Monday, January 16, 2012

Practical winter safety day

A week of winter-safety training ended on Saturday with a full day of practical training in front of Longyearbreen. It was organized into 4 different stations with different types of emergency situations and each group consisting of between 30 to 40 people.

Avalanche accident
The scenario was a slab-avalanche with 3 known missing persons. I was in charge of the rescue operation and arrived first on the scene with 15 persons from our group; the rest arriving shortly after.

We grabbed avalanche probes and shovels and rushed inn after making sure the accident site was safe. We then made a hasty search for avalanche beacons and found our first victim alive after a short time. (The search was complicated by the fact that the instructors would remotely turn on and off beacons to confuse us). When the rest of the group arrived, they were organized into probe searching teams focusing on the areas where equipment was found on the surface.

It is a challenge to keep track on such a big group, and make that resources are used systematic and efficient, and that people are just not searching at random. I focused on always dividing into smaller groups with specific tasks and areas and making sure to appoint a temporary group leader. Another challenge with such big groups is the inevitable problem of people not putting their beacon into search mode. To solve this, I tried having the whole group actually turn off their beacons, while giving a few people the task of making a new search.

In the end, we found 4 out of 3 people with one person dead.

This was probably the most challenging, but at the same time, the most exciting part of the practical training. I feel that I did quite well, although some time were wasted at the beginning organizing the search a bit to much. There were also some gaps in the probing teams and I should probably have stressed the teams a bit more on keeping correct distance.

First aid after snow scooter and avalanche accident
At this post we played through two scenarios. In the first scenario I played the victim of a snow scooter accident. Me and a friend had been out driving snow scooters when we suddenly feel down from a ridge. I was unconscious, while my friend had broken her knee.

In the other scenario we had four victims from an avalanche accident. The person I worked on was not breathing, so we gave CPR through the whole scenario while stabilizing the neck.

Relaxing to play the victim and perhaps not so rewarding only doing only CPR on the second scenario.

Crevasse rescue
Again, I was the victim, and this time I had fallen down a crevasse. The other team roped me up, using a simple pulley system (Although it took quite a lot of time). Afterwards we used a little bit time on preparing a 6-point pulley system which is much more efficient.

Mostly waiting (for me) and therefore not so interesting.

Emergency camp
We made an emergency camp using the emergency boxes used by UNIS, boil water and perform first aid on a victim that had broken her leg. I splinted her leg using the rod of a shovel and a first aid splint tied together with the straps from the sledge. We then got her into the tent and made sure she was warm.

Fun and good to have done, but did not really learn anything new.

After this exercise we got a visit from the super-puma rescue helicopter which is used on Svalbard. They demonstrated both landing and roping people up. It is not hard to imagine how beautiful the sound of the helicopter must sound when you're actually getting rescued.

 We then ended the day with a theoretical exam before getting drunk - hurrah!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Winter safety course

Spring semester at UNIS starts with a week-long safety course which is mandatory for all students. Schedule for this week is:

- Opening of the semester / Administrative routines
- Introduction to safety, environment and issues on Svalbard
- Brief from the Governor on Svalbard (Sysselmannen)
- First aid, theoretical lessons
- Clothing; principles and use

- Emergency equipment, glacier
- Emergency equipment, avalanche

- Navigation, map/compass/gps
- Rifle handling and polar bears

- First aid, practical training
- Lab, logistics and HSE regulations

- Forming and properties of sea ice
- Emergency equipment, camp

- Practical training at Longyearbreen
- Written test and evaluation

Today we had lectures from 9-20:00 which for most part were repetions of the fall safety course; sufficient to say, it was a really really long day.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Replacement rifle

Have had some problems with my Mauser (Kar98) and getting it replaced free of charge. Problem is that the 3rd round doesn't enter the chamber correct, but hits it to the side, sometimes jamming the gun as the extractor doesn't grab it properly.

