Friday, July 19, 2013

Rolling Mist

Today is officially the halfway point of our trip and we were greeted  by the rolling mist waking up. It blanketed the landscape and shrouded the mountains and glaciers that we had grown accustomed to admiring, it was accompanied by a fine drizzle. Not to be stopped we layered up and headed out to hunt for the Svalbard flora. We hiked northeastward following the coast up a few kilometers from our camp. Once at the site we started down at the beach, first hunting for tracks from our polar bear friends, though they had been covered by the restless tide. We did thou see an arctic turn tern bird nesting which  prompted our discussion on the essential aquatic ecology. Even the mighty polar bears rely heavily on the oceanic food web and its plankton base. It is easy to see how any change in the arctic ocean Arctic Ocean, such as climate change, can have a large effect on the enviorment environment out here, because it is so interconnected.

Then we proceeded to collect our biological data for the day's excursion. We set up one square meter area to record the local flora in various areas, starting at the beach and moving up into the mountains. We recorded the flora in each of these locations and found these resilient white and purple flowers, the mountain avens and purple saxifrage, scattered all throughout our areas. We also observed a lot of interesting moss and grasses. After a quick glimpse of the Ferdiandbreen glacier the fog pushed us back to camp.

Chilled we set up our tent heaters and enjoyed a warm and cozy evening singing in the Scandinavian style with "authentic" Svalbard songs and our home universities universities' Alma Maters. Happily just as we were going to bed, the sky cleared and the sun came back out, hopefully we will have a beautiful day tomorrow here at 78 degrees, 40 minutes north.

"Warm regards",
Scott V.H, Tricia M, and Andreas G

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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