it's Ribanna writing this week's blog.
Since Luci's last blog mentioning the snow that has arrived I have to add: There is even more snow by now! It is incredibly white outside and awesomely beautiful.
But early October, the beautiful whiteness was temporarily destroyed by - guess what - a SANDSTORM! It all looked like a huge desert because after some strong winds from the East, all the sediments from down Adventdalen (the valley) were blown up and covered everything in dust. The same day, I was out in the field helping to prepare a seismic experiment. We've been out about 2.5 hours, wearing face masks and goggles, but still, we were entirely covered in dust so that we had to get some shelter every now and then and rinse our mouths with water. My camera was destroyed during this storm due to dust getting deep into it, even in between the lenses. It was an experience!
Figure 1: Out in the sandstorm doing field work
Two weeks ago, a bunch of us went to the ice caves in the Longyearbreen (the glacier right behind our barracks) because it was cold enough for quite a while now to enter them safely. Before we got there, we hiked through a beautiful meltwater channel. It took us a while to find the entrance because last year's entrance has collapsed and there were several smaller ones. Eventually we crawled through some tunnel to get into a large cave that was spreading out quite a bit below the glacier. Tiny icicles started forming from the ceiling and we got in a fair distance. In the end, we tried to get even deeper by crawling along a really narrow and tight tunnel, but my butt (hehe, butt) wouldn't fit through the last bit (and no one else's butt, so it's not only mine!). After a while I started ignoring the ceiling because it was studded with cracks that you don't want to notice when you are below 10's of meters of pure ice and rocks. Quite happily, we didn't hear a single crack sound which would probably have freaked me out so it was a really enjoyable tour.
Figure 3: It's getting tight!
Figure 4 and 5: Crawling through the tight and narrow tunnels in the ice cave. (Credits for fig 5: Nina Bakke)
Figure 6: Beautiful meltwater channel (credits. Luci!)
Actually so enjoyable that I went back with Luci one week later after an attempt to build a snowman family (and she got stuck in the same tunnel). We had to realise doon that it is too cold for building anything out of this snow. It is powdery and wonderful, but we had to leave it where it was because it wouldn't stick at all. Next time, we will be armed with loads of water and decorations to get our snowman family.
In the same week, Luci and me along with two of my kitchen mates (Jøran and Michael) went on a night hike because the Aurora forecast was pretty good. We hiked up Sakrofagen at around 10 pm to realise that the moon was way too bright for good northern lights. So we sat down and just enjoyed the view (it was really bright). No one was expecting any visible activity anymore and the moment we decided to turn around because it got pretty cold, we were surprised by the most spectacular lightshow I have ever experienced: The Northern Lights were so intense that the brightness of the moon couldn't stop them from dancing green and red all over the sky, even right above the moon. Jøran could take some incredible pictures, see some of them right here:
Figure 7: Enjoying the moonlight and the view. Not expecting Northern lights at all!
(Credits: Jøran Solnes Skaar)
Figure 8: Amazement! Right behind us! (Credits: Jøran Solnes Skaar)
Now some academic update: We are keeping on analysing the cores we have taken from the Marine Geology cruise I have written about in September. The last 2-3 weeks we spent a lot of time in front of microscopes counting Ice-Rafted Debris and analyzing foraminifera to reconstruct the paleoenvironment of our cores. It is pretty amazing to find these tiny, beautiful creatures in the sediments and to be able to tell the environmental circumstances from that (or even from their absence like in my sample where I couldn't find any). We have had a presentation on our results on friday including all the analyses we have done so far including magnetic susceptibility, shear strength, lithological records, grain size analysis, IRD and foraminifera. Next week, we are going to date our cores which allows us to tell what happened when. The next week we are also going to be really busy writing up two reports for both our modules. But as it is my birthday in a couple of days, we are planning on spending a night out on a glacier, having BBQ, mulled cider and northern lights.
Figure 9: Foraminifera under the microscope
It also was UNIS' 20th anniversary three weeks ago. We had a big friday gathering with all drinks and even food (reindeer soup) for free. The FG group (Luci and I are members) prepared a UNIS related pub quiz which was a real success and made especially the UNIS staff amibitous to win a big bowl of chocolate.
Figure 10 and 11: UNIS 20 anniversary Friday Gathering
The week after that, the legendary "Icebreaker" party took place. Theme: Beach! First you think, that's kind of boring. But then you realise the potential in that theme. It's not only baywatch! It is starfish, sharks, birds, sand, rocks, water, boats, sunshine, cocktails, hawker's trays, cast aways and much more! I ended up as a starfish! And with a mouth full of marhmallows in one of the games we played. I was able to fit 16 marshmallows into my mouth, but I heard about 28 or even more.
Figure 12: Luci the shark, me the starfish
Yesterday, it was the last real day. Sunrise at 12.17h, sunset at 13.04h. Can you see the length of the day? Yes, it is 46 minutes! I joined a small group on a hike to one of the higher peaks (Trollsteinen) to see the sun for one last time, but unfortunately, it was really cloudy. At least, the clouds turned slightly pinkish in the end. The way down Trollsteinen was good fun because - as mentioned earlier - loads of very powdery snow plus bad vision (it's just all white) plus slippery ground made us slide down and bump into small piles of snow/rocks all the way. At least the snow cushioned the falls a bit. It is still not dark outside, more like a constant dawn (or is it dusk). But soon, we'll be able to count our moon hours instead of sun hours which is kind of the same, isn't it?!