Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Tarfala to Nikkaloukta, 29th of June

This series of posts shares field notes from the study abroad course "Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic." The course begins at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, and then students from the University of Illinois and KTH travel north to conduct research in the Arctic. This blog was originally posted on KTH's Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic webpage.

by Klara Bergman and Skylar Lipman

On Monday we had to leave Tarfala to head back to civilization in Kiruna. It was a sad moment for most people, at least for us, even though all of us probably longed for pizza and water toilettes. In the morning we were greeted by sun and blue skies, promising for a hiking day! We were fortunate enough to be able to walk on the snow without snowshoes since the night had been cold enough to keep the top layer crisp. After eating a strengthening breakfast consisting of porridge and saying our farewells to the crew at Tarfala research station we headed out. 24 km of hiking waited until we would reach the Nikkaluokta mountain station and some well deserved rest.

The hike started out well with some downhill walking in beautiful terrain with patches of snow and water. We followed the D√°rfaljohka river and were sometimes overwhelmed by the beauty around us. Flowers, waterfalls and small mountain birches were just some of the natural features surrounding us.


For lunch we had crisp bread (for the last time in a long time probably), snacking on Freja’s trail mix throughout the day along with whatever else we scavenged back at the station. As our hiking paces varied greatly throughout the day, we experienced travel with shifting complexes of our peers. While phasing in and out of these various hiking groups proved interesting, hiking on ones own can lead to new discoveries, discoveries having less to do with humans and more to do with the rapidly changing landscapes.

Indeed, on your own you can move slowly, not feeling guilty to turn and stand in one place, photograph extensively, halt to examine undersides of leaves. While hiking on our own for a decent leg of the trip, one of us spotted one reindeer. In the relative silence of fewer pairs of feet, I heard surprisingly rhythmic, quick-paced plodding in the shrubs along the path. It took some time before the white fur and short, velvety antlers appeared from the dense clouds of mountain birth and willow, or “vide”, which currently sports equally velvety budding leaves.

During our hike we saw:
78.7 lemmings
1 mouse
1 toad
27 seagulls
1 reindeer
1,893 mosquitoes

Back in Kiruna we all enjoyed the benefits of being back in the city and had a good night’s sleep in real beds. THANK YOU to all the people at Tarfala research station who made our stay so amazing! From the highest peaks to the living glaciers, the smallest budding flowers and ancient lichen, we will not soon forget our experiences in Tarfala. Truly our sincerest gratitude!

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