Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Life on Svalbard, Mid February 2017

Fully settled into Svalbard, university studies and exploring the settlement is well underway. With the Sun still below the horizon throughout the day, my brain is getting used to going about daily activities in the dark. However, each day, there is a blue glow on the horizon, reminding us that the sun is getting closer and closer each day. One thing I am not getting used to is the snow storms! The wind is strong, the snow is endless, and white outs are frequent, with more snowfall in an hour than UK probably has had in the last ten years *Laughter*. Unlike the UK however, life does indeed go on, whatever the weather!!
Blue Glow on the horizon

In between lectures at UNIS, I have been exploring the town further. The town itself is small and quaint, currently covered in snow, giving it the full Arctic look! There is one supermarket, Svalbardbutikken, a few restaurants, and a small handful of shops, including a fur shop which has a taxidermy polar bear and bison inside! A small group of us then went to the beach. Not a white sandy, clear blue sea kind of beach, a rocky, snowy, arcticy looking beach! It was peaceful and undisturbed, allowing us to take in the surrounding snowy mountains. We continued on to the edge of the ‘Safe Zone’, where one of the famous polar bear signs lives. The sign warns people of the risk of polar bears on the island, and going past this sign without a gun can be dangerous. So, we took a few pictures with the sign, and oh so wildly, poked our toes across the border of the safe zone before heading back into the town and bypassing the northernmost church.

After weeks of extremely cold weather (-20˚C), the Arctic suddenly warmed up, and for almost a week, temperatures were above 0˚C. Not good. These temperatures are normally only seen during the summer season. As a result, a large portion of the snow melted, and we ourselves, after adjusting to such cold temperatures, also melted. Climate change, or just a blip?

To brighten up the week, a few reindeer came to visit, and were grazing on the exposed ground outside the brakkes. The reindeer in Svalbard are much different to those on mainland, much smaller (and cuter), with a white thick coat, and they are the northernmost living herbivore mammal. Here, they are not confined to any space, and roam the island freely, so it is extremely nice to look out of the window and see these beautiful animals.

The warm weather then came to an end, and snow began to fall, covering the entire island once again. With this, we decided to take a walk up to Gruve 2. Gruve 2, translated, mine 2, is an old coal mine that operated during the 90s. The walk up to the mine is steep and slippery, without spikes at this point, there were times when it was just easier to crawl up, through the deep snow. The mine was opened in the 1920s, and then was partly bombed during the war. Following the war, the mining industry boomed in Svalbard and mine 2 was operating once again. Now, only one mine is still in operation on Svalbard, mine 7. On our way back down, we could not stop slipping over, and so in the end, we all slid down the mountain on our bums, and found this was the quickest most efficient way to get down any mountain covered in snow, but definitely not the warmest!

That is all for now,
Stay tuned for the next installment and check out the video of these adventures linked below!

Ser deg seinare!

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