Christmas and new year in the arctic

The Christmas vacation is coming to an end and a new semester at UNIS is about to start (8th of January with safety courses). Unlike most of the students, I did not return home, but spent my christmas vacation here on Svalbard. Here is a brief summary of my Christmas.

DogsThe main occupation during my vacation has been with the two, and later three dogs that I've been taking care of. Pernille and Tritina stayed over christmas, while Worsley arrived the 1st of January. They are all staying up at the dog yard on top of one of the moraines of Longyearbreen (<1km SW of Nybyen) and feed once a day.

The dog yard and snow scooter lights on Longyearbreen (Access to the glacier on the right side) (Photo: Alexander Hovland)
In return I have got to use the dogs for skiing around which has been a new and fun experience. As fun as it is however; sometimes it can be a nightmare i.e. when they refuse to start or stop. My hope was to use the vacation for some serious trips, but sadly there has generally been little snow and busy day. We went to Bjørndalen on a few occasions however, both with and without sledge.

Pernille and Tritina ready for the trip to Bjørndalen (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Pernille ( Photo: Alexander Hovland)

In general there has been few and only minor problems, although a bit traumatic for Tritina when the  wind knocked over the dog house with her in it.
Pernille and Tritina are the dogs of Knut Ola. Worsley (after Frank Arthur Worlsey) belongs to Bård and arrived the 1st of January on the plane. Worsley has sadly been very nervous and had almost gnawed his way out of the dog yard; for now he is standing on a chain. Much calmer today however.

Worsley looking a bit sad/nervous as always(?) (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

A dog family (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Prior to Christmas Eve I spent some time at Bjørndalen, preparing the cabin for Christmas and doing some maintenance. I also went out with the dogs and spent a night there, returning with the sledge full of trash. Weather in general was harsh, and upon returning towards Longyearbyen the dogs absolutely refused to run against the wind, but were instead hiding behind my legs. 

Chained up at Smutthullet (Photo: Alexander Hovland)
Christmas eve came, and it ended up being me, Cara (American), Niklas (Swedish), Daria (Russian), Angelina (Ukrainian) and Dave (The-Indian-Guy from India). A Christmas-tree was brought (300NOK for Danish fir at Svalbardbutikken)  and decorated like a proper Christmas tree. Presents from back home was placed under the Christmas tree and the Pinnekjøtt turned out perfect! Even the weather cleared up during the evening and we had Christmas in the polar night with shooting stars and northern light.

2kg of pinnekjøtt ready for transport (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

The indian guy (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Daria and Angelina (Photo: Alexander Hovland)
Between Christmas and New Year's Eve I mostly spent time racing around with the dogs, shooting and doing... Well, I did something.
New Year's Eve
A friend of mine, Mariann, arrived on the 30th of December to stay with me over New Year's Eve. I introduced her to rifle-shooting which...well. I don't think she liked it; then again cal. 30-06 is a scary caliber. She also got to try skiing with the dogs and did it impressively well.

New year's eve we went to Huset, which is a popular and the only club here on Svalbard. At 00:00 we had champagne and there were probably more rockets in the air then there are people here on Svalbard. Mariann returned home the 1st of January.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas holiday!

Had my final exam for this semester last thursday and now it is Christmas for real! This means that I finally have time for "awesomeness" and... more time to update my blog!

Barrack 11, Nybyen (Photo: Alexander Hovland)
Nybyen (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Nye Gruve 2B, where Santa lives. Note the avalanche to the right (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

So, for those who don't already know. I'm going to celebrate this Christmas here on Svalbard. My first Christmas away from home! The plan is to go to Bjørndalen and stay at Smutthullet during Christmas with two other students at UNIS; Niklas (Swedish) and Cara(American). And as I'm writing this, there are suddenly two more. We now even have a real christmas tree (although Danish).

