Friday, September 2, 2011

AG210 Excursion

Warning: this post contains poor grammar and a polar bear

One of the best things with studying at UNIS is the amazing fieldtrips. For one week I've been on field work around the central west coast of Svalbard as a part of AG210 Quaternary history of Svalbard. I've been working with Jochem and Francesca and our task was to mainly look at glacial deposits from before the last glacial maximum (LGM) around 18-23ka B.P.

Overview map of our excursion

Day 1: Poolepynten, Prins Karls Forland
The first day we went with the boat "Stålbas" to Prins Karls Forland which lays right west of Spitsbergen. The trip took about 3 hours and was spent by watching puffins and the northern fulmars which are always following around the boat.

Getting ready to leave with Stålbas (Foto: Alexander Hovland)

I bet Oscar felt just a little bit tempted to push Patrick. (Foto: Alexander Hovland)

Greenpeace hiding in the fog outside Longyearbyen harbor (Foto: Alexander Hovland)

Prins Karls Forland is situated right west of Oscar II land at Spitsbergen. It contains some of the oldest bedrock in the svalbard archipelago, but for quaternary scientiets at UNIS it recieves quite a lot of attention due to the discussion of the extent of the barents ice sheet during the weichselian (Last glacial). It also have some interesting marine terraces (former beaches) at 35m ASL (dated 11 350+180 BP) and up to 65m asl (dated at 41 670+m ASL).

Northern fulmar taking off (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Getting out of the survival suits and preparing for first day in the field. (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Lunch at Brucebukta (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Our section in the cliffs. (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

When we arrived at Prins Karls Forland we went with the zodiacs into Brucebukta. On the way in there was a seal playing infront of the zodiac and it was a beautiful first meeting with Prins Karls Forland. At the beach we spent the day digging into different sections of the cliffs identifying different layers of sediments and interpreting their genisis. What is interesting is that we actually found a layer of beach gravel at the bottom of our section which never has been described earlier. I also have my term project at this location, so I collected molluscs which I will later analyze and write a report about. I also had to do my first sediment log without really having a clue about how to do (we learned it the next day), so this might be a challenge for my project.

Alice being a supermodel in the wind. (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Walrus at Poolepynten. (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Lagunestranda from Poolepynten at Prins Karls Forland. (Photo: Alexander Hovland)
After we finished, we went back to the boat and headed for Comfortlessbreen (Surging glacier)  where we were going to the work the next day. Since Forlandssundet is very shallow, we had to go all the way south around Prins Karls Forland and back on the western coast. Past Poolepynten there some walruses laying on the beach and we had a great time just watching them.

Day 2: Foggy at Comfortlessbreen
The next morning the fog was really thick and we had to skip Comfortlessbreen. Instead we went to Leinstranda which is right north of Comfortlessbreen. Here we digged into a section containing mainly diamicts, but nothing that is really worth to mention here. The section was logged before we went back to the  boat.

Hrafnhildur and me in survivalsuits (Photo: Hrafnhildur Hedinsdottir)

Patrick looking for furry white animals. (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Stålbas loading the zodiacs (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Leinstranda. (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Francesca and Jochem working on our section. (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

While we had  been away, the crew at the boat had been firing up the hot tub on the deck.  We spent most the evening there with just a small break to eat some dinner. I must admit that it did not exactly fit my mental picture of Svalbard and the arctic.

Hot tub on the deck. (Photo:Hrafnhildur Hedinsdottir)
Of course the water in the hot tub got quite hot, something which led us to the  idea of actually taking a swim. When we achored at Nordvågen just infront of Blomstrandbreen, the captain lowered us down with the emergency boat and almost everyone dived inn. To be honest it was warmed then expected, but not exactly warm.

Hopefully the video below works. It is recorded by Aneirin Jones (My favourite "Whaleguy" (Welsh))

Blomstrandbreen. We could hear it crack up and calf all evening. (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Acting like good tourists (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Seal playing around next to the boat. (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) (Photo: Alexander Hovland)
Day 2: Kongsfjordhallet
We started out on the beach in front of Blomstrandbreen and did a small hike towards Kongsfjordhallen. Here we observed some nice hummocky morraines associated with surging glacial activity as well as kettle holes, pot holes and other intereseting glacial as well as periglacial phenomenas. When we arrived at the beach of Kongsfjordhallet we did some more digging to look at some of the oldest sediments that can be found on Svalbard. It is a massive layer of black-brown-red marine(shell fragments) glacial (striated rocks) diamict with an age of 1Ma+ BP.

Arriving at the beach. Blomstrandbreen in the background. (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Looking at a potholestructure (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Looking at frostpolygons - a periglacial phenomena (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Lunch at Kongsfjordhallet. Ny-Ålesund in the background. (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Oldest quaternary sediments found in Svalbard (Photo: Alexander Hovland

What fucked my day a little bit was when I had to tell Anna, our fantastic teacher in AG210, that I had lost the cover for my rifle. It really made me feel bad.  Then Patrick told me he had one extra because he had Gautis cover, but Gauti had already packed his rifle... Yeah.... Gauti stole my rifle cover.

