I have a feeling that reviving the blog requires mentioning what I've been up to for the past 20 months.
June 2015 was a break through month in my life; big changes ahead.
I packed and moved out of Iceland. Then I spent a few days at my parents house back in Kraków, where I repacked for the Arctic. In the first days of July we got off a ship and our feet finally touched the pristine land of Spitsbergen, Svalbard. I used the plural form here because I was accompanied by other 10 people, who four months earlier were complete strangers to me. We were to spend the following 12 months together, in a very distant place called Hornsund, where the Institute of Geophysics of the Polish Academy of Sciences has their research station.
|XXXVIII Polish Polar Expedition 2015/2016 (photo by Robert Pogorzelski)|
At the Polish Polar Station I was a geophysicist. However I had a chance to be engaged in many more activities than just those directly related to my duties. As a result I have tons of great memories that I wish to keep in my mind forever. Each snow mobile ride on a glacier was fantastic, even during those days where we could hardly see anything through a very thick fog and moving around without operating a GPS would be a total madness. Each zodiac trip was great, like the one we did on the 22nd of December: in complete darkness, with air temperatures well below zero, with massive chunks of ice floating around us, when the surface of fiord waters looked like a salty smoothie. Each hike with my dog was a pure pleasure, seeing her grow and experience the beautiful world around us.
It would be very difficult to squeeze all of those moments (and giving them justice) in a single post. I've decided then, to choose three days. Interestingly, all of them from the Spring of 2016.
April 1, 2016 - Hyttevika
It was nearly 2am when an idea crossed my mind. I noticed Konrad, our mechanic, was still online. Since it was the April Fools day, I made sure he doesn't take my request for a joke. I asked if he could give me a snow scooter ride to an old trapper's hut where I wanted to stay for 2 nights.
I'm so glad he was always up for such trips, even those last minute ones! Thanks Konrad!
Hyttevika hut is located less than 20 km away from the Station, and when there is enough snow it is possible to reach it by snow mobiles. Otherwise one can find it hiking for a couple of hours along the coastline. It was built over 100 years ago at a location convenient for trappers hunting polar bears.
52 hours by myself.
Quiet, peaceful, beautiful surrounding.
Heat from the tiny fireplace.
Practicing yoga in the snow.
Hiking the area among reindeers.
Knitting (yes, I still use Icelandic wool).
Evenings by the candle light.
Eating the best Svalbard pizza, made by Robert, which he and Konrad brought when they visited me the next day.
And peeing in the ocean with a shotgun by my side.
April 29, 2016 - Brepollen
A week earlier, together with Maciek, our oceanographer, we went out to the big waters of Hornsund fjord to do some measurements. That was a hell of a day, the conditions turned bad really fast and we needed to get back to the Station with hardly anything completed. I stayed wrapped in a blanket for the rest of the day trying to warm up after the trip. The following days we kept on tracking the forecasts, looking for a chance to get back on the zodiac and finish up what we hardly started.
After a week we could finally try again. And this time the conditions were perfect.
To be honest, this trip wasn't the most exciting. Only a couple of days later we set off again and while taking water samples noticed a beautiful seal lounging on a floating ice. Amazing! Yet another week later we did measurements by the Torell glaciers in the east coast of Spitsbergen and while in the area, we decided to check a WWII plane wreck at Kapp Borthen. Then there is a nearly-Christmas trip we did in almost darkness, with just stars and dancing auroras lighting up the sky. And any of them could be chosen, however it was this one Brepollen trip I have such warm feelings about.
Maybe it's the fact that after this long wait we finally managed to sail away, this time in amazing conditions. Or maybe it was the walking on frozen fjord waters that we did. Or maybe the polar bear foot steps on the ice, that we noticed the moment we stepped outside the zodiac. Or possibly the nosy seals which heads were constantly peaking out from the water, checking on us. And the overall satisfaction of the job well done.
June 18, 2016 - Treskelen
This one I did not plan. Anton, our geodesist and glacier specialist, had a weather station to service at a Treskelen peninsula. Since I felt the need to spend some time outdoors, he asked whether I wanted to join him. We set of with two divers, that joined our crew in the early summer. They were going out to the fjord and we caught a ride with them. In a couple of hours they were to pick us up from a Treskelen hut, not far from where they dropped us off.
Anton's planned fieldwork went quickly and smooth, and we had plenty of time to spare. We were about to look for some fossils on the eastern coast of the peninsula, but before we even reached it, we came across some polar bear footsteps. Big polar bear and a small polar bear.
In the end we didn't find good fossils to photograph but the area is very pretty and picturesque itself. We started the hike from its tip and moved towards the north. At the very end, there is a small hut, where we could lay down and wait for the zodiac crew to pick us up. It's such a nice place.
I felt happy.
Simple things in life...
Our pick up was late. Something was up...
When they arrived it turned out that the zodiac is taking a lot of water in. Not without an effort we managed to drag it onshore for a closer investigation. As suspected, the bottom of it was torn.
This is when we had to use our satellite phone, contact the Station and call for help. A simple half-day trip of four scientist turned into a rescue mission engaging another two boats. We packed the faulty zodiac and were home by midnight. What a day!
Thanks Królik, Konrad and Maciek (rescue crew)!
Thanks Ola and Mateusz (zodiac crew)!