Summer in the Arctic
Letter from … Spitsbergen! Summer is now over, but Janna Einöder looks back again.
Oct 22, 2015
Summer in the Arctic – it sounds like quite a contradiction at first. Naturally, the temperatures, which average 6 degrees Celsius (about 43 degrees Fahrenheit), take some getting used to, but the classic “layered look” takes care of that. Summer here means nonstop work, because daylight hours are limited, and anything that is left undone during the short summer season will have to wait until next year. That is true of more than just the people here; plants are also in full bloom, and there are increasing sightings of animals with their young. As a result, the first month at the university was very intense for us biologists.
After a few weeks packed with outdoor activities focusing on flora and fauna, we then went on a one-week ship cruise around the west coast of Spitsbergen in mid-August! The main reason for the trip was to gather data for our self-conceived research topics. Besides these group projects, however, getting to know the natural environment was another major focus.
The places we visited could not have been more different in physical terms: rocky, barren stretches of coast, followed by beautiful blue glaciers and the absurdly green vegetation at the foot of the cliffs that are home to vast flocks of nesting birds. The list of animals and plants we encountered along the way is long, too: Along with puffins, Arctic foxes, and walruses, the two polar bears with their cubs that we observed from the ship were a real highlight!
And then there are the small, quiet moments that made this trip so special: the color of the glaciers, the sound of floating pack ice on the ocean, and being utterly cut off from the outside world. I don’t think I have ever seen such untouched nature before – simply incredible. And then everyone sits together on the ship in the evenings, with no connections at all to the outside world, and plays cards instead of being immersed in their smartphone – definitely an experience that will stay with me.
My next report will include more on summer in the Arctic, which I think is definitely worth seeing!