søndag 25. januar 2009

Skiturer rundt Larsbreen

Nå har vi kommet ordentlig i gang med forelesninger, men det har likevel blitt tid til flere turer siden sist. Vi hadde fri både onsdag og torsdag denne uka, og da måtte vi selvsagt ta oss noen skiturer. Det er herlig å komme ut og se lyset midt på dagen, selv om det ikke er så veldig tydelig når det er overskyet. Vi kommer oss vanligvis av gårde mellom ti og elleve for å være oppe på breen når det er som lysest mellom tolv og ett. Det er stort sett Larsbreen som alle drar til nå (se kartet). Det er lett å komme seg dit (selv om det er veldig bratt på vei opp), snøscootere har ikke lov til å kjøre der og det er ikke like stor fare for isbjørn som i Adventdalen.

På onsdag var jeg på skitur med fire andre til Sarkofagen. Det var stort sett helt vindstille og noen minusgrader, og utsikt fra toppen over Longyearbyen, Adventfjorden og fjellene på andre siden.

Neste dag var planen å prøve å komme seg opp på Trollsteinen eller Gruvefjellet, men da vi kom opp på Larsbreen blåste det opp, begynte å snø og drive og sikten ble for dårlig til at vi ville fortsette. I går, lørdag, derimot, var det stort sett god sikt og vi kom oss til Gruvefjellet. På vei opp stoppet vi og tok en drikkepause på breen med utsikt ned mot byen. Da vi skulle gå igjen merket vi at de lave skyene over byen kom nærmere, og plutselig rullet det tåkedotter over fjellet mot oss. I løpet av noen få minutter så vi ikke byen i det hele tatt, nesten ikke lyset derfra heller, før det ble klart igjen i løpet av like kort tid. Heldigvis skjedde det ikke igjen under dagen og vi fikk god utsikt innover Adventdalen mens vi spiste lunsj. Det første bildet er tatt like før tåken kommer, det andre bildet er tatt i omtrent samme retning fra akkurat samme sted. Lysene fra Longyearbyen skimtes til venstre i bildet. Det nest siste bildet er tatt fra Gruvefjellet mot byen. Det siste bildet er av Trollsteinen.

lørdag 17. januar 2009

Første uke med forelesninger

Vi har såvidt begynt med forelesninger, men det har vært en rolig (norsk rolig...) start (UNIS på bildet til venstre). Jeg har allerede sett flere reinsdyr på vei til og like ved UNIS, syv til sammen. De er som kjent korte og tykke siden de ikke har noen naturlige fiender her (isbjørnen er et marint dyr og spiser ikke reinsdyr) og er tilpasset det harde klimaet. De har flere ganger stått i veikanten, bare noen meter bort, og gravd i snøen etter lav og lignende. Det er utrolig at de får nok mat når det i utgangspunktet er så lite vegetasjon her. Men de har faktisk størst problemer når det er milde vintre, for da dannes ofte et islag over bakken som gjør at de ikke kommer til maten. Ellers har jeg sett noe spor etter rype og mye spor etter polarrev, som jeg også tror jeg så den første uken. Når det blir lysere ser vi nok de nesten like ofte som reinsdyr.


Det har ikke blitt så mange bilder siden sist, selv om det har vært noen fototurer. Når det er så kaldt må jeg først varme et batteri og sette det i kameraet (gjerne i 20-30 minus med litt vind, mens jeg står stille over lengre tid), så holder det for kanskje 10 bilder som hvert tar fra 45 s til 6-7 minutter, før jeg må sette i et nytt, oppvarmet batteri. Siden jeg bruker en funksjon for å forbedre bildekvaliteten (støyreduksjon) tar det dobbelt så lang tid før bildet er ferdig, så jeg må vente i opptil 12-13 minutter mellom hvert bilde. Men når jeg ser resultatet er det stort sett verdt det!


Sist helg var det fullmåne, som virkelig gjorde stor forskjell på lyset. En dag da månen sto opp ved 10-tiden (det er nesten så man lærer seg dens bevegelser som man pleier med sola) føltes det som morgen da den kom over fjellkanten. Dessverre står den nå opp ganske sent på kvelden, og vi må vente til 9. februar før det blir fullmåne igjen. Til gjengjeld får vi mer lys fra sola nå. Det merkes virkelig forskjell på lyset midt på dagen og på morgenen/kvelden.


Jeg lånte en rifle fra UNIS på onsdag (de kan lånes en uke av gangen), så endelig fikk jeg ordentlig mulighet til å dra på turer. Det er vanskelig å dra om man ikke har rifle, da gjelder det å finne noen som har det og kunne tenke seg på tur samme sted/tid som deg. På onsdag ble turen dessverre avlyst, da det blåste og snødde kraftig, til tider hadde jeg bare 20-30 m sikt utenfor vinduet her. Bildene er tatt med under ett minutts mellomrom. På torsdag kom jeg ut med tre andre og vi gikk en liten skitur opp på en av de nærmeste breene (Longyearbreen) før vi måtte snu da sikten var stort sett nede i 30-40 m.


