A week of 9am’s at uni, everyone’s favourite! The timetable changes every week, but day to day during the week it’s always pretty similar. Noora took our Upper Polar Atmosphere lectures this week and we began the Radar Diagnostics module with Rico. Both modules have been really interesting so far and I’ve really enjoyed them. The past week has just been continuing with the theoretical work in lectures and seminars.
“I came here in 2004 to study, and 12 years later I’m still here. So be careful.” Or something along those lines, the words of Rico when introducing himself on Monday.
Monday to Thursday wasn’t particularly eventful, just general uni work, walking to and from uni, food shopping etc. It was a pretty windy week, multiple snownados about. But Friday (until about 3pm, anyway) it was beautiful and clear. The dark twilight we get at midday showed a beautiful, blue sky. We finished uni at 11am on Friday so were lucky to be able to walk home and see the town and the stunning mountains around us in this light. As it was the day of Friday Gathering, a few of us had decided to start early and have a few drinks at 3:30 before heading back to uni. We turned up slightly late and Katie bought a box of cereal for the card-box game (the game where you must pick the box up by only touching your feet on the floor and nothing else; the box gets smaller each time). After FG, we headed over to Svalbar for some food and more drinks and socialising. I’d been wanting to go to this place since we got here, and I finally made it! And it fulfilled all expectations. Win win.
Saturday was a nice, quiet day. The weather was pretty appalling and everyone was up for resting after FG. (Because socialising is a tiring sport and not because we were hungover, of couse). Katie and Mikkel had made a pretty awesome set up in Barrack 9 for watching tele, so I went over and watched First Dates with them, Miriam, Ryan, Errka and Kieran. After that, me, Katie, Mikkel and Errka headed back down to Barrack 3 for fermentation group! This week, we put together jars of wines and ciders and made some pretty fabulous home-made pizzas. Well, Sandy, Daniel, Errka and Peter made the pizzas..
Sunday was once again adventure day. This was a bit more serious than last week. We’d been allowed a rifle from UNIS and had all made sure we were equipped with avalanche gear. The plan was to walk along to the famous polar bear sign, up to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, then up to the KSAT observatory and along the top of the plateau before heading back down into Longyearbyen. We all met up for a pre hike breakfast (fry up) and then finally managed to head down to UNIS to meet the Arnau. We didn’t leave UNIS until midday which was, in hindsight, a bit too late for our planned route.
By the time we’d struggled all the way up to the top of the plateau (an incredibly long, steep walk up), stopping for catching our breath and taking photos at various points, and stopping to avoid the massive coal trucks coming up and down the narrow, mountain roads, it was already 3pm and the daylight was quickly fading. We sat down for lunch and by the time we left the lights of KSAT, it was pitch black.
We were walking in the dark, across a plateau, with footprints as navigation (we had passed a group of friends on the way up who were doing the same route as us, only backwards, so we knew they would lead us to home eventually). This was a pretty dangerous thing to do, but we got back all alive and no injuries. The top of the plateau was very hard to walk across, with constant varying levels of snow to walk through and drag our feet back out of. All this, whilst constantly keeping an eye out for polar bears (in the dark…). It would be very unusual to meet a polar bear up on this plateau, but still possible. We had to stop regularly for breathers and to eat food or drink water. We could see the glowing lights of Longyear getting closer and closer, and finally, we found ourselves on the edge of the plateau with Longyear below us. We walked along the edge to reach the safe slope down, and this is where everyone picked back up.
Jack and Kieran had borrowed the bum slides from student equipment and began sliding down the slope on them. Meanwhile, the most of us were running down the hill in the deep snow. I managed to fall face first (luckily a soft landing) so then resorted to simply sliding down the hill by leaning back and picking up my feet. This was pretty effective, and getting down from the plateau was much quicker than hiking up (and more fun).
No photos from the top of the plateau, due to the lack of light by this point. It was an incredible experience to go on a long hike in the arctic, and with the sunlight getting closer, we’ll have plenty of opportunities to go on many hikes in the future with a bit more daylight.
This week coming, we have one more week of lectures before field work. We’ve been given Friday off (huzzah) and I’m considering having a lazy weekend. I am incredibly achey from the hike and don’t quite know how long I will take to recover from this..