mar 04 2009

Quickie

Published by under Meg og mitt liv

I’m on Svalbard and well! No time for long recaps though, so here comes a short one:

- I am on Svalbard, for the second half of the Arctic Winter Ecology course. It’s awesome.

- We’ve looked at completely dehydrated, nearly frozen collembola (springtails, tiny arctic invertebrates that jump) come back to life after spending 4 months in a freezer.

Onichiurus arcticus

Onychiurus arcticus

- We’ve learnt how to age and sex-determine Svalbard ptarmigans (Lagopus mutus hyperboreus) from their wing feathers, and looked at their crop contents to see what kind of plants they prefer to eat.

Fluffy, fat birds with hairy feet

Fluffy, fat birds with hairy feet

- They prefer Bistorta viviparum bulbils (Harerug / the Alpine Bistort), which is also heavily foraged by students while on field excursions (they’re yummy, who would think that viviparous propagation modules would be so tasty).

Bistorta vivipara, the edible bulbils are the brown lumps on the stalk.

Bistorta vivipara, the edible bulbils are the brown lumps on the stalk.

- Nybyen (the barracks outside Longyearbyen were the students are supposed to stay while on Svalbard) is full, so now we’re living in Mary Anns Polarrigg Guesthouse downtown. 5 min walk to Unis vs. 35 min….wonderful.

 

- …Especially since it’s been windy, very windy, I’m talking «grabbing hold of small people almost  blowing them out on to the tundra»-windy. I’m talking shaking the house windy, I’m talking the kind of windy were you suddenly can’t move forwards because the wind is stronger than you, grabbing hold of you, trying to move you the opposite way from where you want  to go. I love it.

- We (the students + three others) spent the weekend at the studentcabin in Bjørndalen (Bear Valley). 

The studentcabin in Bjørndalen/Bjorndalen, Svalbard

The studentcabin in Bjørndalen/Bjorndalen, Svalbard

 The cabin took amazingly two meagre hours to heat up, opposed to the five hours we spent huddling in the sofa the last time,  and we were all hyper and happy over such a luxury (not freezing). We ate good food, drank good wine, played card games, tried to play the horribly untuned guitar and went «butt-sliding» down the mountainside the next day. On our way home on Sunday a beautiful orange-red-pink sunset over turquise ice sheets accompanied our retreat along the Adventfjord. I kicked myself a dozen times for not having fixed my camera yet, commanding everybody with cameras to take lots of pictures, secretely planning to go on a picture raid with my USB-stick later on.

- I’ve reached a new level of general cold – hardiness and «don’t give a poop»-attitude regarding temperatures. The part of the guesthouse were our rooms are is separated from the kitchen and the livingroom, meaning one has to venture OUTSIDE to get from the one place to the other. I can not be hassled with meaningless items like proper pants, boots and jackets when I only have to move 10 meters, and I think I peaked the «Svalbards most nonchalant dressers»-record when I ran through a complete white-out (wind, snow, no visibility) wearing slippers, thights, a cotton dress and a hoodie. Okay, maybe nonchalant is not completely deserved, after all I squealed like a piglet as I went along, and had to stand in front of the fireplace half an hour in order to seize shaking when I got inside, but it still counts!

- I’ve ridden a beltwagon for the second time in my life, with a madman behind the wheel taking us over every bump on the tundra he could find at 50 km/h.

 

I sat in the front wagon with three of my professors having a somewhat «grown up conversation» but I still couldn’t stop myself from squealing whenever the Madman drove over a particularly steep bump/depression. So much for trying to make an intelligent impression on people.

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nov 27 2008

Arctic Winter Ecology Course, bit by bit

Published by under Meg og mitt liv

Part One: Moraine Cave Spelunking

Definition of ’spelunking’ here.

There are so many things that I want to tell you about from the short two weeks on Svalbard, but I have a final exam on Tuesday, so I have to restrain myself in the blogging department. One of the first things we did after settling in in Nybyen (studenthousings) was to climb/crawl/squeeze through a moraine cave which took us 3 hours. It was me, Tore, Jago, Heather, Phillip and Matteo. None of us knew the whole way through the cave, or had any cave climbing experience, but we borrowed crampons from the student equipment storage and went out to the Longyear glacier with fresh courage. Well, that’s an exaggeration on my part. I’ve never felt comfortable with thight spaces, but I felt that I had to do it (now I’m very happy I did).