Longyearbyen (Photo: Alexander Hovland)
On the way to Huset (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Everyone who is not staying for Christmas has left now, and there's a calm over Nybyen.  No people, no lights, just an occasional snow-scooter driving past. I have been passing the days taking care of two dogs; Pernille and Tritina (?) who lives at the dogyard just up on the moraine in front of Longyearbreen. Besides feeding them, we go skiing. Took some scratches, bruises and some blood before I caught the hang of it, but now they are just eating kilometers.

Feeding time (Photo: Mike Cope)

Pernille (Photo: Mike Cope)

Tritina (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Frantic days

I handed inn my second semester project last day, and things are finally starting to calm a bit down, before the exams next month. This was the second project this year, and a brief summary of them is as follows:

AG210 Quaternary history of Svalbard: I described and interpreted both the genesis and environment of a new gravel unit found within the sedimentary stratigraphy of Poolepynten on Prins Karls Forland. To do this I used both sediment description and interpretation of the mollusk fauna in which I collected shells to identify. Based on this I came to the conclution that the gravel was deposited during a high density deposit during a climate similar or warmer then today and most possible during the Eemian interglacial (130-114 000 years ago).

Location overview. note the polar bear jawbone to the left of my section. It is the world's oldest remain of a polar bear (110-130 000 years old) (Adapted from Ingolfson & Wiig (2009))

Stratigraphic log. note the gravel unit toward the bottom.

Some of the shell samples collected for the project.

AG211 Marine Geology: Using mainly swath bathymetry data I identified submarine landforms within the fjord and inner-shelf area of Wijdefjorden on North-Spitsbergen. This included measuring and interpreting the significance of the different landforms. My conclusion were that a mayor ice flow were present in Wijdefjorden during the last glaciation, that it was a surging glacier, but that it could be characterized as a "fast-flowing" ice stream due to the lack of megascale glacial lineations (MSGL).

My overview map of the study area

Ground zone wedge from the converging Woodfjorden ice stream

Crag and tail feature identified both using morphology and chirp echo sounder data.
Both projects can be downloaded as Adobe Acrobat PDF files:
AG211 termproject (
- AG210 termproject (

Thursday, November 3, 2011


It has been almost two weeks since my last blogpost. My first excuse for this is that I've been just to busy, which might sound a bit strange since my second excuse is that not much have happened up here lately.

Well... Maybe some things happened. The sun went down below the horizon for the last time this year on the 26th of October. This marks a period from between 26th of october until 8th of march where the sun will not rise above the horizon.
For now it is still bright a couple of hours during the day as we experience what is called polar twillight where it is still daylight due to sunlight being reflected back in the upper athmosphere. Gradually it will get darker however, and between the 11th of November until the 8th of March there will only be a faint glow during the day during what is called civil polar night. Nautical polar and the even darker astronomical polar night is not experienced here.

The darkness opens up for some beautiful pictures of northerns light which have been quite frequent up here lately. For the most part however they occur during night when people like me are sleeping. The more eager people at our barrack however have set up the facebook-group "The Barrack 11 Northern Lights Observatory". There's also a northern light forecast available from Kjell Henriksens Observatory for those who are interested.

Chloé made us all a proper meal with Italian lasagna and tiramitsu for dessert as her sister Léa was visiting. Of course we also went out last friday. Sufficient to say; I was a bit reduced last saturday. Sunday we went up to the ice-cave in the moraine in front of Longyearbreen. However, we decided to drop it as we heard quite a lot of meltwater flowing due to the high temperatures lately. Instead I guided a group up to Platåfjellet. As we came up, they went down and I walked around for a couple of hours and tracked a polar fox for a while.
Last week was spent for the most time doing some inefficient work on my term project for AG210 which now is almost finished.

In other news:
- First proper drug-raid on Svalbard. First 9 local people were caught with narcotics and now the total number is 11. They now risk being sent away from Svalbard.
- Two youths were caught driving under the influence of alcohol on snowscooters
- Another fox with rabies was caught.
- China was accused of hacking the Svalsat radars.