On Thursday we went snowmobiling (or as the locals call it, snow scootering) to Barentsburg, which is a small Russian settlement west of Longyearbyen. Over the past couple days there had been some wind and precipitation so the trails had a covering of loose snow. This lead to all of the American students tipping the snowmobiles, but luckily no one got hurt. Overall however it was an amazing journey riding over the glaciers and through valleys to our destination. Barentsburg is a small Russian mining town that had some success while the Soviet Union was still in one piece, but since then they have gone pretty far down hill and many of the buildings are now worn down and abandoned. But upon arrival we went to a restaurant where they were waiting for us with a nice hot meal of soup, chicken, and wafers. The ride back was a completely different experience from the ride there because the sun had set behind the mountains by the time we left the settlement, so we traveled by twilight and the headlights of the snow scooters. After returning back to town we sat down to a fancy dinner of scallops, reindeer, spiced ice cream and a variety of wines after which we all sleepily returned to our rooms. Finally today we had a quick session reviewing what we have covered this week and then gave our blessings to part of our group, as they had to leave. Tomorrow we plan on taking a quick trip to the Svalbard museum and after lunch going on a hike to the ice caves and exploring so we will give you an update on that later.

Hope everyone else is well!

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