Mr. Blue Sky

Hei hei, long time no speak.

Things were a bit quiet for a week or so, then all of a sudden I had about 10 days of non-stop activities! And I’m straight into trying to get stuck in with all the work I’ve been putting off for a few weeks now.

And now there’s quite a lot to catch up on…

It had been a couple of quiet weeks at UNIS. I did another hike up Trollstienen which ended early thanks to white out conditions as we were approaching the top. It seemed wise to head back down at this point!

The beginning of the Easter holidays started quite quietly too. My family and boyfriend were due to arrive on the 25th March so it seemed like a good idea to maybe have a few quiet days, as well as actually tidying up a bit and getting clothes washed before moving down into town with them for the week.

A couple of days before they arrived, I managed to squeeze in a couple of trips. Myself, Jack and Arnau hired a snowmobile each for a day and took a trip to the East Coast with Heather, Noel and Lucien. We were going in search of polar bears! It was a beautiful day and lovely drive. We stopped to admire a blue glacier and had some beautiful drives on the way home as the Sun was setting. We had to be extra careful with gear for this trip, it’s always important to cover every part of your body on a snowmobile because of wind chill – the day that we went on this trip, it was about -25 degrees C, before wind chill! Unfortunately, there were no polar bears stopped on the sea ice when we reached the East Coast, but it was still an amazing trip.

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Just chillin’ in a blue glacier
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The 5 scooters taking a break on the East Coast
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East Coast sea ice with Noel on polar bear watch
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East Coast sea ice take 2
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Driving into the Sun on the journey home
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A few km away from Longyearbyen enjoying the sunset

The next day, we went up Trollsteinen, again! It’s a fantastic hike, and it was another beautiful day so it seemed like a great day to head up there. We left in the afternoon so that we had a bit of a lie in. Most people had skis, it was just myself and Arnau that had to hike both up and down. I did take a bum slide though, of course. We made it up Trollsteinen in record time for me. There was a beautiful view of the Sun and sun dogs whilst we were up there too 🙂

The next day was absolutely fantastic. At about 12:30, I left Nybyen with a suitcase and walked down to the Raddison tomeet my amazing family and boyfriend. It was so great to see them all again! The first thing we did was sit down to have food. They’d all spend the night in Oslo airport and were pretty hungry and exhausted. I took them down to the fjord after and we had a play on the sea ice.

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Playing on the sea ice in the fjord

The first day they arrived was the last day of a very cold period which had lasted about 2 weeks. It had been around -20 degreesC for those two weeks. After that, the temperature picked up a bit for the rest of their stay. The first day trip we went on was a hike to the ice cave on Larsbreen! It was a beautiful clear and still day, the snow was also pretty packed which made the hiking a lot easier. We left early so that we were back by 1pm. There was also a lot of bum sliding on the way down, Ben managed to lose his shovel at one point near the bottom and we could just see this shovel disappearing around the corner ahead of us! The rest of the day involved relaxing and then heading to Svalbar for dinner.

We then had a quiet couple of days, we hiked up to the mine in town one afternoon and had a bit of a wonder around town. We also managed to stumble upon Karlberger pub, a pub I’ve seen signs for but never actually found before. It was an incredible place! There’s just a door in the side of the shopping mall that goes to this dark room with an amazing bar filled with bottles (mostly wiskey).

We then had a day where we hired skis. The morning was spent practicing as it had been a few years since everyone else had skiied. Tom had never been on skis before, so got on skis for the first time! In the afternoon, we made it back up Larsbreen and had a beautiful ski down. It was also the first time that any of us had used skins on the bottom of the skis to enable uphill skiing, the most effective way to get skis uphill around here (also, after a bit of practice, it’s easier than hiking).

Wednesday was dog sledding day! We had booked it for the afternoon, so most people got to sleep in on Wednesday morning. At the dog sledding, we got to put our team of huskies together and we went on a beautiful ride through Adventdalen and then off down another valley. The weather got slightly worse as we got further away – the wind picked up a bit and the visibility dropped –  but it cleared again on the way back. Tom and I managed to have the nuttiest dogs, whenever we tried to put the break on full it was rarely stopping them. We also had to go most of the ride with the break half on so they didn’t overtake the lead sledge! When we got back, we got to feed our huskies and then we got to meet the cutest, 3 week old husky puppies!!

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Thursday was the last day. They had a flight booked at 2am on Friday morning, so they would be leaving down at about midnight. We had a pretty epic last day, as well. Snowmobile trip to Barentsburg! Some of the views on the way were spectacular, and when we stopped for lunch we had no wind and clear skies! Barentsburg is a Russian mining town. We did the trip with a company called Arctic Adventures (highly recommend!) there were the 6 of us and just two other people. We had two guides with us that day who were both great fun and we learnt a lot about the history of Barentsburg. On the way back, we drove along the coast. We stumbled on quite a few tricky bits of driving, but thanks to us all being fantastic drivers, no one tipped 🙂 We then spent the evening chilling in the Raddison pub for the last time. It was quite an emotional goodbye – now that I had enjoyed everyones company here in Svalbard and had all these lovely memories with them, I found it a lot harder to say goodbye to them this time around. I didn’t realise it at the time, but my walk home that evening would be my last night of seeing the stars in the sky before I arrive back in England in May!

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Longyearbyen from Longyearbreen
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Driving along the coast
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Arctic beach
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Scooter selfie!
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Mum looking badass
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Happy Tom!
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Big group photo!

The next evening was the eventful kitchen to kitchen party. It involved a lot of differently themed kitchens and a lot of heavy drinking. The following day, I was determined to hire skis from SSU again and go for another ski. It was definitely a challenge following the previous nights drinking, but I pushed through the pain and managed a couple of good runs up and down. I then spent the next week working hard on the first report deadline I had coming up. Also spend the weekend inside working on it.

The weekend after, we finally made out way across the fjord and up between the mountains on the other side. It was a trip we’d been trying to go on since Easter, and we had a number of days where we’d planned to go and put off the trip for various reasons. I went with Heather, Alex, Noel and Jack and we all got hold of cross country skis for the trip. For anyone who has been downhill skiing and not cross country skiing – it is so, so different. These skis are reeeeally not designed to go downhill with a person attached to them trying to control them. I barely made it down hill, I suffered a huge number of knocks to my knees, I landed pretty hard on my tail bone and went head first into the snow a few times as well. Skiing across the flat and uphill was absolutely amazing though. It was a beautiful day, we also spotted a seal on the small amount of sea ice at the end of the fjord!

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Longyearbyen and the fjord from the middle of Adventtoppen and Hiorthfjellet

Since then, I’ve been finishing off the first report and beginning the second report. Lectures have all come to and end now, with only 2 revision lectures left next week. It is now midnight Sun – this actually only happened officially a few days ago, but we haven’t had proper darkness at night for a few weeks now. Today marks 1 month until I leave Svalbard, I’ve got a lot to try and fit in before I go!

Can’t quite believe I nearly forgot this, but despite our efforts of spotting a polar bear at the East Coast, one actually just rocked up outside town yesterday and took a nap! It was all the way over on the other side of the fjord and it was soon tranquillised and helicoptered far away from town. By the time I got there, it was already sedated and surrounded by people so I couldn’t even attempt to try and get a faint photo of the bear, but it was a pretty exciting few hours in Longyearbyen!

Who knows what I will happen in the next week, or when I’ll get round to writing my next blog. I’ll try not to leave it so long next time.

Skål!

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Author: Lucy Hoskin

23 year old student from Aberystwyth University about to complete my Masters in Astrophysics in the arctic.

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