Windows to the Arctic

Coming home.

A view from Mary-Ann’s Polarrigg on the 31st of March. The blinding effect of the soft, flat light reflected on the endless white is the friendly familiar feeling of the Arctic spring. The wideness and the cold air suddenly gave strong feeling of freedom and surreality. I had to make a little leap of joy in the air.

View from the Lufttransport plane on April 4th on our way to Ny-Alesund. Home again.

Back to the routines.

View from AWIPEV’s balloon house, where weather balloons are started each day since over 30 years. It shows that the Arctic is warming incredibly fast, as mentioned in this article.

A closer view on the snow gives us information about its properties. Each Tuesday we go out jointly with collegues from the Norwegian Polar Institute to dig a snow pit and take snow samples just outside of town. We go by electric car (not to disturb the measurements in the adjacent chemical observatory), take out a pulka and pull the needed equipment a few hunderd meters on the snow to the sampling site. As part of the snow determination, we need to have a close look at the shape and size of the crystals.

This year’s phytoplankton sampling started in April, the bloom followed towards the end of the month. AWIPEVs boat Jean Floc’h (named after a horny dolphin, see here) has been the main boat to go out with. The returning light in combination with an abundance in nutrients in spring causes the phytoplankton to grow rapidly, resulting in a phytoplankton bloom. As primary producers, phytoplankton are at the base of the food web and ecosystem of the fjord.

This instrument looks from a yellow window to the Arctic sky. It is part of a bigger installation that measures the radiation balance, e.g. how much radiation (sunlight/heat) arrives at the surface and how much gets reflected back. The AWIPEV station staff checks these instruments on a daily basis. Together with the meteorological observations, these radiation measurements are at the basis of the climatological understanding of Ny-Alesund.

View on the Arctic life.

View from the service building, where 3 daily meals are served. One might think that the Arctic life is rough and extreme. But in Ny-Alesund, the originally so hostile and harsh Arctic environment, an environment very unwelcoming for human beings, is tamed by humanity with technology and a good cuisine. The same humanity that caused the fjord to stay unfrozen in winter, keeping it accessible for the cargo boat, giving us pineapple, mango and avocado in the darkest month up in the far North. The painful truth, while we are being all very comfortable in Ny-Alesund.

View from the cabin “Antonsverk”. Plenty of cabins in the Kongsfjord area serve as comfortable refuges for a weekend out of town, partly causing the common “spare time stress”. There are so many cabins to visit, fjords to sail and swim in, mountains to climb, bonfires to make.

View from Veksthuset. This common living room is part of the building I live in until I’ll move in my own apartment. Each day, the view on the fjord changes. New birds arrive to town, the snow melts, reindeers start to graze, the sun gets higher.

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