Monday, June 25, 2012

Journey Northward

by Robert Nystrom and Miriam Zarate

As our first week of class comes to a close, we are a week closer to our trip up north to Svalbard. Our lectures this week began with one on Swedish colonization and future visions in the Arctic, a lecture on Artic governance and geopolitical interest of both Arctic and non-Arctic states, another lecture on literature regarding arctic travel specifically concerning the Vikings and their records of discovery, and concluded with a lecture about the personal written accounts of Carl von LinnĂ©'s journey to Lapland and his discoveries about the Sami culture and the environment of Sweden’s northern frontier. Complementing our lectures are a series of readings including The Vinland Sagas, which are a recount of the Viking’s encounters and adventures during exploration of Nordic and Arctic regions. The Vikings were expected to explore the new lands upon sighting or else risk losing credibility as true Viking explorers. We have also begun our reading of Farthest North, an anthology chronicling the race for the North Pole and quests to find new trading routes. The academic diversity of our class has helped lead to great discussions of both the lecture material and readings, and provided different viewpoints on issues and topics regarding some of the first recorded voyages to the Arctic. Having a mixture of PhD, masters and undergraduate students has also enriched our learning experience, the additional years of study that most of the Swedish and international students have has broadened our understanding and introduced different perspectives of the content we are studying. Although the class consists of varying ages and years in education, our common interest in the future of Arctic environments has definitely set a common stage for all to relate. We are working diligently in the classroom to better understand the history of the Arctic region in order to gain the most while on the island of Spitsbergen (Svalbard). 

While we have been busy studying the history of Arctic exploration and governance, we are also excited about the celebration of Midsommar, the commemoration marking the first day of summer. We look forward to learning new and interesting things about our host country and island, and bringing exciting updates of our adventures here in the Nordic region!

Robert Nystrom is a sophomore studying Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois. He is from Villa Park, IL. 

Miriam Zarate is a junior studying Earth, Society, and Environment with a concentration in Science of the Earth System. She is from Bartlett, IL.


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