I dag gikk vi også fire stykker på en tur, denne gangen til fots, og målet var det nærmeste fjellet innover i dalen, kalt Sarkofagen, som gir en fantastisk utsikt over Longyearbyen. Vi kom ikke så langt denne gangen, men fikk oppleve en utrolig fin utsikt fra Larsbreen på den lyseste tiden på dagen. Det var til og med vindstille på toppen, selv om det blåste en del nede i Nybyen! Dessverre ble det bare fire bilder etter at jeg endelig fikk kameraet til å virke. Det har vært ganske ustabilt i det siste (ikke på grunn av kulden). Antakelig må jeg kjøpe et nytt kamerahus, å være på Svalbard uten kamera er jo ikke aktuelt! Jeg er helt til høyre på bildet.

søndag 11. januar 2009

10th January: practical training, last day of safety course

This Saturday all 110 participants in the course, plus probably close to 10 instructors met by Nybyen (where the students live) and walked about 20 minutes farther into the valley, close to Longyearbreen (Longyear glacier). It was dark, about -30 and close to -40 with the wind chill. After a while the wind died down, which made everything a lot more comfortable, and most of the time I was nice and warm. We went through three stations, and I started with emergency camp and first aid. I was picked out to be one of the four victims, and was supposed to have a broken arm. I probably learned just as much from being the victim as treating one. They were fairly good at keeping me warm, but it does not take much to start freezing when you are lying on the ground exposed to the wind, even though I had four layers on my legs and six layers on my upper body.
Next we were supposed to rescue three victims from an avalanche. We found the first two with our avalanche beacons whitin five and eight minutes, which is very good, but the last victim did not have a beacon and it took much longer to find him (they were only dummies).
On the last station we put up a rope system for lowering a person down a supposed glacier crevasse (it was really just a steep hill), and in the end carrying a person with him up the slope by using a harness on the victim attached to the rescuer. It all went quite well, and it was very good to test everything we have learned this week in the dark and cold with lots of clothes on.
On the way back they actually demonstrated how a helicopter rescues people. It flew in from the airport and first tried to land on a big open plain where several instructors were ready to guide it down. However, there was a lot of loose snow and with the mountains on both sides there was a lot of wind and turbulence, so it did not manage to land as planned. Instead, it actually came over to the ridge we were standing on instead and sent down a rescuer to the ground. He grabbed the nearest student and took her with him into the helicopter!
When we were finished outside, everyone went down to UNIS, we took a short written test and then got pizza and drinks and sat and talked in front of the fire in the cantina till the evening.

8th-9th January: last half of safety course

8th: We started at the rifle range, which is located above the airport, near the top of the mountain. The range is lit up by floodlight, giving a nice view of the moonlit and steep mountainside closing in the range. We started by going through theory about the rifle and general safety rules, and he demonstrated how we load the rifle. UNIS uses Ruger M77, calibre .30-06. Then six by six students alternated sitting inside and shooting. We started shooting from lying down. Everybody got in position, sitting on one knee, then our instrutor said: load your rifles, four rounds, fire. We all loaded four rounds in the magazine (four shots), then lied down and tried our best to hit the target. The second time we shot from a half sitting position, with one knee down, which is the normal position to shoot polar bears from. Then we also got to aim at cardboard bears. I managed to shoot half the eight shots in the circle around the shoulder, and the rest on other parts of the bear. Our group was very efficient, so we got to shoot four more rounds after that, a total of 20 rounds.

After lunch we had first-aid. It was a lot of things I had learned before, but also some new. We learned CPR, how to splint broken bones, treat wounds and hypothermia.

On Friday we started with HSE (Health, Environment, Safety), safety in lab and so on, and got a tour of the building. Then we ended the day with learning about sea ice, how to check the depth (with an axe) and how to rescue a person in the water. We also got to go out on the fiord outside the city (Adventfjorden) and checked the depth (at least 30 cm, which is the lower limit for driving snow mobiles). Then we tried throwing half full and empty jerry cans (fuel cans for the snow mobiles. This is to get the feeling of how far we can throw them, and how to aim, in case we have to save a person from the water (you attach a rope to it and it floats in the water).

onsdag 7. januar 2009

5th-7th January: Safety Course

The first six days at UNIS all students and new staff have to attend a safety course to be able to participate in field work and excursions. All courses have excursions, so therefore all students need the course. The first day, on Monday, was just theory about first-aid, how to dress and general safety on glaciers and using snowmobiles. Tuesday we were split into groups and I started with learning how to build an emergency camp. On all UNIS excursions we bring certain boxes with emergency equipment to be prepared for all accidents and emergencies. We put up tents, set up trip wires for polar bears that fire ammunition if the polar bear gets into the wire that is put up around the tent. Then we get a warning that the bear is close, and usually it is enough to scare it away. If not it is often occupied with the signal so that the person on bear watch has time to grab the rifle and scare or as a last resort shoot the bear. After lunch we trained on rescuing people from crevasses in glaciers, and ended the day with firing a person down and pulling up again from the second floor of UNIS.

