Last week I spent 6 days in Longyearbyen working with colleagues at the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS). Longyearbyen is the largest city (~2000 inhabitants) in the Archipelago of Svalbard, which is north of the main land in Norway, at ~78deg N (a map locating Svalbard is shown in my post 3). I had been there several times during the spring, summer and fall, but never during the 24hr dark winter. Luckily for me (although not lucky for long term warming effects that are already hitting this region), we had very mild weather in Longyearbyen the entire time I was there, and there was less snow accumulated in the ground there than in Tromsø (now I pay attention to these weather details).

My collaboration with oceanographers at UNIS, primarily with my host researcher Frank Nilsen and his PhD student Eli Anne, was very successful. It has built the basis for using satellite data of ocean bottom pressure from GRACE (see my post 5 for a quick reminder of GRACE details) and in situ bottom pressure recorders located west of Svalbard, with the goal of investigating dynamics of ocean circulation and variability in the region. We will carry on with this investigation and I will make a second visit to Longyearbyen in March 2018.

I also had the opportunity to join the local community with a couple of their multiple activities during the winter: I attended the Christmas concert at the church where many local artists, children and adults, perform Christmas carols, mostly in Norwegian, but a lot in English and even other languages, depending on the origin of some of the artists. In addition, I had the opportunity to join Frank’s family for a Christmas dinner at one of the restaurants in town, at the Radisson hotel. I had lutefisk, a very traditional Norwegian dish. Based on how the cod is prepared and cooked, the consistency may vary and result in either a great dish or a complete gelatinous mass of fishy blob (details of what lutefisk is, how it is prepared and how it became a tradition, can be found here). I was lucky to get the former, I really enjoyed the dish. But I also think I won’t order it again anywhere else in Norway because if I do, the odds for deleting this memory of a delicious traditional culinary experience are pretty high.

Last, I also went to see Star Wars VIII at the cinema, the northern most cinema of the world… although being in Svalbard, most things or places are likely to get the “northern most of the world” title: university, church, cinema, brewery, you name it. Overall, it was an excellent trip, thanks both to my UNIS colleagues, to the US-Norway Fulbright Foundation, and obviously to Greg, who stayed with Evan in Tromsø.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!