After our visit to Kongsfjordhallet we went with boat to Ny-ålesund which is one of the world's most northern settlements. During the winter there is about 25 people living there, whereas during the summer months the population goes up to 150 people. As most settlements on Svalbard is was founded because of the coal. Today, people wo live there, work mainly as reserachers on the global athmosphere watch project. One of the cool things you see in Ny-Ålesund is the mast where Roald Amundsen anchored his airship before reaching the north pole by air.

Arriving at Ny Ålesund. (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

The mast for Amundsends airship (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Monument dedicated to Amundsen (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Arctic tern at Ny Ålesund (Photo: Alexander Hovland)
We had about two hours at land in Ny-Ålesund. We did some shopping. I sent a postcard to my parents reporting that I still had not seen a polar bear and bought a toothbrush. Then we went to the pub and had a great time with some beer  (finally). Apperantly my alcohol tolerance is shit. I got a bit drunk on four 0,33s.

Me and the beautiful Francesca (Photo: Hrafnhildur Hedinsdottir)

Me being bullied by Jochem (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Day 3: Linnédalen
During the night, we went back to Isfjorden towards Kapp Linné. Here we were going to do some more digging and have a look at some diamictions in the sections here. However, what stands out at this location is our meeting with the mighty white - our first live polar bear.

Our first encounter with the mighty white (Photo: Alexander Hovland)
Francesca was the first to spot it - according to herself she first started to wonder why there was a sheep on Svalbard. It was about 3-400m away right above the beach where we landed with the zodiacs. One of the problems was that we couldn't really scare it away, because 20m behind it, was a small tent camp with people not aware of the polar bear. Fireing a warning shot might scare it right into their tent camp. At our boat however, to warning shots were fired and the polar bear walked past the tent camp and away from us. Meanwhile a guy came out from the tent and went in the opposite direction to look what the boat was doing, not realizing a polar bear had just walked past.

After the polarbear encountered we did some digging, before we got back on the boat. While waiting for the second zodiac the captain of Stålbad pointed me in the direction of some Beluga whales that were playing outside Kapp Linné.

Skansebukta. The alluvial and colluvial fans in the background is the background for the geohazards project (Photo: Alexander Hovland)
Dog at Skansebukta. My mom has forbidden me to bring any back home :( (Photo: Aneirin Jones)
The boat then headed towards Billefjorden where we did a short stop at  Skansebukta. Here we meet Eva and her assistant who were doing some fieldwork for a project on Geohazards and cultural heritage. After that we went to our tent camp right northwest of Nordenskioldbreen. At the camp we meet our camp leader Håkonnd the dog greenlandic dog Andy. Andy was there to help warn us against polar bears. Andy however was usually sleeping.

Andy our watchdog in a wake moment. (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Our tentcamp in Billefjorden (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

I also had my first polarbear watch giving me some much needed alone time. No polar bears. I also had a trip on my own up to Nordenskiöldbreen and sat there for an hour just watching the glacier calf into the ocean.

Day 5: Kapp ekholm
Had another polar bear watch in the morning before we went to Kapp ekholm. At Kapp Ekholm we digged into a section just above the limestone/dolomitic bedrock and found a really nice diamict that we logged. We also did some clast analysis to decide the direction of the glacier.

Fieldwork at Kapp Ekholm (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Day 6: Another day at Kapp Ekholm
We went back to Kapp ekholm to present our section to the other group. We then visited some active karst lakes before we decided to make a trip to theold russian minining settlement Pyramiden. Thus was a sort of weird but fascinating experience. Pyramiden was abandoned in 1998 when the coal was empty. This was done quite quickly so you can still find the offices full of old papers and stuff that was left behind.

Group picture from Pyramiden (Photo: Mike Cope)

Some old pumps (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Having fun at Pyramiden (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Weird to see some real vegetation again (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Urban exploring at Pyramiden (Photo: Francesca Scatchard)

Lenin and Jochem (Photo: Francesca Scatchard)

Mosaic from the cinema(?) (Photo: Francesca Scatchard)

Day 7: Nordenskiöldbreen
After taking a look on some of the proglacial landforms around our campsite we went on a glacier walk on Nordenskiöldbreen which was a really nice experience. It had cracked up quite a lot in the front which suggests its moving quite a lot. At the camp we could quite often hear it crack and calf into the water which sounded quite similar  to thunder. Poor Andy thought. He could not follow us all the way and was left at the glacier front while we continued towards the top.

Preparing for the glacier (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Andy gettng left on the ice (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Håkon leading the way (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Alice  being crazy as always and Joe..preparing to trip over himself (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

View from the glacier towards Billefjorden (Photo: Alexander Hovland)
Although Alice is usually the one to fall, she stayed on her feet for most of the trip. Joe however, managed to trip over himself while we were standing still. Good job!

Day 8: Returning to Longyearbyen
This morning we packed together our tent and headead towards Longyearbyen. Some of us went the smaller zodiacs while the others were picked up with our luggage by Polarsirkel. On our way back we spotted a whale that we followed for a while.

Back at UNIS we cleaned our equipment; survival suits, cleaning the rifles etc. before we went back up to the barracks. I used the rest of my energy that evening on a quick run to the polar bear sign.

I will be away for another 10 days, leaving on monday, so there will not be any new posts the next two weeks. Hopefully with some great pictures from Nordaustlandet

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