Today we startet learning about avalanches and tried out the rescue equipment (avalanche beacon, avalanche probe and spade) outside with each other. After lunch we learned about navigation and communication, going through maps, compasses, GPS, satellite phones, VHF radios and emergency beacons.

Tomorrow we will be at the shooting range before lunch, then we'll have practical training in first-aid in the afternoon. It is hard to take pictures when we are so busy, but I will try to take some the next few days and put out.

søndag 4. januar 2009

4th January

Here are some pictures from today.

All pipes have to be above ground because of the permafrost.

A lonely graveyard. Normally people are not buried in Longyearbyen, but are sent to the mainland. This is because the permafrost presses the bodies up after some time. I think this is the only graveyard in Longyearbyen (there is also a church farther down the road, but I do not think there is a graveyard there), where 26 miners who died in an accident in 1920 and seven miners that died from the Spanish influenza in 1918 are buried.

An old mining construction.

This mine is popularly called "Julenissegruva" (Santa's mine). During christmas a christmas tree is lit up, you can see it as the bright light on the upper side of the mine.

lørdag 3. januar 2009

3rd January updated

I had some problems with the whitebalance while taking the pictures since just about the only light source is the street lights, giving all the pictures too much red. Now I have fixed them all and put the new ones out.

We have had clear weather and almost no wind today, but under -20 degrees. After a trip to Longyearbyen I spent one and a half hours taking pictures just outside where I live. With a shutter speed of 1-5 minutes I only got 8 pictures in all that time (it takes twice as long for the camera to take the pictures because of noise reduction)! I saw northern lights again today, but still only very faint.

Standing still for one and a half hours in -20 and a slight wind was actually quite comfortable with a down jacket, the down pants Staffan has sewed for me, and several wool layers underneath. I could even lie down in the snow and watch the stars while the camera was busy, without getting cold. It was a bit strange to have the north star right above me. But it was cold enough for my eyelashes to get covered with ice after only about half an hour.

Towards Longyearbyen (the mountain is on the northwest side of the valley), in the far background you can see the mountains on the other side of Adventdalen.

Straight across the valley, the mountain I see from my bedroom.

Towards Longyearbyen, the road I walk to town and the university. The barracks are mostly for students.

The barrack I live in. I live on the top floor, almost in the middle window.


Towards Longyearbyen (the mountain on the right is on the southeast side of the valley). Adventdalen in the background.

Taken in the opposite direction of Longyearbyen, into the valley.

fredag 2. januar 2009

Svalbard!

Yesterday I finally arrived in Longyearbyen. It gave a special feeling to see the sun disappear during the flight, and know that I would not see it again for one and a half months. For a long time the horizon was red to the south, but as we got closer to Longyearbyen even that turned to darkness. I saw only two clusters of lights before Longyearbyen, probably a research station and a mining town. Otherwise there was only darkness, except for some faint northern lights. As we rounded the last mountain, Longyearbyen appeared as a fairly large cluster of lights between to mountains, at the mouth of a valley by the fiord. Above it the sky was fairly clear, with a small moon and stars. The town stretched into the valley, and I knew that the farthest lights were from were I will be living for the next five months. At the other end of the road (about two and a half kilometers), by the fiord, is the university.


I got quite sick from some food at the airport, so yesterday was spent in bed, but today I managed to take a small tour of the town. It is a bit larger than I had expected, about 2000 people live here. It seems like everyone has a car, and almost everyone a snowmobile. There are snowcovered snowmobiles everywhere, and surprisingly many cars for a town with only 40 kilometers of road!


The university is very new, the newest part from 2006, and the oldest from 1993, I think, when the university was established. On http://www.unis.no/ you can read more about it. It is a very modern building, with many different angles and almost all made of wood. I was prepared that the food would be more expensive here, but was still surprised that the milk cost twice as much as in Trondheim, 21 kr. Actually, what I tought would be most expensive, fruit and vegetables, was the same price as I am used to, but many other things were more expensive.


Almost all the students live in old miner barracks. I live on the third floor at the very end of the road, and have a fantastic view of the mountains on the other side of the valley from my window (but I have to turn off the lights here to see anything outside, since it is still so dark). I was afraid it would be too dark to see any mountains around me, but actually I can see the mountains on both sides of the valley, though not very far towards the inner part. It doesn't seem like the "light" changes at all. It feels like it is just as dark now at 7 pm as it was in the middle of the day, but maybe after a few days I will realize that it changes a bit. The picture is taken from my bedroom window, with a shutter speed of 6 minutes!
I will put up more pictures the next few days.