- Here’s a picture of me, forgetting about my mild claustrophobia, just enjoying the spectacular site of the insides of a moraine cave (a tunnel through the deposited mounds of earth, gravel and stones (up to the size of boulders) at the foot of a glacier, dug out by the glacier melt water).

 There were passages in the cave that were so thight that you had to lie your head down sideways to get through, with stones sticking up from the frozen ground as well as hangin down, frozen to the ceiling..let’s just say; I bumped my head more than once. But after the horrible passages that I would crawl/squeeze through as quick as possible just to get them over with, we came to this huge cathedral-like open rooms, glittering like diamonds from all the ice crystals that covered all of the walls and the ceiling.

In another room there were thousands of thin ice icicles hanging from the ceiling, almost touching the ground; on the picture to the left you can see Heather sliding on her back in order not to break any of them.

Pure, pure water, frozen to form the most perfect ice crystals; hexagonals. Actually, the same day we had a lecture about snow; it was fun to look for the «trumpet crystals», «sugar snow» and the hexagonals.

Even though the 3 hour journey was an adventure, it was quite a relief when we finally came to the opening and Jago had managed to dig us a way out. In the thight spaces I would sometimes have to wait for the people in front of me to get a bit a head to avoid getting kicked..well, in the head, with their crampons. While I was lying there; feeling stuck, stones poking from both sides and nothing but darkness around me besides my crappy head light; my mind would wander to the tons of stone and rock above me, only held together by a thin film of frozen water. That’s when I discovered that I really am nuts about cooking. Thinking of what I would make for dinner if I survived was the thing that managed to diverge my thoughts away from the frozen death trap I was in. And Hooray, I didn’t get a single panic attack in there, at least not one that I couldn’t stop by taking a few breaths as deeply as the floor and ceiling would allow me to.

Now I HAVE TO get back to studying. I want to warn you readers that despite my tale of the dreadful crawl got an urge for moraine cave spelunking; it IS dangerous. Talk to someone who knows what they’re doing before you go ahead. In some of the big rooms we were in, there were patches of exposed rock in the ceiling; which means that stones must’ve fallen down recently; ice crystals hadn’t formed on the bare spaces yet. Lastly, I must credit Phillip for these pictures; my big bulky camera wouldn’t have made it through the cave with me. You can find some more of his pictures here:

Phillips Picasa Folder – Arctic Winter Ecology Course

Oh, and one last thing (disregard this if you know Svalbard winter conditions) : We had SNOW ! And lots of it! We had to dig ourselves in and out of the cave. Big, fluffy snowflakes, oh, how I adore thee!

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nov 04 2008

Cabintrip to «Soggy Valley»

Published by under Meg og mitt liv

Last weekend Tore and I joined a couple of our colleagues from the biology students interest organization (BFU) on a cabin trip to one of the student cabins that belong to the University of Oslo. I think most of them are situated in the more or less the same place; in Sørkedalen, about half an hour outside of Oslo. After a ride with the subway, a short bustrip and an about 5 kilometers (uphill!) hike, we arrived at the cabin.

  

A decent distance I think; not too far away, but not too close to home either. The snow that only had a 24 hours appearance in Oslo was still on the ground out in Sørkedalen (with some imagination Sørkedalen could be translated to Soggy Valley). In less then an hour the landscape around us transformed from wet, autumny citylife, to a beautiful snow-covered winter country.

 
The cabin we stayed in was the Pharmacy Students Cabin, and boy! was it a big cabin! I think it had room for 30 people or more. It had a huge fireplace with cozy sofas all around, and a sauna! I, and I think Tore even more, love to take saunas. We piled as much snow as we could into a metal bucket, crammed some beers into it, took it with us into the sauna and sat there for at least an hour. When it got to hot we just ran outside to chill down in the snow, just like the true finnish sauna tradition dictates. 

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