Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Petunia Bay

This article originally appeared on the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat's website.

by Fredrik Isaksson, Emma Giesen and Peiyuan Zhang

We started the day at 7 am in the morning. The weather in Longyearbyen was cold, windy and foggy. We had our breakfast in the guest house and each of us prepared a lunch bag. Surprisingly we found a reindeer outside the reception having his breakfast as well. The buses picked us up at around 8:30 am for the trip to the harbor. Then we boarded the boat, Langøysund, along with other tourists and headed towards the camp site in Petunia Bay.

The boat ride took three hours and a local Norwegian guided the tour. We saw puffins and seagulls from the boat. The guide also pointed out some deserted coal mines and settlements. After passing through Billefjorden, our boat stopped at Petunia Bay where we loaded our equipments on the Zodiac. It took three trips and a lot of team work to transport all the people, equipment and two dogs to the shore. Luckily the weather improved as we started to set up the tents at the camp site. The fog was now gone and the sun was shining on the snowy sedimentary mountains surrounding the bay.

Our camp site is pretty flat with not much vegetation and located with a good view over the surroundings. Four tents were put up as sleeping tents, one as cooking tent and one sleeping tent for the night guard. We put up a washing station and collected water from a nearby creek. An environmental friendly toilet facility was also put up. The security guidelines regarding hygiene and polar bears are gone through once more. Since a mother polar bear with her two cubs has been spotted in this area only two days ago and several times before that, we have to be extra careful not to disturb them.

The view from our site is great. On the other side of the bay we can see Skottehytta and in the distant we can hear the cracking from the Nordenskjöld Glacier. The sound is similar to thunder, spreading through the landscape, making us feel quite small. The vegetation in this area consists of low growing flowers, mosses and grasses between the rocks. This evening we spend combining geology, hiking and dinner cooking at 78 degrees north.

Photo credit: Swedish Polar Research Secretariat

This article is one in a series of blog entries written by University of Illinois students who traveled during summer 2013 to Stockholm, Sweden and Svalbard, Norway to participate in the interdisciplinary course, “Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic,” provided by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and co-organized with KTH Royal Institute of Technology. Course participants from both universities learn about issues related to climate change and the Arctic, capped by an excursion to conduct field research near the Arctic Circle. This program is partially supported by the European Union Center through a European Union Center of Excellence grant, and is an initiative of the Illinois-Sweden Program for Educational Research Exchange (INSPIRE). Student blog entries also appear on the web site of the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat.

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